by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
A perennial victim of the first-round upset, Vanderbilt entered the 2011-12 season with perhaps more hype than the program has ever had as the Commodores returned the core of last year’s team. But it only took two games to see Vanderbilt upset again by a mid-major, falling at home to Cleveland State 71-58.
The Vikings took an early lead and never looked back on Sunday, pushing the margin to as many as 16 points in the first half. Senior D’Aundray Brown was the team’s driving force, finishing 18 points, 8 rebounds and 7 steals.
Brown’s defense helped disrupt a Commodore offense that looked stellar in the team’s opening win against Oregon. That night John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor and Brad Tinsley combined for 58 points but against Cleveland State, the trio manged just 33 points.
Cleveland State was supposed to take a step back after its star player, Norris Cole, was drafted in the first round by the Miami Heat. However, the team seems ready for life without him.
From The Tennessean:
“Norris Cole was a first-round draft pick, and now all of a sudden he’s gone,” [Cleveland State Head Coach Gary] Waters said of a player taken in the first round in the NBA draft. “You can have first-round draft picks but when he’s your point guard and leading everything, that’s a whole different world. I wanted to see starting out early how fast we could adjust and make certain things happen. And when you’ve got four seniors out on the floor, some things happen.”
The loss is a brutal wake-up call for a Vanderbilt team with many doubters heading into the season. Despite the high-ranking, its lack of tournament success in recent years raised eyebrows. The Commodores will likely have to wait until a Nov. 28 game against No. 14 Xavier to silence any critics.