Today's TSWL will be a brief one thanks to the excellent SEC scheduling that has the Commodores playing three games in a six game span. Tonight, Vanderbilt will return home to face red-hot Ole Miss in search of their first conference win.
The 'Dores will try to erase lingering memories of a 33-point performance in a Saturday loss to Arkansas. Vanderbilt matched their all-time low for scoring output in Fayetteville after putting together an 11-point first half against the Hogs. Vandy made just 10 shots from the field while committing 25 turnovers in the blowout defeat.
For a deeper look at Vanderbilt's offensive struggles and the future of the program, check out what I wrote for Nashville Sports Hub. Vandy's fatal flaw has been an inability to score at the rim. Opposing teams can camp out on the perimeter and defend the Commodores' shooters without fear of giving up easy points inside. This team lacks both the big men who can score in the paint and the slashers who can get to the rim in order to keep other teams honest, and it's killing the Vanderbilt offense.
Can Ole Miss do the same? They have a strong frontline and have held opponents to just over 38 percent shooting from the field this season. Things don't look good for the Commodores, but they'll be fired up to prove that last Saturday's loss was an aberration and not the standard.
The 10-6 Sycamores picked up their second straight win over a SEC opponent (aw.) in December, holding off an Ole Miss rally to stretch past the Rebels in overtime. Indiana State erased an early 10-point deficit to hold an 11-point lead at the half, but Mississippi fought back to tie the game at 75 at the end of regulation.
State ran out to an early lead in overtime that the Rebels couldn't overcome. A Reginald Buckner layup cut ISU's lead to two-points with three seconds remaining, and a Jarvis Smith steal gave Ole Miss a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Smith's desperation three missed the mark to give the Sycamores the biggest win of their season.
Key to Destruction: Offensive support.Manny Arop led all scorers with 27 points, but the rest of his starting lineup all chipped in to keep Indiana State afloat. Every starter scored in double digits (and took at least nine shots) to help the Sycamores rally from an early deficit and then turn back Ole Miss's attempts to get back into the game. 6'4" guard Jake Odum was especially useful, scoring 16 points while adding eight rebounds and eight assists in the win.
This is a dynamic that Vanderbilt will need to find if they are going to compete in the SEC. The Commodores have had little offensive balance on their squad, often relying heavily on Kedren Johnson and Rod Odom to carry the scoring burden. That makes this team predictable and gives opponents an easy plan to follow if they want to foil the 'Dores. If Vandy can get double-digit performances out of guys like Kevin Bright, Kyle Fuller, and Josh Henderson tonight, they'll have a solid chance at pulling the upset at home. Hell, with Johnson nursing a shoulder injury, they might need those guys to step up just to make this one close.
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