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Vanderbilt 71, Alabama 63: Sometimes, Numbers Are Misleading

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The final score -- and, well, a few other stats -- make this game look closer than it actually was.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Four Factors

  • Alabama, first 61 possessions: 0.78 PPP, 46.7% eFG, 19.7% TO, 23.3% OR
  • Alabama, final 5 possessions: 3.00 PPP, 100.0% eFG, 0.0% TO, 100.0% OR

We had a discussion in the comments about the Auburn statistical, in which I noted that had Auburn shot their season averages from the three-point line and the free throw line, the game would have been a lot closer.  But it's also true that it's not necessarily correct to assume that all other variables would remain the same if one variable changed.  Specific to that game, Auburn might not have pressed as much if not for digging themselves an early hole -- which might have meant that on a better shooting night for Auburn, Vanderbilt would have committed fewer turnovers.  That's also not necessarily true, but it's an unknown factor.

And then you get to a game like this.  Alabama's overall offensive numbers look decent -- 0.95 PPP is nothing to brag about, but against a good defense like Vanderbilt's it isn't bad.  But then look at the last five possessions and compare them to the first 48 (Alabama's 62nd possession began with 2:11 left.)  For 38 minutes, Alabama's offense was putrid: the Tide did manage to go 18-for-31 on twos, but the combination of poor three-point shooting, poor foul shooting, no offensive rebounding presence, and a rather high turnover percentage had the Tide down 63-48.

Then, Alabama went on a late flurry, scoring 15 points (Arthur Edwards himself scored 12 points on 4-of-5 from three), and the two shots they did miss in that stretch were rebounded by the offense.  Concluding that Alabama had a decent day on the offensive end is like concluding that a quarterback who padded his stats against the prevent defense in a blowout loss had a decent day.  This is where stats get outright misleading: Vanderbilt's defense did a good enough job, up until the point when the game was already in hand.  You can forgive the guys for slacking off on defense when they had a 15-point lead with two minutes to go.

With all that said, Vanderbilt strangely didn't have a great game on the offensive end, but this can almost entirely be chalked up to a strangely poor performance in the paint (11-for-33 on twos, 6 offensive boards) and at the charity stripe (22-for-36.)  But the Commodores did get to the foul line quite a bit and only committed 7 turnovers, and shot 9-for-16 on threes.  Some of the struggles could be chalked up to Alabama actually having some quality bigs, at least on the defensive end; 6'10" Jimmie Taylor had three blocks and promising freshman Donta Hall had a block as well.  But thankfully, Alabama couldn't even keep up with a meh offensive performance from Vanderbilt.

Individual Stats

Player Min FG FGA 3FG 3FGA FT FTA ORB DRB REB PF PTS AST TO BLK STL AdjGS GS/Min
Jeff Roberson 36 4 7 3 4 5 7 2 9 11 3 16 5 0 0 2 27.8 0.77
Riley LaChance 35 5 8 5 6 3 3 0 1 1 2 18 1 0 0 0 20.0 0.57
Wade Baldwin IV 32 1 4 0 0 6 9 0 5 5 1 8 5 3 0 1 9.6 0.30
Luke Kornet 32 3 8 0 2 2 5 0 6 6 5 8 2 0 1 1 7.3 0.23
Matthew Fisher-Davis 16 1 2 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 1 3.6 0.22
Damian Jones 23 4 13 0 0 5 8 1 1 2 4 13 1 2 0 0 3.3 0.14
Josh Henderson 13 2 4 0 0 0 2 2 1 3 2 4 0 0 0 0 2.9 0.22
Joe Toye 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Carter Josephs 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Samir Sehic 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.00
Camron Justice 5 0 1 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 -0.1 -0.03
Nolan Cressler 5 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -3.3 -0.66

  • It's a positive that in a game where Damian Jones was having an off night, Luke Kornet wasn't much better, and Wade Baldwin IV was so-so, Vanderbilt still picked up a win thanks to strong performances by Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance.  In LaChance's case, he did this while dealing with tonsilitis.  The last couple of games, it has seemed as though Stallings has allowed Riley to just do his thing as a shooter and let Wade worry about being the point guard.  Smart move, and you almost wonder why Stallings didn't think of that from the start.
  • The bench continues to be an issue, though.  Some of that is due to injuries -- Matthew Fisher-Davis is just now getting back, and Camron Justice, who looked like a competent bench option before injuring his groin, probably still isn't 100 percent and may not be the rest of the season.  Josh Henderson is an occasionally useful backup big man.  And after that?  You've got Nolan Cressler, whose minutes have dwindled lately, probably due to his performance.  You've got another guy (Joe Toye) who has potential but isn't there yet in terms of consistency, and you've got... Samir Sehic, who might be Shelby Moats 2.0.

Much like the Auburn game, it's good to come away with a win, even if there are some things that the team will need to work on in practice.  Vanderbilt improves to 2-3 in the SEC and 10-7 overall, and next comes a trip to the place that will not be named, to face the team that shall not be named, on Wednesday night.  The negative to all the losses is that a win over THEM at their place is now a must if Vanderbilt is going to carry forward the positive momentum from the past week and get back into the NCAA Tournament.