Tennessean: Vandy hangs on for 71-66 win over Corpus Christi
Hustler: Strong second half carries Commodores past Texas A&M Corpus Christi 71-66
We’re still not in the mode of “complaining about how we’re winning.” After ending the 2018-19 season on a 20-game losing streak, the Vanderbilt Commodores have opened the 2019-20 season with back-to-back wins. Yes, they were against Southeast Missouri State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; and yes, both of them (but especially Monday night’s game against the Islanders) were too close for comfort. But then, we knew that this was probably going to be a long season... and at the very least, this team is figuring out how to win games, something that it frankly never did last season.
Through two games, Vanderbilt has an effective field goal percentage of 59.3 percent. Obviously, that’s a small sample size that isn’t going to keep up — for reference, the 2011-12 team, a team that was really good at shooting the ball, had a 54.1 percent eFG. And through two games, Vanderbilt is forcing turnovers on 28.2 percent of opponents’ possessions. So we’ve identified two things that this team does pretty well. And at least last night, Vanderbilt was good at not fouling. (We’ll see if that keeps up when we get into conference play. It probably won’t.)
At the very least, Jerry Stackhouse seems to have the team running an offense that creates good looks for shooters, though the team was only 8-of-22 from three-point range last night — but it did shoot 18-of-30 inside the arc. And after years and years of eschewing turnovers on the defensive end, Stackhouse has a team that seems to be good at forcing them.
Now, as to why this was close, the easy answer is to point to the Islanders shooting 12-of-23 from three-point range. The teams were basically even on the boards, so in spite of the turnovers, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi didn’t suffer that much in terms of shot volume. And Vanderbilt shot 11-of-18 from the foul line. We’re still not expecting a ton from this team, but this does look like a group that should be competitive on most nights in the SEC.
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- The obvious takeaway through two games is that Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee are going to have to do a ton to carry this team on the offensive end, and so far, they’re doing exactly that. Nesmith through two games is averaging 23 ppg and has an effective field goal percentage of 77.8 percent — which, we can assure you, is probably not going to hold up. Lee still doesn’t have much of a jump shot, but he’s shooting 63.2 percent inside the arc.
- Clevon Brown really does look improved offensively, but it’s kind of telling that he is currently the team’s third option on the offensive end. Given what we saw from him last year, that’s an extremely scary thought.
- Scotty Pippen Jr. looks to have upside and doesn’t appear overmatched right now; granted, it’s early, and we’re playing teams that aren’t very good. But we’re looking for positives right now and I see them with Pippen the Younger.
- I still cringe every time Matthew Moyer attempts a three-pointer. He made two of them, but one of those was probably the ugliest three-pointer I’ve ever seen that went in the basket.
- The non-Pippen freshmen are varying degrees of works in progress. Dylan Disu has a ton of upside but doesn’t appear to be clicking just yet. Jordan Wright really shows the usefulness of the plus/minus stat by leading the team in that category. (If you’re unfamiliar, plus/minus is exactly what it sounds like: it’s the scoring margin while you were in the game.) Oton Jankovic is... tall and has good hair. That’s all I really have on him right now.
- Ejike Obinna continues to foul at an incredible rate, but unlike the first game, he didn’t do much with his time on the floor. Maxwell Evans logged a lot of minutes and didn’t do much with them.
Vanderbilt plays its only true road game of the nonconference schedule on Thursday night, when it travels to Richmond. Richmond went 13-20 last year and needed overtime to beat St. Francis (PA) in its season opener last week. Game time is 6:00 PM CT and the game can be streamed on ESPN+. Your cable subscription won’t give you access, so you’ll need to pay the $4.99 to access it for a month (and it also gets you NFL Primetime with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, which I’ve found to be worth the price by itself.)