Tennessean: Vandy beats SEMO in Jerry Stackhouse’s debut
The easy answer to Vanderbilt’s opening-night performance against the Southeast Missouri State RedHawks: It was a win. It was a win over an actual basketball team, the first time since New Year’s Eve of last year that Vanderbilt has won a basketball game. It was also the first game of the season, for a team that was very bad to end the 2018-19 season and then had to go replace four of its top six players (five of its top seven if you count Darius Garland, but then Garland was gone long before all the losing started.)
That’s the preface to this: it’s actually a little terrifying that Vanderbilt shot 16-of-27 inside the arc, and 14-of-34 from beyond, and only beat Southeast Missouri State by 18 points. That’s a team that has won 39 games over the last four years, and it’s not a team that looks like it’s improved much from last year’s 10-21 team. It seems bad that Vanderbilt got outrebounded by them. That’s likely going to be a season-long issue, as Vanderbilt only has three players taller than 6’8” on the roster, and two of them combined to play 11 minutes on Wednesday night.
Now, we will take some good here: the 24.4 percent turnover rate that Vanderbilt’s defense had would have been the third-best turnover rate for all of last season. One of the frankly obnoxious features of Bryce Drew’s teams (and Kevin Stallings’, for that matter) is that their defenses never forced many turnovers. Drew’s three Vanderbilt teams ranked 313th, 338th, and 301st nationally in defensive turnover rate; in fact, the last time that Vanderbilt even ranked in the top 200 nationally in turnover rate was all the way back in 2007. And on the offensive end, the Commodores didn’t turn the ball over too too much. 12 turnovers isn’t anything to write home about, but the utterly sloppy play that characterized much of last season seemed to be gone. And the shooting percentages weren’t a mirage; those were actually good shots, as opposed to silly shots that just happened to find the bottom of the net.
There are, clearly, some things that need to be worked on, and this still probably isn’t a team that will even sniff an NIT bid, much less a NCAA Tournament berth. But after the way last season ended, some return to normalcy is welcomed. A win is a win is a win, and we’ll take ending the long losing streak.
|Scotty Pippen Jr.||27||2||8||1||4||2||4||0||2||2||7||2||6||2||0||2||6.5||0.24||12|
- We’d probably all assumed that Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee would have to carry Vanderbilt for it to even approach something resembling a successful season, but things were very murky after that. Well, for one thing, at least on opening night Vanderbilt did get the contributions it needed from Nesmith and Lee (and then some.) The surprise was Clevon Brown, who had never scored more than 13 points in a game in his Vanderbilt career before last night, and who had made two three-pointers in all of last season, then matched that in the first couple of minutes in the season opener.
- With that said, uh, it’s probably better not to rely on Clevon Brown as your third scoring option. Somebody else will probably need to step up.
- One of the real ironies of Jerry Stackhouse’s first season is that he’s going to be relying a lot on some of the same guys who were part of the 0-18 team. What we saw last night from Maxwell Evans and Matthew Moyer is probably about what we should expect.
- Ejike Obinna played nine minutes in the opener and had the fourth-highest Game Score on the team. Take from that what you will.
- The freshmen, obviously, are a work in progress. Scotty Pippen Jr. looked good at times, but spent most of the night looking like, well, a freshman. Six assists and two turnovers is fine, though. I think Dylan Disu can do better than what we saw from him last night. Jordan Wright and Oton Jankovic look like bodies at this point, but at least we’ve confirmed that neither of them are going to redshirt (and with only ten scholarship players available, I doubt that was ever going to be a consideration.)
- As far as the rotation goes, well, what you see is what you get. The seven players who played over ten minutes in the opener are your rotation, and Obinna will play as well to the extent that he can stay out of foul trouble. Jankovic is a project, and Wright is a guy whose other option was Tulane, for whatever that’s worth, and nothing I saw from either of them last night suggests that they should be playing a lot of minutes this season.
Vanderbilt gets to celebrate its first win of 2019 for a few days before they’re back in action against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (yes, that’s a real school and not a school I just made up) on Monday, November 11, at 7:00 PM CT. That game, like most of the nonconference schedule, will be on the SEC Network+.