-MTSU clearly knew that they had an advantage against Vanderbilt in the paint. 14 of the Blue Raiders 15 points came from insider the paint. Alabama transfer Nick King came into tonight’s contest as the NCAA’s fifth leading scorer this season, averaging 24.3 PPG. Frontcourt mate Brandon Walters was also a beneficiary of the inside scoring game plan, as the two combined to score 12 of those first 14 points within the paint. For the game, the Blue Raiders scored 36 of their 66 points in the paint.
-Vanderbilt has made a habit of slow starts in 2017-18, the Commodores were unable to come back from a 17-point first half deficit Sunday afternoon against Kansas State, despite evening the game up late. Tonight, the Dores fell behind, 15-8, early, but used a 10-0 run amidst a 5:09 Blue Raider scoring drought to ignite not only themselves, but the Memorial Gym crowd.
-There’s good Matthew Fisher-Davis (31 points vs USC), then there’s not so good Matthew Fisher-Davis (1-for-6 shooting and 3 points vs Kansas State). The Charlotte native when he wants to can easily be one of the best players in the SEC and look like an NBA draft prospect. When he’s not engaged, he holds Vanderbilt back from being the quality team that they should be night in and night out. You could tell early on that this was going to be one of those good nights for Fisher-Davis. Outside of his 11 first half points, Fisher-Davis was active rebounding on both ends and aggressive defensively. Fisher-Davis added six more in the second half totaling 17 for the night. I’m not a fan of dumping on collegiate athletes but Fisher-Davis has to recognize his potential and be this player for the rest of his senior season for Bryce Drew.
-MTSU started the night a woeful 0-11 from behind the arc. Senior sharpshooter Giddy Potts finally tallied the teams first long-range basket with 5:11 to play, tying the game at 53. Two minutes later, David Simmons’ three gave the Blue Raiders a, 58-56, lead heading into the final media timeout. Potts nearly iced the game, hitting a three while fading back with a defender in his face, giving the Blue Raiders a 65-60 lead with 1:15 to play. Kermit Davis’ team might’ve missed their first 11 from three-point range, but they made their final three when it mattered the most.
-The Vandy bench played a huge role tonight. Although, the numbers were skewed by Fisher-Davis’ 17, the Dores received quality contributions from forward Clevon Brown (6 points, 4 rebounds) and guard Payton Willis (9 points).
-Following Potts making one of two free throws, Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance was fouled on a three-point attempt of his own. LaChance knocked down all three free throws to put the Dores within three at, 66-63, with 39 seconds left. Drew opted to have his team play out the possession with a nine second differential between the shot clock and game clock. Potts missed a step back jumper giving Vandy a chance to send the game into overtime. LaChance got not one, but two open looks for the tie, but both fell short sending the Doors to 3-6 on the season.
-MTSU has now won 4 straight against SEC teams dating back to the 2015-16 season. This was the first of three straight matchups against the SEC for the Blue Raiders. I’m not sure how Kermit Davis was able to convince Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy to bring his team to the Murphy Center but kudos to him for agreeing to travel to a school coming off of a 30-win season. Also, big ups Auburn head man Bruce Pearl for setting up a meeting in Birmingham the following Saturday. College basketball is always better when power conference schools are willing to travel in November and December to face-off against mid-major opponents.
-This morning on the final edition of Braden & Fitz the guys asked Belmont head coach Rick Byrd about the potential of a Nashville redention of Philadelphia’s Big 5. Former editor of the Nashville Scene, Steve Cavendish lobbied for the idea last month. Like in Philly, the tournament would include all of the area’s Division I college basketball programs—Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee, Belmont, Lipscomb and TSU. The event would be kicked off a one singular venue—I vote Memorial Gym—before the rest of the schools visit each others respective campuses. This morning, Byrd voiced two concerns: One, the Bruins and Tigers are in the same conference, the OVC; Two, Vanderbilt may not want to commit to having to play the four area schools annually because of what it might mean in terms of their non-conference schedule strength. I will point out that St. Joe’s and La Salle play in the same conference, the A-10, and make the Big 5 work by not playing each other until conference play. When it comes to Vandy’s interest, Drew made a statement earlier this season when he took his team to play Byrd’s at Curb Events Center. If that’s not a sign to Vanderbilt potentially being open to a Music City 5 idea, then I don’t know what is. I’ve continuously talked about how good the basketball in Nashville is this season and how everyone should be supporting all five local programs. Why not find an easy way in the years to come to get everyone excited about college basketball in the area with an event that easily draws in the average Nashvillian?
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