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January 17, 2007

In the zone: Vandy drills Alabama 94-72

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Memo to Southeastern Conference coaches: Think long and hard before zoning Vanderbilt.

The Commodores (12-6, 2-2) thoroughly exploited Alabama's 2-3 zone Wednesday night, hitting 58 percent of their shots-including 15-of-28 from 3-point range-in routing the tenth-ranked Crimson Tide (14-3, 2-2) 94-73 in Memorial Gym.

Vanderbilt got double-figure scoring from its entire starting lineup, led by Shan Foster, who scored 27 points including 5-9 behind the 3-point arc. Eighteen of Foster's points came in the first half. Derrick Byars (15), Ross Neltner (14), Dan Cage (12) and Alex Gordon (12) also tallied double-digits.

"I thought we shot the ball well, I thought we got good shots most of the night, and when you make that many from 3, a lot of things have to go wrong in order not to win," said Vandy coach Kevin Stallings.

Vandy led just 22-20 midway through the first half, as the Tide's Jermareo Davidson (15 first-half points) and Mykal Riley (11) matched the Commodore shooters with an impressive display of their own.

But the points kept coming for Vandy, who shot an amazing 68 percent for the half, including a nine-of-15 performance from 3. The Commodores led 54-37 at the break, punctuated by Foster's 3 from the left side that just beat the halftime buzzer.

The Commodores started the second half the way they finished the first, riding a pair of Gordon 3's on back-to-back possessions to build the lead to 60-39.

Moments later, a Foster 3 put Vandy up 68-46, but that's when Alabama mounted a comeback. The Tide, which out-rebound Vandy 42-31, picked up four offensive boards on one possession, and Alonzo Gee hit two foul shots to cut the deficit to 75-62 at the 9:28 mark.

Gee hit a 3 on the following possession, then Richard Hendrix hit a lay-up to cut the lead to 76-67 at 8:28.

But Stallings chose to go with a bigger lineup, substituting Ted Skuchas for Cage, and the momentum quickly switched back as 'Bama wouldn't score again for over six minutes.

Byars hit a 3 on the next possession, then Foster was fouled shooting a 3, and hit the resulting foul shots to put Vandy up 82-67. Those six points were part of a 16-0 run that put the game away for good.

"Probably the key to the game, when they made the run and we went with a big lineup, they stopped killing us on the boards quite as badly there for a stretch, and we were able to build the lead back up when Ted went in.

"I don't know if that was because all of the rebounds he got, but I think he was able to keep guys off the boards, and other guys got them," said Stallings.

The performance came on the heels of Saturday's road loss at Georgia, a game in which the Commodores said they were embarrassed on the defensive end.

"We just haven't been able to lock down defensively. Tonight, we came together defensively and we made a stand," said Foster.

"We made a statement we were going to play like that, and as fast as we can decide we'll play like that every single game, that's the type of team we will be."

"The difference was, I think the big guys on our team took it personal as we looked at Georgia's big men, who were like 100 percent from the field, literally, on Saturday," added Byars.

"And they did a good job of accepting the challenge of playing against one of the premier frontcourts in the nation."

The victory was Vandy's third over a ranked opponent at home this season. The Commodores defeated No. 25 Georgia Tech in December, and knocked off No. 16 Tennessee last week as well.

Vanderbilt travels to Kentucky on Saturday, then to LSU on Wednesday before returning home to face Ole Miss on Jan. 27.



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