Here are three stats over the last three games:
- Damian Jones, points: 13, 20, 26
- Damian Jones, field goal attempts plus free throw attempts: 13, 25, 26
- Vanderbilt offensive points per possession: 0.89, 0.87, 0.94
Amazingly, some of Vanderbilt's worst offensive performances of the season have come over the last three games -- and in those three games, Damian Jones has been heavily involved in the offense. Against Tennessee -- in which Vanderbilt scored 1.13 points per possession -- Jones attempted four field goals and six free throws and scored 6 points.
What on earth is going on?
From my seat, one thing I noticed was that Damian Jones was mostly being defended one-on-one by Prince Ibeh. To some degree, Ibeh was able to handle him -- Damian was nailing turnaround jumpers from six feet out, but he wasn't getting many layups or dunks. What you didn't see was the usual double-team-as-soon-as-Damian-gets-the-ball that has frequently been a feature of opposing defenses. And the Longhorns were only making half-hearted attempts at denying the ball.
It's probably no coincidence that Jones set career highs in both points and field goal attempts, because Shaka Smart was effectively making a strategic decision that he didn't mind Jones dropping 26 on him if it meant Vanderbilt's shooters were not getting free. That and forcing a bunch of turnovers (that again!) while limiting Vanderbilt to one shot on the offensive end meant that the Commodores couldn't score.
Now, at least some of the last three games have been personnel-related: Kentucky, Florida, and Texas have all had big men whose coaches felt they could trust to handle Damian one-on-one. (Against a lot of teams, defending Damian this way would mean he drops 40, not 26.) But opposing coaches seem to be figuring out that expending a lot of energy stopping Damian isn't worth it when that just means Vanderbilt's shooters are getting open looks. With that out in the open, Vanderbilt will now need to figure out how to score points when Damian isn't drawing so much attention.
|Wade Baldwin IV||10||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||3||1||0||-5.1||-0.51|
- One last thing about Damian Jones before we move on. Some fans in the comments have assumed that this season is hurting Damian's draft stock. Here's why it probably hasn't hurt that much: for much of the season, Jones has been seeing defenses that he would never see in the NBA. To an NBA scout, the last couple of months have mostly just proven that Jones is not Hakeem Olajuwon, but then NBA teams weren't expecting him to be. If you were expecting Jones to be a third or fourth option for an NBA team, then you're more interested in seeing what Jones can do when he's being defended in a manner that NBA teams would, and yesterday was definitely a positive in that respect.
- Vanderbilt scored 58 points, and Damian Jones and Matthew Fisher-Davis had a combined Adjusted Game Score of 57.8. What does that tell you about the rest of the team?
- Adjusted Game Score can get weird when you have a bunch of guys with negative game scores (meaning, they're actively hurting the team.) Riley LaChance and Luke Kornet weren't particularly good, but their AdjGS is a bit inflated because at least both managed to do something positive.
- I still don't know what exactly happened to Wade Baldwin IV or what his status is for upcoming games.
- As for the rest of the team... well, those stat lines pretty much speak for themselves.
Well, Vanderbilt does have an immediate opportunity to erase the stench of this loss as Texas A&M comes to Memorial Gym on Thursday. (Texas fan to me at the game: "We'll be rooting for you guys in your next game.") The Aggies probably won't be #5 in the AP poll next week, but they come into the game at 18-3, 7-1 in the SEC, and currently ranked #12 in the RPI. It's yet another opportunity to add a signature win that Vanderbilt hasn't had much of this season.