Vanderbilt took a tough loss against South Carolina last time out in a game that the ‘Dores led by two at the half. Unfortunately, it was their inability to defend talented Gamecocks’ big Chris Silva that was their eventual downfall in a 71-60 defeat. Next up is a home date with No. 24 Tennessee.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Ramp up the defensive intensity
Vanderbilt may not be winning as we would like this season, but one thing that is noticeable about Bryce Drew’s squad is that the players are buying in on the defensive end. You would expect this from the players that Drew recruited to Nashville, but even the holdovers from the old coaching regime have been playing harder and tougher defense over the first couple of SEC games.
The problems for Vanderbilt really aren’t on the defensive side of the ball. This is still a squad that lacks size inside – and one that is susceptible to a big performance from the opponent’s star man – but it is the inability to consistently put the ball in the basket that is going to stop Vandy being a .500 team at the end of the year.
A home game against Tennessee is one that every player on campus should be able to get up for. It will be interesting to see how that translates into defensive effort on Tuesday night.
Keep reducing the turnovers
Vanderbilt does not shoot the ball well enough as a team to gift the ball back to their opposition, especially when they are playing a highly ranked school like Tennessee.
Against South Carolina the Commodores committed 19 turnovers, an improvement from their previous game. Saben Lee, Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson had three turnovers apiece, while Max Evans managed to outdo that quartet with four turnovers of his own.
This is a problem because it means there is no clear solution for Drew. It is not like one specific player has become turnover prone in a way that hurts the team, it is more a general problem with protecting the basketball that spreads throughout the team.
The turnover number needs to keep coming down and somewhere around 15 would be good to see in this clash with the Vols.
Slow down Admiral Schofield
Vanderbilt has problems defending in the paint. This issue is similar to the one that Kentucky has had this season. Against the Wildcats last time out, junior Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield had one of the most impressive performances he has put together during his career in Knoxville.
Schofield scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He also had nine rebounds, four assists, four steals (a career-high) and a block. The problem was that the Wildcats were not aggressive enough in the paint against Schofield on either offense or defense, letting him have his way and dictate the flow of the game.
Vanderbilt is not known for being strong inside and Chris Silva had a career night for South Carolina last time out. If the ‘Dores don’t lock down Schofield then it will be a long night.