The Vanderbilt losing streak is now up to 17 games and the Commodores remain winless in SEC play after a 64-57 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M. This Wednesday’s game against Arkansas now represents the Commodores best chance at a league win this season.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Continue to play hard
This was yet another game where the Commodores couldn’t buy a break late in the game.
Vanderbilt came out hot against a Texas A&M squad that was flat from the off, building a double-digit lead in the first half. The problem, again, was that Vandy was simply unable to keep its scoring momentum going, seeing that lead pegged back late in the half and then erased shortly after halftime.
Even then this was still a contest late on. Vanderbilt was down by just two points with three minutes remaining, a perfect scenario from which to strike and try to pick up the victory. Again though this is a team without the confidence to close a game and any chance to win quickly disappeared as the Aggies pulled away for a seven point win.
Arkansas is a beatable team if the Commodores come out hard and play like there is no tomorrow.
Take advantage of home court
We all know that the unique set up of the gym at Vanderbilt makes it difficult for the opposition to adjust to. There are often communication problems and coaching issues when it comes to the setup at Memorial, especially when the ‘Dores are facing a young team that has not seen the gym before.
That is what they will face on Wednesday with the visit of Arkansas.
Only one player on the Razorbacks roster, Adrio Bailey, has played at Vanderbilt before. While the ability to be on the sideline for the coaches has negated the advantage somewhat, it is still key that Vanderbilt come out hard in this one and tries to put Arkansas on the back foot early.
If the Commodores can claim a double-digit lead here, as they did against the Aggies in College Station on Saturday, then perhaps those communication issues become more important and the Razorbacks fall apart.
Stop Daniel Gafford
If the ‘Dores are to have any chance in this one then they need to find a way to shut down Arkansas sophomore Gafford.
The forward/center was an expected first rounder in the 2018 NBA Draft before announcing his intentions to return to Fayetteville for this season. While the season has not gone as he would have liked, specifically due to some injury issues that slowed down both Gafford and the team in the middle of SEC play, he is now back to playing big minutes and putting up big numbers for the Razorbacks.
In their win against Ole Miss on Saturday, Gafford had one of his best scoring games for weeks as he went 7-of-9 from the field for 17 points. Interestingly, he was only able to pick up a pair of rebounds (he averages 8.7 per game) but his scoring touch was enough to lead Arkansas to a win.
Expect to see a lot of work on denying Gafford the ball inside and then quick double-teams in the post to slow down his scoring threat.