Dores Look to Vanquish Vols

Vandy welcomes No. 24 Tennessee to Memorial on Tuesday

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four league games into its Southeastern Conference schedule Vanderbilt finds itself in sixth place and ahead of eight teams in the standings. 

It’s not where the Commodores want to be by the end of the regular season in March, but it is certainly in a much better spot than it has been around this time the past handful of campaigns.

“Our defensive efficiency (is better), guys are having a better feel of what we want to do, what we want to get accomplished, being in the right spots, not having as many errors as we’ve had in the years past,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Basketball, I say it all the time, is a game of mistakes, but we’re starting to limit our mistakes and just not doing anything random.

“We’re sticking to our game plan, doing our job, doing what you’re asked to do within our system. And it’s going to continue to get better. We’re not there. You’re not going to be there in the fourth or fifth game of conference play, but we hope as we get midway through conference play that a lot of things that we’re doing, the continuity that we’re doing on both ends of the floor, just has a little bit more rhythm to it than it does right now.”

The Commodores (10-6, 2-2 SEC) are looking to move above .500 in league play at 8 p.m. Tuesday when they welcome No. 24 Tennessee into Memorial Gymnasium. They head into that matchup with a boost of momentum having knocked off Georgia 73-66 on Saturday on the road.

That victory came courtesy of a monster statistical night from junior guard Jordan Wright and a dominate second half in which the Dores flipped an eight-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead late in the contest.

While Stackhouse credited his coaching staff for making adjustments and his players for executing those adjustments, he said it was a mental and emotional shift that really changed the course of the outcome.

“I just thought that we took the challenge, the personal challenge, to guard the guys in front of us man-to-man and even though we knew we had help we didn’t rely on that help. That type of pressure and energy that we brought to the defensive end led to some easy opportunities in transition,” he said. “Just compete. I think that’s another level that we have to get to and we talked about some of those things (Sunday) – making sure we get off to a good start, but sustaining it. Everybody that comes into the game, play your minutes as hard as you can, if you need to get a blow, get a tired signal, but we got to make sure we’re exhausting ourselves when we’re playing our minutes in our game.”

No. 24 Tennessee took a 107-79 loss on the chin at No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday. The Volunteers (11-5, 2-3 SEC) are 1-3 in true road games this season.

Junior guard Santiago Vescovi (14 ppg) and freshman guard Kennedy Chandler (13.6 ppg) lead the Volunteers in scoring and Tennessee is among the nation’s top 10 in steals per game, steals and turnover margin.

Vanderbilt has lost eight in a row to Tennessee with its last victory coming Feb. 22, 2017 in Knoxville. The Dores last defeated Tennessee at home March 1, 2016.

“In their wins they’ve put up huge numbers, almost 40 points a game, between offensive rebounds and creating points off of turnovers. In the games that they’ve lost they are probably getting about half of that,” Stackhouse said. “It just shows us that we got to take care of the ball, make sure we get shots at the basket and get back on defense ourselves. They want to push it and play with a lot of pace. They got two of probably the quickest guards in our conference so we got to make sure that they see bodies in transition.”

  • Vandy junior Scotty Pippen Jr. (1,142) needs three points to move past Babe Taylor (1,144) for 39th on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list. Brett Burrow (1,149) is 38th and Billy Joe Adcock is 37th (1,190).
  • Pippen is tied for the league lead in scoring at 18.8 points per game.
  • Pippen ranks 12th nationally with 105 free throw attempts and is 19th with 76 free throws made.
  • Vandy ranks 26th nationally with 16.4 turnovers forced per game and 28th in turnover margin (+64).
  • Vanderbilt is 7-1 this season when leading at halftime, 6-0 when scoring at least 75 points and 9-1 when shooting better than 40 percent.
  • The Commodores have forced 15 turnovers or more in 10 games this season.
  • Vandy junior Wright has started 31 straight games for Vanderbilt.
  • Vanderbilt sophomore Trey Thomas has played in 41 straight games for the Commodores.
  • Vanderbilt is 75-126 in the all-time series against Tennessee but is 58-52 in home games.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.