Off the bench came Scott Hundley, with a perceptible fire in his eyes. The junior small forward from Georgetown, Ky. quickly blocked a shot and forced a steal. An assist here, a dive for a loose ball there. A rebound here, and a garbage bucket there. Sparked by the aggressiveness of Hundley, the Commodores turned up the defensive intensity in the second half, and won the game going away.
"When people get lackadaisical and stuff, I think it's my job to come out and get everybody focused and energized, and get the team motivated and going," said Hundley.
Last week against College of Charleston it happened again. The visiting Cougars led by ten points three different times in the first half, and their 29-24 halftime advantage again had the Memorial Gym partisans edgy. Coming off of two discouraging road losses, and mired in an offensive slump, the Commodores again needed someone to bring the team a little lift off the bench.
What did Hundley do? In 20 minutes of play, he had six points, five assists and four rebounds-- a typical, methodical scoring line for Hundley. But once again, it was his defensive intensity, his efficiency and his hustle off the bench that caught his coach's attention.
"I was really proud of Scott," said Head Coach Kevin Stallings afterwards. "I thought he did a great job off the bench. He had by far his best game of the season."
In addition, Hundley helped hold Troy Wheless, the Cougs' hot-shot shooting guard, scoreless for the game. "Scott did an outstanding job on him in the second half," added Stallings.
To cap things off, after the Commodores had shut down College of Charleston with an amazing 21-0 run in the second half, Hundley nailed a huge three-pointer with 5:30 left that essentially put the game out of reach at 53-38. "Those first 15 minutes of the second half, I thought we played about as good as we can play defensively," said Stallings.
Most teams have a "sixth man" whose job is to bring an elevated degree of energy off the bench. Besides Hundley, the Commodores have Mario Moore, Julian Terrell and David Przybyszewski, who have all filled that role at different times thus far in the season. But none of those has consistently matched the conspicuous energy level of Hundley, who is quickly becoming a crowd favorite in his junior year.
"I always try to come out and get set on defense... try to lead by example," said Hundley. "A lot of the time I'm out there with some of the younger guys, and they need somebody to show them what to do. It's kind of a learning process. I try to tell them what to do and get everyone in the right spot."
Hundley, a former Mr. Basketball from Kentucky who averaged 23 points per game in high school, says Stallings has made his role on this year's team very clear.
"Coach has told me that it doesn't really matter if I score that much this year. It's the little things that he wants me to do... focus on rebounding and playing great defense. I'm glad to accept that role."
Through 11 games, Hundley is averaging 3.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2 assists in 14 minutes of play-- nothing to write home about. But Hundley's role as the team's "Energizer" has brought him a quiet satisfaction. He is doing the little things that help win games, says Stallings.
"Scott's biggest detriment is playing under control," said Stallings. "He's an energy guy. He's a hustle-play guy. The more we get him to play under control, and not be out of control, the more effective he can be."
The SEC portion of the schedule begins tonight as Vanderbilt visits Auburn (7 pm EST, no television). Stallings says the decisive win over a good team like College of Charleston was absolutely crucial as the Commodores head into SEC play.
"You have a couple of games each year that are just, you just have to have win," said Stallings. "You just have to have them, somehow, some way. College of Charleston was that game for us. Before we played our first conference game, I thought we needed the positive energy.
"It really couldn't have turned out much better in terms of giving our guys some juice, and some positive feelings about how they can play."