As the Lipscomb basketball team took the floor, a little girl sitting near me exclaimed, “Daddy look! They wear their hair like me! That means they’re going to lose!” Certainly, the Commodores won the pregame “ask the 9-year-old girl which team looks better” test and went on to pass some other relevant tests on their way to a dominant 95-73 season opening victory over the Lipscomb Bison.
Festus Ezeli blocked the visitors’ first shot of the game (just like he did against UAH), and that opening statement, along with A.J. Ogilvy's 3 blocks, was enough to scare the Bison from the paint for the rest of the night. Vandy outscored Lipscomb 46-28 inside and shot an effortless 58.9%. Jeffrey Taylor was Vanderbilt’s most impressive player with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 dunks. He was clearly the most athletic player on the court, getting to the rim easily and often.
The Bison’s Josh Slater put up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 half-dunk. Slater drew the ire of the crowd by complaining a bit, drawing a questionable intentional foul, looking like Christian Slater, and being Lipscomb’s only effective player.
The game started with a flurry of pressure defense, dunks, outside shooting, and some quality jumbo-tron dance moves. Eight minutes into the game, the Dores already had 2 dunks, 4 3’s, and a 25-12 lead. Vanderbilt’s full-court press gave Lipscomb fits and directly caused 7 of the 23 Bison turnovers. Having their starting point guard, Johnny Lee, only play 12 ineffective minutes didn’t help their ball control issues.
Perhaps they should’ve subbed in the Vandy male cheerleader who got his hands on two loose balls and showed off his Globetrotter moves before getting scolded by a ref.
While I’m on the subject of cheerleaders, does Vandy really need 23 of them?! And if we’re going to have guy cheerleaders, could we have one that’s over 5’8”, or at least restrain their hair dye? When you add 13 dancers and Mr. C to the herd of cheerleaders, time-outs become a flash mob of flailing limbs, pompoms, and hot-or-not dancing. I suggest less cheerleader and more Kiss Cam.
Anyway, Vanderbilt never trailed, dominated the paint, and showed improvement in many areas. A.J. Ogilvy didn’t get into his game until late in the second half, but this year, he is looking more “marble statue” than last year’s “blob of vanilla pudding.” 13 and 9 is fine, but I’d rather have him at 20 and 15 against Lipscomb.
Festus is also looking excessively strong, and Andre Walker is looking like Sean Paul. John Jenkins seemed a bit timid making only 1 of his 5 3’s, but his reverse lay-up off a baseline drive was my vote for play of the game. Lance Goulbourne was and will be a quality sub for Taylor. Brad Tinsley and Jermaine Beal made outside shots, controlled the ball, and got to the rim when necessary on their way to double digits.
Steve Tchiengang put up a Skuchas line (Turnovers+Fouls > Points+Rebounds), but his only shot was an impressive power post move, and he didn’t miss either of his free throws.
The only issues I had with the Dores’ opening performance:
1. Too many open looks for an inferior team
2. Not attacking their zone off the dribble during Lipscomb’s run in the first half
3. Not finishing half-court sets with quality post play
Overall, it was a great start. The Dores are sure to provide entertaining basketball for the duration of this season, and I’m excited about their potential. With veteran ball control, quality post play, outside shooting, pressure defense, and young athleticism, this team has all the ingredients of a top 15 team.
We’ll know significantly more about this team after their trip out west to play in California and Hawaii, but their internal clocks will be so jacked up that I won’t hold any poor play against them (their next game starts at 10:30pm CST). However, I expect this team to be more about surprises than excuses.