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Liberty 61, Vanderbilt 56: What happens when the offense goes cold

Vanderbilt couldn’t score on Saturday night, and that’s really all there was to it.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 14 Liberty at Vanderbilt Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Four Factors

Four Factors Vanderbilt Liberty
Four Factors Vanderbilt Liberty
eFG% 42.16% 46.23%
OR% 13.90% 25.80%
TO% 16.90% 20.00%
FT Rate 37.25% 22.64%

In summation, the Vanderbilt Commodores lost to the Liberty Flames on Saturday night for two reasons: Vanderbilt shot poorly (11-of-27 on two-pointers, 7-of-24 on threes) and couldn’t rebound their own misses; Vanderbilt got just five offensive rebounds all night.

And yet, still, somehow this game went down to the final minute because while Vanderbilt wasn’t doing much on the offensive end, Liberty wasn’t, either. The Flames shot only marginally better, and Vanderbilt was able to force 13 turnovers. But 10 of those came in the first half; after halftime, Liberty took better care of the ball, and Liberty made its free throws (12-of-12 for the game, in fact) while Vanderbilt left points on the table by going 13-of-19 at the line.

Now, this is where we point out that Liberty (a) is now 12-0 on the season and (b) actually has a pretty good defense, particularly when it comes to field goal percentage and keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Liberty is probably better than a few SEC teams — per KenPom, they’re better than Ole Miss, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay is a former Tony Bennett assistant, and while Liberty (obviously) doesn’t have anything resembling Virginia’s talent, they at least were able to force Vanderbilt into playing a grinder. Vanderbilt’s last three games have consisted of two grinders (against Tulsa and Liberty) that the Commodores lost, sandwiched around a fast-paced game against Buffalo that Vanderbilt won (and it wasn’t really close.)

Individual Stats

Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PTS PF AST TO BLK STL AdjGS AdjGS/Min Plus/Minus
Player MIN FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PTS PF AST TO BLK STL AdjGS AdjGS/Min Plus/Minus
Aaron Nesmith 37 6 16 2 8 5 5 0 5 5 19 1 0 1 1 1 18.46 0.50 -2
Saben Lee 29 6 10 2 4 2 2 0 1 1 16 2 1 3 0 2 16.31 0.56 -6
Clevon Brown 34 2 3 0 0 1 3 1 4 5 5 2 1 0 3 0 10.46 0.31 2
Maxwell Evans 20 1 4 0 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 6.46 0.32 3
Dylan Disu 30 2 8 2 5 0 0 2 5 7 6 4 0 2 3 0 4.00 0.13 2
Scotty Pippen Jr. 29 1 7 1 4 1 2 0 2 2 4 3 6 3 0 1 1.08 0.04 -7
Matthew Moyer 9 0 1 0 0 1 2 1 3 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 0.77 0.09 -9
Ejike Obinna 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 -0.62 -0.12 -4
Jordan Wright 9 0 2 0 2 2 4 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 -0.92 -0.10 -4
  • Jerry Stackhouse has been more than willing to let Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee carry this team, and Saturday night kind of showed the limitations of that. When Nesmith and Lee are merely good — as opposed to great — the team needs other guys to step up or they’re going to struggle offensively. And while I’ve generally liked the potential of the rest of the roster, so far, nobody else has shown the ability to step up and carry much of a load except for maybe Clevon Brown, and he hasn’t been able to do that consistently.
  • Of the nine players who saw action on Saturday night, two of them were barely above water and two posted negative Game Scores, which isn’t going to work. Three of those were Matthew Moyer, Jordan Wright, and Ejike Obinna, none of whom play big minutes (in fact, I don’t actually remember seeing Obinna.) The fourth is Scotty Pippen Jr., who’s definitely hit something of a freshman wall over the last couple of games (in which he’s scored ten points, total.) Adjustments will have to be made.
  • As far as Brown, Maxwell Evans, and Dylan Disu go, well, they weren’t helping much on the offensive end, but defense is another matter. Brown can always be counted on to defend even when he’s not producing much at the other end, and really, the same can be said for Evans. As for Disu, his defense is way ahead of his offense at this point, but I like the upside.
  • Oton Jankovic got a DNP for the fifth game in a row. If he’s injured, they might as well try to get him a medical redshirt, I guess. (Why they didn’t redshirt him from the start, I don’t know.)

What’s Next

Vanderbilt goes to Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday to play Loyola-Chicago. Yes, this beats the hell out of me, too. Game time is 5:30 PM CT, and that one will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.