Our Vanderbilt Commodore basketball team put forth a phenomenal effort last night in defeating No.18 Arizona State, 81-65, before an electric Memorial Gymnasium crowd of 9,271.
Five Commodores scored in double figures. Sophomore point guard Saben Lee led the way with 14 points on 2-for-3 from the field, 1-for-2 from trifecta and 9-for-12 from the stripe. Super freshman Aaron Nesmith added 13 on 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from triple. Talented 6’10” transfer big man Yanni Wetzell chipped in 12 points and 5 boards to go along with 2 blocks. Yanni was also 5-for-5 from the line. Super senior Joe Toye and junior sharpshooter and Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan added 11. We shot 44% for the game, 24-for-55, and 12-for-28 from trifecta, 43%. We were on fire from 3 in the second half going 6-for-12. We also finished 21-for-29 from the stripe, 72%. Would like to see that get even better, but a solid number nonetheless.
On the defensive side we also really excelled. We held the Sun Devils high octane offense to 32% shooting from the field (21-for-65) , 29% from 3 (7-for-24) and 65 points. To give you some perspective on that accomplishment defensively, the Sun Devils came into the game averaging 83 points per contest, 46% from the field, and 34 percent from trifecta. Their leading scorer, Dort Luguentz, a 5 star freshman guard from Canada, finished with 10 points on 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from trifecta. He came into the game averaging 20 points per game. Zona State was out-rebounding teams by 11 1/2 boards per game, but we kept it close. They pulled down 42 and we yanked 39 off the glass. VU 5 star freshman 6’10”, 250 power forward Simi Shittu finished with 9 points and led the team with 7 rebounds. Wetzell and Lee both grabbed 5, and Maxwell Evans, who did an outstanding job at point along with Saben, pulled down 4 boards, and added 8 points and 3 assists. Max hit 2 critical 3 pointers towards the end of the first half. Aaron had a monster tomahawk slam in the second half off an assist by Saben that ignited the crowd and really got the team pumped up.
It was a spectacular showing by our team that took a blow when we lost McDonald’s All American and potential NBA lottery point guard Darius Garland 3 weeks ago with a torn meniscus in his knee. We miss him, but Darius is there with the team on the bench and the players are now making the adjustment and look to have put it together last night. We moved to 7-2 and Zona State dropped to 8-2. Zona State lost by 6 to No.6 Nevada on December 7th in Los Angeles, 72-66, and defeated Georgia this past Saturday Night in Athens, 76-74, after having been down by 14 at halftime. The Sun Devils also defeated No.17 Mississippi State, 72-67, in Las Vegas, November 19th.
So that team is for real. It was an unreal, herculean effort by our team. Very proud of them. It doesn’t get any easier as we face Kansas State Saturday at 6 PM in Kansas City. ESPN2 will televise. But I think Bryce and the players are now more confident in this group’s chances to make a run this season. Bryce does a tremendously great job of building teams, and this team has a chance to be pretty special. Will have more on Kansas State coming up later this week. Awesome job by the guys. They deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there through the adversity of losing Darius and through the rigors of final exams. Just a terrific effort. Hopefully, it’s sign of things to come for this talented and developing basketball team.
There is a lot of electricity going on with Derek and his football team. We now have 21 commitments, many of whom will sign with us tomorrow on the first national signing day. The other is the first Wednesday in February, 2-6-19. We expect most all of these guys to sign and it looks like we could have 1 or 2 more tomorrow. It’s a very solid class. I’ve watched film on quite a few of them, and they are excellent football players. Coach Mason knows how to get good players and make them great players. He’s done that with his 2018 team and he’ll do it again with his 2019 team and beyond that. We also just got a graduate transfer quarterback, Riley Neal from Ball State. Neal will compete for the starting job in 2019. He was a 3 year starter for Ball State and is 6’5”, 217 pounds. He played in 9 games this fall as his season was cut short by injury, and completed 58 percent of his passes, for 1,917 yards and 11 TDs. He also rushed for 357 yards and 5 more TDs. He’ll join talented rising junior Deuce Wallace, rising and talented high 3 star freshman Allan Walters, and incoming freshman and great talent Jamil Muhammad, as those 4 compete for the starting job in 2019. Deuce has been reinstated to the team after serving a semester long suspension for violation of school policy. Deuce is a tremendous talent if he can get his act together. I’m sure he does now. Deuce is 6’2”, 210. As a senior at Sevier County High School in Sevierville, TN., Deuce passed for 3,505 yards and 37 TDs and led his team to the 5A state title game. Wallace also passed for 2,783 yards and 25 TDs as a junior. He was a 5,7 3 star by Rivals and an 88 by 247 Sports. He’s got it in him if he can keep his head on straight. Walters was a phenomenal high school quarterback as was Muhhamad. Should be a very compelling quarterback race this spring and summer with terrific candidates competing for the starting job.
Meanwhile, Kyle Shurmur, Kalija Lipscomb, Jared Pinkney, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Justin Skule, Bruno Reagan, Jordan Griffin, LaDarius Wiley, Joejuan Williams and this talented Commodore football team gets ready to square off with Baylor on Thursday, Dec. 28 in the Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl in Houston. We are presently a 4 point favorite. The game kicks off at 8 PM CT and will be televised by ESPN. Can’t wait to see the guys compete again. Awesome reward for Kyle and the seniors for their incredible efforts for 4 and 5 years on the West End and for the underclassmen who have worked their tails off in the weight room, and during spring and summer drills along with the grind of the season, especially the SEC part of it. So proud of these guys for hanging tough and defeating Ole Miss and Tennessee to earn the right to play in the Texas Bowl. It’ll be somewhat of a home field advantage for Baylor, as Waco is 3 hours from Houston, so they’ll have quite a few fans there. Hopefully our fans will be there, too, to cheer on this fantastic team that has been through so much adversity and come out as winners regardless of the result in the Texas Bowl. But we’re there to win. This is a business trip as well as a reward trip for our players. We’ll be locked in come 8 PM December 28th at NRG Stadium in the Rocket City. Could be a high scoring game though our defense really excelled against Tennessee. Need to win the turnover battle and cash in in the red zone. Our offense has been pretty solid all season and our defense looks like it’s getting pretty terrific as well. This is a treat for Commodore Nation and is a building block for the future along with a tremendous reward for the seniors, all the players. But it’s serious on December 28th. It’s serious now. Our guys will be ready.
Will preview the Texas Bowl next week and have a major spread on signing day tomorrow.
New Athletics Director
Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and a 5 person committee including himself named Malcolm Turner as our new Athletics Director last week. Malcolm comes with impeccable academic credentials having been an exclusive Morehead Scholar and finalists for a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of North Carolina. He also earned an MBA and a law degree from Harvard. That’s impressive in itself, but he also has engineered successful ventures running the NBA G League capping off major accomplishment upon major accomplishment for the triple A league of the NBA and had excellent success working with and for the PGA. He comes highly recommended and endorsed by many people in the sports world including former NBA Commissioner David Stern and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. Malcolm is described as a great communicator, great listener and overall superb human being. He will work tirelessly with our stellar coaches in football, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and bowling to make Vanderbilt Sports the best it can possibly be and continue the legacy of excellence in the classroom. Malcolm said he loves the energy of Vanderbilt and the city of Nashville, he loves the relationships with the student athletes and the relationships with the coaches. Malcolm starts on February 1, 2019. Welcome aboard Malcolm.