The Commodores lost another close one on Tuesday as they went down 67-62 to No. 21 Tennessee. It was the ‘Dores second loss to the Vols this season and with SEC spiraling a little out of control it is a good time for a break from conference play and the visit of TCU.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Figure out how to play without Matthew Fisher-Davis
What was already a tough season for Bryce Drew and the ‘Dores got much worse this week when the news broke that senior Matthew Fisher-Davis was to undergo shoulder surgery. This surgery – which has caused him to miss the last three games – ends Fisher-Davis’ career with the Commodores a month or two earlier than it should have.
Vanderbilt is not a deep team in terms of scoring threats and Fisher-Davis was one of the few Commodores players who could take over a game. While at times a streaky shooter, if Fisher-Davis got hot he could quickly add to a lead or erase a deficit with his ability to elevate over defenders from downtown.
It has been immediately noticeable that Vanderbilt misses his three-point shooting, with the Commodores missing 17 straight shots from behind the arc at one point last time out.
Get Riley LaChance comfortable at small forward
Riley LaChance really has been a jack of all trades during his time in Nashville. The senior played his first three seasons with the Commodores alternating between point guard and shooting guard, often playing both in a game and sometimes switching his focal point for entire stretches of the season.
Now – with Fisher-Davis out of the lineup – LaChance will likely be playing shooting guard for the rest of the year.
Initial signs have been good regarding this chance. LaChance has played this spot in Fisher-Davis’ absence so far and he has gone 9-of-19 from three-point range. It will be interesting to see if teams go big against this Vandy lineup when in a close game, but if LaChance continues to defend the perimeter and make shots then this positional switch will be of little concern to Drew and the coaching staff.
Slow down Alex Robinson
A 3-5 record in Big 12 play would suggest that TCU is a middle of the road team. The truth though is that none of those losses have been by more than five points and that two were in overtime. This is a good team – one that just upset No. 7 West Virginia – and one that needs wins to boost its NCAA Tournament resume.
The player that has been big for the Horned Frogs over the last few games is Alex Robinson. After Jaylen Fisher went down with an injury, the former Texas A&M transfer has stepped up his output. In three games since the injury he has shot 60-percent from the field, averaged more than 10 assists and four rebounds, and has generally looked to put the team in his shoulders.
He is the key player to stop if the Commodores are to upset the Horned Frogs.