Jan. 3, 2008
More Coverage: Vanderbilt 76 Rice 58
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)|
Oh, what it would be like to be a fly on the wall in Vanderbilt's locker room during halftime of each of the last two games. After back-to-back slow first halves against Iona and Rice, the Commodores have come out of the locker room looking like a different team than the one that entered.
Holding just a five-point edge (31-26) over Rice at the break, the Commodores opened the second half by going on an 11-0 run, which the Owls were never able to recover from. The Commodores' run pushed their lead to 16 (42-26) and they eventually led by as many as 23 with 4:08 to play.
"That was really our undoing there," Rice head coach Willis Wilson said of Vanderbilt's run. "Their performance combined with our performance at the start of the half really took a lot of wind out of our sails.
"I thought Vanderbilt did and nice job and a smart thing by coming out and really coming after us by doubling the ball early in the second half and that took us out of some things."
The start of the half was reminiscent of Vanderbilt's game just three days prior against Iona, where the Commodores went on a 10-0 run to open the second half after also leading the Gaels by just five (46-41) at the half. In both games, Vanderbilt's runs were triggered by A.J. Ogilvy dunks.
Against Rice, Vanderbilt shot just 38.7 percent from the floor in the first half and turned the ball over 12 times. In the second half, VU looked more like the team that is one of just six remaining undefeated teams by shooting 50.0 (16-of-32) percent from the field and outscoring Rice 45-32.
"I just felt like we got off to a good start in the second half again which we did in the last game as well," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said. "I felt like we came out at halftime and kicked it up a gear."
Slow starts have not been an uncommon trend this season for Vanderbilt, which earlier experienced problems to open the game against Utah State and DePaul to name a few.
Despite the slow starts, Vanderbilt has trailed at the intermission in just one game this season - at DePaul (42-30). In that game, Vanderbilt went on to outscore the Blue Demons 49-37 in the second half to force overtime before eventually winning in overtime.
While Vanderbilt's strong play in the second frame has sufficed for VU through non-conference play thus far, the question remains as to whether the same will hold true against, maybe, its biggest challenge so far this season against UMASS on Saturday.