It’s a number ONE ranking clanking to the ground. It’s always a pleasure to beat the Orange in basketball. It’s always fun to see a number one team come into Memorial Gym and leave with their ranking tucked between their legs. But, when it’s the UT crew coming in with the number 1 necklace, it’s the making for a deliriously happy evening.
I got to Memorial early. The Vandy crowd had been asked to wear white..(the game was on ESPN and a sea of white garb tends to stand out). Normally, the students comply, but the older folks, especially the Belle Meade crowd in the padded seats, tend to ignore apparel requests. Not tonight, t’was a sea of white, with a little orange thrown in for contrast.
The noise was nearly deafening 30 minutes before the game even started, and nearly unbearable when the game was underway. Sadly, the referees decided that they needed to demonstrate their mad whistle skills and over-called the game by about half. It’s pretty bad when fans yell at refs for making calls in FAVOR of their team, begging to let the game unfurl naturally.
It’s amazing to me that UT beat Memphis with Chris Lofton largely missing from the game, because tonight he showed how he can carry a team on his back. Some of his shots were launched from a different zip code and somehow parted the nets as if guided by some kind of Naismithian GPS. Luckily for Vandy, Shan Foster had a broader back and managed to carry a foul-ridden Vanderbilt squad to victory.
The refs took both teams out of their rhythm more than once, with excessive whistling. And I’m not saying this as the biased fan (guilty). The refs, like an inept bi-sexual, were bad both ways.
Much more importantly, the magic that seems to permeate Memorial in big games is back in town, thanks to the fans, the wondrous shooting skills of Shane Foster, and most importantly, thanks to the ball-handling skills of Jermaine Beal, the point guard who matched his uniform number with turnovers (as in ZERO). UT’s press was scary good and especially frenetic in the second half. Thanks to Beal, Vandy turned the ball over only eight times…a season low for teams playing UT.
College basketball would still be magical, even if Vandy had lost tonight, but a Vandy win against the number-one-ranked UT Vols makes the word ‘special’ seem banal. Life, it’s of the good…