Steve Tchiengang summoned me to his locker. The senior forward had something he wanted to get off his back.
"So here's the deal," said Tchiengang as the red light flashed from my video camera. "I got my first win in the NCAA Tournament. I've been waiting for this for four years, so we're just going to keep rolling. That's what's up."
Vanderbilt's 79-70 victory over Harvard Thursday afternoon has been a long time coming for this decorated senior group. For all the individual records and accolades, there has always been one glaring omission: an NCAA Tournament victory.
"A lot of work has gone into today," Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. "A lot of disappointments have gone into having success today. I'm really happy for my seniors and my team because they've deserved this."
In recent years, the Commodores faded and disappeared in the postseason like the McFly family photo in Back to the Future. Call it March Sadness.
This time, however, history changed for the better.
Like when Jeffery Taylor misfired on his first four shots but found a way on his fifth attempt, a three-pointer that rattled off the iron several times before falling in to tie the game at 20. Taylor scored on a putback on the next possession and the Commodores never trailed again. He was locked in from that point.
"This one definitely means something to us," Taylor admitted.
Or how about Festus Ezeli, who returned as a force in the paint with 11 rebounds and four blocks. In one series in the second half, Ezeli hauled in three straight offensive boards to give John Jenkins a fourth look he wouldn't miss.
Put it all together and that massive weight was removed. The oh-fer March tag is long gone, too. The Commodores can tear out those pages from their past and go back to looking at the future.
"I hope everybody back home was watching," Lance Goulbourne said. "We got that monkey off our back for the senior class finally."