We all sensed that this was coming. The Vanderbilt Commodores (9-13) had been looking better in recent games after taking a minute to adjust to the loss for the season of Aaron Nesmith. The team – which had lost 28 SEC games in a row – finally broke free of that streak on Wednesday night with an emphatic 99-90 win over No. 18 LSU.
By Steve Wright
Now – with the monkey off of the teams back – Vandy travels to Mississippi State this weekend. Here are the keys:
The worst thing that could happen following a morale boosting win like this is for the Commodores to take a step back and rest on the laurels of a victory against a ranked team like LSU. It doesn’t feel like something that this team would do – head coach Jerry Stackhouse has done his bit by keeping the squad motivates and on point despite the losses – but it would be all too easy for Saturday to be a letdown game after such a monumental win.
Look to see how the energy of the team plays out in the first half to see if the ‘Dores are focused against the Bulldogs.
Keep riding the hot hand
One thing we have learned about Stackhouse over the course of this season is that he knows how to coach up basketball talent. Vanderbilt doesn’t have a roster loaded with future stars of the professional game, but every player on that roster has become a better player under Stackhouse. Sure, there have been games where nothing fell, but a breakout game like yesterday was always coming.
Against the Tigers it was a combination of junior guards Saben Lee (33 points) and Maxwell Evans (31 points) that did most of the work. The two seemed to know exactly when the other was hot, with Stackhouse finding ways to get them open looks. Vandy needs to keep playing to the hot hand against the Bulldogs.
Lead at the half
One of our keys for the LSU game was to be leading at the half as the ‘Dores have won exactly one game all season when they went in down at the break. The team – led by a monster half from Evans – went in up 52-47 and never looked back. Given the success of that key and the outcome of the game it just makes sense to make it a key again as the ‘Dores finally showed that they know how to play with a lead.