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VANDERBILT BASKETBALL THREE KEYS: MISSISSIPPI STATE

Jeff Roberson

The Commodores traveled to Fayetteville with high hopes but left Arkansas disappointed after a frustratingly routine victory for the Razorbacks. The 72-54 loss was one of those that head coach Bryce Drew will want the team to forget in a hurry as they focus instead on the visit of Mississippi State on Wednesday night.

Here are the three keys to this one:

Enjoy the home cooking

This Vanderbilt team plays much better on at home than it does on the road. This is not a new revelation in the world of sports, as the vast majority of teams are better on their own patch. Vanderbilt though has proven this in a remarkably consistent manner over the last half a dozen games or so.

Since losing at home to Kentucky a month ago, the ‘Dores are an undefeated 3-0 at home and a winless 0-5 on the road. Sure, there have been a couple of close calls away from Nashville – the most noticeable being the 83-81 loss against Kentucky – but watching Vanderbilt is like watching two different teams based on the location of the game. The Commodores lost by 18 in Starkville in the middle of January. It will be very interesting to see if they can turn that result around a month later on their home court.

Find the shooting touch

This is a fairly redundant thing to say, but you aren’t going to win many games when shooting 25-percent from the field. That is the exact situation that the Commodores found themselves in on Saturday as they went 14-of-56 from the floor and scored just 54 points. It was the second-worst scoring performance of the season by the ‘Dores with only the 42 points scored against high flying Virginia back in the non-conference schedule being worse.

It was one of those games where everyone on the squad had a rough night at the same time. Not one Commodore made it into double-figures scoring, meaning that on the offensive end at least this one was a wash. Vanderbilt isn’t a good enough defensive team to win low scoring encounters, so against Mississippi State, the Commodores shooters better come to play.

Limit the Bulldogs scoring chances

When these two teams played for the first time this season back in January it was the Bulldogs that dominated. Mississippi State shot 48-percent for the game, including an unreal 57-percent in the second half. Throw in a 5:1 assist to turnover ratio (20 assists, four turnovers) and it is pretty obvious why Vanderbilt was run out of the building in Starkville.

If those numbers are replicated in Nashville then there is no way that Vanderbilt wins the game. The key to stopping the Bulldogs shooting at such a high percentage will be to increase the chaos factor on defense and get those turnover numbers up. Twenty assists to four turnovers is something a coach would be happy with in an offensive practice drill, let alone an actual game. Vanderbilt simply has to be more active on defense than it was the last time these two teams met.

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