Jacksonville State Game: Insider observations

In front of 7,486 loyal fans, the Vanderbilt Commodores had a fairly successful outing against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks, winning by a final score of 67-46. Shan Foster led the Commodores with 17 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. Julian Terrell and Ted Skuchas were a dominant dual presence in the post, giving the Dores a balanced attack on offense. Skuchas had 11 points on 5 shots, and Terrell finished the night with 10 points and 9 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

The balanced offense was an important goal in the mind of Coach Stallings. "I think 11 of our first 25 shots were threes. After that, we did a better job of getting the ball inside," said Stallings. Coach Stallings commented that "[our overall performance] wasn't exactly what we were hoping for, but at the same time we pretty much dominated the boards."

Many Commodore fans were concerned about Julian's foot injury. While Julian might not be at 100%, he was clearly effective tonight. "He's fine, he's just got to get some of his timing back," said Stallings. "We're going to be very cautious with his foot… the x-ray right now is not showing any problems. We're still going to keep a close eye on it, but he's not having any pain."

Despite Julian's impressive numbers in limited minutes, he and Coach Stallings remain convinced that he can perform much better in the future. According to the coach, "I think the way that [Julian] played… it wasn't a stellar performance for him. But that's how you can tell he's become a better player." Julian had a similar attitude after the game: "Actually, I didn't have a good game at all in my own mind. You know, 10 and 9 is fine with me, but I can always do better than that." Julian was defended very physically by the JSU Gamecocks, and on multiple occasions the crowd expressed extreme displeasure with some non-calls by the officiating crew of Boudreaux, Benedict, and McNeil.

Ted Skuchas' performance was even better news to many of the Commodore faithful, and Julian Terrell is excited about his progress. "We're counting on [Ted] for inside presence… Ted has done a great job of getting in shape, and he's been working on his offense and defense… once Ted gets his confidence, he's very good. He had the one foul and Coach got onto him… but I think Ted did a great job of composing himself after that foul." Skuchas finished the night with only one personal foul, hopefully putting his history of foul trouble behind him for good.

Another good aspect of the game for the Commodores was their ability to get to the freethrow line. The Dores made 13 out of 21 freethrow attempts, and JSU was only 2 for 5. "That's very important, because everybody on our team can drive to the basket and finish," said Terrell. "We shoot freethrows pretty well in practice – actually we missed more than I would have expected today. Beating them [in freethrow attempts] 21 to 5, that's great for our team."

Despite the Commodores' inside presence, Jacksonville State was only four points behind at halftime. Vanderbilt came out of the gates sluggishly, both on offense and on defense. Shan Foster said that the team was especially unhappy with their first half defense: "We were kinda disappointed in our defensive effort in the 1st half, but when we came in the locker room that's one of the things we talked about – we have to go out there and exert our will on the other team, and that's what we did. We got a lot of fast break opportunities and buckets, so the offense came a lot easier."

Coach Stallings had another big announcement at the post-game press conference. Many who observed the game or the box score carefully may have noticed that neither of the true freshmen played at all in the game. When asked, Stallings commented that "we are going to redshirt both [George Drake and Kyle Madsen]. We had them suit up tonight because we wanted them to know what it's like to run through warm-ups. Unless there's a change of heart, and I don't think there will be, we're going to redshirt both of them." Commodore fans should not take that as a vote of no-confidence in the freshmen. "We're very excited about them," said Stallings.

The main reason for redshirting the freshmen is the depth of talent on the team. According to Julian Terrell, "out of the 9 guys that see the floor, we've really got 7 guys who on any night can come out there and score double figures." Foster, Terrell, Skuchas, and Byars scored double figures tonight, and DeMarre Carroll came close with eight. Carroll and Dan Cage had a noticeable impact on the game that might not be captured in the box score: "DeMarre really gave us a jump start in the second half," said Stallings. "It's going to be important for [Dan Cage and DeMarre Carroll], since they're coming off the bench, to be energy guys."

Despite Mario Moore's absence due to suspension, Vanderbilt was able to function well on offense and defense. Jacksonville State's point guard, senior Walker Russell, was injured in a collision with Julian Terrell halfway through the second half. Russell did not return, but his 5'6" replacement, DeAndre Brey, played respectably on both ends of the court for the remainder of the game. Vanderbilt only allowed 16 points in the first 18 minutes of the second half, before a series of careless turnovers to end the game.

Vanderbilt Player of the Game:

Shan Foster: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, 1 foul, 30 minutes

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