Vanderbilt suffocates Middle, 73-53

NASHVILLE-- Vanderbilt used an intensive defensive effort along with double digit scoring from five players to top local rival Middle Tennessee, 73-53. In picking up their 11th victory, the Commodores have now held four straight opponents to under 60 points as a weekend visit from the Florida Gators looms.

In another strong defensive effort, Vanderbilt limited the Blue Raiders to just 37 percent from the field including 21 percent from 3-point range and blocked 10 Middle shots.

The Commodores fell briefly early in the game on a layup by Desmond Yates. Yates would go on to lead MTSU with 14 points. However, the Commodores quickly responded with a rim-hanging dunk by A.J. Ogilvy, who was fouled on the play. After Ogilvy's made free throw, Vanderbilt would lead 3-2 and never trail again during the game. The Commodores then systematically added to their lead by taking advantage of a size advantage that resulted in a great game by Festus Ezeli who blocked three shots and had several dunks. Ezeli finished the game with 10 points in one of the best performances of his young career.

Although offensively Vandy was not as hot as in recent games, the Commodores built a 20-12 lead by the 10-minute mark and then finished the half on top, 41-29.

It was more of the same in the second half. The Commodore lead swelled to 57-38 on a basket by Darshawn McClellan with 11:20 remaining. MTSU was able to whittle the lead to 12 with 6 minutes to go after James Washington scored 5 straight points. However, missed free throws and a errant wide open layup doomed Middle comeback hopes.

In addition to Ezeli, Vanderbilt got double figures from Jeffery Taylor (14), John Jenkins (13), Jermaine Beal (11) and A.J. Ogilvy (10). It was the second time this season VU had five players reach double figures. On December 21st against Mercer Vanderbilt also had double-digit points from five Commodores.

Head coach Kevin Stallings, who with the win won his 200th game at Vanderbilt, was not particularly overjoyed with his team's effort, "We didn't play as well as I hoped, but I think MTSU had a lot to do with that. They played well for a lot of the game. The game didn't have a lot of flow to it and we didn't shoot well from the perimeter. We blocked a lot of shots and got to the foul line, but I was disturbed by a lot of our play."

Vanderbilt improves to 11-3. The Commodores will open their 2010 SEC schedule on Saturday when they host Florida. Middle Tennessee falls to 7-7. Next up for the Blue Raiders will be a trip to Arkansas State on Thursday. Vandy now has a 27-4 lead all-time in the career series and leads 15-0 all-time in games played at Vanderbilt.

Middle Tennessee guard Calvin O'Neil, front left, gets tangled with Vanderbilt forward Andre Walker (24). (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Top Stories