Chatman Returns, Pippen Soars

Vandy guard duo fuels Commodores to victory

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No one was hitting the panic button inside the Vanderbilt locker room. But the Commodores were a bit sick of a three-game losing streak.

“We had a chip on our shoulder,” Vandy junior Scotty Pippen Jr. said. “We hadn’t been playing as well as we had wanted to be playing. We had to stop the bleeding tonight and get this win.”

Pippen scored 23 points and dealt out nine assists in a game that his teammates never trailed, an 85-77 triumph over visiting Georgia at Memorial Gymnasium. Pippen had one of his best games of the season and a big part of his success was the return of Rodney Chatman to the starting lineup.

A senior, Chatman had missed the previous five contests with an injury. But it was clear his presence was felt throughout everyone wearing a gold jersey Saturday and was anticipated by the more than 6,800 fans in attendance.

Chatman had 12 points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal Saturday. He did all that in just 12 minutes as he continues to ease his way back into an important role as Vandy approaches the second half of its season and tries to start putting together winning streaks.

“We shared the ball well. (Pippen) had like (nine) assists, two turnovers – we had the turnovers low (as a team). We shared the ball, we trusted each other, guys stepped up and made plays.

“We played good defense, too. We got out on the break and then pulled some strings and got guys open shots.”

Chatman’s 3-pointer 5:12 into the game gave the Commodores a 16-6 lead and they were never truly threatened from there. They led by as many as 18 with 11:15 to play before the Bulldogs (6-15, 1-7 SEC) made the final score closer than the affair truly was.

Pippen’s nine assists were a season-high and part of a 17-assist night for Vanderbilt (11-9, 3-5 SEC). Nine different Dores found the scoring column and Vandy hit 12 triples to help offset a 44-24 deficit on points in the paint by the Bulldogs.

“There was a variable that we hadn’t had in a while and he was back in the mix,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “(Chatman) does such great things for us on the floor I think he’s a common force for everybody, he just allows everybody to relax – him and Quentin (Millora-Brown) both.

“Him having the poise and allowing (Pippen) to be off the ball more, I thought (Pippen) made a really concerted effort to get the ball moving and made the right plays early in the game. He was even better in the second half. He’s going to be a high-usage guy for us, even with (Chatman) in the lineup, so we just need him to be affective.”

Pippen’s 23 points Saturday moved him into 33rd on the program’s all-time scoring list behind Matthew Fisher-Davis. Seven of those 23 points came courtesy the free throw line and the junior now sits eighth in Vandy history for made free throws in a single career.

Chatman, who more often than not finds a seat next to Pippen on the bench when the two are out of the game at the same time, said his role is to simply keep Pippen under control and to run the show because the Commodores know their star can take over – and win – a game at any point.

Vandy will need more of the type of play it got from Pippen on Saturday as it starts the month of February and as it stares down the challenge of playing No. 12 Kentucky (17-4, 6-2 SEC) on the road at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday. The good news is Chatman should be a part of that challenge – and Pippen couldn’t be happier.

“We haven’t been shooting as good as we want to, but guys have been in the gym. That’s a credit to my teammates getting individual work in, getting shots up late nights, after practice, before practice and just being ready to shoot,” Pippen said. “I think throughout this whole we’ve gotten good looks, we just haven’t been able to knock them down and today I just feel like we broke that slump and we’re able to make shots.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.