Look out, SEC: Vandy gigs Frogs, rolls to 11-0

In its most dominant performance of the season to date, No. 22 Vanderbilt passed its first true road test with flying colors Saturday. The Commodores easily downed Texas Christian 95-60 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, and in doing so tied a record for the best start in school history, set in 1960-61.

With last year's team's 0-11 regular-season road record looming in the back of their minds, Vanderbilt had some questions to be answered in its first true road trip of the season. But if Saturday's performance was any indication, the Commodores (11-0) can look ahead to future road trips and the upcoming Southeastern Conference schedule with growing confidence.

How easy did their 11th victory come? TCU, which earlier had lost on this same floor by 19 points to top-ranked Kansas, was down by 18 with 11:18 left to play in the first half. The Commodores came out in the first half with all guns blazing, and made their biggest offensive run with their starters on the bench.

"It was a lot of fun to watch that performance and be a part of it," said Coach Kevin Stallings of the 95-60 win. "I'm so proud that our team is starting to be recognized for their hard work. There's just not a lot not to be happy about."

The Commodores spread the wealth, with five players scoring in double figures. Jason Holwerda led the team with a season-high of 15, while Matt Freije and Scott Hundley each had 14. Mario Moore added 12, and freshman marksman Dan Cage contributed a career-high 12 off the bench on 4-of-4 from 3-point range.

Stallings called the TCU game Holwerda's finest in a Vanderbilt uniform. Besides leading the team in scoring, the junior from Chattanooga pulled down 5 rebounds, added 7 assists and 2 steals, and held the Horned Frogs' leading scorer (Marcus Shropshire) scoreless.

"Jason was just so good on both ends of the court," said Stallings. "He holds their leading scorer to zero points-- just an incredible performance."

With the game in hand almost from the get-go, Stallings limited leading scorer Matt Freije to just 21 minutes in order to give other players some game experience. But the senior still managed 14 points and a team-high 9 rebounds.

Vandy out-rebounded TCU 42-32, and had 24 assists against just 9 turnovers.

With great defense sparking its offense, the Commodores got into a flow early and jumped on top of TCU 16-7. When Corey Smith left the game with early foul trouble, Scott Hundley entered and gave the team a lift with 7 straight points to put Vandy up 23-7.

The Horned Frogs cut the lead back to 28-13, only to see Vandy go on another offensive spurt keyed by Dan Cage's three 3-pointers, and the lead expand to a gaudy 49-17. Bench players Hundley, Russell Lakey, Adam Payton, David Przybyszewski, Ted Skuchas and Cage all played a part in the big offensive explosion.

"I can't say enough about our bench," said Holwerda. "They've been there all season. When we haven't performed well, they'll just come in and pick it up for us, and vice versa."

In all, the bench players scored 33 of Vandy's 54 points in the first half, and outscored TCU's bench 48-25 for the game.

"Our team is so together right now," said Stallings. "It doesn't matter who's in the game, the other guys are really cheering. The team spirit and the amount of camaraderie that we have is really phenomenal."

With TCU guard Corey Santee warming up a bit in the second half, the Horned Frogs were able to cut the lead back to 19 at 67-48, but would get no closer. Stallings brought out a box-and-one defense with Holwerda guarding Santee, and once again the Commodores went on a big run, outscoring the Frogs 28-12 for the rest of the game.

No Vanderbilt team has ever started a season 12-0, a feat Stallings' team could accomplish next Wednesday with a win at home vs. Cliff Ellis' Auburn Tigers (9-2). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.; the game will be televised regionally over the Jefferson-Pilot network. Auburn was idle Saturday.

"We're hoping for a big, noisy, active, crazy crowd on Wednesday night," Stallings said. "Hopefully we can give our fans another performance like this one."

GAME NOTES:

Vanderbilt's all-time record vs. TCU improved to 3-1, and its all-time record vs. teams currently in Conference USA improved to 56-38.

Vanderbilt's 54 points in the first half were the most in a half this season.

Attendance was 4,573. The low turnout was attributed to the Cowboys-Panthers NFL playoff game.

Just seconds into the game, Matt Freije connected on a 3-pointer to extend Vanderbilt's consecutive-games-with-a-3-pointer streak to 544 games.


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