For probably the first time in his career at Vanderbilt, Kevin Stallings has a team that makes its living on the defensive end.
Currently, the Commodores rank 17th in the nation in defensive efficiency -- their best ranking since Ken Pomeroy started keeping track of these things back in 2002. And they rank 3rd in the SEC in that category. Meanwhile, the offense -- which was supposed to be this team's calling card -- ranks 11th in the SEC. Four times in eight conference games, including last night, the Commodores have failed to crack a point per possession.
And so it was Tuesday night, when Florida came to town, a team that's even better than Vanderbilt on defense -- and worse on offense. In previous editions of the statistical, I've mentioned that an opposing offense shot well below its season average on threes. In Florida's case, the Gators shot 31.8 percent on threes -- except, well, that is their season average. Vanderbilt basically dared anyone not named KeVaughn Allen to shoot from beyond the arc; Allen, the Gators' only real three-point threat, shot 3-for-4, while the rest of the Gators combined to shoot 4-of-18. So... strategy worked. But the Gators also shot 16-for-48 inside the arc, and much of that is a credit to Vanderbilt's defense; the Commodores rejected a total of nine shots.
But the offense... uh, yeah. About that. Vanderbilt shot well only in comparison to Saturday's game at Kentucky. They coughed up 19 turnovers, and while they did get to the line quite a bit -- another feature of this year's Commodore team -- they weren't so successful at converting their foul shots, going 21-for-33. For once, Damian Jones wasn't the problem (he went 8-of-11 at the line.)
If you're an optimist, you note that (a) it was still a win against an RPI top 25 team, regardless of how ugly it was (and yes, it was ugly) and (b) Vanderbilt didn't shoot particularly well and still managed to win. If you're a pessimist, you're probably feeling like the game should not have been that close and Vanderbilt's own mistakes allowed Florida to hang around. Both viewpoints are technically correct. But remember: if Vanderbilt is going to get to the NCAA Tournament, they just need wins. Not pretty wins, not blowout wins, just wins. And last night was a win all the same.
|Wade Baldwin IV||35||7||13||1||1||9||14||0||2||2||2||24||4||3||0||1||24.5||0.70|
- This was, at least on the offensive end, the Damian Jones and Wade Baldwin IV show: Matthew Fisher-Davis hit a couple of token three-pointers, Jeff Roberson was mostly quiet, and Luke Kornet's Game Score only wound up in positive territory because of his excellent work on defense.
- But even the stars of the game had some issues: Wade couldn't hit his free throws and Damian, well, you'd like to see better than 6-for-14 shooting from a big man.
- On the other hand, that's the second straight game in which Damian has stayed out of foul trouble. Let's hope this is the beginning of a new trend.
- The bench -- including newly-demoted Riley LaChance -- had a grand total of zero points. Which, well, the bench also took one shot combined, so that's probably to be expected. I really have no idea what's going on with Riley LaChance; I just hope this move to the bench doesn't erode whatever confidence he had left.
The Commodores will be in Austin at 11 AM on Saturday
sleeping off a hangover playing the Texas Longhorns, another defensive-minded, offensively-challenged team, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Shaka Smart hasn't had a chance to work his magic with the Longhorns yet, but like Florida they are in the RPI top 25 and give Vanderbilt another opportunity for a quality win.