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Vanderbilt 84, Iowa State 78: Bad start, bad finish, great in between

The late sweating will obscure that Vanderbilt played some great basketball for about 24 minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Vanderbilt
Okay, this picture is funny for all the wrong reasons.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In the first 12 minutes of the game on Saturday, Vanderbilt was outscored 26-15. Over the final 3:36, the Commodores were outscored 17-9.

For the roughly 24 and a half minutes in between, though, Vanderbilt outscored Iowa State 60-35. Just four days removed from the late collapse against Arkansas, Vanderbilt decided to test its fans’ heart medications by completely forgetting how to function against the press, though the actual danger might have been overstated and a result of fans’ PTSD: Iowa State never actually got closer than five points, but, well, we could have used an easier win than that.

That said, Iowa State evidently wasn’t accustomed to #SECRefs, and Anthony Jordan rolled out the welcome mats for the Cyclones. The Cyclones rank 350th (of 351) in FT Rate — and 5th in opponents’ FT Rate, but they didn’t get the memo that if you lean into a defender and then act like there was contact, Anthony Jordan will call a foul. The free throw disparity by itself would have been enough for Vanderbilt to win, so let’s just say it cancelled out the Commodores’ loss of the turnover battle.

In any case, for the second time in three games Vanderbilt picked up a win over an RPI top 50 team. If Vanderbilt had figured that out earlier in the season, they might be a NCAA Tournament team; as it stands, they probably just need to finish over .500 to get in the NIT.

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Nolan Cressler 29 8 10 4 4 0 0 1 4 5 1 20 4 0 0 0 26.3 0.91
Jeff Roberson 37 3 7 2 4 8 8 1 8 9 1 16 6 1 0 0 23.4 0.63
Luke Kornet 34 7 14 3 9 4 6 2 3 5 1 21 2 0 1 1 23.4 0.69
Matthew Fisher-Davis 32 4 9 3 6 3 3 0 3 3 5 14 1 1 0 1 11.4 0.36
Riley LaChance 35 2 4 0 2 3 5 0 4 4 4 7 3 4 0 0 2.4 0.07
Payton Willis 13 0 3 0 2 3 4 0 2 2 0 3 1 2 1 0 0.6 0.05
Clevon Brown 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Joe Toye 11 1 4 1 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 3 0 2 0 0 -1.4 -0.13
Djery Baptiste 6 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 -2.2 -0.36
  • I admit, the “Cressler Good Thing”/”Cressler Bad Thing” bit is fun, but if Cressler keeps playing like this we may have to scrap it. This was easily Cressler’s best game at Vanderbilt.
  • That actually overshadowed excellent performances from Luke Kornet and Jeff Roberson. On most nights, an AdjGS of 23.4 is going to lead the team.
  • Those three allowed Vanderbilt to get away with a meh performance from Matthew Fisher-Davis, and a forgettable one from Riley LaChance. LaChance in particular struggled late, both turning the ball over and missing some free throws.
  • The easy answer to what’s holding Vanderbilt back this season is depth, or the lack thereof. Aside from the fact that the Commodores only have nine players available, the bench players they do have, well... first, let’s just say that Bryce Drew made the right decision to bench Payton Willis in favor of Nolan Cressler. Willis had some good games early in the season but has struggled in SEC play. Joe Toye still can’t deliver on a consistent basis. Multiple commenters (myself included) have invoked the name of Darius Coulibaly when discussing Djery Baptiste, and Clevon Brown has mostly been invisible since the Middle game. That said, three of the four are freshmen (and Toye is a sophomore) so there’s time for them to develop, but — thanks, Stallings!

What’s Next

Vanderbilt goes to the place where you’re not supposed to walk on the grass on Tuesday night to face Texas A&M. Tipoff is at 8 PM CT and the game will be shown on ESPNU and the WatchESPN app.