Notes, quotes, & photos from the SEC Tournament

Vanderbilt rolled to an easy 70-50 victory over Ole Miss on Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome. Here for VandyMania subscribers are some additional notes, quotes from the locker room, and exclusive photos.

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Vanderbilt forward Corey Smith was a high school teammate of Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts at Houston's Lamar High School. They will meet again Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, when the Commodores take on No. 4 Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals (6 pm CT; Jefferson-Pilot TV.

Smith said although Roberts, the SEC Player of the Year, was every bit as dominant a player in high school as in college, though not nearly as well-built.

"He's put on a lot of weight. That's what's helped him out the most," Smith said. "He's showing the nation just how much it's helped him out."

Smith said that he had mostly lost touch with Roberts up until Vanderbilt and Mississippi State met earlier in the regular season.

"Our relationship today is mostly through our high school coach or mutual friends, things like that," Smith said. "I certainly wouldn't say we're close or anything. We went to two different colleges and kind of lost contact. He's switched phone numbers like 3,000 times, so it's kind of hard to keep up with him."

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Saturday's win over Ole Miss was win No. 20 for Vanderbilt-- a remarkable achievement after last year's 11-win season with essentially the same players. Did Kevin Stallings think such a thing was really possible at the beginning of last season?

"I just wanted us to get better," he shrugged. "I wanted the experience for those players to be better than last year's 11-18 provided. I didn't really think about how many we could win or couldn't win. I just wanted their experience to be better, and fortunately, it has been."

But is it safe to say this team has exceeded his expectations?

"I wouldn't say that-- our feeling is, we left some of them out there on the table that we could have gotten. Now, I'm very happy with them-- I don't mean for one second that I'm not pleased with them or happy with them.

"But I'm not surprised. We've got good players and great chemistry. That's what's made the difference."

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Quotes from the locker room after Vanderbilt's 70-50 win over Ole Miss Thursday in the first round:

Martin Schnedlitz on his putback dunk in the game's final minute: "I don't remember too much about it. I just followed the play and saw A.P. missing. I saw my one chance to jump and try to get the rebound. After that I kind of blacked out-- I don't remember anything but the ball going through, and everybody thumping me and chest-bumping me."

Kevin Stallings on the upcoming game with Mississippi State: "The problem when we play them is, you can't see Freije when [Branden]Vincent is out there. Vincent's about this wide, and Matt looks like a little skinny boy compared to him. We've got to figure out a way to keep them off the boards this time."

Russell Lakey on Friday's quarterfinal game with Mississippi State: "It's our last game-- that's the way we look at it. Our last game against Georgia, that really hit me hard, because that was my last SEC game I would ever play in the regular season. This could be the last game we play in the postseason, so I'm just trying to look at every game as my last, and trying to keep this team alive."

Jason Holwerda on the team's defensive gameplan vs. Ole Miss: "Our plan was to try not to let Aaron Harper and Justin Reed not have the ball-- just to keep it out of their hands as much as possible, make them work for shots, make them work for anything they were getting. We were able to do that and tire them down toward the end. It was tough for them to go 40 minutes and keep making shots."

Jason Holwerda on the previous game with Mississippi State, won 72-69 by the Bulldogs: "We lost by three. We felt like both teams played well that night. We feel like we have some retribution for them. They came into our house and beat us, so we want even more to beat them here."


Kevin Stallings outlines strategy with the team during a timeout.



Point guard Mario Moore tweaked an ankle and came out of the game briefly, but was OK.



Jefferson-Pilot's Dave Baker interviews David Przybyszewski (left) and Matt Freije after the game. Przybyszewski led the team with 17 points, while Freije had 14.
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Photos by Brent Wiseman and Bryan Hufalar, copyright 2004 for VandyMania.com.


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