NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s 2020-21 roster is not one with a size advantage when matching up with most Southeastern Conference opponents. That’s even more true with senior center Clevon Brown currently sidelined with an injury.
But that doesn’t mean second-year coach Jerry Stackhouse expects his squad to give up on crashing the boards. On Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky, the Commodores finished with a 42-29 rebounding advantage against the Wildcats and collected 13 offensive rebounds.
That was a huge factor in Vandy nearly escaping Rupp Arena before a 77-74 defeat.
“If we continue to trend in the right direction as far as what we’ve been doing rebounding the basketball and putting bodies on people, then if we do that we’re going to be OK,” Stackhouse said. “I think we’re doing some things to try to get better at that and guys are kind of taking some pride in it and hopefully that pride continues (Saturday).”
Vanderbilt (4-4, 0-2 SEC) faces one of the top rebounding squads in the SEC and in college basketball at noon Saturday when Mississippi State comes to town. The Bulldogs are the next challenge for a Vandy unit that has dropped back-to-back contests despite showing much improvement last time out.
Scotty Pippen Jr. and Dylan Disu continued to lead the way offensively for the Dores in that contest and Disu’s rebounding has been key throughout the season well. The sophomore is among the top players in the SEC in defensive rebounds per game, total rebounds and rebounds per game.
Pippen has scored at least 18 points in all but one matchup this season, but Stackhouse said he needs to see better defense from his star sophomore.
“Our point guards in general (Trey Thomas and Pippen) weren’t good (defensively) in that Kentucky game. Their mistakes defensively accounted for like 23 (Kentucky) points,” Stackhouse said. “That’s where we have to improve. For us to be good we have to be solid on the defensive end and that starts with those guys.”
Mississippi State (7-4, 2-1 SEC) is fresh off a resounding, 78-63 win over No. 13 Missouri at home Tuesday. The Bulldogs have recovered from an 0-2 start to go 7-2 over the last nine and their lone league loss came in overtime to Kentucky.
Vandy will have to pay great attention to D.J. Stewart and Iverson Molinar, each of whom are scoring more than 18 points per game. Tolu Smith is adding 12.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest.
Mississippi State, coached by Ben Howland, leads the conference in rebound margin (+109) and 3-point shooting (38.3) and is second in free throw attempts (238).
“They do some things to put some stress on your defense, but we feel like our offensive things that we do will stress them out with their defensive coverages as well,” Stackhouse said. “It’s just about bringing the disposition of work in the game and effort. We got to try to take a couple of those guys and slow them down and force a couple other guys to beat us.
“We can’t allow those two guards (Stewart and Molinar) to come in and have 18 points a piece. If they do that, I don’t think that bodes well for us.”
Saturday’s contest will be televised live by SEC Network.
- Stackhouse said Friday that freshman guard Issac McBride is out indefinitely with a right ankle sprain.
- Pippen Jr. begins the weekend ranked 13th nationally – and second in the SEC – at 22 points per game.
- Pippen is 59th nationally – and second in the SEC – with five assists per game.
- Disu is 24th nationally (and leads the SEC) with 7.25 rebounds per game, is 34th with three double-doubles and 43rd with nine rebounds per contest.
- As a team, Vandy is 36th in college basketball with a free throw percentage of 75.8 and 39th with 9.4 made 3s per game.
- Vanderbilt has made at least four 3s in 23 consecutive games.
- The Commodores are 79-51 in the all-time series against Mississippi State and 47-10 at home.
- Vanderbilt has not lost three in a row to Mississippi State since a four-game losing skid between 2001-04.
- The Bulldogs have not won back-to-back trips to Memorial Gymnasium since 2002 and 2004.
- Vandy will be trying to avoid a third straight 0-3 start in SEC play.
- The Dores are 4-41 in their last 45 games against SEC competition.
- Vanderbilt is 10-2 (10-0 in regulation) under Stackhouse when scoring at least 80 points.
- The Commodores are 4-0 on the weekend this season and 0-4 on weekdays.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.