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Vanderbilt 76, Chattanooga 74: Making your free throws is pretty important

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Vanderbilt’s one big advantage last night was their ability to get to the line — and hit their free throws.

NCAA Basketball: Chattanooga at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the first 11 games of the season, the Vanderbilt Commodores really have no way to generate easy baskets. Vanderbilt can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc, and they’re generally good at getting to the foul line and making their free throws — but the Commodores currently rank 273rd nationally in two-point percentage.

Those weren’t problems last night, as Vanderbilt did manage to shoot 16-of-29 inside the arc, but the biggest advantage the Commodores had was that they got to the foul line 29 times — and made 26 of them. It’s a dangerous strategy, as when the officials are swallowing their whistles (or, if you’re being charitable, the other team isn’t committing fouls), Vanderbilt is pretty much screwed. With sketchy (to put it nicely) point guard play and few players who can finish at the rim, Vanderbilt is just going to have to hit a ton of threes and/or get to the foul line a lot to win.

And yes, Vanderbilt needed every point they could get last night, so even a couple of missed free throws here and there (or if, say, Chattanooga had hit their free throws) would have meant the game. Bryce Drew’s 2017 recruiting class (and Larry Austin Jr.) will probably address the “easy baskets” problem in 2017-18, but for now, he’s having to do what he can with the players on hand. Sometimes, like last night, it works, and other times (see: Minnesota or MTSU) it doesn’t.

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Luke Kornet 35 5 10 3 6 5 6 0 4 4 2 18 2 2 2 2 21.1 0.60
Matthew Fisher-Davis 37 4 14 1 7 9 9 1 6 7 3 18 2 2 0 0 14.0 0.38
Jeff Roberson 35 4 10 1 4 2 2 2 3 5 3 11 2 1 2 0 11.3 0.32
Joe Toye 19 3 5 0 0 4 4 0 2 2 3 10 2 1 0 0 10.0 0.53
Riley LaChance 22 1 2 1 2 4 4 1 0 1 3 7 4 1 0 0 9.7 0.44
Payton Willis 28 3 6 0 1 1 2 2 2 4 1 7 3 1 0 0 8.4 0.30
Djery Baptiste 5 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 1 4 0 1 0 0 4.0 0.80
Clevon Brown 5 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 -0.7 -0.14
Nolan Cressler 14 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 -1.9 -0.14
  • Luke Kornet did something important last night but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was.
  • Matthew Fisher-Davis actually didn’t have a great game; if not for going 9-for-9 at the foul line, his Game Score would barely be in positive territory.
  • Jeff Roberson... that’s fine.
  • This was actually Joe Toye’s best game of the season, but I can’t decide if that says more about his performance last night or about what he’d been doing in the first ten games.
  • Riley LaChance’s seven points all came in about a three-minute stretch in the second half, capping it with a three that tied the game. He spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble but came through when it counted.
  • Payton Willis has generally been fine, though he doesn’t seem like a “natural” point guard and still makes freshman mistakes. But, well, we have to live with that because there aren’t really any better options.
  • Djery Baptiste only played five minutes (probably because Luke was having a good game and avoided foul trouble), but those were five great minutes. I liked his energy level last night.
  • Clevon Brown played well against MTSU while the rest of the team was laying an egg, but last night... well...
  • Nolan Cressler good thing count: zero.
  • Also, in case you missed it, walk-on Phillip McGloin has left the team to concentrate on academics. This means we’re not that far away from Magnificent Seven: The Sequel.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt travels to Dayton on Wednesday night for a final tuneup before SEC play starts. The Flyers are 7-3 on the season, though they’re coming off a loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Tip time is at 6:00 PM CT, and the game will be televised on something called the Time Warner SportsChannel.

For those interested, I’ll be appearing on Dayton blog The Blackburn Review’s podcast, which will be recorded on Monday night.

Tennessean: Vanderbilt’s Luke Kornet buries 3 to beat Chattanooga

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Vanderbilt rallies to edge UTC, 76-74

VUCommodores: Kornet’s late 3-pointer helps Vanderbilt defeat Chattanooga