Rivalry Revenge: Baldwin, Kornet power ‘Dores in Knoxville

The Black & Gold Standard is an all-new VandyRadio Blog featuring general commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage (along with, on occasion, Max Herz and Dan Helinek) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the season as the team chases a postseason berth for the first time since 2012. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2014-15 schedule.

Wade Baldwin talked the talk on Wednesday, as the Vandy freshman’s comments about Josh Richardson and Tennessee made the rounds on Twitter this week prior to Thursday’s rematch between VU and UT. Baldwin and the ‘Dores did not disappoint, walking the walk in defeating the Volunteers 73-65 Thursday in Knoxville behind a second half avalanche.

–       Luke Kornet was fantastic offensively in this game, and the sophomore’s 5-6 shooting from three played a huge role in opening up the Vandy offense after a weak 19-point first half showing. To me, however, Wade Baldwin was the story of this one. Baldwin scored 13 points on only five shots, to go along with six rebounds, six assists, excellent defense, and only two turnovers. Most of all, the freshman point guard backed up his controversial comments from Wednesday and completely shut down UT leading scorer Josh Richardson for a key period in the second half during which Vandy took the lead back and stretched the advantage out to as much as 11 points. I wanted the ‘Dores to show an increased level of toughness in this game (even if it came in the form of trash talk), and they delivered.

–       As VU added to their late-second half lead, I saw more attitude and emotion from the Commodores than at any other point this season. Damian Jones threw down a vicious dunk and Luke Kornet even went for a chin-up on the rim, although he was not called for a technical foul. It was easy to see the disdain that the team has for Tennessee as they looked to pile it on their in-state foes, and this is great for the rivalry. I never dreamed of seeing a Big Shins rim chin-up in a game, and the fact that this happened says a lot about Vanderbilt’s performance.

–       Shelton Mitchell, along with Kornet, helped spark a pair of 11-0 second half runs that broke open this game. Just like in the first matchup between these two teams, UT gave Vandy a plethora of open threes. This time, however, VU took full advantage and knocked down 13-25. The Commodores turned the ball over on 30% of their possessions in the first half, but cut that to only 10% in the second half. The result was less transition opportunities for UT and extra possessions that Vanderbilt made good use of.

–       The Vols’ first half run came largely as a result of too many threes for Vanderbilt. VU was only 175th in the country in the percent of the team’s points scored on threes, yet the ‘Dores took twice as many threes (14) as twos (7) in the first 20 minutes. Coincidentally, the biggest momentum change in this game may have come in the form of James Siakam’s tough and-1 on a drive to the rim, immediately followed by a charge drawn by the Vandy senior forward. All of a sudden, the Commodores looked energized. That’s what I call the #BambaMentality.

–       The win moves Vanderbilt to 16-12 on the season and 6-9 in the SEC. The ‘Dores are up to eighth place in the league, just behind Alabama (7-8), the team’s next opponent Saturday at Memorial Gym. A win would give VU the season tiebreaker over the Tide, putting Vandy in good position to grab the 7-seed in the conference tournament. This would allow the Commodores to avoid Kentucky until the conference title game, if VU were to get that far. The win over Tennessee is the type of rousing victory that any program can build off of, and Vandy should be in decent position to make the NIT with three wins the rest of the way. That scenario would yield a record of 19-14, and not many 19-win SEC teams have been turned away from the NIT historically.

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