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Vanderbilt 72, Arkansas 59: This team continues to confound me

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I can’t figure it out. I really can’t.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Exactly two weeks ago, Vanderbilt blew a 15-point lead over the last six minutes and lost to Arkansas at home. Going into Tuesday night, Vanderbilt was 2-10 all-time in Fayetteville, and they were going in without their leading scorer (Matthew Fisher-Davis, who was suspended and didn’t make the trip.)

So of course Vanderbilt won the game, and did so by jumping out to a 25-4 lead in the first nine minutes of the game and never really letting up. We were all so mentally scarred from the loss two weeks ago, I guess, that we panicked a bit when Arkansas cut the lead to 12 points with under two minutes ago, but by any reasonable standard this game was never really in doubt: Vanderbilt’s lead pretty much stayed right around 20 points for most of the game.

It doesn’t make sense, but then pretty much nothing about this team makes sense. The Commodores have looked like a tournament team plenty of times this year, and are 12-12. They’re 4-2 on the road in SEC play -- and 1-4 at home. They won at Bud Walton Arena and the O’Connell Center, and they lost to Ole Miss and Tennessee at Memorial Gym.

That said, Vanderbilt held Arkansas to 0.98 points per possession and while the Commodores were a bit turnover-prone, they shot the ball and rebounded well and managed to prevent all those turnovers from turning into points the other way. That’s something, right? And somehow, Vanderbilt shot more than twice as many free throws — in a game in Fayetteville, Arkansas!

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Luke Kornet 34 2 4 1 3 7 8 1 3 4 1 12 1 1 3 0 16.1 0.47
Riley LaChance 33 4 10 3 5 1 3 1 6 7 1 12 3 1 0 1 12.8 0.39
Nolan Cressler 35 5 7 2 2 1 1 1 7 8 1 13 2 4 0 0 12.6 0.36
Jeff Roberson 36 5 8 2 4 0 0 5 3 8 3 12 0 4 0 1 11.0 0.30
Joe Toye 37 4 12 3 7 0 0 1 4 5 1 11 4 3 0 1 8.3 0.22
Djery Baptiste 6 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 3 0 4 0 0 0 0 6.0 1.00
Payton Willis 15 2 3 1 2 3 6 0 1 1 0 8 0 2 0 0 4.9 0.32
Clevon Brown 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0.4 0.10
  • Particularly against a pressing team, it’s easy to understate the importance of having a 7-footer who’s an excellent free throw shooter.
  • One of the good things about having a team where nobody really stands out as a star player is that it’s fairly easy for the rest of the team to pick up the slack when the purported star player is out. Losing Matthew Fisher-Davis isn’t a huge problem when Riley LaChance and Nolan Cressler can cover for him.
  • Jeff Roberson had a very Roberson game, for lack of a better term. Nothing particularly memorable, just 12 and 8 like it’s another day at the office.
  • Joe Toye’s been playing well lately, and I realize Vanderbilt was short-handed, but there’s something actually terrifying about Toye leading the team in field goal attempts. But it’s good that he can play 37 minutes and do fine.
  • Actually, Vanderbilt’s bench guys in general have been playing pretty well over the last couple of weeks. No big performances, but we’re getting quality minutes off the bench, which is something that frankly was not true a month ago.
  • Also, I was kind of shocked to learn that four points was not Djery Baptiste’s career high. Did you know that he dropped 8 on Belmont in November? That had slipped my mind too.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt steps out of conference on Saturday to face the Big 12’s Missouri Tigers, who just beat Arkansas but had lost 13 in a row before that and are sporting a 6-16 record on the season. Yeah, Vanderbilt should win this one. Tipoff is at 2:30 PM CT and the game is on the SEC Network (because of course it is.)