Vanderbilt took No. 10 USC to the wire (and beyond) before falling 93-89 to the Trojans in overtime on Sunday night. Next up the ‘Dores get to take on Virginia on Turkey Day.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Learn how to keep a lead
If USC keeps winning during this 2017-18 like many people expect, then Vandy will have missed a huge chance for an upset win here. The Commodores had USC beaten twice, only for both big leads to be clawed back to force overtime.
The first lead was early in the first half when Vandy worked their way to a 14-point lead. This lead though did not last, as USC pulled it back quickly to actually go in ahead 35-34 at halftime. The second half went much the same way as Vanderbilt worked their way out to a 62-52 lead with 9:36 left in the contest. Even with skilled players like Bennie Boatwright on the court, Vanderbilt should have been able to hang onto one of their two leads. If Vandy gets ahead of Virginia, we need to see more effort to not let that lead be run down.
Stop Kyle Guy
This is not the same Virginia team that has been a national power for the last couple of seasons. The Cavaliers return three starters, but their leading points scoring returner is Devon Hall who averaged just 8.4 points per game last season. This was only the third time in the history of the program that Virginia did not return a double-digit points scorer from the prior season.
The player that has stepped up into that scoring void is Kyle Guy. Guy averages 18 points per game for the Cavaliers and he is a hard player to stop when he is in his zone. He averages 51.1 percent from the field and he also hits over half of his three-point attempts. The Cavaliers do have other scorers, but if Vanderbilt can shut down Guy then they will be in a better position to win the game.
Vanderbilt has to shoot well
One thing that hasn’t changed about this Tony Bennett led Virginia team is its ability to defend. Of the four teams, Virginia has played this season so far, on VCU has scored more than 53 points. Two other teams have scored less than 50 points over the entire game, including Austin Peay who Virginia held to 49 points the week after Vandy held the Governors to 54 points on opening night.
The Cavaliers led the nation in scoring defense last season when they allowed just 56.4 ppg. It is an athletic team that will try to get into passing lanes and pressure opponents at the right time to force steals. What this Virginia team does better than almost anyone else is play fundamentally sound defense. Vanderbilt will be made to work for every open look and the shooters must be ready to take advantage and knock those shots down.