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Vanderbilt 74, Ole Miss 71: Well, it was a win

It wasn’t a loss, but it wasn’t exactly the bounceback we were looking for.

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NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Four Factors

Four Factors Vanderbilt Ole Miss
Four Factors Vanderbilt Ole Miss
eFG% 49.19% 43.24%
OR% 36.11% 37.78%
TO% 10.77% 7.69%
FT Rate 32.26% 9.46%

The nicest thing I can say about Saturday’s 74-71 win over Ole Miss is that it wasn’t a loss. Vanderbilt came in on a three-game losing streak, the most recent of which was a 101-44 loss at Alabama, and Ole Miss came in having won just once in nine tries in SEC play. In fact, Ole Miss had lost ten of eleven overall counting non-conference losses to North Alabama and Oklahoma State, with only hapless South Carolina falling victim to the Rebels.

In that context, winning a game that you didn’t really put away until a 10-0 run in the last four minutes of the game isn’t a great accomplishment, though. And while there were some nice individual performances (more on that in a minute), it just felt like Vanderbilt was evenly matched with one of the SEC’s worst teams. That’s not good, and it doesn’t portend good things for the remainder of the schedule. The Commodores still have some winnable games remaining (specifically at South Carolina and LSU), but six of the eight remaining regular season games are against teams ranked in the top 50 of KenPom — and Vanderbilt is 1-8 this season against that group.

(Having four losses outside that group is bad, too, but really only the Grambling loss stands out as being exceptionally bad — Southern Miss is 21-4 and currently leading the Sun Belt, VCU leads the Atlantic 10, and Missouri is probably an NCAA Tournament team even if their metrics aren’t great, and those latter two were on the road.)

As for yesterday, Ole Miss turned the ball over five times — and if you’re wondering why Vanderbilt’s defense has fallen off a cliff, well, an inability to force turnovers has been a season-long issue. Vanderbilt has fallen from 45th to 331st in defensive turnover percentage, and that basically erased a decent defensive performance on Saturday; Ole Miss was missing a lot of shots, but they also attempted 74 of them. And “evenly-matched” is a good description here: for the first 38 minutes and 15 seconds of the game, neither team led by more than six points.

On some level, that made for an entertaining game to watch — on a different level, though, neither team seemed to be playing particularly well. And frankly, Vanderbilt’s probably out of time to turn things around: see the above comment about the remaining schedule. Finishing better than 6-12 in the SEC (13-18 overall) will require the Commodores to do something they haven’t done all year outside of a second half against Arkansas.

Individual Stats

Liam Robbins 31 5 15 1 4 8 11 5 7 12 19 2 2 1 7 1 20.4 25.20 0.81
Tyrin Lawrence 37 7 10 1 1 3 4 1 9 10 18 1 3 2 0 0 16.5 20.38 0.55
Quentin Millora-Brown 14 4 5 0 0 2 3 2 3 5 10 0 0 0 0 0 10 12.35 0.88
Colin Smith 18 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 7 1 0 0 0 0 6.7 8.28 0.46
Ezra Manjon 32 3 8 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 6 2 7 1 0 0 3.9 4.82 0.15
Myles Stute 27 3 11 3 9 0 0 1 3 4 9 2 0 0 0 0 3.3 4.08 0.15
Emmanuel Ansong 6 1 4 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1.3 1.61 0.27
Paul Lewis 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.7 -0.86 -0.12
Trey Thomas 24 1 5 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 -1.5 -1.85 -0.08
  • The rotation made sense on Saturday, as did the starting lineup (Liam Robbins, Tyrin Lawrence, Quentin Millora-Brown, Ezra Manjon, and Trey Thomas), with Myles Stute and Colin Smith soaking up most of the bench minutes. Obviously, Jordan Wright will be added to that when healthy (he missed this game due to a concussion suffered against Alabama on Tuesday night), but playing seven or eight guys with the rest of the bench getting spot minutes is probably the best thing for this team right now.
  • The complaints about the starting lineups (particularly Robbins coming off the bench; yesterday was actually his first start since December 17) and the rotation have gotten some weird pushback on Twitter, so I’ll just say this: you don’t see other college coaches bringing their best player off the bench, and it’s weird that some people don’t think that this should be questioned at all, or hell, Robbins averaging 22.2 minutes when he is available. (You also don’t typically see a team’s second-leading scorer get benched for vague, non-injury related reasons when the team is facing a top-five team on the road, but I’m just not going to harp on that now.)
  • All that said, excellent performances from Liam Robbins and Tyrin Lawrence. Robbins appears not to have missed a beat after two weeks off with an injury, and if the purpose of benching Lawrence was to send a message... well, seems like it was received.
  • Quentin Millora-Brown scored in double figures, and I didn’t realize this was the first time all season he’d done that.
  • Colin Smith, Ezra Manjon, and Myles Stute weren’t great, but none of them hurt the team. That’s enough when Robbins and Lawrence are good enough to carry the team on a given night.
  • As far as the remaining freshmen go, well, Dort’s still (presumably) injured and Shelby and Dia didn’t get off the bench; Lewis got some spot minutes when Manjon was off the floor. Lewis’s minutes had picked up of late so I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I’m still not quite understanding why Trey Thomas is playing ahead of Shelby, or why Dia can’t get consistent minutes — I mean, it’s only been a week and a half since he dropped 14 in a game. At this point, I’m less concerned about the impact on the team and more concerned about whether these guys stick around for sophomore year.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt hosts Tennessee — currently number 2 in the polls but likely to drop after losing at Florida this week — at 6:00 PM CT on the SEC Network, Wednesday night. Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten the Vols since February 2017, losing eleven in a row since, and that’s the longest losing streak in school history against them.