Battle With the Bulls

Commodores face dangerous Buffalo team next

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s current run against tough competition didn’t get off to a successful start over the weekend. But greater lessons are often learned in defeat than victory.

The Commodores (5-2) will be looking to show they learned some of those lessons after Saturday’s defeat to Tulsa while they try to get back in the win column against Buffalo at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“It’s just about staying focused to the details and making sure that we don’t have those mental lapses,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said Saturday. “I don’t mind losing games to teams that come in and have a Herculean effort and they beat us. They jump up and they make shots, contested shots against our defense – the way we want to play.

“I don’t think that was completely the case (against Tulsa). Tonight’s loss was some of our own doing and we have to figure out a way to clean that up.”

A 67-58 setback to Tulsa was the first inside Memorial Gymnasium this season for Vandy. It was also the lowest point total of the campaign so for for the Commodores as they struggled to figure out the Golden Hurricane’s matchup zone defense.

Vanderbilt shot just 35.7 percent from the floor on the loss, had 16 turnovers to just 12 assists and, although it made eight 3s, missed 16 shots from long distance.

“Overall this is good for us. This is a good test for us against a team that is good at what they do,” Stackhouse said. “Their matchup zone is something, hopefully, we won’t see every night in our league. But that’s what we’re trying to prepare for, different things that we’ll see in our league.

“I think it’s a good thing we’re seeing these type of defenses and the fact that our nonconference schedules presents those challenges for us. It’ll be good for us in the long run.”

The Commodores now turn their attention to a Buffalo team (5-2) that comes to town on a three-game winning streak. The Bulls have played games in Toronto and Charleston, South Carolina, but have yet to play a true road game.

First-year head coach Jim Whitesell took over the Buffalo program this spring after a 32-win season and trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament by the Bulls in 2018-19.

Buffalo is scoring 81 points per game and ranks eighth nationally with 15.1 offensive rebounds per contest.

After Tuesday’s affair, Vanderbilt will be off until Dec. 14. It would certainly like to go into that break on a positive mote.

“We got to be prepared,” Stackhouse said about moving forward. “We got to know that even though it’s a young season, these games – we have an ‘X’ on our back. We got to make sure that we’re prepared to play and prepare for 40 minutes. We got to have some more guys step up and make shots and put the ball in the basket for us, too.”

• Buffalo and Vanderbilt have never faced each other before.

• Vanderbilt sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith still leads the nation in 3s made (34) and 3s made per game (4.86). Nesmith is sixth in scoring (23.7 ppg) and ninth in 3-point shooting (54 percent).

• Vanderbilt junior guard Saben Lee ranks 17th nationally with 6.6 assists per game.

• Lee needs 142 points to reach 1,000 for his career.

• Vanderbilt senior Clevon Brown has 109 career blocks, the seventh-most by a Commodore all-time. Julian Terrell is sixth with 116.

• The Commodores as a team are seventh in the country with 11 made 3s per game. They also rank 21st with 77 made 3s and 28th with a 3-point shooting percentage of 39.7.