Since Aaron Nesmith was lost (reportedly for the rest of the season) with a stress fracture on January 10, Vanderbilt has played seven games. They’ve scored at least a point per possession in none of them.
For reference, Vanderbilt scored 79 points in 68 possessions against Auburn on January 8. Since then, they scored 50 in 63 possessions against Texas A&M; 55 in 70 possessions at Arkansas; 45 in 68 possessions against Tennessee; 62 in 77 possessions against Alabama; 64 in 73 possessions at South Carolina; 62 in 66 possessions at Kentucky; and, last night against Florida, 55 in 63 possessions.
Now, in a couple of those games — namely, the road trip to South Carolina — the defense hasn’t played well enough for any realistic offensive output to be enough. But last night, it arguably was. Vanderbilt held Florida under a point per possession and yet it wasn’t enough, because the offense couldn’t score. Granted — the offense in the last two games has been marginally better than it was in the first five games without Nesmith. Last night’s shooting performance, while still not great, was at least somewhat better than the ghastly performances for the five games post-Nesmith.
On the other hand, Vanderbilt had its worst turnover percentage of the season. The Commodores committed 17 turnovers, and even worse, Florida was only credited with a steal on five of those — meaning that most of those turnovers were of the sloppy variety. There was Maxwell Evans driving into the lane and, instead of drawing a blocking foul that a Florida defender was more than willing to give him, getting called for traveling. There were bad passes.
Of course, Vanderbilt did a lot to prevent Florida from getting second chances — Florida’s offensive rebound rate was the second-lowest of any opponent this season (only South Carolina State did a worse job), and it was well below the 30.9 percent Vanderbilt has been allowing in SEC play. And, somehow, Vanderbilt got to the foul line a lot more than Florida — and made 15-of-20 at the stripe. 75 percent is absolutely an acceptable number at the foul line, and considerably better than what the team has been doing.
Now, Vanderbilt has still lost 26 games in a row in SEC play — but it’s easier to see how that streak ends before the end of the season after the last two games the Commodores have played than it did after any of the five before that. The next five games — LSU, at Mississippi State, Kentucky, at Florida, at Tennessee — don’t look promising, but after that Vanderbilt has back-to-back home games against Georgia and Missouri, two teams that aren’t playing particularly well. Under normal circumstances, going 1-17 or 2-16 in SEC play would not be anything worth shooting for. But at this point, just winning a game would be a big deal for this team’s confidence.
|Scotty Pippen Jr.||30||4||8||0||0||7||11||0||5||5||15||4||2||4||0||1||15.86||0.53||-7|
- Yeah, Vanderbilt’s second- and third-most valuable players on Saturday night were Jordan Wright and Matthew Moyer. That’s probably not something that the team should count on happening on a regular basis. On the other hand, well, you might be able to expect the rest of the team to play better.
- Settling on a seven-man rotation with the five starters plus Wright and Moyer off the bench, though, is probably the best solution with the current roster. It’s fun when Isaiah Rice is making a couple of threes — as he did at South Carolina — but, really, there’s a reason that he and Braelee Albert are walk-ons.
- Scotty Pippen Jr.’s performance still left a lot to be desired; he got to the foul line a lot, which made him the team’s MVP on Saturday almost by default, but I still see too many turnovers.
- Vanderbilt got what it needs out of Ejike Obinna (rebounds), and it’s fine if he settles in as a guy who’s mostly there for defense and rebounding.
- Saben Lee, well, had a lot of drives into the teeth of Florida’s defense that resulted in missed shots and turnovers. Not great.
- Dylan Disu got into foul trouble early and didn’t make much of an impact on the game. He’s been very hit-or-miss in that respect.
- Rough night for Maxwell Evans, though one of the shots he did make was crucial, cutting Florida’s lead to six with a couple of minutes left.
Vanderbilt returns to Memorial Gym on Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CT to host LSU. LSU is 8-0 in the SEC and yet seems determined to make every one of its games close, so, I don’t know, maybe Vanderbilt has a shot. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.