There were a lot of positives to take from the Vanderbilt Commodores 83-79 loss at No. 5 Auburn on Wednesday night. The ‘Dores may have just fallen short in their comeback attempt, but this game showed the team can travel to the home of one of the best teams in the nation and compete.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys as Vandy returns home to take on Texas A&M on Saturday:
Stop the seniors
The Aggies are a veteran team with a trio of senior leaders who do a lot of their scoring. The combination of Savion Flagg, Wendell Mitchell, and Josh Nebo has scored 51% of their points this season. That number is increased to 63% when just the last five games are taken into account.
This is a situation where the Vanderbilt defense has to slow these particular players down. Containing two should be enough, as that would then pressure the Aggies’ underclassmen to step up and contribute in a way they haven’t so far this season. It won’t be an easy task, but knowing which players to concentrate on slowing down is always going to be a big key in SEC play.
Feed Aaron Nesmith
We all knew that Nesmith was going to be important for Vanderbilt but he has been on a tear as of late. He is hitting the three-point shot at an over 50% clip and he has hit 23-of-39 from deep over his last five contests. When you add in his ability to make shots from the free throw line – he is an 82.5% foul shooter – then the directive needs to be to get the ball to him whenever it looks like he has an option to take a shot.
Oh yeah. Nesmith is currently on pace to have the best three-point shooting season in the history of college basketball too.
Treat it as another game
The ‘Dores 22 game losing streak in conference play has to be something plying on the minds of those in the home locker room on Saturday. While this is a completely different setup – in both team and coaching staff – to the one that went winless last year against SEC foes, the fact still remains that you have to go back to the beginning of March 2018 to find the last game Vanderbilt took a win from in conference. That game was an 82-69 win over Mississippi and it feels like an era ago. This Vanderbilt team is good enough to beat Texas A&M and many other teams in this league. To do that, though, the team needs to just treat it like any other game and not get lost in the pressure of performance. That is the best way to ensure a positive result.