Commodores get festive on Manhattan

Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 12:30am
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VU's Jermaine Beal drives to the basket during the Commodores win Wednesday night. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

On the night before New Year’s Eve, Vanderbilt threw its own party — a block party. 

The Commodores had 10 blocked shots, the most during head coach Kevin Stallings’ 11-year career at Vanderbilt, and controlled the inside lanes during an 86-48 victory over Manhattan on Wednesday night at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Jaspers (6-6) were outscored 47-24 in the paint and shot just 25.8 percent (17-for-66) from the field — the lowest a Vanderbilt opponent has shot all season.

“We knew they were a big driving team so we were just trying to get down there and help,” said center A.J. Ogilvy. “We just happened to get our hands on a lot of shots today.”

The 6-foot-11 Ogilvy had three blocks to go along with 12 points, and Festus Ezeli, also 6-11, had a career-high four blocks for the Commodores (9-3).

Ogilvy said the focus has been on defense since Vanderbilt lost two straight — to Illinois and Western Kentucky — nearly three weeks ago. It was the third straight game that Vanderbilt had allowed fewer than 25 points in the first half (it was 38-22 at intermission).

But Stallings said that on Wednesday all the credit couldn’t go to his defense.

“I thought (Manhattan) had some open shots and just missed. We caught them on a night that they didn’t shoot well,” said Stallings, whose squad has won three straight. “Our defense is getting better and the first 13 to 15 minutes of the second half, we were really good.”

In fact, the Commodores held the Jaspers scoreless for more than four minutes twice in the second half. After Manhattan’s Antoine Pearson scored inside with 17:32 remaining, Vanderbilt went on a 14-0 run. It was capped off by a dunk from Ogilvy on a pass from John Jenkins with 13:45 left.

A few minutes later, the Jaspers had another draught, missing eight shots in a four-minute span. The Commodores took advantage, going on an 18-0 run for their biggest lead, 77-29, of the game with 8:03 to go.

“I kind of felt that they were shooting shots they couldn’t make,” guard John Jenkins said. “We were able to capitalize and make a huge run.”

Jenkins led Vanderbilt’s bench with a game-high 15 points. The Commodore reserves scored 46 points, compared to Manhattan’s 23. Eleven different players scored for Vanderbilt — the third straight game that at least 10 players have scored.

“Their bench did a great job for them getting in some points. They’re a good team,” Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen said. “We didn’t play well tonight. We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. We didn’t rebound well enough to stay where we needed to be.”

One Jasper, however, did have an impressive night on the glass. Manhattan’s 6-foot-11 center Kevin Laue grabbed a career-high eight rebounds, which was tied for a game-high with teammate Darryl Crawford and Ogilvy.

But what made Laue’s night special was that he has just one hand as his left arm ends just past his elbow. The freshman from Pleasanton, Calif., who is believed to be the first one-handed athlete to earn a Division I basketball scholarship, also scored his first career point on a free throw late in the game, blocked a shot and played a career-high 17 minutes.

“You have to admire any athlete to go out there and compete the way he did,” Stallings said. “It was very impressive to see. I don’t want anyone on their team to play well, but I enjoyed watching him play.”

Briefly

• Vanderbilt was just 5 of 23 (21.7 percent) from three-point range, just one game removed from making a season-high 12 3-pointers against Mercer on Dec. 21. Jenkins, who as a freshman has made 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, was just 3 of 7.

“I’m a little disappointed with my 3-point effort today,” he said. “I can get better and I’ll work on it.”

• The 900-mile trek from Ryder, N.Y. to Nashville was Manhattan’s longest trip of the season. On Saturday, more than 950 miles away from the Music City, the Jaspers will get back into MAAC play with a matchup at Marist, which is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

• The game was Vanderbilt’s second against Manhattan, which lost to the Commodores 85-71 in the finals of the Music City Invitational at Memorial Gymnasium on Dec. 28, 1982. In fact, this was the Jaspers’ first game against a team from the SEC since a 75-60 loss to Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18, 2004.