Sinking the Commodores
"[Vanderbilt's] game plan, as set out by StLouHoo in his Game Preview, resembles the Virginia Tech game of drive for the free throws and hoist a lot of threes. That game plan is feast or famine against UVA, so this game could be a nail-biter or a Hoo runaway." It's usually StLouHoo knocking the pre-game analysis out of the park, but let me toot my own horn here on one of the few occasions I nail one. It was definitely famine for the Commodores, who died of scurvy or rickets - take your pick - from malnutrition. They were stranded at sea, bobbing like driftwood in the middle of the ocean after the Hoos not only sank their battleship but then hulled all the lifeboats and strafed the life preservers. Isaiah "Blackbeard" Wilkins and his band of cutthroats barely left enough for the sharks.
This one was more sudden and complete than the Japanese destruction of Tsar Nicholas' fleet at the Tsushima Straits. On the very first possession the Packline(tm) reduced the Commodores to a weak last-second volley that Jack Salt rebounded, and the defense never let up until Admiral Bennett pulled his capital ships from the engagement to prepare for the next battle. (Talk about a pirate name: "Jack Salt" is as perfect as they come). The offense required a few salvos to get the range, but once it did, the Cavalier gunners blasted hole after hole through the Commodores hull. Kyle Guy was, as usual, the most prolific gunner while Ty Jerome did his damage from over the horizon. Mamadi Diakite fired grape shot across the Vanderbilt deck from in close.
By the time Vanderbilt scored its first hit from the field, almost eight minutes had passed and Virginia had a 15-1 lead. It built from there, with such absurd scores as 26-5, 35-11, 41-12, 43-17 at the half, 51-20 and finally 64-26 when the ships-of-the-line withdrew from battle and sailed off for some well-deserved R&R. You thought the start of the first half for Vanderbilt was futile? It took them TWELVE MINUTES to score their first field goal in the second half.
You just know when they had the post-game handshake, Bryce Drew said "you sank my battleship!" to Tony Bennett.
Vanderbilt is not as bad as they looked yesterday but the Hoos might be as good. The offense actually was pretty poor at the beginning, meaning the Commodores were fortunate to not be down 20-0 in the first five minutes or so. People might have wondered if with offensive stars like Guy and Jerome taking over the defense might lag a little this year, but when Jerome is telling Daily Progress reporter Sam Blum "that defense is how you break their will," you needn't worry. Led by Wilkins and Devon Hall, this group looks like it really enjoys breaking spirits on the defensive end.
Whether it was on this site or in a Tweet somewhere, when I said that elite units are characterized by great discipline and esprit de corps, I knew we had the discipline, and yesterday I think we saw the esprit de corps. Wilkins has really grown into the emotional leadership role. You can see him out on the field of battle, bullets whizzing in every direction, men falling and dying all around, waving his banner and roaring defiance at the Fates of War. His men rally and make their stand.
Then there's Jack Salt striding through the massed bodies like the Colossus, snapping spears with his teeth and swatting away cannonballs with negligent swipes of a fist. Devon Hall is just everywhere, enforcing discipline in the ranks. With leadership like that and the cockiness of Guy and Jerome, the chemistry is both stable and volatile.
Guy's 18 were almost ho-hum by now, but his blanketing of Riley LaChance should not go unheralded:
Riley LaChance came into that game averaging 15ppg on 52% three-point shooting and had 0 points on 3 shots.— Hoos Place (@HoosPlace) November 24, 2017
Kyle Guy was his defender.
Jerome had a hand in that, too, and together they made Vanderbilt's most accurate gunner abandon his post. Jerome had another of his now-patented slow starts, but once he got going, man was he magnificent. Diakite also had a great game, making it two in a row and giving hope that he is starting to really understand. The three of them combined for 44 points.
And that's the story so far this year: The Seniors And the Sophomores. While last year's Juniors and Freshmen were a dysfunctional bunch, departures and maturation have produced what we are seeing now, which is a group of men who appear to move as one, fired by one will and guided by one mind, and that's why they have a chance to achieve great things.
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