Well, now, this is an unusual one.
In Vanderbilt's seven losses this year, there has been a frequent theme. Vanderbilt played well enough to win, except for ____________. "Blank" can be turnovers (Arkansas, Baylor), defensive rebounding (Dayton, Purdue, Baylor again.) But rarely has the blank been shooting. Vanderbilt didn't shoot well against Purdue, but the Boilers didn't shoot well, either; instead, the problem was that Purdue got to way too many of its own misses.
But on Saturday in Columbia, shooting the ball -- normally the one thing the Commodores have been able to count on to keep them in games, even when they're not playing well otherwise -- was the thing that lost the game. More specifically, Vanderbilt shot 6-for-27 from the floor in the second half, including 0-for-9 from three.
So how did Vanderbilt even manage to stay in the game? Well, for one thing, while Vanderbilt wasn't shooting well, the Gamecocks weren't much better: South Carolina shot 24-for-57 from the floor and 3-for-13 from three. For another, Vanderbilt managed to keep the Gamecocks off the offensive glass -- allowing a 29.4% offensive rebound rate isn't great, but against a team that normally corrals 38 percent of its own misses, that's actually quite an accomplishment.
And, Vanderbilt only committed 11 turnovers -- but, well, let's say that comes with a caveat. We complain a lot about turnovers, and obviously surrendering possession of the ball without attempting a shot is not a good thing. But then, one way to limit turnovers is to fire up an ill-advised 22-footer early in the shot clock. You probably won't turn the ball over too much that way, but you're also not going to score many points. Were we even running an offense in the second half?
|Wade Baldwin IV||30||3||13||0||2||7||11||2||1||3||5||13||4||3||0||2||8.8||0.29|
- Well, Damian Jones only played 16 minutes due to foul trouble -- including fouling out on a bogus call with 7 minutes left. I really hate to suggest that that cost Vanderbilt the game, but considering how well Damian was playing, I sort of doubt Vanderbilt shoots that poorly down the stretch if he's not on the bench. (This includes when Damian was riding the bench before fouling out.)
- Riley LaChance's shooting stroke isn't all the way back, but a 3-for-7 performance from three is actually acceptable. It's shooting 3-for-9 on twos that's the problem.
- Jeff Roberson and Wade Baldwin IV sort of sum up the game for Vanderbilt: both did just fine if you ignore those ugly numbers from the field.
- Luke Kornet managed to impact the game on the defensive end. On the offensive end? Not so much.
- Stallings is really running out of arguments for playing Joe Toye ahead of Nolan Cressler: it's hard to remember Cressler ever putting together an impressive performance (aside from garbage-time stat-padding), while Toye, getting action in place of the injured Matthew Fisher-Davis, had an impressive game, with the second-highest GS/Min performance on the team.
- If you're wondering why Luke is playing 32 minutes in his second game back after a month off, Josh Henderson's stat line -- plus Damian's foul trouble -- should be a clue.
The good news is that Vanderbilt's strong non-conference schedule gives them a bit more of a cushion -- the Commodores can probably get to the NCAA Tournament with 19 wins (counting the SEC Tournament.) The bad news is that most of the cushion is gone. Vanderbilt has ten games left on the schedule that they should win -- eight home games plus road games at Auburn and Mississippi State. There are three more road games -- at Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Texas -- that are very winnable. And while I'm not expecting wins at Kentucky, Texas A&M, or Florida, a win in one or more of those venues is not out of the question.
But if you take those last three road games, and add in home games against Kentucky and Texas A&M -- if Vanderbilt loses all five of those, they would finish the regular season with, at best, a 19-12 record devoid of any quality wins (we're assuming.) And that record could be even worse. The next three games -- Auburn and Alabama at home, followed by Tennessee on the road -- are must-win games. Lose any of those, and the situation is truly dire.