NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With only six regular-season contests remaining, Vanderbilt is hoping a final stretch of games before the postseason is more profitable than the first 12.
The Commodores (9-16, 1-11 SEC) have made it to the other side of the toughest part of their schedule. Of their next six contests, five are against teams with a .500 record or worse in league play.
One of those teams is Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC). Vandy crosses the state this week to face the Volunteers at 5:30 p.m. CT Tuesday.
“I think they’re better – I think we’re better than we were than the time we played before,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said about the matchup. “This is a game where we have to be prepared. They’re playing well. We got to be ready to play.”
Vanderbilt is on a three-game losing streak since a 99-90 win inside Memorial Gymnasium on Feb. 5. It played Mississippi State and Kentucky, respectively, toe to toe before running into a hot-shooting and highly-energized Florida team Saturday (an 84-66 defeat).
The Dores never really got going in front of more than 10,000 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center who were fired up to celebrate former Florida coach Billy Donovan’s career. The Gators led by 29 at halftime.
“It’s just about our disposition and how we want to come out and approach the game,” Stackhouse said. “We can’t come out the way we played at Florida just not ready to play. It wasn’t our best night and hopefully our guys are coming out to try to get that bad taste out of their mouth (Tuesday).”
One season after winning 31 games and making it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Tennessee has had an up-and-down campaign in 2019-20. The Volunteers have alternated wins and losses over the past four games after a three-game losing streak.
Tennessee came to Nashville a month ago and beat the Commodores 66-45. Vandy shot 23.5 percent from the floor that night and missed all 25 of its 3s.
“We have to be prepared that they’re going to make changes, things that we feel that we’re going to be able to take away (Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is) going to see those things and adjust,” Stackhouse said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same things with things that they’re going to try to take away that they feel are our strengths.
“They’re a team that I don’t think any team wants to see down the stretch. They crash the boards, they have athletes, they play the game the right way that I feel like it’s supposed to be played – from the inside out and they have the personnel to do that with.”
The Commodores sit in 14th place in the SEC, but are just one game back of Georgia (who comes to town at 5 p.m. Saturday) and three games back of three teams – that group includes future Vandy opponents Ole Miss (Feb. 29) and Missouri (Feb. 26).
As the calendar nears March, the time to raise the level of play is nigh.
“Big rivalry game, lot of emotion and physicality coming into this game – games we look forward to playing,” Vanderbilt junior guard Maxwell Evans said. “So we’ll just come out and give it our best.
“I just think we got to stick to our gameplan and control what we can control and we’ll be good.”
MOYER OUT WITH SHOULDER INJURY
Vanderbilt redshirt-junior Matthew Moyer left Saturday’s loss at Florida with a right shoulder injury. Stackhouse confirmed Monday the forward would remained sidelined for the foreseeable future.
“It’s tough,” Evans said. “Moyer gets out there and competes as hard as he can out there. A tough thing to see, but we all have to step up for him and everyone else.”
Moyer has played in 55 games for the Commodores and started six after beginning his career at Syracuse in 2017-18. He has averaged 2.2 rebounds and two points per game in 25 contests.
The loss of Moyer is the third due to injury for Vanderbilt this season. Sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith (foot) and senior center Clevon Brown (knee) have also missed the majority of the 2019-20 campaign.
• Lee (1,175) needs 16 points to pass Billy Joe Adcock (1,190) for 36th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list. Joe Ford (1,193) is 35th.
• Vanderbilt trails the series with rival Tennessee 123-75 and 63-16 in Knoxville. Vandy’s last win at Thompson-Boling Arena came Feb. 22, 2017.
• Subtracting the play of Nesmith, freshman have played 45 percent of Vanderbilt’s total minutes this season.
• The Commodores are 1-11 this season when trailing at halftime, 1-14 when trailing with five minutes to play and 0-15 when trailing at the 2-minute mark.
• Vandy is also 0-11 when scoring fewer than 70 points and 0-12 when shooting less than 40 percent.