Lowery: "Offense executed well vs. Auburn"

Vanderbilt came out strong against the Tigers and never let go of the lead on the way to a 74-50 victory. The Commodores were led by a resurgent Mario Moore, who got himself back into his old form. Coach Stallings praised every aspect of Moore's game: "Mario played his best game of the year and did a great job of organizing us and running the team… His basketball IQ is very high, so when he plays like he played today then we're a much better team."

So is Mario Moore finally playing the way that the coaches think he should? Just ask Kevin Stallings – "he's back where he needs to be as far as I'm concerned."

Alex Gordon also had a good performance in his 14 minutes at the point. Derrick Byars was spared from having to play the point in part because of Moore and Gordon's defensive improvement. According to Stallings, both point guards' defense was "significantly better" than in past games. The solid point guard play also contributed to the Commodores' turnover margin of +10. Moore and Gordon combined for two assists and only one turnover.

Leading the Commodores in scoring were Shan Foster and Julian Terrell. Foster shot 6 for 9 from the perimeter and 1 for 2 on two point attempts. Terrell added his 13 points with 6 for 11 shootings. Stallings commented that "when you shoot the ball well, your team looks a lot better. We shot it very well today… when we only turn it over six times, we're probably going to shoot it well, because that means we're executing the offense."

The offense was executed well for two reasons: the energy level was much higher than before, and the Commodores were able to get the ball into the post. Julian Terrell racked up six of his 13 points quite early in the game. Stallings emphasized the importance of the early post play in the post game press-conference: "I think that whenever you can establish something inside …the defense doesn't just stay outwards on you." When asked to name the cause of the Commodores' higher energy level, Stallings didn't hesitate: "We obviously had a very good crowd, and the first SEC home game itself is going to naturally bring energy. Our guys played with great energy."

Also in double figures in scoring were Derrick Byars and DeMarre Carroll. Byars had a tough game against Georgia Tech – his stats were fine, but he was clearly playing through some pain in his shooting hand. With his hand apparently fully healed, Derrick collected 10 points and a team-high 5 assists. Carroll also contributed 10 points while leading the team with six rebounds. DeMarre's energetic play and ability to drive to the basket were critical to several of Vanderbilt's possessions in the second half.

The Commodores keys to the game were rebounding, turnovers, and disrupting Auburn's shooters. Overall, they did a fine job in these areas. While Auburn was only outrebounded by two, the Commodores forced 16 Auburn turnovers and held the Tigers to 25% three point shooting in the second half.

Auburn's unusual collection of zone defenses was unable to hold down the hot-handed Vanderbilt squad, but it did make the coaching staff change their typical offensive strategy. Said Stallings, "We were forced to do different things because of their defense… they went to a 1-3-1 and we would throw it to the corner, so they would go man in the middle of the possession. They were searching for things to confuse us, and fortunately those times that we were confused, we were able to make some shots."

Vanderbilt's crowd of 12,479 was reassured by the Commodores' dominant performance on the way to a 1-0 SEC start. Perhaps more importantly, many questions were answered for the ‘Dores, who will travel to Kentucky on Tuesday in UK's SEC home opener. If Vanderbilt is to continue their undefeated SEC record, they will need to win at Rupp for the first time ever. Shan Foster and company are exuding confidence, sending the silent message that this could be the year.


Vanderbilt's Dan Cage (20) guards Auburn's Ronny LeMelle (33) as he looks for help during the first half of a college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Neil Brake)

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