Nashville, TN – The seventh-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores were conference action.
This game marks the opener for the Vikings, who are members of the Horizon League and are led by Gary Waters, now in his sixth year as the architect of the program. Waters led his squad to one of the best seasons in school history in 2010-11, racking up a staggering total of 27 wins. The best player from that team is gone, however, so a repeat seems a bit unlikely.
Vanderbilt took care of business on Friday with a 78-64 decision over Oregon to begin the campaign. It is easy to see why expectations are so high in Nashville, as Kevin Stallings has a wealth of proven returning standouts. To be specific, all five starters are back, and this marks the first time since 1993 that the program begins a campaign nationally ranked.
Vanderbilt won its only previous meeting with Cleveland State, taking a 93-64 decision back in 1994.
The Vikings are talented enough to compete for the Horizon title, but the loss of Norris Cole leaves a huge hole. The standout guard led the team with 21.7 ppg and 191 assists last year, and there is no one on the roster that can put up those numbers. Fortunately, there is a trio of guards that are all capable of making significant contributions. Trevon Harmon was second in scoring last season with 13.2 ppg, and he should continue to blossom now that he will likely be the primary option at the offensive end. Jeremy Montgomery will be the floor general for CSU this year and has the court vision to be a deadly passer, and that was proven by his 63 assists a year ago. However, the biggest player could be someone that did not touch the floor last year in D'Aundray Brown. The guard missed all of last year with a knee injury, but the season prior he was a defensive menace, something Cleveland State will definitely need today and moving forward.
The Commodores possess two of the five players on the preseason First-Team All-SEC squad in Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins. Last season, Jenkins started 32 games for the 'Dores and scored 19.5 ppg on the strength of his accurate shooting from both three-point range and the foul line. As for Taylor, he brings 14.7 ppg back to the mix. In Friday's opener, Jenkins nailed seven three-pointers and finished with 24 points, while Taylor connected on half of his 16 field goal attempts and tallied 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Brad Tinsley shot 5-of-7 from the floor and pitched in 13 points for the Vandy, which logged 16 assists against only eight turnovers. The Commodores forced Oregon into 20 giveaways and earned a 15-6 edge in points from the foul line, both keys to the win.