Focused on Getting Better

Commodores looking to rebound after SEC-opening loss to Florida

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt has a lot of basketball left to be played.

And second-year head coach Jerry Stackhouse just wants his Commodores to play with heightened intelligence, toughness and effort.

“We can play with anybody when we do the right things,” Stackhouse said. “When we go back and watch this film (from Wednesday’s loss to Florida) – and hopefully before we watch film as a team that we got some guys that are going to go back and watch themselves so that they can see what’s going on and that shows that they care about what we’re trying to do.

“It’s not all the time about the talent and the athleticism. If you do the little things and you do them consistently, you can give yourself a chance to win.”

Vandy started SEC play with a 91-72 loss inside Memorial Gymnasium. It was a disappointing result in which some out-of-control factors led to the Dores’ defeat.

Sophomore guard Braelee Albert (ankle) and senior center Clevon Brown (abdominal strain) did not play which shortened Vanderbilt’s rotational depth. Florida also shot more than 61 percent – and an astounding 72 percent in the second half. Stackhouse joked that the Gators seemingly made everything, even when his team fouled them in the act of shooting.

Still, Stackhouse said it was upsetting to see defensive mistakes being made by his veteran players, mistakes he knows can’t become habit.

“We do some things kind of sophisticated from a standpoint of our rotations and where we have to be and understanding where there’s a slot drive or a baseline drive. And that can be a challenge for someone doing it for the first time,” he said. “But when you’ve done it for a whole year and you’ve been in it and you’ve done it right at times, it’s like we just need you to do it.

“They’re super-smart kids, but they can make some of the dumbest basketball plays you never want to see. We just got to figure that out.”

Vanderbilt (4-3, 0-1 SEC) now enters a serious stretch of tough matchups through the month of January. The Commodores are scheduled to play eight games in the next 25 days and three of the first four during that run are on the road starting with Tuesday’s trip to Kentucky (2-6, 1-0) at 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network.

To begin putting wins in the victory column the Commodores will need someone other than sophomore guard Scotty Pippen (22.6 ppg) and sophomore forward Dylan Disu (11.4 ppg) to fill up the scoring column. Seniors DJ Harvey and Maxwell Evans have yet to find their respecting shooting touches while freshman guard Issac McBride has made only 22 percent of his attempts.

If Vandy can find a way to get those Commodores to heat up while its youngsters continue to improve, positive outcomes will be on the horizon. There are undoubtedly a lot of opportunities for gaining experience over the course of the next month.

Stackhouse is thankful for that at the very least.

“We’re battling through some things, but at the same time we know there’s a lot of people dealing with a lot of difficult situations right now,” he said. “We’re just happy to still be able to play the game and we’re not going to lose sight of that. We’ll continue to work, we’ll continue to get better.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.