Weekend basketball roundup: Vanderbilt freshman can do it all, needs focus

Moments after he recorded one of his five assists in Vanderbilt’s victory over Lipscomb last Thursday, Wade Baldwin was so pumped he really went after the man he was guarding on the ensuing possession.

One problem: The rest of the Commodores were playing zone. Coach Kevin Stallings roared his disapproval, and the 6-foot-3 freshman out of Bell Mead, N.J. got back in position.

“He needs to do what we coach him to do,” Stallings said following the game. “He's a good player.  It's a concentration thing with him. His challenge is to concentrate and be fundamental.”

Perhaps the problem is that Stallings and his staff have asked him to do a little bit of everything in his first college season.

Between that game against Lipscomb and Sunday’s victory over Tennessee State, Baldwin averaged 9.5 points, 7.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals – numbers good enough that he was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday. He became the 11th different Vanderbilt player to earn that award, and the first since Damian Jones got one back in February.

He has not started a game but averages 25 minutes, which is fourth on the team. His 18 assists lead the team as do his four steals, and he has made more than 70 percent of his shots overall (73.3 percent) and 3-point range (75.0 percent).

“I am wherever Coach Stallings wants me to go, to be honest,” Baldwin said.

Well, eventually.

Player of the week: Evan Bradds, forward, Belmont: The 6-foot-7 sophomore scored a game-high 24 points, 16 in the second half as the Bruins rallied from a 14-point deficit with 6:25 to play and defeated Western Kentucky 64-63. He started the comeback with five straight points and his free throw finally put Belmont ahead 61-60 with 43 seconds remaining. In three games last week he averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Coach of the week: Rick Insell, MTSU women: His team’s 71-65 victory at Ole Miss on Sunday was notable for far more than the fact that the Lady Raiders knocked off an SEC opponent. It was the first meeting in women’s college basketball history between teams coached by a father and a son. Matt Insell is in his second year at Ole Miss. MTSU trailed by 12 early but scored the next 15 points and never trailed again. Three Lady Raiders registered double-doubles. Maybe the father did not teach the son everything he knows. 


Sunday’s games

Vanderbilt 78, Tennessee State 46

Middle Tennessee State 71, Ole Miss 65

Saturday’s games

Belmont 64, Western Kentucky 63
Lipscomb 74, Transylvania 63
Middle Tennessee State 66, Southern 48
Illinois-Springfield 78, Trevecca Nazarene 71

Tennessee State 73, Lipscomb 55
Ferris State 68, Trevecca Nazarene 60

Friday’s games

Truman State 80, Trevecca Nazarene 62

What to watch for this week:

• Belmont and Lipscomb wrap up their annual home-and-home series Monday night at Curb Event Center on Belmont’s campus. Lipscomb leads the all-time series 73-62, but Belmont has won six straight, including this season’s first meeting, 87-62, a week earlier. Tip-off is 7 p.m. Live video is available on the OVC Digital Network and the radio broadcast will be on 94.9 FM.

• Tennessee State’s youthful men’s team will get a real lesson in big-time college basketball Tuesday when it plays at Virginia (6 p.m., CST). The Cavaliers are ranked ninth in the country following an ACC championship in 2013-14. It is the first meeting between the schools.

• Vanderbilt plays at the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Friday and Saturday. The Commodores face Rutgers, which will have serious crowd support, on Friday (6 p.m., NBC Sports Network) and then either Virginia or LaSalle on Saturday.

Nov 24, 2014 1:57 PM

NBA Players Association prepared to appeal Taylor's 'excessive' suspension

The NBA’s 24-game suspension of former Vanderbilt star Jeff Taylor for his part in a domestic violence incident is “excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement” in the opinion of the head of the NBA Players Association.

Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBAPA, issued a statement Thursday that indicated the union is ready to file an appeal if Taylor, a third-year forward with the Charlotte Hornets, desires.

Taylor was suspended Wednesday following his guilty plea on Oct. 29 to charges of misdemeanor domestic violence and destruction of hotel property.

Roberts’ statement:

The 24-game suspension imposed by Commissioner Silver against Jeff Taylor is excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"). The CBA contemplates a minimum 10 game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period. The 24-game suspension is one of the longest in the history of the league.  We have a scheme of discipline that was the result of collective bargaining between the parties that has been applied consistently over the years.  While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters. While ultimately this is Jeff's decision, we stand ready to file an immediate appeal on his behalf.

Nov 20, 2014 7:35 PM

As NFL rookie, Matthews remains focused on results over stats

Jordan Matthews has a lot more to say these days.

For the past three years, when he was the preeminent performer in Vanderbilt’s football resurgence, Matthews dutifully stuck to the talking points scripted by then-coach James Franklin. When in doubt, he erred on the side of brevity.

Now a rookie in the National Football League, the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receiver enthusiastically and expansively answered questions Wednesday during a conference call with local media in advance of Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles (noon, CBS).

His message, though, remains unchanged. It’s all about whether or not his team wins or loses.

“I have some high expectations for myself,” he said. “I don’t really look at it statistically — like on awards or anything like that — because different [in] situations guys get awards, and you don’t really know who’s better or who’s not. I just want to make sure I can help my team out in a positive way, and I feel like I’m doing that so far.”

Matthews is the Eagles’ second-leading receiver with 44 catches for 558 yards. His six touchdowns are tied for second on the team, behind only fellow wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and third among all of this season’s rookie wide receivers.

He topped 100 yards receiving in each of the last two weeks — the first 100-yard games of his career yet viewed those performances as dramatically different.

“You look at the numbers, they might come off the charts, ‘Oh that’s a good game for a rookie,’ but at the same time we didn’t win [Sunday],” Matthews said. “So it’s not a game you want to look back on and say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great game for me.’”

One consistent aspect of the 45-21 victory over Carolina on Nov. 10 and the 53-20 loss at Green Bay on Sunday was the fact that Matthews faced off against one of his college teammates (at least) in the opposing secondary.

“I matched up with [Houston cornerback] Andre (Hal), and I got to match up with [cornerback] Casey (Hayward) and [safety] Sean (Richardson) last week, too,” Matthews said. “I’ve seen a couple of my teammates that have been in the league.

“It’s been really cool, kind of surreal almost, because I’m going against them, but I just have so much love for those guys. I played with them for so long. I always make sure I talk to them pregame, post-game, and we get pictures, too.”

What has changed from his college career is Matthews’ level of conditioning.

A tireless worker at Vanderbilt who performed well at the NFL combine, Matthews was a second-round draft pick by the Eagles in their second year under head coach Chip Kelly, whose innovative offense includes an attempt to run plays at a much faster rate than is traditional in the NFL.

“I’ve always been into conditioning, I’ve always been running, but it’s a different type of shape,” Matthews said. “There’s in shape and then there’s ‘Eagles’ shape. You definitely have to get to a different type of shape when you’re playing for this team. Practices, they’re not going to slow up either. You’re going to have to go out there, you’re going to have to run, so you’ve got to set your mind every single day when you wake up. It’s going to be a grind, but it’s definitely going to make you better.

“… It’s fun. I think as an offensive player you couldn’t ask to play in a better system. It’s probably one of the most innovative ones in the whole NFL, and I know it’s just going to continue to get better as the years go on.”

His numbers are likely to improve with it. Not that it matters to him.

Nov 20, 2014 11:10 AM

Stallings willing to keep it local with VU's non-conference schedule

Kevin Stallings is willing to give nearby programs their shot.

Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball coach has proved that he is happy to schedule games with other Tennessee-based institutions. In fact, his tenure with the Commodores is rooted in that philosophy. His first three contests as Vanderbilt head coach were against, in order, Belmont, Tennessee-Martin and East Tennessee State.

Trevecca Nazarene became the latest when it showed up at Memorial Gymnasium on Sunday.

“That just about covers it,” Stallings said following his team’s 83-56 victory. “I believe we’ve played everybody that’s got a Tennessee address. Or at least it feels like we have — I’m sure there’s another school or two out there that we haven’t played that will be calling us.

“Our first three games this year, they don’t have to leave town.”

Sure enough, Vanderbilt keeps it local when it hosts Lipscomb on Thursday (8 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) and Tennessee State on Sunday (6 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).

A look at Vanderbilt’s non-conference record against in-state programs (not including SEC foe the University of Tennessee) under coach Kevin Stallings:

Austin Peay: 3-0 (last meeting 2013-14)
Belmont: 4-0 (last meeting 2010-11)
East Tennessee State: 5-0 (last meeting 2006-07)
Lipscomb: 4-0 (last meeting 2013-14)
Middle Tennessee State: 4-1 (last meeting 2012-13)
Memphis: 0-1 (last meeting 2004-05)
Tennessee State: 4-0 (last meeting 2009-10)
Tennessee Tech: 3-0 (last meeting 2008-09)
Trevecca Nazarene: 1-0 (last meeting 2014-15)
UT-Chattanooga: 1-0 (last meeting 2001-02)
UT-Martin: 2-0 (last meeting 2007-08)

One of the Commodores’ two exhibition games this season was against Sewanee, a team the VU program hasn’t faced in the regular season since 1909-10. Similarly, it has been a while since Vanderbilt has played Union (1913-14), Carson-Newman (1927-28) and Cumberland (1948-49). Tusculum and Martin-Methodist don’t show up anywhere in the program’s records.

So maybe he has not faced them all. Stallings, though, is willing to do his part to help expose other in-state programs to SEC-caliber basketball.

“We’re going to definitely go over there and give it all we’ve got,” TSU coach Dana Ford. “We’re going to prepare to win the game. Guys are going to play hard and we’ll just let things fall as they may.

“… I would like to play them every year, but it would have to be something that does them some good too. It’s going to do me a lot more good than it does them. … It gives our guys some type of vision and some type of perspective on the level of competition and how they do things that we can measure ourselves against.”

A look at upcoming men’s basketball games between schools in and around Nashville:

Lipscomb at Vanderbilt, 8 p.m.
Fisk at Tennessee State, 7 p.m.

Tennessee State at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m.

Lipscomb at Belmont, 7 p.m.

Dec. 2
Middle Tennessee State at Belmont, 7 p.m.

Dec. 6
Tennessee State at Lipscomb, 4 p.m.

Dec. 13
Lipscomb at Austin Peay, 4 p.m.

Dec. 21
Tennessee State at Middle Tennessee State, 2 p.m.
Austin Peay at Lipscomb, 2 p.m.

Nov 20, 2014 10:09 AM

Vanderbilt football dismisses Seymour for violation of team rules

Graduation decimated plenty of position groups on Vanderbilt’s football team. When the 2014 season opened the wide receivers, cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers featured an abundance of new faces.

Running back was different. Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow combined for more than 1,000 rushing yards last season and each had two remaining seasons of eligibility.

Now they’re both gone.

Coach Derek Mason said Wednesday that Seymour had been dismissed for violation of team rules. The 5-foot-7, 196-pound junior missed one game last month for disciplinary reasons and had 123 rushing yards on 25 carries in six appearances.

Kimbrow was dismissed a month ago for conduct detrimental to the team.

The Tennessean reported Seymour’s dismissal Wednesday evening. That report said that Seymour remained enrolled in the university.

Seymour did not play last Saturday against Florida but was on the official depth chart for this week’s game at Mississippi. Last year, he rushed for a team-high 716 yards and tied the program record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 14. As a freshman in 2011, he rushed for 268 yards and five touchdowns. He sat out the 2012 season because of an injury.

He was more than halfway to Zac Stacy’s career record for rushing touchdowns (30) but will not get that mark.

The Commodores’ leading rushers this season are redshirt-freshman Ralph Webb, who is ninth in the SEC with 843 rushing yards, and true freshman Dallas Rivers, who has rushed for 184 yards.

Nov 19, 2014 9:19 PM

Former Vanderbilt star suspended 24 games by NBA for domestic violence incident

The NBA suspended former Vanderbilt star Jeffery Taylor for 24 games without pay Wednesday because he recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property.

Taylor has been absent from his team, the Charlotte Hornets, since the incident Sept. 25 at East Lansing, Mich. in which, according to a league investigation, he had an altercation with a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship.

The 25-year-old forward has missed the first 11 games of this season and will sit out another 13 before he can rejoin the Hornets. The suspension will cost him $267,000 of his $915,000 salary this season.

From NBA.com:

According to a release by the NBA, Taylor and the woman were drinking heavily at a hotel room and a loud argument ensued, prompting guests to call security. The argument escalated and Taylor shoved the woman violently into the hallway where she fell to the ground and struck her on an opposite door leaving a bump on her head.

The release also stated that Taylor slapped her arm, leaving marks, and punched a hole in his hotel room.

Taylor was arrested by East Lansing police officers and according to NBA investigation was "belligerent and uncooperative."

As part of his plea agreement he was sentenced to 18 months probation and ordered to complete 26 weeks in a domestic violence intervention program.

Taylor faces the possibility of additional punishment if he fails to meet the terms of his probation, which include participation in an outpatient alcohol treatment program and 80 hours of community service. He will perform alcohol sensor tests for 60 days and will subject to random tests after that.

If he complies completely with the terms of his probation, the domestic assault charge will be dismissed.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement:

“This suspension is necessary to protect the interests of the NBA and the public's confidence in it. Mr. Taylor's conduct violates applicable law and, in my opinion, does not conform to standards of morality and is prejudicial and detrimental to the NBA.”

The Hornets drafted Taylor in the second round in 2012, and he missed the majority of 2013-14 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has averaged 6.6 points and two rebounds for his career.

Nov 19, 2014 6:38 PM

Matthews: Vanderbilt's struggles a product of inexperience, not coaching

Jordan Matthews cautions that people should not confuse youth with talent. The caliber of competition can’t be overlooked either.

Vanderbilt’s all-time leading receiver said Wednesday that the school’s struggles this season are a product of graduation and roster transition and not an indication that the Commodores have less talent than in recent years. He also heartily endorsed first-year coach Derek Mason, who has won just three of his first 10 games and has yet to record a victory against a Southeastern Conference opponent.

“What you’re dealing with is … I mean, I think we’ve played the most freshmen of any team in the country,” Matthews said in a conference call with Middle Tennessee media. “So you talk about a school like Vanderbilt, I think it’s the hardest challenge in college football. … We’re the only school that has those type of academic requirements in that type of conference.”

Actually, Vanderbilt has used 26 first-time starters this season, which is four more than any other school in the country and nine more than any other SEC school. Overall, 31 true and redshirt freshmen have played and three upperclassmen made their college football debuts.

Matthews, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, was one of three Commodores drafted in 2014. That was the most in six seasons. Two weeks ago, he was matched up with another of last year’s draftees, Houston cornerback Andre Hal.

“People say, ‘OK, what about the Stanfords and Northwesterns?’” Matthews said. “Well, I think it’s well-documented that the Pac-12 and the Big Ten aren’t nearly as difficult as the SEC when it comes to football. Then on top of that, we have the same academic standards and requirements as those other schools, too.

“So it’s the biggest challenge in college football. Then when you add that challenge to the fact that we’re playing the most freshmen of anybody in the country, it’s going to be hard. There’s going to be a learning curve.”

Matthews, a second-round pick by Philadelphia, said he has stayed in touch with players and coaches on campus and remains optimistic about the future of the program.

“I think Coach Mason is the guy for the job,” Matthews said. “I fully endorse him. I know he’s going to have an impact there for a long time. The guys have to stick with him and keep working to get better.”


Nov 19, 2014 1:11 PM

Vanderbilt, Mississippi State both commit turnovers; only one overcomes them

Vanderbilt is one of college football’s worst teams when it comes to committing turnovers.

Mississippi State has not been much better. Yet the Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in the country and spent five weeks ranked No. 1 before a loss last Saturday to Alabama.

“They've been able to overcome some adversity because when you look at them in terms of turnovers, they rank 13th in the conference and we are right behind them,” Commodores coach Derek Mason said Tuesday. “We have (two) more turnovers than them but with the wealth of talent and what they do with balance, they just do a great job."

Ball security, therefore, will be at a premium when the teams meet Saturday in Starkville, Miss. (6:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are the only SEC teams that have committed at least 20 turnovers this season. The Bulldogs have given it away 21 times (10 fumbles, 11 interceptions) and the Commodores have given it away 23 times (nine fumbles, 14 interceptions).

Overall, just 24 of the 125 FBS programs have more than 20 giveaways this season.

Mississippi State is minus-3 in turnover ratio and is 9-1, ranked fourth in both the Associated Press and coaches polls. Vanderbilt is minus-12, has a 3-7 record and is assured not to make a postseason bowl for the first time in four seasons.

“If (we) don’t turn the ball over it’s a different season,” Mason said. “… What you can do is understand that if you don’t turn it over and if you can cause turnovers it gives you a chance to be in ball games and score points.

“… Turnovers matter. One way or the other, turnovers matter. So we have to be about not turning it over and getting turnovers.”

The Commodores have committed at least one turnover in every game this season and 13 straight dating back to late last season.

A game-by-game look at the number of turnovers Vanderbilt committed this season:

• vs. Temple: 7 (four fumbles, three interceptions)
• vs. Ole Miss: 1 (one interception)
• vs. UMass: 1 (one interception)
• vs. South Carolina: 2 (one fumble, one interception)
• at Kentucky: 3 (three interceptions)
• at Georgia: 1 (one interception)
• vs. Charleston Southern: 1 (one interception)
• at Missouri: 1 (one interception)
• vs. Old Dominion: 2 (two fumbles)
• vs. Florida: 4  (two fumbles, two interceptions)

“The biggest thing that has to show up for us is just not turning the ball over,” Mason said. “I’d like to see us not turn the ball over and see where we’re at in the ball game. When you have turnovers, it’s hard to win. So our emphasis is on not turning the ball over.

“Let’s possess the ball. Let’s get this thing to the fourth quarter and let’s see what it looks like.”

Nov 18, 2014 2:51 PM

One half of solid play enough to lift Vanderbilt in season-opener

Kevin Stallings joked about needing to watch the film.

The truth was that anyone who witnessed Vanderbilt’s season-opening 83-56 victory over Trevecca Nazarene Sunday at Memorial Gymnasium knew at first blush that the Commodores were much better in the second half than they were in the first.

“I would like to think – in my more rational moments – that part of that’s having a team as young as our team is but 3-for-12 in the first half from the foul line and 18-for-23 in the second half,” Stallings said. “That kind of just tells you all you need to know.

“As a coach, at least for me, I kind of like to know what to expect and I don’t quite know what to expect yet, or at least as much as I’d like to know.”

Vanderbilt started two sophomores and three freshmen, and the top two subs, in terms of minutes played, were freshmen.

It wasn’t until after halftime that the newcomers got to experience a comfortable lead. Sure, they were up by 11 briefly in the first half but were outscored 11-2 over the next four and a half minutes. The lead at intermission was three points, 33-30.

The Commodores scored the first 13 points of the second half and led by at least 13 the rest of the way.

“We came out with more intensity,” sophomore center Damian Jones, who led all players with 24 points and 12 rebounds, said. “Free throws were better. And we just got after it more. … We just didn’t do well in the first half so we had to turn it around in the second.”

A comparison of how Vanderbilt performed in a number of key statistical areas in the first and second halves of Sunday’s game against Trevecca Nazarene:

Field goals: First half – 14-30 (46.7 percent); second half – 14-26 (53.8 percent)
3-point field goals: First half – 2-9 (22.2. percent); second half – 4-13 (30.8 percent)
Free throws: First half – 3-12 (25 percent); second half – 18-23 (78.3 percent)
Rebounds: First half – 24 (8 offensive); second half – 29 (7 offensive)
Assists: First half – 5; second half –10
Blocked shots: First half – 4, second half – 5
Steals: First half – 1; Second half – 1
Field goals allowed: First half – 11-34 (32.4 percent); second half – 8-31 (25.8 percent)
3-point field goals allowed: 3-12 (25 percent); second half – 3-7 (42.9 percent)
Rebounds allowed: First half – 20 (8 offensive); second half – 9 (2 offensive)
Turnovers forced: First half – 6; second half – 6

“They became a little more physical, more than anything,” Trevecca coach Sam Harris said. “It was kind of like we expected. … I thought our execution was better in the first half. We talked about it becoming more physical in the second half. When we couldn’t score they got some breakaways and it kind of made the spread get big quick.”

Nov 17, 2014 5:10 AM

Competition in Vanderbilt's Black and Gold baseball series begins with selection of teams

Ultimately it came down to seniority instead of a lottery.

Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin said last week that the selection of captains for the annual Black and Gold Series likely would be a matter of luck.

“We’re going to have to choose them out of a hat because we have so many quality upperclassmen that we can’t condense it to one or two people like we did last year,” Corbin said. “We’ll do something creative to design some captains and from that they’ll choose the teams.”

Instead, it fell to first baseman Zander Wiel (Gold) and pitcher Philip Pfeiffer (Black), the only two fourth-year players on the roster, to pick sides for the three-game, intra-squad series that kicks off Friday.


Gold: Pitchers – Carson Fulmer. Tyler Ferguson, Joey Abraham, John Kilichowski, Collin Snider, Hayden Stone, Kyle Wright. Fielders – Zander Wiel (Captain), Ro Coleman, Karl Ellison, Aubrey McCarty, Joey Mundy, Drake Parker, Bryan Reynolds, Dansby Swanson, Will Toffey.

Black: Pitchers – Philip Pfeifer (Captain), Walker Buehler, Ben Bowden, Ryan Johnson, Jordan Sheffield, Brendan Spagnuolo, Kyle Smith. Fielders – Tyler Campbell, Tristan Chari, Jason Delay, Tyler Green, Jeren Kendall, Penn Murfee, Nolan Rogers, Rhett Wiseman.

Because of weather concerns, the final game was moved from Sunday to Tuesday. The schedule is: 4 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Tuesday. All three games are open to the public at no charge.

Pfieifer and Fulmer will be the starting pitchers Friday. Buehler and Ferguson will pitch Saturday. Tuesday’s starters are to be determined.

The Black and Gold Series is an annual affair that concludes fall workouts. This year, though, it precedes a goodwill trip to the Dominican Republic, where the Commodores will play seven games in a week.

“It’s a fun competitive environment to where the fans get to come and watch us play,” infielder Dansby Swanson said of the Black and Gold Series. “We’ve been scrimmaging and those our competitive, but there’s some stakes to (the Black and Gold series) and it’s just a fun, competitive environment.”

The competition begins with the captains and the selection of rosters.

“It becomes super-competitive among each other,” Corbin said. “It’s the one time you don’t mind your locker room being divided. You hope that’s the case. And I like it. I like it for the kids. It’s another chance to compete.”

Nov 13, 2014 7:09 PM