Will Matthews' Post-Game Column:
Road Bump in Knoxville squarely in the rear-view mirror
Feb. 17, 2007
FREE POST-GAME VIDEO AND AUDIO AFTER VU'S WIN OVER NO. 1 FLORIDA - CLICK HERE
By Will Matthews
Heeding their coach's urgings to simply put their most lopsided loss of the season behind them and move on, the Commodores responded this week by not only beating a scrappy South Carolina team Wednesday but, most significantly, by earning the program's biggest victory in more than a decade and handing Florida their first Southeastern Conference loss of the year.
The win snapped the Gators' 17-game winning streak overall and solidified Vanderbilt's resume in their push for an NCAA tournament berth.
"Today's game shows that we didn't get too down about the Tennessee game," said a jubilant Derrick Byars, who followed his 32-point performance against South Carolina with an equally impressive 24-point, eight assist outing Saturday. "I know I didn't because that just wasn't us. We hadn't played like that all season and we will never play like that again. I can assure you of that. We didn't get too down about it. You can't in this league. We just went back to the practice court and worked hard and it showed today."
In a game played before a raucous sellout crowd at Memorial Gym, Vanderbilt shot 60 percent from the field in the first half - including five of 11 from three-point range - to take an eight point halftime lead they would never relinquish, allowing a boisterous student contingent that began lining up outside the gym in the snow as early as 7 a.m. to celebrate in a way rarely seen in Nashville.
"Well that was a lot of fun," Stallings said. "We got on a roll. The crowd, obviously, was unbelievable. This can be a pretty difficult place to play when we start making shots and doing the types of thing that we were doing today."
"Fortunately, the game at Tennessee only counted as one," Stallings said. "Unfortunately, the game today only counts as one. You'd like for these to count as five and those to count as one. But that has kind of been our thing all season long. It is one game. It is one game whether it is a victory or whether it is a loss. You can't dwell on it and you can't get stuck on it."
"This is one for the ages right here," Byars said. "Twenty years from now I'll be able to tell my little kids about this. I've played in some big games before. Sometimes you are right there and you can't get over the hump but this one right here is really special."
With teammate Shan Foster mired in a shooing slump in recent weeks, Byars almost single-handedly ensured that the Tennessee loss would not send the Commodores into a tailspin that might jeopardize their standing with the NCAA Tournament selection committee with his performance Wednesday against South Carolina.
He stepped up again Saturday but this time was joined by Foster, who got back on track by matching Byars' 24 points on nine of 16 shooting from the field including five of 10 on three-pointers.
"I consider myself a good player, and if you are a good player than you show up in games and situations like this and you rise to the occasion. I am proud of the way that we have been able to respond."
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