No Freije, no problem: VU hammers Toledo, 73-57

Consider the first game of the Post-Matt Freije Era a smashing success. Led by Dawid Przybyszewski's 15 points and 16 rebounds, Vanderbilt jumped on Toledo early and never let the Rockets back in the game as it recorded a 73-57 victory at Memorial Gym in the season-opener for both teams. It was the 14th consecutive home-opening win for Vanderbilt.

"Our effort level was terrific," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who is now 6-0 in season-openers. "It was much better than I even hoped for."

Mario Moore scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, and was the key player in a 7-0 run that stretched a 55-44 lead to 62-44 with 4:32 to play. Moore hit a driving layup, drained a three and hit Jason Holwerda (10 points) for a layup on three consecutive possessions.

"Mario was much better in the second half than he was in the first," Stallings said.

Toledo is touted as the favorite to win the MAC this year and preseason Player of the Year Keith Triplett is the leader. Holwerda and Corey Smith limited Triplett to 10 points on the evening and he committed five turnovers. Florentino Valencia led the Rockets with 18 points.

The Commodores swarmed Toledo early, taking a 9-0 lead and forcing four turnovers on the Rockets' first four possessions. Missed layups and free throws prevented Vanderbilt's 32-21 halftime lead from being larger.

Vanderbilt exploited its size advantage on the boards, recording a 49-34 edge led by Przybyszewski and Julian Terrell, who hauled down nine. Przybyszewski exceeded his career-high by six.

"We have done a lot of rebounding drills in practice, and apparently it really helps," he said with a smile after the game.

Vanderbilt's defense was strong throughout as the Commodores held Toledo to 34 percent shooting and blocked nine shots (five by Terrell). They also forced 15 Toledo turnovers.

The Commodores spread the scoring around, with six players scoring eight points or more, including freshman Alex Gordon, who scored his eight all in the first half.

"We do not have a dominant scorer like Matt Freije, but we have a lot of capable guys," Stallings said.

Moore said it did not feel strange competing without Freije, who led the team in scoring the last three seasons.

"We feel like we have all the pieces right here to make an NCAA Tournament run," Moore said. Then he added, with a smile and a nod toward Przybyszewski, "I don't remember Freije ever getting 16 rebounds."

Smith contributed nine points, six assists and six rebounds without a turnover in 25 minutes. It was the type of strong performance Stallings is looking for from the members of his senior class, which he says has been playing well of late.

"I have really liked the look of our seniors in the past few weeks," Stallings said. "That is something exciting for our coaching staff to see."


Vanderbilt's Julian Terrell, right, battles Toledo's Florentino Valencia (42) for a rebound during the first half. (AP Photo/John Russell)

The Commodores play at home again Sunday and Tuesday in games that serve as the first two rounds of the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament. Vandy hosts Tennessee State Sunday at 5 p.m., and Cal State-Northridge Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Bill Trocchi is the online editor for Athlon Sports.

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