NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt may be facing its biggest challenge of the season at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Perhaps even larger than a trip to then-No. 5 Auburn or a visit to long-time rival Kentucky earlier this season.
The Commodores (8-13, 0-8 SEC) welcome No. 18 Louisiana State to Memorial Gymnasium next.
“Scary,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said about the Tigers. “They got four guys averaging over 12 points. They’re athletic, they got size, they crash the boards, they’re skilled – whatever other superlatives you can say, they’re right there.”
LSU is one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Head coach Will Wade’s squad has won 10 in a row since a two-point loss to Southern California in December.
Sklyar Mays (15.3 points per game) leads the aforementioned scoring attack. The Tigers as a team are among the top 20 nationally in shooting, rebound margin and scoring.
“For us, it’s just about making sure we give ourselves a chance by defending the way that we’re capable of and with our rebounding,” Stackhouse said. “They got the offensive boards with reckless abandon. Maybe being able to put a body on them could possibly get some of those guys in foul trouble if we focus on our technique and we focus on our toughness along with an attitude to compete.”
Vandy has been awfully close to snapping a nine-game losing streak the last two times out. It led late in the second half at Kentucky on Jan. 29 before falling 71-62 and then nearly overcame an 18-point deficit Saturday at home against Florida only to lose by five.
Stackhouse related Wednesday’s challenge to a Jan. 8 trip to Auburn where the Commodores had to go up against an undefeated team in front of a sold-out and hostile crowd.
“If we come out and do what we’re capable of on the offensive end and, especially on the defensive end, we can play with anybody,” Stackhouse said. “Even with where we are, we may be a little bit talent-stricken, but we got guys that compete and play hard. It gives us a chance. Obviously shot making helps. If we’re able to make shots on top of doing those other things, then it gives us a better chance.
“Every night out is tough challenge in the SEC. We came in and approached it the same way (as we did playing Auburn): Try to be us and do the things that we do and it gave ourselves a chance. I’m looking forward to us doing in the same thing (Wednesday).”