Vanderbilt finally picked up its second win in SEC play on Tuesday night as the ‘Dores upended heavily favored Alabama 87-79. It was a big win for a Vanderbilt team that has not stopped fighting all season long and it sets up a final home clash of the season against South Carolina on Saturday.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Continue to bond
The win against Alabama came out of nowhere despite the Commodores having played some decent basketball at times over the last month. The biggest factor in this win coming out of nowhere was that the ‘Dores were down to just six scholarship players due to a rash of injuries. Vanderbilt started a walk-on in Braelee Albert, but coach Jerry Stackhouse did the right thing by unifying his remaining players and sticking with the hot hands no matter how tired those players looked.
In 17:27 from Albert and 14:46 from Isaiah Rice – another walk-on – Stackhouse got much needed resting minutes for his stars. This is a team that won a game through a ton of adversity and that kind of bonding is important for the future of the program.
Keep hitting threes
Alabama is a team that loves to score but their defense – especially from outside – has been questioned at times this season. That is why it was not the most surprising thing in the world to see Vanderbilt – a streaky shooting team but with players who can get hot – had made 15-of-28 three-pointers by the end of their midweek game. At 53.6% from the field this is a much higher number than the ‘Dores season average and given the limitations of the team in the paint it will be important that Vanderbilt has a similar shooting performance from range against a South Carolina team that is better than the Commodores, but that lost to Alabama in Tuscaloosa two games ago.
Keep Maik Kotsar quiet
Maik Kotsar is an interesting story and is a player who has developed into a leader on this South Carolina team. While he has not reached the levels of sustained dominance that Chris Silva was able to achieve for the Gamecocks, he is still a player that can give Vanderbilt fits if he is not defended in the right way. The senior from Tallin, Estonia, is every bit of 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds and he presents a matchup nightmare for the Commodores. He averages 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, holding the team lead in the final three categories.
Kotsar is also coming off of a dominant 20-point display last time out in the Gamecocks bubble chasing win over Mississippi State. He must be slowed as much as possible in this one.