Senior night did not go the way that Vanderbilt fans would have liked as the ‘Dores dropped a close one to Mizzou in Nashville. The 74-66 loss was a hard one to take for fans, especially with Matthew Fisher-Davis returning to the floor for one last standing ovation after he was ruled out for the year with a shoulder injury a couple of months ago. The season though is not over and on Saturday the Commodores close out their regular slate with a game at Ole Miss.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Play like there is something on the line
There may be bigger games around the country on Saturday – with teams trying to lock up No. 1 conference tournament seeds or improve their place on the bubble – but Vanderbilt does actually have something to play for against the Rebels.
After both lost one this week – Ole Miss was battered late by Kentucky – the two schools sit at 5-12 in conference play, tied for 13th among SEC teams. The winner of this game might not be going dancing in 2018, but they will avoid the ignominy of finishing last in the conference as the regular season ends. While it is far from the goal that Vandy set back in August, it is still better than nothing.
Find the third scoring option
Where Fisher-Davis has been missed most is a guaranteed third scoring option for the Commodores. Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance will – more often than not – get theirs, with Roberson going for 19 and LaChance for 17 against Mizzou. The problem is that there is no third or fourth scoring option that is guaranteed to find their way into double-figures every night.
The likes of Saben Lee and Joe Toye have had big games this season, but there is no level of consistency in their play. They are as likely to go for four or five points as they are to go for 13 or 16. This heaps more pressure on Roberson and LaChance, as defenses can sit on the Vandy scorers knowing that no one else is a threat.
Ole Miss is a beatable team. Even on the road, Vandy has a chance here. In order to win though, someone is going to have to step up.
Stop the three-ball
The Rebels are playing a strange old brand of basketball right now. Often in games, it seems like they have no offensive pattern or set at all, and instead, their attack revolves around jacking up as many three-pointers as possible over the course of 40 minutes.
It is a strategy that is clearly not working.
Last weekend against Tennessee, the Rebels went an almost unbelievably bad one-for-23 from behind the arc. Against Kentucky this week they were better, going nine-of-30 from deep. It is worth noting though that Kentucky won the game by 18 as the Rebels shooting touch disappeared over the last ten minutes of the game.
There is no reason to think that Mississippi will suddenly find a half-court offense for their home finale. Instead, expect more of the same as wild threes are thrown up out of rhythm. If Vandy can defend the arc like Tennessee was able to then there is no way Mississippi wins.