Vanderbilt and UMass can both put up points in a hurry and they didn't disappoint in Nashville yesterday. Shan Foster hit eight threes to become Vandy's all-time leader in made longballs and the Commodores improved to 15-0 in a 97-88 home win. While the Minutemen couldn't continue the A-10's upset string they did cast some doubts about the long-term fitness of VU.
Ricky Harris, Chris Lowe and Gary Forbes had their way with the Commodore defense and scored 25, 22 and 22 points, respectively. Their drives to the lane were unimpeded and their threes thrown up without a hand in the face, two things the Commodores desperately need to change if they hope to contend for SEC honors. Give Kevin Stallings credit, though, he realized that the one chance he had, with UMass up nine in the second half, was shifting to a zone that forced them to shoot from deep. Harris was 5-of-10 from three but his mates were 3-of-14 and Vandy ran away behind Foster's dead-eye shooting.
It wasn't like the Minutemen weren't guarding him. He was hitting with hands in his face and still finished with 32 points. The defense was keying on him, to its detriment, as A.J. Ogilvy was open inside all day, drawing fouls and finishing with 25 of his own. UMass hung with a good team but their lack of stopping power is going to cost them in A-10 play.
Elsewhere on the mid major hardcourts:
UNC-Asheville 61, South Carolina 58 - The Gamecocks found out what puts the Big in the Big South. Kenny George, all 7'7" and 360 pounds of him, had 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to the upset victory. What is a player of George's size doing at such a small school? Well, he's a slow developer, hurt a lot and still growing but is improving at rapid rates and, matched with a good backcourt, could knock Winthrop from its perch this season.
Sam Houston State 60, UCF 58 (OT) - If you've been sleeping on the Bearkats, read this or suffer in March. They defend like the Spartans of 300, rebound with a ferocity far bigger than their size and can win when they don't play their best, as evidenced yesterday. The C-USA's Knights kept them off the glass and Shamir McDaniel wasn't at his best but the 'Kats still pulled through. There will be a four or five seed hoping SHSU gets upset in the Southland tournament because their style would be hell to prepare for in three days.
CAA - George Mason hasn't had the best start to conference play, losing Wednesday to Georgia State, but they can grab control of the league this week. Will Thomas had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead them past De and they play the 3-0 Blue Hens of Delaware this week for a share of first place. Delaware beat Drexel 67-63 yesterday. In other games, Antoine Agudio returned from injury to lead Hofstra's 66-60 win against James Madison and VCU routed UNC-Wilmington thanks to 24 from Eric Maynor.
Niagara 96, Manhattan 86 - The Purple Eagle express rolls on to a sixth straight win behind a balanced and high-octane offensive effort. Charron Fisher had 27, no surprise, but so did Tyrone Lewis and Benson Egemonye added 22 to overwhelm the Jaspers. Next Saturday, Siena will travel to Niagara in a huge MAAC contest.
MAC - Conference play kicked off and it wasn't a good start for Miami. They got beat up by Akron 69-54 and the Zips showed they aren't dwelling on the Dayton loss. Steve McNees hit all six threes he tried and an 18-0 run that spanned the two halves turned this into a laugher. Five Broncos were in double figures as Western Michigan cruised to an 86-69 win against Northern Illinois and Bowling Green beat Ohio, miscast as a contender thanks to wins against St. John's and Maryland, 52-49.