JOE BIDDLE: Vandy gets job done

Vanderbilt University
Photo: WKRN

I went to see a SEC Basketball Tournament game at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night and a soccer game broke out.

To say Vanderbilt and Texas A&M had difficulty finding the baskets would be an understatement.

In the first half, Vanderbilt hit 7 of 29 shots and was 3 of 15 from behind the 3-point line. They still managed to take a 23-20 halftime lead.

How? Because Texas A&M was even more frigid. The Aggies hit 8 of 22 shots, were 2 of 7 from the 3-point line and went to the locker room trailing by three.

“Riley, (LaChance) I thought, really kept us in with some big 3s in the first half and Joe (Toye) was extraordinary that second half. I think when we started to make some 3s, it gave our team a lot of confidence and a lot more guys started to make shots,’’ Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew said.

Vanderbilt was the team that showed up for the second half while the Aggies continued to struggle, bowing out to the Commodores, 66-41.

It all but sewed up a NCAA Tournament bid for first year coach Bryce Drew’s team.

“I would like to think we’re in. I would like to think we were in coming into this game with how we finished the season, our strength of schedule and with the quality wins that we have,’’ Drew said. “They’ve really played some of their best bine under some of these conditions.’’

Vanderbilt is now 17-14 overall, 10-8 in SEC competition. The No. 7 seed Commodores advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round against the Florida Gators, a team Vanderbilt that swept this season.

Vanderbilt has been a team that has its ups and downs. The second half they showed what they have when they are playing on all cylinders.

They made the game fun to watch in the second half, shaking the mistakes they made during the first half.

The Aggies’ inability to score continued in the second half.
The Commodores are now 6-1 in their last seven games. They have won five games over top 50 ranked opponents. They could add another feather in their cap with another win over Florida.

If they play like they did against the Aggies in the second half, it is highly possible.

They played team basketball, sharing the ball to get open shots. They stymied the Aggies defensively in the second half, as they were held to 21 second-half points while Vanderbilt put up 43 points.

When Vanderbilt plays both ends of the court like it did Thursday night, good things will happen for them. They wiped the first half out of their memory and settled down to play like they can when everyone is on the same page.

LaChance was the only Commodore to get double numbers in the first half with 11 points. He kept Vanderbilt in the game on offense. In the second half, Vanderbilt got stellar play from Joe Toye, Nolan Cressler and Jeff Roberson to name a few.

Toye led all scorers with 18 points. He hit six of 10 shots from the field, added five of eight points from the free throw line in 24 minutes.

LaChance ended up with 14 points and had three assists and one steal in 27 minutes. Roberson added 11 points and climbed the glass for a team high 10 rebounds. Cressler scored 11 points and grabbed seven boards.

Vanderbilt’s bench outscored the Aggies 17-0.

“They played like a veteran team,’’ Aggie Coach Billy Kennedy said of Vanderbilt.

“We just couldn’t score. It’s hard to win games when you don’t get production throughout your roster offensively and defensively,’’

Vanderbilt got it. It wasn’t in the cards for the Aggies.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.