NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt faces its toughest challenge of the young season Friday when Loyola of Chicago comes to Memorial Gymnasium.
The Ramblers have become one of the better programs in the nation over the past five seasons, highlighted by a run to the Final Four in 2018. They bring a 107-38 record in their last 145 games to Nashville.
“They’re an old team. They’re a really good shooting team. And they’re a good defensive team. So we got challenges from all three sides,” Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “We have to execute on both sides and we have to continue to be stingy defensively. We have to get off to a good start offensively.
“It’s big game for us against probably the best team we’ve played so far.”
Vanderbilt (5-3) is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak before it goes into a week off. The Commodores lost at Southern Methodist on Saturday before falling to Temple in overtime Tuesday.
Scotty Pippen Jr.’s last-second 3 against Temple forced that affair into an extra session and five straight points from Jordan Wright gave Vandy early control in OT against the Owls before the visitors stormed ahead to ultimately close out a victory.
Vanderbilt’s three defeats this season have come by an average of nine points.
“In my mind we could very well be sitting with an undefeated record. An undefeated record looks good, but it really wouldn’t be telling the story,” Stackhouse said. “I think it’s telling the story that we are 5-3 and that lets us know that we have to improve and we got to better in some areas. Our guys know that.
“Of course we’d like to win every game, but it’s more important that we continue to improve and get better as then year goes on. It’s not so much about games in November and December, you want to be playin your best basketball in February and March. Since I’ve been here we have gotten better as the year has gone on and I think we’ll continue to get better.”
The Ramblers come to Nashville on a four game winning streak after beating Roosevelt University by 39 points on Tuesday. Loyola’s only losses have been to Michigan State (by two) and to Auburn (by nine) – both in the Bahamas – in November.
Lucas Williamson (11.7 ppg), Ryan Schwieger (11.2) and Aker Uguak (10 ppg) lead a balanced scoring attack for Loyola. Head coach Drew Valentine’s team ranks inside the top 10 nationally in shooting (51 percent), 3-point shooting (41.7 percent) and total assists (176).
Vanderbilt is 0-4 against Loyola with three of those matchups coming between 1926-35. The two programs last met Dec. 18, 2019, in Phoenix where the Ramblers won a 78-70 game.
“I feel like it’s going to be a real tough challenge, but a challenge that we’re looking forward to,” Vandy guard Trey Thomas said. “Loyola of Chicago is a real good team so for us to get that win under our belt that would be real good for us.”
- Vanderbilt ranks 21st nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.5) and 43rd in scoring defense (60.9 ppg allowed).
- Vandy has used the same starting lineup in all eight games this season.
- Pippen is now 25 points away from 1,000 for his career.
- Vanderbilt is 0-4 all-time against Loyola and 10-12 against programs from the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Commodores have made at least two 3s in 47 straight games.
- Thomas has played in 33 straight games for the Commodores.
- Wright has started 23 straight games for Vanderbilt.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.