Sports, Thrill of Victory

7 things we learned from Vandy’s 80-66 win over Belmont

Luke Kornet had a great night in leading Vandy to its first win of the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The Vanderbilt Commodores picked up their first win of the new season on Tuesday by knocking off the Belmont Bruins at Memorial Gym.

Here’s what we learned from the 80-66 result.

1. Memorial Gym feels a little strange without Kevin Stallings on the baseline

Let’s get this out of the way first: it was weird to look over to the baseline and see someone other than Stallings delivering orders to the Commodores.

There was less stomping and whistling, which were two of Stallings’ go-to habits during his time in Nashville.

The last time a man not named Kevin Stallings had been on the baseline for Vandy? February 28, 1999. That’s a long time.

2. Vandy is still working through a transition on offense

There’s a good chance that Bryce Drew’s offensive system will be a success once everyone finds their place in it. But right now, the growing pains are evident.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd has yet another strong team this season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd has yet another strong team this season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

The Commodores are still adjusting to the drive-first style of play, and the 14 turnovers against a Belmont team that didn’t offer up a whole lot of pressure is evidence of that.

Considering that this is a team going from a high amount of set plays to a more wide open offense, this adjustment period was inevitable.

3. Belmont will win a lot of games this season

Think about this for a second: Belmont attempted 41 three-pointers in the game. The problem? The Bruins only made nine.

Even if they make three or four more of those (which they probably would have in nine games out of 10), it changes the entire dynamic of the game.

It was one of those nights where the shots didn’t fall for Rick Byrd’s squad. But they will. Evan Bradds will once again be outstanding, and Amanze Egekeze was also impressive (18 points on 7-of-10 shooting).

Offensively, Belmont shouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble scoring this season.

4. Vandy’s defense is also a work in progress

The most concerning thing about Belmont’s 9-for-41 stat from behind the three-point arc? The majority of the shots were wide open.

Coming into the season, on-ball defense was a concern for the Commodores. Tuesday night’s game showed that it’s still a concern.

The Commodores found themselves a little lost at times in switching off of screens, and it resulted in Belmont finding a lot of open looks.

That defense will need to tighten up against teams that will implement more of a drive-first strategy vs. shooting outside all day like the Bruins did.

5. It’s impossible to hate Rick Byrd

One of the more unique moments of the game had nothing to do with the 10 players on the court.

After disagreeing with a referee’s call, Byrd walked angrily beyond halfcourt as players were going to their benches for a timeout.

You know what usually happens when the opposing coach goes nearly to the opposite end of the court to yell at the referees. Fans go crazy, insults are hurled, etc.

What happened when Byrd did it? Pretty much nothing. A small contingent of a Vandy fans offered up low-effort boos, but that was about it.

Everyone loves Rick Byrd. How could you not?

Luke Kornet had a great night in leading Vandy to its first win of the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Luke Kornet had a great night in leading Vandy to its first win of the season. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

6. Vandy’s newcomers already showing potential

The Marquette game was game to forget for Vandy’s new players, but given the level of competition, it was understandable.

The good news is that the young trio looked much more poised and confident in game two.

Djery Baptiste couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, but he did add eight points on the night. Once he finds some finesse around the rim, he has a chance to be a solid player. His athleticism will give opposing players fits even when he does struggle on the offensive end of the floor.

Point guard Payton Willis was the most impressive of the group, knocking down a big three-pointer late in the game to extend Vandy’s lead to double digits and also orchestrating a couple of good offensive possessions when the Commodores needed it down the stretch.

Clevon Brown didn’t get much time on the court, but he still has a chance to figure into the rotation as the season progresses.

7. Luke Kornet is still Luke Kornet

It’s hard to guard a 7-foot-1 player. Belmont learned that in this game, as there was nothing that the Bruins could do to stop him inside.

The only choice? Foul him. Kornet got to the free throw line 16 times on the night, hitting 12 of them on his way to a game-high 20 points.

The paint was crowded last season with both Kornet and Damian Jones trying to find space inside, but this year, the entire inside game will go through Kornet.

He has a chance to have a special season.

Blake Lovell covers the Tennessee Titans and college basketball for Sports and Entertainment Nashville. You can follow him on Twitter for more sports talk.