Tough Stretch Ahead

Commodores host Tulsa next

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Six games into the Jerry Stackhouse era, the results have been promising.

Vanderbilt has won five of its first six and with a win at 7 p.m. Saturday could be off to its best start since 2015-16. But the schedule gets much tougher from here on out.

Tulsa (5-1) comes to Memorial Gymnasium this weekend and the Golden Hurricane begin a stretch of seven straight tough opponents for Vandy before the start of Southeastern Conference play. Vanderbilt also hosts Buffalo, Liberty, North Carolina Wilmington, Davidson and Southern Methodist and a trip to Phoenix to take on Loyola (Chicago) is mixed in there as well.

Those seven programs are a combined 34-14.

The Commodores are coming off a 78-70 win over Southeastern Louisiana, a victory which didn’t impress Stackhouse or his team. And the underlying theme of the postgame discussion was the knowledge that Vandy should – and can – play a more complete game.

“We’re disappointed together because we know that we’re capable of being better than that,” Stackhouse said. “Shots are going to get missed. We had great looks. (Aaron Nesmith) had a number of looks that we’ll take all day from him. We had some looks from some other guys that we’ll take – shots that were in-and-out. We had layups that we missed that turned into five-point swings. You can’t account for those shots like that, missed shots that you expect to go in the basket.

“We’re getting better, we’re learning and we’re able to continue to look at it. We’ll go back and look and see where we can get better. I think our guys embrace that.”

After Tulsa leaves town Saturday, Vanderbilt will look to Buffalo (5-1) on Dec. 3 – a team that went 32-4 last season – and an undefeated Liberty squad (8-0) that is coming off a 29-7 campaign. The only road trip comes Dec. 18 when a Loyola (Chicago) team, which made the Final Four in 2017, will try to knock off the Dores.

Those tests will tell a lot about Vandy going into the new year, a team which have passed most challenges to this point.

“We’re playing really well right now,” junior guard Maxwell Evans said. “Just want to keep it up.”