NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In the midst of a seven-game losing streak, Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse isn’t one for panic.
The way he views it, there’s only one option moving forward.
“I had a wise coach tell, ‘Just keep peddling.’ That’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Stackhouse said Tuesday before his team’s trip to Lexington, Kentucky. “It’s about taking some maturity, taking some leadership as a team. It comes from the coaches, we’re going to give it to them every day, but at the end of the day they have to do it.
“I think talking about it is one thing. Then it’s going out and doing it and we got to figure out how we do that consistently.”
The Commodores (8-11, 0-6 SEC) play at No. 13 Kentucky at 5:30 p.m. CT Wednesday. It’s another opportunity for Stackhouse’s young and short-handed team to grow and mature as it looks for that first league win of the season.
“We’re not talking about what we don’t have or anything like that. We’re just talking about do what you’re supposed to do. I think that’s more of our message and what it’s going to be as we continue to build a foundation,” Stackhouse said. “We’re trying to build a baseline of how we want to play and how we want to do things.
“It starts with approach and that approach is being steadfast when adversity hits and when things aren’t going our way.”
The Commodores lost 90-64 at South Carolina on Saturday, a game that was only a nine-point affair at halftime. Stackhouse pointed out how his unit missed 14 free throws and 25 shots from 3.
He’s not even looking for the Dores to be perfect in those areas, but a few more makes here to there could account for a lot of points. The frustration lies in watching Vandy execute sharply in practice then lose that sharpness when it comes time for the game.
Some of that can be attributed to youth and environment.
“There’s things that we’re capable of doing that we’re just not doing right now,” the Vandy head coach said. “We’re getting the looks that we want from the people that we want. And we’re just continuing to work at it.
“Defensively, that’s where we can save ourselves a little bit and have a little bit more attention to detail and the things that we’re supposed to do. The things that we know how to do. We’re seeing some things in games and it’s like we don’t know how to handle it. But we do it every day and then we don’t carry it over to the game.”
Kentucky (15-4, 5-1 SEC) has won three straight and 10 in a row at home (after losing to Evansville in Rupp Arena on Nov. 12). The Wildcats got a big win Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, where they held off Texas Tech in overtime 76-74.
Sophomore guard Aston Hagans is among the top 10 nationally in assist per game and junior forward Nick Richards is fifth nationally with a field goal percentage of 67.5. Kentucky has won six straight in the series and 11 in a row in Lexington against Vanderbilt.
“They’re playing great,” Stackhouse said of UK. “Obviously they’ve had some tough losses and losses where they think they shouldn’t have lost and they’ve had huge wins. That shows the quality of talent that they have and the quality of coaches that they have.”
Vanderbilt last won at Rupp Arena on Jan. 20, 2007 and has only left the historic facility victorious twice in 42 tries. That equates to another tall task for the Commodores, but one Stackhouse expects his team to be up for.
“Somebody has to stand tall during the fight and I think we’ll continue to do that,” he said. “We got good guys and they understand it, they see it and they just got to continue to get better. I think our player development is huge. We still need to work on our individual games so we can be able to perform in games. We’ll continue to do that as well.”
• Vanderbilt junior Saben Lee (1,047) needs six points to pass Todd Milholland (1,053) for 43rd on the program’s all-time scoring list.
• Kentucky leads the series against Vandy 144-47, 192-20 in Lexington and 40-2 at Rupp Arena. The Commodores have played the Wildcats the second-most time in its history behind only Tennessee.
• Stackhouse’s last win as a player for North Carolina came March 20, 1995, in an NCAA Tournament game in Birmingham, Alabama. He had 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in that victory against Kentucky.
• Stackhouse said he has only been to Rupp Arena one other time when he played in a charity basketball event in 2015.
• According to KenPom.com. Vanderbilt ranks 320th in Division I basketball with an average of just 1.13 years of experience on its roster.