Slumped in a locker-room chair following his team's 81-75 loss to Arkansas, senior point guard Alex Gordon did not attempt to hide his disappointment.
The Commodores had hoped to win the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, yet won neither, and now must regroup before the Big Dance begins Thursday.
"It really hurts because you always want to win in your backyard which is the SEC," Gordon said. "We weren't content with what we did throughout the season. Our goal was to win the league and this (tournament), and we didn't do either. Our next goal is to get to the Final Four and we felt like if we won this one that would've bettered our chances of getting there."
On Friday, the Commodores played like a team that knew it was already in the field of 65. They were out-rebounded 45-24 and out-scored 50-20 in the paint by an Arkansas team that seems to have their number.
"We just got beaten badly on the boards, and we gave them way too many second opportunities and third opportunities and fourth opportunities," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "So that was the difference in the game."
The Razorbacks have beaten Vanderbilt four times over the past two seasons, including twice in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
"I think their length and their athleticism (give us problems)," Stallings said. "How athletic they are in the perimeter. We don't do a good job of guarding (Gary) Ervin, and he's hurt us in just about every game."
When teams do not defend or rebound well, it usually boils down to effort, and today's game was no exception. Both Gordon and fellow senior Ross Neltner agreed the Commodores did not come in with the right mindset.
"I don't know if its matchup problems or we just never get up to play them or I don't know what is, but we didn't have any excuse today to not come ready to play," Neltner said. "We just weren't ready and it showed."
"We just didn't play with enough urgency today," Gordon added. "We'll be ready for the NCAA Tournament I think. Hopefully this tournament and that loss can put a little hunger into us and make us want it more."
Despite the loss, Stallings said he is not overly concerned.
"Yeah, I like our chances in the NCAA Tournament, quite honestly," he said. "But again, it's all about match ups and who you draw and how you fit against how they fit. So we'll just see what happens on Sunday, and then we'll go about our business."
Senior Shan Foster said the Commodores can draw upon the fact that they were able to overcome last year's SEC Tournament loss and make a run deep into March.
"Obviously we didn't want to lose that game or this one, but it's just one game," Foster said. "And fortunately for us we have an opportunity to right the ship in the NCAA Tournament. We have an opportunity to keep playing."
That they most certainly do.
-Jarred Amato is a junior at Vanderbilt University and also writes for "The Sports VU" (http://sportsvu.blogspot.com/"). He can be reached at email@example.com.