The streak is over as Vandy begins favorable stretch in SEC

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.

The streak is over. With a win over Florida on Tuesday, Vanderbilt men’s basketball picked up their second SEC win of the year after having lost seven straight. Here’s how the Commodores’ 67-61 victory went down.

–       The big story in this one was Vanderbilt’s huge number of free throws attempted, as the Commodores 29-42 from the line. Vandy, largely through Damian Jones, has been good at drawing fouls this season and it was important that the ‘Dores score as many points from the line as possible against a Gators defense that is ranked as one of the most efficient in the country. After jumping out to a 15-0 lead, the free throws helped Vanderbilt maintain control of the game even when shots weren’t falling. The result was a game that, as Florida head coach Billy Donovan said, “(Vanderbilt) dominated from start to finish.”

–       Kevin Stallings has tinkered with his starting lineup frequently this season and Donovan lauded Stallings’ decision to go with James Siakam over Luke Kornet. “It was a great move by him,” Donovan said. “It was a tough matchup for (Kornet).” Siakam rewarded his coach with possibly his best game of the season, piling up 12 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks on only one shot. Siakam’s energy clearly trickled down to the rest of the team, as the Commodores played hard on defense and rotated to Florida’s shooters pretty well.

–       Vandy’s defensive game plan was to switch an abnormally high number of ball screens, resulting in Damian Jones having to defend opposing guards at the end of the shot clock numerous times in the first half. Jones had a surprising amount of success in these situations, and even forced UF guard Chris Chiozza into a travel on one possession. “It’s not something that we do frequently,” Stallings said, “but I thought (Damian) did very well, given that we haven’t done a whole lot of switching this season.” Stallings indicated that the coaching staff wanted to see how the Commodores would handle this new strategy, so switching is a tactic that may be utilized more often in upcoming games considering how successful it was against the Gators.

–       The first thing people look for in a performance like this is what about the Commodores’ play might have changed compared to how they played during the losing streak. I would argue that nothing really changed and that Vandy simply got a weaker opponent. VU’s schedule to start SEC play was brutal, and the team came very close at home against LSU and UGA, both of which are better teams than Florida. I have long said that Vanderbilt would find success in the second half of SEC play due to a toned down schedule, and I firmly believe that the ‘Dores are neither as bad as they looked during the losing streak, nor as good as they may look if they can make a run over the last nine conference games.

–       The Commodores outrebounded Florida 42-26, which is a big step forward for them. The team still had 18 turnovers, however, and rank 11th in the SEC in offensive turnover % per Ken Pomeroy. This is one of the biggest deficiencies holding Vandy back, and the young backcourt needs to start cleaning this up at some point.

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