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Vanderbilt 66, Texas A&M 41: Bryce Drew does have a reputation as a defensive whiz

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I am not convinced this is the same team we were watching in January.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Vanderbilt vs Texas A&M Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Drew’s last team at Valparaiso ranked 8th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. We knew going in that the man could coach a defense, so watching Vanderbilt get absolutely torched on the defensive end for much of December and January was pretty jarring.

But for the past month, Vanderbilt’s finally started to figure it out on that end of the floor. Vanderbilt has now held six of its last seven opponents under a point per possession, and the coup de grace came on Thursday night in the SEC Tournament, when the Aggies scored just 0.71 points per possession. That was both Vanderbilt’s best defensive performance and Texas A&M’s worst offensive performance of the season. While at least some of that was the fact that the Aggies couldn’t hit jump shots (2-of-14 from beyond the arc), Vanderbilt also forced 14 turnovers and held the Aggies to 40.5 percent shooting inside the arc.

The offense, on the other hand... well, let’s just not even discuss the first half of that game. But the offense came around in the second half to turn what had been a close, if not very aesthetically pleasing, game for 20 minutes into a laugher.

So, while a lot of fellow bubble teams have been falling on Wednesday and Thursday, Vanderbilt just collected a 25-point win over a decent Texas A&M team. Vanderbilt could still enter Selection Sunday with 15 losses if they don’t win the SEC Tournament; they’re also now up to 35th in KenPom. Does anybody think this team will be left out of the tournament? No, Jerry Palm, you don’t count.

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Joe Toye 24 6 10 5 8 1 2 0 0 0 1 18 1 0 1 0 18.6 0.77
Riley LaChance 27 4 10 4 8 2 2 0 1 1 0 14 3 1 0 1 14.6 0.54
Nolan Cressler 30 5 11 0 3 1 1 0 7 7 0 11 2 1 0 1 11.7 0.39
Matthew Fisher-Davis 26 3 9 2 6 0 0 1 1 2 1 8 0 0 1 1 6.9 0.27
Payton Willis 13 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 1 0 5 1 1 0 1 6.6 0.51
Luke Kornet 29 1 5 0 1 2 2 0 3 3 2 4 1 0 0 0 2.3 0.08
Clevon Brown 8 0 1 0 0 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 2.0 0.25
Jeff Roberson 32 1 8 0 3 0 0 5 5 10 3 2 1 1 0 1 1.7 0.05
Djery Baptiste 11 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 3 2 2 0 1 1 0 1.6 0.14
  • Joe Toye has a new career high in points for the second time in the last three games. He set a new career high with 15 at Kentucky, and bested that with 18 on Thursday.
  • Also, would you have guessed before the season that we’d (a) have a game in which Joe Toye, Riley LaChance, and Nolan Cressler were the three best players, and (b) we won that game by 25 points?
  • Oh hi, Matthew Fisher-Davis. Nice to have you back with us.
  • Aside from the fact that the three freshmen got quite a few minutes — much of that a function of garbage time, as Vanderbilt was rolling late in the second half -- all three contributed, which is... more than you can say a lot of the time.
  • I was listening on the radio, and I honestly don’t remember hearing Luke Kornet’s name much. The stat line seems to confirm that: Luke was just sort of invisible. He’ll have to wait at least one more game for the school career blocks record.
  • Jeff Roberson had one of those weird 2 points/10 rebounds nights. Must be a little bit of rust.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt moves on in the SEC Tournament to face the Florida Gators at 6:00 PM CT on Friday night. Vanderbilt has beaten Florida twice already this season. We think Vanderbilt is (probably) already in the tournament at this point, but a third win over the Gators would remove any remaining doubt for everybody except Jerry Palm.