Vanderbilt has played in fits and starts through the first two months of the season, but the Commodores felt pretty good about themselves heading into a nine-day break over Christmas.
They pounded Mercer 99-59 in their last outing before the holiday to improve to 8-3, shooting 67.9 percent from the field in the process. It was the best shooting night ever for the Commodores under coach Kevin Stallings.
"That was a little better," said Stalllings, who is in his 11th season at Vandy. "It's amazing how things go when you shoot the ball well. Guys start feeding off it and balls start going in. I'm pleased with how we played on the defensive end."
The Commodores held Mercer to just 31.5 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers with the help of seven steals.
The win was the second for the Commodores after losing to Western Kentucky in a game played in Nashville but at the Sommet Center, not their home floor. They came back from the loss to the Hilltoppers with a win over Tennessee State.
Getting back in Memorial Gym has been a big plus for the Commodores. The games against Tennessee State and Mercer were the first of six in a row for the Commodores in Memorial Gym.
"We knew that our first nine games were going to be as difficult as anyone in the country," Stallings said. "Three of our first nine games were at home, and there just aren't that many high-conference teams that do that."
--Vandy's 12-of-21 performance from 3-point range against Mercer preceded by a 6-of-14 effort against Tennessee State showed a marked recovery from behind the arc for the Commodores. In their previous seven games, they made only 30.2 percent of their 3-pointers (42 of 139).
--Sophomore G/F Jeffery Taylor set a Memorial Gym record by going 10 of 11 from the field (90.9 percent) in the win over Tennessee State. The previous record for field goal percentage with a minimum of 10 attempts was 90.0 by Brett Burrow in 1985 against Tennessee. The school record is 91.7 percent set by Mike Rhodes, who was 11 of 12 at Alabama in 1978.
JANUARY AT A GLANCE: The Commodores play six league games in the first month of conference play, and only two of them (Florida on Jan. 9 and Auburn on Jan. 23) are at home. They have to go to Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. The 'Dores complete their non-conference schedule in the first week with home games against Southern Mississippi and Middle Tennessee.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a good shooting team. We make shots all the time, but it was just a matter of time when we had a game where everyone hit their shots." -- Senior G Jermaine Beal, after the Commodores went 35 of 58 from the field in the win over Mercer.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Commodores had a tough go early with only three of their first nine games on their home floor. Still, the loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville's Sommet Center really stung. The 'Dores have had uncustomary struggles from the 3-point line but showed signs they were getting their act together in their past two games.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Andre Walker, C A.J. Ogilvy, G/F Jeffery Taylor, G Brad Tinsley, G Jermaine Beal. Key Subs -- F Darshawn McClellan, G/F Steve Tchiengang, F Lance Goulbourne, G John Jenkins.
Western Kentucky 76, Vanderbilt 69
Vanderbilt 84, Tennessee State 71
Vanderbilt 99, Mercer 59
vs. Manhattan, Wednesday, Dec. 30
vs. Southern Mississippi, Saturday, Jan. 2
vs. Middle Tennessee State, Monday, Jan. 4
vs. Florida, Saturday, Jan. 9
at Alabama, Wednesday, Jan. 13
IN FOCUS: Manhattan snapped a two-game losing streak with its 71-61 win over Long Island in its last outing. Overall, the Jaspers are 6-5 and will be playing their sixth straight road game.
--Freshman G John Jenkins scored a career-high 17 points against Mercer, the sixth time he has been in double figures this season. He is 22 of 52 on 3-pointers (42.3 percent).
--Senior G Jermaine Beal was fourth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio through games of Dec. 24 with 36 assists against only 16 turnovers.
The TSX Files - 12/29
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