Wright, playing only his seventh game as a collegian, found the range for 31 points and led No. 6 Indiana to a convincing 73-56 win over the Commodores. Behind Wright's outside marksmanship and some ice-cold shooting from Vanderbilt, the Hoosiers jumped out to a double-digit lead in the game's first six minutes and never relinquished it, despite a gutsy comeback effort in the second half from the Commodores.
"We didn't have much luck trying to defend him," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "We didn't guard him well and even when we did guard him, he still made shots."
Chalk up Vandy's first road game of the season as a learning experience. What the Commodores found out is that, despite an inside game that's light years ahead of last season, they still may not quite be ready for prime time-- at least not yet. Winning at a place like Bloomington's Assembly Hall is a difficult proposition any night of the week-- but Vanderbilt let its chance at an upset slip away with some uncharacteristic poor play early in the first half.
It took the team about ten minutes to realize that the one-two inside game featuring Brian Thornton and Matt Freije, which had been so effective in Vanderbilt's first six games, wasn't going to be effective against the Hoosiers' powerful interior defense. George Leach, Indiana's 6-11 octopus of a center, sent inside shot after inside shot hurtling away from the basket. Leach wound up with an amazing six blocked shots on the night, and the Hoosiers as a team had ten.
After going down by as many as 17 points in the first half, the Commodores began trying to score from outside, but it was one of those nights where no one could find the range. The cat-quick Hoosier defense held Vandy to 37% from the floor and 1-of-15 from three-point range. (If not for Russell Lakey's trey with 15:08 to go in the game, Vandy's 15-year, 510-game three-point streak would have come to an inglorious end. By the skin of its teeth, it was extended to 511 games.)
Meanwhile on the defensive end, the Commodores tried a number of defensive alignments, but were still blistered by Bracey Wright and Kyle Hornsby, who were able to free themselves time after time for open three-point shots. Wright connected on 11-of-20 from the floor and 5-of-9 from three-point range, while Hornsby added 12 points on 4-of-8 from behind the arc.
Still, credit where credit is due. Wright, a true "Diaper Dandy," delighted the crowd as he pumped in bomb after bomb, including a low-trajectory 26-footer that swished through the nets. One got the idea that on this night Bracey could have named his point total, and not a defense in the world could have slowed him down. Vanderbilt cut Indiana's lead to 11 points with 12:00 to play, but Bracey again went to work and sank a jumper. The Commodores drew no closer, and never cut the lead to single digits.
"Bracey just kind of took over," said Hornsby. "And when he does, he can make all of us look pretty good."
If there was a bright spot for Vanderbilt, it was the second-half play of David Przybyszewski. Though it wouldn't be quite accurate to say Indiana had no answer for him, the 7-1 sophomore from Torun, Poland unquestionably loosened up the Hoosier defense by scoring 14 points, several from outside the paint, and pulling down seven rebounds. More importantly, he drew the Hoosier defense away from the basket.
Matt Freije, though flustered all night by the burly twosome of Jeff Newton and George Leach, still managed a to come close to a double-double with 18 points and nine boards. Brian Thornton, who had scored 18 and 20 points in the Commodores' last two games, was rendered a non-factor with only five points.
It was a night on which the referees allowed some very physical play. The Hoosiers were whistled for only nine personal fouls, while the Commodores committed 17.
The Commodores (5-2) get five days off before returning to action Sunday vs. High Point at Memorial Gym.
Kevin Stallings, who suffers periodically from severe back pain, said after the game that his back flared up on him again shortly after the game began.
"It's been bad for about a week, but never as bad as it was tonight," Stallings said. "About the second play of the game, I was squatting down and stood up. It completely went out. The first two minutes of the game was kind of a blur to me because I was trying to figure out how I was going to make it through. That's a big letdown to my team to have something like that happen to me."
"He could barely get out of his seat to talk to us," said Matt Freije.