Vanderbilt opened SEC play with a disappointing 81-71 loss to Ole Miss as old nemesis Kermit Davis continued his personal winning streak over the ‘Dores. The former Middle Tennessee coach has now won four in a row against Vandy and the Commodores will be glad to see the back of him as they now concentrate on a trip to Athens to take on Georgia.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Make free throws
It is not quite as simple as this because each point scores alters the flow of the game, but if Vandy had hit the 12 free throws that they missed against Ole Miss then they would have had enough points to come away with the victory.
Maybe it was the added pressure of this being the SEC opener at home, but Vanderbilt was wretched from the free throw line against the Rebels. The team went 17-of-29 from the charity stripe, hitting just 58.6-percent on opportunities that have to be converted at a far greater rate. It was easily the ‘Dores worst shooting performance from the free throw line this season and before this contest the team had been making those shots at a 72.6-percent clip.
The expectation is that this is an anomaly and that Vandy should immediately get back to hitting free throws at closer to the regular rate. That needs to start on Wednesday in Georgia.
Expect the unexpected
The 8-5 Bulldogs will be hurting after a humiliating 96-50 loss at Tennessee in their SEC opener on Saturday. The loss wasn’t a surprise, the Vols are every bit one of the top three teams in the country at this point, but first-year head coach Tom Crean will have been very unhappy that his squad was only just able to hit a half century of points in the defeat.
There has been an adjustment period for Georgia under Crean as they have had to adapt to a totally different style of offense to that of the previous regime. Crean wants his Georgia team to be in constant motion when on offense, working to find the first available shot to take, no matter the player or the time left on the shot clock.
It is an offensive system that allowed Georgia to hold an 18-point lead of No. 20 Arizona at one point in that game, but it is also the offense that saw that lead disappear as the lead was blown. If Georgia is hitting shots early, then Vanderbilt will have to do the same to stay in the game.
Get Georgia into foul trouble
If Vanderbilt can learn anything from the way Tennessee destroyed Georgia over the weekend it was that the Vols made the game a non-event by focusing on fouling the Bulldogs front line players out of the game.
Derek Ogbeide picked up two fouls in 57 seconds. Nicolas Claxton had committed four fouls by halftime. This killed the Georgia rotation and allowed Tennessee score at will in the paint, while stopping Georgia making any shots on the other end.
Vanderbilt needs to go at the Georgia forwards as they are clearly apt to give away fouls, leading to easy buckets and tired players in the second half.