The Vanderbilt Commodores dropped to 8-8 on the season after dropping a 75-55 decision on the road at Arkansas. The games are coming thick and fast at this point and the team will try to rebound as they face Tennessee at home on Saturday.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys for this rivalry clash.
Find some consistency
The game against Arkansas was in the balance at the half. Vanderbilt was down just six points, despite hardly executing as Jerry Stackhouse would have liked on offense. The defense had been solid, however, with the new top-scoring tandem in the SEC – Mason Jones at 19.4 ppg and Isaiah Joe at 18.2 ppg – held to a combined zero points. This was a position to attack from and pick up a win.
Instead, the Commodores failed to execute in an even more dramatic way after the break and the game ended up in a rout. Senior guard Jimmy Whitt Jr. went for a career high 30 points on the ‘Dores as the defensive pressure fell off of him and allowed too many shots.
Quit turning the ball over
This isn’t a team that is good enough to win games when the ball is turned over too much. When Aaron Nesmith was on the court his shooting would make up for some of the sloppiness, but the Commodores have lost that safety net to a foot injury. Now, the ball has to be better protected of Vanderbilt will be in big trouble.
Vandy turned the ball over 16 times against Arkansas. Saben Lee had five on his own as he pushed too much to make things happen when a better decision would have been to slow the game down. Lee is a maverick player – one who always wants to compete for everything – and while this is a trait that the team will lean on at times, he also has to temper his play with a coolness that we have only seen in flashes to date.
Take it to the Vols
The 10-6 Vols are coming off one of their worst performances of the year as they got blown out by Georgia. Vanderbilt doesn’t have a player of the caliber of Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards (one that is healthy at least) but the Commodores can take heart from the fact that the Vols seemed to forget how to defend against the Bulldogs.
This is a game where the ‘Dores have to start fast. Georgia crushed Tennessee in the first half where they shot 61.5 percent from three and 53.1-percent from the field. Vandy doesn’t have to make every shot in the first half, but jumping ahead on a team that was blown out in their last game is a good recipe for a win.