It’s not every day that you allow the other team to shoot 50 percent from the floor, and 60 percent from three-point range, and win by 15 points — and, yet, that’s exactly what happened last night. The Vanderbilt Commodores shot well themselves, to be sure, but the real difference was that Vanderbilt kept the UNC Wilmington Seahawks off the offensive glass and forced 23 turnovers. The end result: Vanderbilt attempted 56 field goals and 29 free throws; UNC Wilmington attempted 51 field goals and 13 free throws. Shot volume is a hell of a drug; had the Seahawks had a more “normal” shooting night by their standards, Vanderbilt probably wins that game by 30.
But, of course, UNC Wilmington made the shots. Clevon Brown and Ejike Obinna were both out with injuries, meaning that Vanderbilt had to play small and give a season-high 12 minutes to Oton Jankovic, who hadn’t played since the Austin Peay game a month ago. Vanderbilt managed to block four shots; three of those were by Aaron Nesmith, Saben Lee, and Jordan Wright, three players you don’t typically expect to be shot blockers.
And on the offensive end, Nesmith carried the team to the tune of 34 points. Earlier this week, Chris Lee at VandySports compared this team to the Allan Houston teams at Tennessee, and while I think that’s something of an unfair comparison — in Houston’s case, the situation persisted for four years, while this year’s team has some guys who are young but have upside — the extent to which the star player is carrying the team is probably similar. This team will be competitive in the SEC when Nesmith is having a good night; when he’s not, things will probably go badly. The good news, of course, is that Nesmith hasn’t had many off nights this season.
(And finally, who would have guessed that Nesmith would be the most consequential of the three players in the 2018 recruiting class?)
|Scotty Pippen Jr.||30||1||5||1||3||6||6||0||2||2||9||3||7||0||0||2||13.91||0.46||9|
- About the only negative I can say about Aaron Nesmith’s night is that he had five turnovers. Other than that, well, 34 points on 16 field goal attempts and 11 free throws is damn impressive.
- A quiet 14 points for Saben Lee, who had five in the first half and seemed to pad his point total late in the game.
- I’ve been writing for a few weeks that Scotty Pippen Jr. has started to hit the freshman wall and at least on Saturday night, he started to work through it. I will take seven assists and no turnovers every day.
- A solid performance from Dylan Disu, whose defense is still ahead of his offense, but his defense last night consisted of nine rebounds, a block, and a steal.
- I don’t know how much to read into the fact that Jordan Wright — who got his first start of the season — led the team in plus/minus. It could just be a weird coincidence, but Vanderbilt was 25 points better than UNC Wilmington in Wright’s 21 minutes on the court. (Wright was playing well, of course, but he’s probably not the entire reason Vanderbilt was outscoring the Seahawks by that much.)
- Maxwell Evans is what he is at this point: a decent role player who doesn’t hurt you. That’s about all I’m asking from him, and so far this season, he’s done it.
- I’d have probably redshirted Oton Jankovic, but at this point it’s pretty much academic: even if you had been redshirting him, there was no way you were going to keep it up with Brown and Obinna out. 12 minutes is a season high, and he also scored his first points.
- Also scoring his first points: freshman walk-on Braelee Albert, who joined the team this week and immediately played 13 minutes, which is an... interesting development.
- Oton Jankovic playing more minutes than Matthew Moyer speaks volumes.
- Jon Jossell randomly played three minutes in the second half, and not even at the end of the game; Stackhouse inserted him around the nine-minute mark and left him in for a couple of minutes. I don’t know, either. Nobody was really in foul trouble and while the bench was thin, it wasn’t that thin. On the other hand, walk-ons playing in a game that was still in doubt was something that happened approximately never when Bryce Drew was the coach.
Vanderbilt has nine days off for Christmas break before taking on Davidson on December 30 at Memorial Gym. Game time is 7:00 PM CT and it will be televised on the SEC Network+.