NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt continued to struggle offensively without its top playmaker and scorer Saturday during a 66-45 loss to rival Tennessee inside Memorial Gymnasium.
The Commodores (8-9, 0-4 SEC), playing their third game since sophomore scoring sensation Aaron Nesmith went down with an injury, shot just 23.5 percent from the floor and had only three assists. But the biggest stat came from behind the arc where Vandy missed all 25 of its 3-point shots.
That marked the first time in 1,080 games that Vanderbilt failed to make a long-distance bucket.
“Once we got down to the end of the game and hadn’t made a 3, the fans were more concerned about the 3s than us really even getting baskets,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse. “Guys were playing their asses off and trying to compete.
“But it happens. I felt for those kids because they were out there playing and trying to compete and trying to do things the right way and it just didn’t work out for them. It wasn’t meant to be and now it’s time to start the real streak that we want to end – the losing streak. We want to get a win for these guys and we’re going to continue to work.”
Coming into the day, Vandy was one of only three Division I programs in all of college basketball to have made at least one 3 in every game since the inception of the three-point line in 1986. But the Dores couldn’t get any to fall Saturday.
Nesmith, who had been scoring 23 points per game and making 4.29 3-pointers per game, was sorely missed in a game where only two Commodores – Scotty Pippen and Saben Lee – finished in double figures. Freshman Dylan Disu missed eight 3s and juniors Maxwell Evans and Lee combined to miss 10.
Vandy also had 17 turnovers that led to 20 Tennessee points.
“We’re still able to run some of the things that we’ve been doing,” Stackhouse said. “But, again, teams know that we want to have some continuity within our offense. It takes ball movement and screens to get them the looks that they need to have to have success.
“We are revamped and trying to figure out some things that we can do that suits the personnel that we have now. We’re learning a lot about these guys now.”
Tennessee (11-6, 3-2 SEC) led just 21-20 at the break after going without a point the final 6 1/2 minutes of the half. But a 10-0 run to start the second period took the wind out of Vandy’s sails.
A three-point play from Pippen with 15:57 to play was the last time the Commodores trailed by less than 10. A John Fulkerson dunk one minute later extended the lead to 37-23 and Fulkerson’s jumper halfway through the half made it 48-28.
And with the contest already decided late, at the urging of the crowd, Vanderbilt was off line on three 3s in the final minute to seal the fate of the end of the streak.
“Early in the second there were a couple turnovers and they just got some momentum plays with some breakout dunks and easy layups,” Lee said. “They just got some confidence off that and it was just tough to bounce back from that.
“It’s definitely a level of attention (on me) with (Nesmith) out. But just making the right reads and trying to find my teammates is what I’m trying to do. Offensively my role kind of changes a little bit, but just trying to do whatever the team needs of me to win.”
The Commodores won’t have a lot of time to dwell on defeat as they turn the page toward the next challenge on the schedule when Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) comes to town at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
That’s the next opportunity to perhaps start a new streak for consecutive games with a made 3 – but more importantly the opportunity to start a possible streak of wins.
“I just talk about us. Their heads were down. They heard the boos from the fans that are supposed to be our home fans. They get enough of that on the road,” Stackhouse said. “It’s about fighting through it. It’s adversity. But I don’t see quit in our guys. We’re not going to stop. We’ll continue to fight.”