17:40 left, first half: That series of offensive rebounds shows that the Dores are active and engaged. Good energy so far, and that's something this team needed; it was a non-negotiable element.
17:22: Just as those words come across the keyboard, VU gets outworked for multiple offensive boards by Murray State.
16:28: Ugh. Ogilvy HAS to be stronger than that. No pansy three-foot floaters.
16:04: Good effort, but shots have to be finished near the rim. There's no Jarvis Varnado this time. Go up strong and with patience.
15:36: What a BRUTAL foul call on Ogilvy, who merely stands 15 inches taller than a pipsqueak Murray guard and merely plucks the ball above the head of the Racer… only to be called for a foul. It's not a foul if there isn't any contact. Absolutely ridiculous. Good lord.
14:01: Ugh, Murray is beginning to get to the offensive glass. Yes, the scoreboard isn't painting a particularly bleak picture, with VU leading by a 12-11 count, but don't focus on the score too much in the early going. The first half is about establishing good trends and planting the right seeds (tournament bracketing pun not intended). VU needs to grow its own sense of confidence and belief while preventing Murray from feeling particularly good about itself.
12:15: Love the play by Taylor. Why settle for the 18-footer when you can power to the line, get foul shots, uphold the Vandy M.O., and get Murray in foul trouble? Always easier to shoot foul shots and layups than long Js. Smart!
11:30: Two fouls on Ogilvy. That first one was the real killer because it was such an obvious phantom call. But as is said of one-and-done tournament games: "It takes just one bad day," in this case, the bad day resting with the officials and not just Mr. Ogilvy himself. (Reference the Robert Morris-Villanova game as an example of how officials can hijack outcomes. That was horrible.)
8:30: Vandy's offense is picking up a little juice, and as long as the Dores put the ball in the bucket, Murray has to keep pace. No one will beat VU when Kevin Stallings – one of the premier offensive minds in the country – sees that his team can reliably score and defend with a little house money in its pocket.
4:53: The energy level is not being sustained. The good vibe surrounding this contest in the first 5-8 minutes has dissipated. Vandy was rightly happy to find itself in a scoring game, because the Commodores are terrific when they find a good groove at the offensive end of the floor. But now that buckets aren't coming quite as readily, the Dores are struggling and hemorrhaging turnovers in particular. As a result, Murray is getting much more of a foothold. It's not so much that the margin has been minimal throughout; the Racers want a more defense-first game.
2:50: Missed jumper.
2:32: Festus Ezeli, five feet from the goal, needs to put that ball in the hoop instead of kicking out for a long one.
1:20: Vandy's still not finishing strong near the goal. This has become a different kind of game, and one can't say that enough. VU can't rely on jump shots, even though there are some solid jump shooters on this team. Establish the interior game and use size to subdue the Racers.
0:57: CBS announcer Bob Wenzel on Murray State so far: "On the offensive boards they've been demons." That's the number one thing Vandy needed to deny today.
0:00: Maybe a good defensive stop will put a little spark in the Commodores' body language. They were outworked for the second portion of the first half, and must elevate their game, particularly within five feet of the tin at both ends. "Wake up and dig deep" still very much applies as a rallying cry.
HALFTIME SCORE: Murray State 36, Vanderbilt 32.
Halftime stats of note: Ogilvy with 2 points, 1 rebound, and zero free throw attempts. And Vandy trails by only four. Not a bad deal.
19:14 left, second half: More missed jumpers. Get the ball into the paint and whale away, boys.
18:36: That's more like it, Mr. Ogilvy.
17:35: Oh, boy. Dores standing flat-footed and getting smoked on the offensive glass AGAIN. Just. Not. Acceptable. Taylor had his feet bolted to the floor. The junkyard-dog intensity lies with the Ohio Valley Conference champions. Terrible sign.
16:50: Another missed jumper. Lazy basketball. Don't settle when you're a 4 seed playing a 13.
16:23: Nice board by Ogilvy. Need to see more of that, plus a LOT of fire at the offensive end.
16:07: If you are going to shoot a floater, why not kiss it off the glass? But ideally, go all the way to the rim and draw contact. No half-measures here.
15:02: Ogilvy's finding himself. He can't lose himself again…
14:33: Find the three from Jenkins in transition after some great defense. That will work. Hoisted threes in halfcourt sets? No. Transition threes that are wide open and the result of a catch as opposed to a dribble? Oh, yes. A little Vandy vigor in San Jose, and not a moment too soon.
14:07: Spero Dedes informs us that Vandy is 9 of 17 at the line. That's a killer.
13:39: Just seconds after scoring, the Dores don't get back on defense, and Ogilvy picks up a silly, silly foul – ironically for running the floor harder than anyone else on his team. What a stomach punch of a sequence THAT is. Ogilvy worked hard, but made a dumb foul. His teammates didn't work hard, and should have given up the foul instead. Painful.
13:03: That long hoist from Goulbourne is EXACTLY what VU must avoid… but hasn't (not on a consistent basis, at any rate).
12:14: No foul against Ezeli (scandalous!), but the Dores rebound and run to get back the points they were denied on the previous trip down the floor.
11:21: VU played 32 seconds of great defense, but let down just a little in the final three seconds of that Murray State possession. Then a suspect block call on what looked like a really good cut to the basket. The stars are aligning for Murray, but it's partly the result of Vandy's deficient shot selection and inadequate first-half performance. Oh, and did we mention that Ogilvy's foul a few moments ago was a stomach punch? It's 51-46, Murray, at the under-12 media timeout in San Jose.
11:00: Four fouls on Jeffery Taylor. This day's just getting better. The notion of "digging deep" now applies to the hole VU is creating for itself.
9:07: Amidst the immense concern VU fans feel, the Dores have indeed improved at the defensive end. They're locking down Murray by staying at home and clogging passing lanes. Really exerting. It's the shot selection that's still killing them.
8:21: Another great defensive sequence. Let's remember that VU allowed only 62 points against Mississippi State in the SEC semis. This team needs to score.
8:03: Ezeli looked so smooth on that baseline hook. Notice also that Stallings subbed for Ogilvy at the 8:21 mark. GREAT MOVE. Why? Because it came just before a media timeout. Stallings sacrificed one possession for 3-4 extra minutes of rest for his horse. Great tradeoff. Savvy coaches will sub out their stars just before TV timeouts.
6:55: Oh, John Jenkins makes a freshman mistake. On a fast break (following some terrific defense and rebounding from the Dores in what had been a beautiful sequence), you need to establish and maintain leverage. Jenkins, though, tried to draw contact first, and when that contact didn't emerge, his body was off balance. Not only did he miss a layup because of his odd body angle; Jenkins was in no position to clean up the mess, and a bucket goes begging. Mmpf.
5:52: Ogilvy had that play stopped near the rim. Andre Walker has to know that when you bring down your arm really hard like that, the refs will call a foul even if it's all leather. So many plays are cutting against the Dores because of small but crucial situational miscalculations.
4:58: Ogilvy standing his ground defensively. He's worked very hard as a stopper; now, can he score? No qualms or quibbles with VU's defense; it's been more than adequate today.
4:46: ONIONS! John Jenkins gives VU a two-point lead. No time to celebrate, but it's better to be up two than down two.
4:16: Ugh. Offensive rebound for Murray.
4:06: THAT WAS A CHARGE! NO CALL! But Vandy gets the rock back.
3:42: Jenkins with a crisp curl, and he gets wide open for a 16-footer that he sticks. As long as a look is clean, from a reasonable distance, and following a catch, it's good.
2:47: Wow. Tinsley gets rejected at the cup, and Murray hits its second straight three. Jenkins – B.J. Jenkins – does it for the Racers. This is a Bond movie now with all the action and the need to emphasize first names. It's the "John vs. B.J. Show," an all-Jenkins joust in the heart of Silicon Valley. Riveting stuff.
2:25: Two free throw misses. Great.
2:03: Huge board by Taylor, not just because of the situation but because Murray seemed to have a weak-side tip-in off a miss. Taylor wrested the ball away from two blue-shirted bodies in traffic. That's an above-and-beyond play which, if duplicated in the next two minutes, will get the job done… or at least create overtime, which the favorite (VU) probably wouldn't mind.
1:45: That's not a blocking foul, but it probably was a play-on (and not a charge).
1:44: You gotta hit both, A.J. Too many foul shots have clanged off the rim today, especially for a team that's lived at the line.
1:13: Travel on the wing, not called. Murray scores on a terrific play, but the feet were dancing at the beginning of that move near the 3-point arc.
0:21: Terrific lock-down defense. The dribbler was funneled toward the baseline and not the middle. Ogilvy provided help. The kick to the corner was covered. Everything worked to perfection there. Now, Ogilvy on a dump-in or Jenkins coming off a screen. Vandy has great options, but because of the free throw dimension, Ogilvy is the better choice.
12.7 seconds: Pretty. Pretty sweet, too.
12.7 seconds: FREE THROW ONIONS FROM DOLLAR BEAL!
4.2 seconds: A defensive rebound slips through Vandy's fingers. Knowing my history, Murray State will score off the inbounds pass that's coming up after a Racer timeout. Would love to be proven wrong.
0:00: Yup. The failure to get that final defensive rebound came back to crush the Dore on Vandy's Final Four hopes. This is what it's like to be a Vanderbilt sports fan in big-ticket events that draw national attention.
No rebounds, no rings. Pat Riley's words will resonate through one very miserable offseason.