Alabama held Vanderbilt without a field goal in the final seven minutes of play on Saturday to drop the 'Dores to four games under .500. On Wednesday, the Commodores can seek out redemption on the road.
Vandy led by 11 points with 7:10 left in the game, but couldn't buy a bucket after that. This young team gave up an 18-3 run that allowed the Tide to escape Nashville with their first win at Memorial Gym in over two decades. It was another painful moment in a season full of them for the Commodores, but it has given the team another opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes.
They'll have an opportunity to show some growth tomorrow night in Baton Rouge. Vanderbilt will face off with Louisiana State in a battle between two teams that have struggled in conference play to date. The Tigers got off to an 0-4 start against SEC teams before rallying for three wins in their last four games. That includes a momentum-building upset win over then-#17 Missouri at home.
Vanderbilt has been trending in the opposite direction thanks to three straight losses, including a pair of tough ones against Tennessee and in the aforementioned Alabama game. They'll have a favorable matchup against LSU, but playing on the road against a streaking team will make this a much tougher game that it appears on paper. The Commodores have the talent to topple the Tigers, but other factors could lead to another crushing defeat in 2013 for this young team.
They wouldn't be the worst team to beat LSU at home this season if they can pull off the upset. That title would go to South Carolina, who pulled away from the Tigers in overtime to notch a nine-point win in the Maravich Assembly Center. Can Vandy follow the Gamecocks' lead and rally for a big weekday win? Let's examine how Carolina beat LSU.
LSU (12-7, 3-5 SEC, Unranked)
Other Losses: at Marquette, vs. Florida, at Kentucky, at Boise State, at Georgia, at Auburn
For Vanderbilt to exploit this weakness, they'll need Henderson to find the touch that lifted him to a career-best 13 points against Tennessee. He had only six points in the team's last game against Alabama, and balanced that out with four fouls and four turnovers. He'll need to bounce back in a big way to carry Vanderbilt's scoring around the rim. Kevin Bright and Rod Odom, both traditionally small forwards, could have a big impact as well.
- Disrupt passing lanes. South Carolina pestered LSU to the tune of 21 turnovers, many of which came from the Tigers' primary ballhandlers in the backcourt. Vanderbilt has the perimeter defenders to replicate that outcome. Between the long-armed defense of Kedren Johnson, the strength and athleticism of Kyle Fuller, and the quickness and heady play of Dai-Jon Parker and Kevin Bright, the 'Dores should be able to cause problems and create extra possessions on Wednesday night.
- Feed the ball inside. LSU did a great job of shutting players like Bruce Ellington and Brenton Williams down, showcasing a solid perimeter defense that could be able to have a similar effect against the Commodores. That means that Vanderbilt, a guard-heavy team, will have to distribute the scoring load and make sure to incorporate players like Rod Odom, Kevin Bright, and Josh Henderson into the flow on the offensive end.
- Force LSU to foul. When the clock ran out on the Tigers in January, their roster was littered with players who were in foul trouble. Forward Johnny O'Bryant played just 23 minutes before getting tossed, and four other players finished the contest with four fouls each. The Tiger bench responded well to the extra pressure, chipping in 17 points, but they also produced eight turnovers and couldn't keep the Gamecocks from winning this one on the road.