In spite of what ESPN's broadcasters may have implied, LSU does in fact have players who are not Ben Simmons.
You knew Simmons was going to get his, and he did that, going for 36 points and 14 rebounds -- and also getting to the foul line 19 times, saddling both Jeff Roberson and Damian Jones with foul trouble for much of the game. When you're facing a star player, sometimes the best strategy is to let him get his and limit the damage from his teammates.
And that was the problem. Guard Keith Hornsby, who manages to fly under the radar because the UNC-Asheville transfer is on a team with four- and five-star recruits, had 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Forward Craig Victor had 11 points and 6 boards in just 22 minutes of action -- but he also had three steals (more on that in a minute) as he did a lot to contain Vanderbilt's inside game. In the end, Vanderbilt didn't get beat by Ben Simmons -- it got beat by Victor and Hornsby.
I commented in the game thread last night that the LSU team that Vanderbilt saw last night was not the one that slogged through three losses in November, and that is quite literally true: Hornsby missed the first seven games of the season recovering from sports hernia surgery, and Victor (who transferred from Arizona at semester break last year) did not become eligible until December 16. LSU did drop Hornsby's first game back against an improved Houston team, but since then they're 4-1, with the only loss coming to a decent Wake Forest team.
This is not to excuse anything, but LSU is actually a pretty good team with Hornsby and Victor in the lineup. I thought entering the season that LSU was the second-best team in the SEC behind Kentucky, and now that they are at full strength this may actually be true. And yet, it's still another frustrating loss, because Vanderbilt could have won this game.
- Two of those bars on offense are where you want them: Vanderbilt shot well enough to win (25-of-54 from the floor, including 10-of-23 on threes) and got to the foul line 25 times, making 22. A 9.4% offensive rebound rate is not good, but you can get away with a lack of offensive rebounding when you are shooting that well.
- About that offensive rebound rate: I wasn't paying close enough attention to figure out if Stallings was making a conscious decision not to hit the offensive glass (presumably in order to limit transition, which Ben Simmons is very good at) or if LSU was just doing a really good job at preventing offensive boards.
- The 21.7% turnover rate is ugly, but unlike the Baylor game, this wasn't on the Vanderbilt guards: Damian Jones and Josh Henderson combined to commit 9 of the 17 turnovers. LSU was doing an excellent job of denying entry passes (see: Craig Victor having three steals), but some of those turnovers, particularly on Henderson's part, were just plain sloppy. And that's how you lose a game when you shoot the ball well.
|Wade Baldwin IV||34||3||7||2||4||9||10||0||6||6||17||3||7||1||0||3||32.7||0.96|
- Wade Baldwin continues to be the best player on this team, and last night it wasn't even close.
- It's hard to say Roberson had a good game considering that he was limited by foul trouble -- mostly due to, well, Ben Simmons getting Jordan Rules -- but he was actually fairly solid when he was on the floor.
- That can't be said for Damian Jones, though. Damian had the same foul issues as Roberson, though he managed to play 32 minutes in spite of it, but he also had four turnovers.
- Probably a lot of the reason why Stallings decided to play Damian through his foul issues had to do with Josh Henderson's night. Let's just move on from that. Hendo is normally a decent backup but I just don't really feel like talking about that.
- Stallings clearly doesn't trust Samir Sehic to play important minutes yet -- even though last night, it's hard to imagine he could have been worse than Hendo -- but he did just fine in his limited action.
- Riley LaChance's shot is still off, so let's have him take the most shots of anybody on the team. And let's have Nolan Cressler take the second-most -- in 16 minutes of action, at that -- while we are at it.
- I'm gonna guess all the foul trouble was why Camron Justice played 19 minutes.
Anyway, the concern isn't really that Vanderbilt lost to Ben Simmons, or that the team now has five losses on the season. Assuming LSU continues playing like they did last night, a reasonable assumption given that Hornsby and Victor are why they're playing better, their RPI should improve from #137. My main concern is that with a pair of tough road games coming up this week (at Arkansas on Tuesday, at unbeaten South Carolina on Saturday), Vanderbilt could be looking at an 0-3 start in the SEC if they don't get it together. Just stop the bleeding and get back to winning.