No. 22 Vandy takes on TCU in first real road trip

The Vandy men's basketball team makes its first real road trip of the season Saturday, as the No. 22 Commodores (10-0) travel to Fort Worth, Texas to take on Coach Neil Dougherty's TCU Horned Frogs (4-6). Game time is 7:00 p.m. CT at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (CSS TV, 95.5 WSM-FM). Can the Commodores continue their winning ways? VeeMan offers this scouting report on TCU and makes his best guess.

Vanderbilt encountered few problems in beating Lehigh on Wednesday, and the Commodores won their tenth consecutive victory. The Mountain Hawks did manage to stay fairly close in the first half, trailing only 39-27 at the break; but a flurry of baskets at the outset of the second half extended the Commodore lead, and after that it was only a matter of the final score. Matt Freije led the way with 15 points; Julian Terrell had 14, and Dan Cage had his first double-digit performance with 11, including three treys.

The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs come into the Vanderbilt game with a 4-6 record, including four defeats on their home court (Tulsa, 74-62; Kansas, 85-66; Murray State, 73-67; and Arkansas State, 64-58). They have also lost road games to Washington State (73-52) and Texas Tech (67-60). All of their wins have come at home and over lesser opponents (Texas-Arlington, 87-58; Stephen F. Austin, 84-62; North Texas, 62-58; and Grambling, 99-71). It is clear that TCU is struggling to get it together. They are coached by former Kansas and Vanderbilt assistant Neil Dougherty, who had to endure a disappointing 9-19 record last year in his first season at the helm.

TCU's most experienced player is Corey Santee, 6-2 junior guard, who sees 33 minutes of action in every game. He has started since he was a freshman and averaged 16.3 ppg last year. His point production has been down this season (12.1 ppg), but he is handing out five assists per game. Against the Frogs' two toughest opponents, he scored 19 points in the Kansas game and 16 when facing Bob Knight-coached Texas Tech. He is making 34% of his three-point shots, but gets his points in a variety of ways.

Two of the three top point-producers don't start. They are 6-0 junior guard Marcus Shropshire and 6-6 sophomore power forward Chudi Chinweze. Shropshire is a transfer from Texas Tech, and was interested in Vanderbilt before deciding on TCU. He may well be the best player on the team and is high scorer (12.7 ppg). He has been taking a lot of three-pointers and is making 44% of them.

Chinweze (right) is a high-jumping competitor who is a little short on finesse and height, but certainly not on enthusiasm and athletic ability. He is scoring 11.1 ppg, making 63.5% of his shots from the field, and grabs 4.1 rebounds. He may cause the Commodores some serious matchup problems.

The starters, aside from Santee, are 6-10 freshman center Femi Ibikunle, 6-5 junior Corey Valsin at small forward, 6-5 JUCO transfer Aaron Curtis on one wing, and 6-2 senior Nucleus Smith on the other. Ibikunle, a Nigerian, is regarded as a very good prospect, but is averaging only 4.1 ppg and 4.5 rebounds. Irregularities in his recruitment caused the resignation of an assistant coach.

Valsin (5.8 ppg) is a defensive specialist and actually leads the team in rebounds (4.2 per game). Curtis (4.5 ppg) has not yet found himself after leading Lon Morris JC to the junior college final four last season, while scoring 16.8 ppg and grabbing 5.7 rebounds. Smith (7.5 ppg) gets to the free-throw line frequently, makes 88% of his tosses there, and also gets 3.5 rebounds per game.

Five other TCU players are likely to see action and three of them play significant minutes. 6-5 freshman Blake Adams (4.7 ppg) is an excellent outside shooter and was a top-100 recruit. 6-9 freshman Art Pierce (2.6 ppg) backs up Ibikunle, and can also hit the outside shot. 6-8 junior Marcus Sloan (3.4 ppg) has been playing 12.4 minutes per game. 6-6 senior Marcus Hobbs (0.7 ppg) is another transfer from Texas Tech, but has not been a major contributor.

Coach Neil Dougherty's son, 6-1 freshman Neil Dougherty, Jr., plays about five minutes per game, and 5-10 sophomore David Markley sees limited action.

TCU appears to have the talent to give Kevin Stallings' team a good tussle in the Commodores' first road game outside Nashville, but the Commodores should win by six to twelve points.


Photos courtesy of Associated Press.

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