The Vanderbilt Commodores fell to a 69-50 defeat at the hands of Texas A&M on Saturday, though it was the injury to Aaron Nesmith that took the buzz out of the building well before a basket was made.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys as the ‘Dores look to rebound against Arkansas:
Coping without Nesmith
According to coach Jerry Stackhouse it is “likely” that Nesmith is done for the season with a stress fracture in his foot. To say that this is a blow is a massive understatement as the Commodores were looking set for an interesting – and potentially successful –run in SEC play having pushed No. 5 Auburn all the way when the two sides met last Wednesday.
Now the ‘Dores have to find a way to cope with the loss of Nesmith and his SEC leading 23 points per game from the wing. The sophomore was fifth in the nation in scoring and shooting threes at an absurd 52.2%, putting him on track for one of the greatest three-point shooting seasons of all time. Vandy won’t have found all the answers this week, but we need to see how the team will look without its superstar (the second time in two seasons that an injury has sidelined the teams’ best player).
Find a way to help out Saben Lee
Lee was rolling along nicely as the complimentary part to everything Nesmith was doing well. He has contributed 16.6 points per game from his guard spot, but much of that was done with the focus being on the now injured star. Asked to do more – too much more – against A&M, Lee was held to just four points as the Aggies placed their defense focus on him.
What the ‘Dores need is another player to emerge as a scorer. Maxwell Evans and Ejike Obinna scored a dozen each against A&M, so maybe that is where the points will come from. Lee can be the primary scorer on this team and lead it to wins, but he needs to switch his focus and be that guy.
Stop Mason Jones
This Arkansas team is led in pretty much every way by Mason Jones. The guard leads the Razorbacks in points (19.4 ppg), rebounds (6.1), assists (3.3), and steals (2.0). The only major category anyone else leads is blocks, which is surprisingly done by a guard that stands at 6-feet tall.
In his last five games Jones has failed to score 17 or more points only once, while he has three games where he has gone for 20 or more. In each of those games he shot over 41% from the field, so the Commodores will have to close down the shooter and challenge his attempts if they are to win the game.