January 20, 2011

Hoops notebook

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Kevin Stallings isn't a man who's often accused of throwing around praise superfluously. So when the Vanderbilt coach used the word "proud" to describe how he felt of his team's performance after the Commodores' 84-74 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday evening, you can be sure it was earned.

Few teams have taken the double-whammy of blown leads that have turned into close losses, and big injuries to key players that the Commodores have taken this season. And the way Wednesday's contest started looked like another one of those evenings where the basketball gods weren't smiling upon VU once again.

It started about 30 seconds into the game, when center Festus Ezeli blocked a shot, then fell to the floor gripping his knee in pain as his four teammates played offense on the other end of the court.

Ezeli returned shortly to play on the same gimpy knee that's bothered him for much of the last month, and the same one that he'd tweaked in Tuesday's practice. But after building an early 15-6 lead, Ole Miss threw a haymaker of its own, erasing that margin within five minutes and eventually heading to the locker room with a 42-39 lead.

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