Take 10

Vanderbilt's final 10-game stretch begins with trip to No. 5 Kentucky

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The way Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse looks at it, his Commodores have 10 games remaining in the regular season – and all he wants after those 10 games is to look up and see Vandy with a winning record.

“Just from where we’re growing and our vision of this program and where we’re trying to grow it to, we’re coming into February for the first time with a winning record since we’ve been here. That’s important for us,” the third-year head coach said Monday. “And then we look back at some of the games that we lost, we know that our record could be better than that.

“But that’s our challenge – these (last) 10 games. Let’s have a winning record after these 10 games and we’ll see where we are. Let’s not think about what happened in the past or what’s potential as far as the tournament or anything like that. We’re just trying to stay within this 10-game window and see where we are.”

Vanderbilt’s final 10-game stretch starts at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday at No. 5 Kentucky, a team it has lost 11 in a row against. From there it hosts No. 25 LSU at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Those are two tough challenges to start the month of February, but also two prime opportunities for Stackhouse’s squad to prove it is still moving in the right direction.

“We feel like we’re probably getting as whole as we’ve been all season, so we’re excited about that,” Stackhouse said. “I feel like our offense is clicking. The mistakes that we’re making defensively, we know what they are. It’s just a great opportunity for us.”

Vandy is coming off an 85-77 win over Georgia at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday. That result saw Scotty Pippen Jr. score 23 points to go along with nine assists and guard Rodney Chatman return to the lineup after a five-game absence due to injury.

Chatman scored 12 points in 20 minutes, but perhaps more importantly, he took some pressure off the star Pippen and put some more pressure on the opposition. Chatman’s welcome back party saw the Dores shoot 51 percent, total 17 assists and make 12 3-pointers.

Stackhouse enjoyed those numbers. He did not particularly like reviewing the defensive analytics.

“More onus for us is our attention to detail on the defensive end. Even in the Georgia game, we were moving and doing things so well offensively that we lost a little focus and attention to detail on the defensive end,” he said. “I thought we had some opportunities in that first half to really get some separation, but because it was coming so easy, we didn’t lock in.

“We want to keep offenses in front of us and make them make shots over the top and not give them easy opportunities and (Georgia) had a number of those in that game. We talked about those over the last couple of days hoping we can clean those up so that won’t be an issue that week.”

Kentucky (17-4, 6-2 SEC) beat Vanderbilt 78-68 on Jan. 11 in Nashville. The Wildcats led by 28 during the second half of that affair while they got 30 points and 13 rebounds from Oscar Tshiebwe.

After dismantling then-No. 5 Kansas 80-62 on Saturday, Kentucky is now 6-1 in its last seven. It is also 13-0 at home this season.

“We know them. We know what they present,” Stackhouse said. “Got (Kellan) Grady who’s a 3-point shooter, got Tshiebwe who’s a really big threat on the post and then you feel like you want to take those guys away … Keion Brooks comes and gets 27 (points). They’re a really good team.

“It’s going to be important to mix it up with them and not give them any steady diet of anything. (Kentucky head coach John Calipari) is going to switch it up. He has the personnel to do that and he does a really good job of that.”

After Wednesday’s affair the Commodores will return home to welcome the Tigers of LSU (16-5, 4-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday, a game that will feature the jersey retirement ceremony of Vanderbilt legend Shan Foster.

  • Pippen Jr. needs seven points to surpass Matthew Fisher-Davis (1,219) for 32nd on Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list.
  • Pippen’s 16.4 career scoring average ranks eighth in Vanderbilt history.
  • In five career games against Kentucky, Pippen has averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and a steal.
  • Pippen ranks second in the SEC in scoring at 18.6 points per game, third nationally in free throw attempts (142) and 13th nationally in free throw mades (103).
  • Jordan Wright has started 35 straight games for Vanderbilt.
  • Trey Thomas has played in 45 straight games for the Commodores.
  • Vanderbilt, as a team, ranks 35th nationally in 3-point field goal defense (29.8 percent) and 40th in free throws attempts (421).
  • Vandy has forced 15 or more turnovers in 10 games this season.
  • The Commodores are 47-151 all-time against Kentucky and 20-93 as the visiting team.
  • Vandy’s last win at Rupp Arena was Jan. 20, 2007.
  • Vanderbilt is 17-69 against opponents ranked in the top with the last victory coming March 11, 2012 against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.