Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fear the Commodores!

Vanderbilt has knocked off four ranked SEC teams

Vanderbilt 64 LSU 53 - They're not flashy. They haven't been ranked yet this season. But the Vanderbilt Commodores are ripping through the SEC and raising eyebrows around the country. Last night the Commodores improved to 14-6 and 4-2 in the SEC, knocking off #21 LSU with a combination of swarming defense and timely shooting.

Beginning on January 10 with an 82-81 road win over then-#16 Tennessee, the Commodores have gone 4-1, including wins over Alabama, and road wins at Kentucky and LSU. Their only loss during the span was at Georgia (85-73), another SEC surprise.

On Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Vanderbilt outhustled the Tigers to an early 16-3 lead and never looked back. Frustrating LSU's Big Daddy Glen Davis into a 5-15 shooting performance, the Vanderbilt defense held the Tigers to 32% shooting overall. Vandy's top three scorers - Derrick Byars, Shan Foster and Dan Cage - led the scoring. Byars had 18, Foster and Cage scored 14 apiece and the trio nailed 9 of their team's 10 3-pointers.

The Commodores next hit the court on January 27 at home against Mississippi. They get their shot at #1 Florida (currently leading the Commodores by 1 1/2 games in the SEC East at 5-0) on the 31st in Gainesville.

Texas Tech 70 Texas A&M 68 - Bobby Knight added another win to his resume last night, but this one was particularly satisfying. Knight is college basketball's all-time leader in wins, now has his team tied for the Big 12 lead with Kansas, A&M and Texas, all at 4-1.

The Red Raiders knocked off Kansas, 69-64, on Saturday and made it two in a row against Top 10 teams on Wednesday night.

It wasn't as though the #6 Aggies were going to make it easy. Leading scorer Acie Law poured in 26 points on 9-15 shooting and the Aggies outshot Tech, 53-50%, but the Red Raiders popped from beyond the arc, hitting 10 of 19 3-pointers. They also frequented the foul line and made good on 22 of 29 free throws, especially Martin Zeno, who led the team with 22 points, including 13-14 from the line. Tech's leading scorer, Jarrius Jackson, had 14. Senior forward Jon Plefka hit 6 of 8 shots for 17 points.

Florida 70 Mississippi St. 67 - The #1 Gators survived a scare on the road, but managed to escape with their 11th straight win and remain undefeated in the SEC at 5-0. Corey Brewer scored 20 for the Gators who didn't shoot particularly well (42%), but made 23 of 35 free throws.

Wisconsin 71 Michigan 58 - The #2 ranked Badgers continued their roll though the miserably weak Big 10, improving to 6-0 in the conference and 20-1 (best record in the nation) overall. The win was their 16th in a row and a new school record, since a 66-64 loss at Missouri St. November 24. Alando Tucker and Brian Butch each had 16 points as coach Bo Ryan emptied the bench as Wisconsin was never threatened by the Wolverines.

North Carolina 88 Wake Forest 60 - The #4 Tar Heels put four players into double figures and coasted to an easy win at overmatched Wake Forest. The youthful North Carolina squad was led by freshman guard Wayne Ellison who hit 8 of 12 shots for a game-high 18 points. The Heels improved to 5-1 in the ACC, but still trail 6-1 (and unranked) Boston College by half a game. Wake Forest fell to 1-6 in conference play.

Ohio State 59 Northwestern 50 - The #5 Buckeyes got 18 points from Ivan Harris on the outside and 17 from Greg Oden inside in a well-managed road win over the Wildcats. Both players were sharp, as Harris hit 7 of 9 shots and Oden 6 of 7.

The Buckeyes continue to chase #2 Wisconsin in the Big 10, who handed them their only conference loss. Ohio State will play both Purdue and Michigan State twice between now and Feb. 10 plus a home game against Michigan on Feb. 6. They'll have to wait until the second-last game of the season on Feb. 25 to get the Badgers again, though this time the Buckeyes will have home court advantage.

Kansas 82 Baylor 56 - The Jayhawks rebounded from their loss to Texas Tech with an easy win at Baylor. #8 Kansas built a 42-18 lead at the half and coasted home from there with Brandon Rush leading the way with 18 points.

Pittsburgh 67 Cincinnati 51 - #9 Pittsburgh also got back on the winning track with a road win, mangling the Bearcats with 61% shooting, including 12-19 from 3-point range (63%).

Memphis 71 Tulsa 59 - The #11 Memphis Tigers are quietly tearing through Conference-USA and everybody's getting into the act. The Tigers had seven different scorers with 7 or more points in Wednesday's home win. Though they shot only 40% from the field, Tulsa was held to just 35%.

Memphis hasn't played a meaningful game since a 79-71 loss at Arizona, and considering the way the Wildcats have been playing of late, questions linger over just how good coach Calipari's squad is. The Tigers have won 8 straight and all 6 of their conference games by at least 10 points and they won't see another ranked team all season unless Gonzaga (whom they play on Feb. 17) goes on a tear. The soft schedule makes for a grand record but often an early exit in March.

Marquette 89 Seton Hall 76 - #15 Marquette quickly answered any questions about a let-down following Sunday's win at Pitt by blitzing the Pirates with 43 first-half points to take a commanding 13-point lead. Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal each had 22 points as the Golden Eagles won their 5th straight Big East contest after dropping their first two. Despite having beaten Pitt, they still trail the 6-1 Panthers by a full game in the wide-open Big East.

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