NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It had been 16 days since Jerry Stackhouse’s squad had taken the floor. It certainly showed early Sunday in a game against Mississippi Valley State inside Memorial Gymnasium.
“It’s been weird. They’ve played six games and we’ve only played one,” Vanderbilt sophomore Dylan Disu said. “We’ve had two weeks off and a whole week of basically no basketball. It was weird playing again so it just took some time to get into a rhythm and figure out who we are as a team and play together.
“COVID-19 is nothing that we can control other than policing ourselves. So I think if we continue to police ourselves, follow the protocols, I think we’ll be OK.”
The Commodores would end up pulling away for an 84-41 victory, their second victory in as many tries in a season that has had more cancellations that contests. They hadn’t seen faced live competition since Nov. 27 when they beat Valparaiso 77-71 at Memorial Gymnasium.
Vandy was also without four student-athletes Sunday, all of whom would have gotten major minutes against the visiting Delta Devils.
“I’m over-cautious. We probably could have had a couple guys back available today, but even for those guys let’s give them some more time and make sure they’re fully-healthy and ready to go,” Stackhouse said. “It’s a long break so we got to worry about conditioning.
“My focus is the long haul. It’s not right now. It’s not this game, it’s not next game or the game after at. It’s more about the season. We know we’re probably going to have some more setbacks – it’s not about if but more a matter of when. We’re playing college basketball during a pandemic. But everyone has done a great job in helping us get to this point.”
Vanderbilt was down 15-9 with 11:27 to go in the first half Sunday. Poor shooting and careless turnovers had the Dores scrambling a bit on the offensive end.
Freshman Trey Thomas stepped up and hit a 3 one minute later and that seemed to spark Vandy. It was the start of a 13-0 run and eventual 25-7 spurt that send Vanderbilt into the locker room up 34-22.
“I thought our guys, after being off quite a bit, came out and obviously we expected a little bit of a slow start and (MVSU) got into the rhythm of the game,” Stackhouse said. “I thought we were really good in the second half. We shared the ball, our main guys found a good rhythm and we were able to go down our bench and really get some good minutes from a lot of different guys that had some good contributions.”
Indeed, a 25-2 start to the second half erased any doubt. Eleven of the 13 available Commodores who played scored and Disu finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth career double-double.
Sophomore point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. had 11 points and six assists, Tyrin Lawrence scored 14 in his Vanderbilt debut, Quentin Millora-Brown chipped in 12 points along with eight boards and Issac McBride added 10.
Now the Commodores will look toward their toughest on-court challenge of the young season when they welcome in No. 19 Richmond (4-1) for a noon tipoff Wednesday at Memorial Gymnasium. The Spiders went 24-7 a season ago and beat Vandy 93-92 in overtime in Virginia.
Stackhouse said he still doesn’t expect to have a full roster for that game, but can only hope those who do play continue to play at the level they played with during much of Sunday’s win.
“Just want to see guys execute what we want to have happen on the offensive and defensive end,” the second-year head coach said. “And we were a little off. We do it, we work on things every day and we go over it and we drill it and then the emotions and adrenaline of being in a game and then we get sped up a little bit. It’s just about being patient and making sure we get what we want.”
• Lawrence, Disu, Pippen, Maxwell Evans and Millora-Brown started Saturday’s game for the Commodores.
• Vanderbilt has now made at least four 3s in 17 consecutive games.
• The Commodores are now 2-0 all-time against Mississippi Valley State and 20-0 against Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
• Disu’s 13 rebounds in a single game was the most by a Commodore since Aaron Nesmith had 14 on Feb. 16, 2019.
• The last time Vanderbilt held an opponent to less than 50 points as Dec. 20, 2017 in an 81-48 over Houston Baptist.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.