Wrong. Vanderbilt bounced back from losses to Oregon and Cincinnati with authority Saturday night at Memorial Gym, throttling TCU 78-55 behind a strong performance from on-again, off-again senior Corey Smith. Smith came off the bench and scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds as Vanderbilt routed the Horned Frogs for the second straight year.
"I'm just glad I showed up tonight," Smith said. "I haven't been there for the past few games. It's a sigh of relief. It's good for my confidence."
Freshman Shan Foster got the starting nod in Smith's stead, and he responded with 13 points and four rebounds in 24 productive minutes. But Foster may not have a hold on Smith's starting slot if Smith continues to produce as he did Saturday night.
"Corey Smith is one of the best players on our team when he plays the way he is capable of playing," said coach Kevin Stallings, who saw his team improve to 5-4 overall and 5-0 at home. "That is indisputable."
Stallings received further help from his bench when center Ted Skuchas gave him solid minutes after Dawid Przybyszewski and Julian Terrell both picked up two fouls in the game's first three minutes. Skuchas had six points, four rebounds, three assists and blocked shot before halftime as Vanderbilt shot out to a 41-26 lead.
"I had kind of a rough beginning," Skuchas said of his spotty sophomore season. "I had to fight back. This is one of the games that propels me along to try to get me playing how I played last year."
Vanderbilt took a comfortable halftime lead and stretched into a laugher mid-way through the second half. The Dores led 62-31 with 10 minutes to play as TCU (6-4) missed 10 of its first 11 shots of the second half, turned the ball over four times and missed five free throws. Vanderbilt got a little sloppy toward the end of the game, but who could blame them? A critical game was in hand and the week of final exams was behind them. A careless turnover here and there is excusable.
While Smith, Skuchas and Foster were clearly notable, it was the backcourt play of Mario Moore and Jason Holwerda that earned special praise from Stallings in the post-game. Moore had 14 points, five assists and one turnover, while Holwerda had six points, four assists and one turnover. And, by the way, Holwerda grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, leading Vanderbilt to the 44-34 backboard edge.
"When your starting backcourt has nine assists and two turnovers, you have a chance to do some good things," Stallings said.
Good things were not evident in practice on Friday, but the Commodores shook off the 10 days off between games and a week of final exams, much to the surprise and delight of Stallings.
"I didn't anticipate we would come out and play as well as we did," Stallings said, noting that TCU was down five midway through the second half at Kansas. "We had to play well to have this kind of game."
Bill Trocchi is the interactive editor for Athlon Sports.
Texas Christian's Coree Santee (3) runs into Vanderbilt's Alex Gordon while driving down the court in the first half Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won, 78-55. (AP Photo/Neil Brake)
Bill Trocchi is interactive editor with Athlon Sports.