Maybe the Commodores should petition to play all their games in Nashville next season. The ‘Dores won their third home game in a row on Wednesday night as they took down a dangerous – if one dimensional – Georgia team 81-66. It was one of the most impressive wins of the season for Vanderbilt and now the Commodores travel to Arkansas in an attempt to keep this late season momentum rolling.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Keep the scoring spread out
One of the issues Vanderbilt has had since Matthew Fisher-Davis went down with a shoulder injury is that in some games their scoring pattern is far too predictable. On those nights a team will beat Vanderbilt if either Riley LaChance or Jeff Roberson is off their game. With Fisher-Davis missing from the lineup it took a few games for other players to emerge as scorers, but when they do the ‘Dores are much more difficult to beat.
Against Georgia, Vandy head coach Bryce Drew saw five of his players hit double-figures. LaChance (19) and Roberson (11) were among that group, but Saben Lee (19), Payton Willis (13) and Joe Toye (12) also each had more than 10 points. That is the winning formula for Vandy going forward as it makes opponents defend everyone on the court. Look to see another game with a wide spread of scoring against the Razorbacks.
Keep the free throw shot strong
There is nothing more demoralizing to an opponent than a team that sinks their free throws. It changes the whole way that a game is defended if your percentage from the charity stripe is high because defenders will give you more room in the lane. Against Georgia, the Commodores were a perfect 16-of-16 from the foul line and they won 15 points.
It is unrealistic to expect Vandy to not miss a free throw or two here and there, but keeping that number around 85 percent on a game by game basis would vastly improve the Commodores shot at winning games.
Stop the scoring of Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon
Arkansas sits squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble – and if we are honest just a little on the wrong side of it – because they can score the basketball. The Razorbacks average 83.1 points per game, a number that is good for 26th in the nation. Unfortunately, that high scoring comes at a cost as they 76.5 points per game a number that ranks 279th in Division I.
The key players to their scoring output are senior guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Barford (18.8) and Macon (17.3) are two of just three players on the team that averaged in double-figures – freshman forward Daniel Gafford at 11.0 ppg is the other – so slowing down their scoring output will knock huge chunks off of their scoring total. Vanderbilt can put up the points to win this game if they are able to slow down the Razorbacks two best scorers.