The Vanderbilt men’s basketball team tallied another home win Tuesday night against the Buffalo Bulls scoring by committee as 10 Commodores finished in the scoring column. It was an unconventional yet efficient night for Vanderbilt as the team’s offense, which protected home court and beat a notoriously fast-starting Bulls team by a score of 90-74 Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt entered the game seventh in the nation, using its long-range shooting to knockdown 11 three-pointers per night on average. However, Vandy did not rely on what has appeared to be their calling card early in the season. The Commodores were connecting from beyond the arc at an SEC best 40 percent, but after failing to sink any of their first five attempts from deep, Vanderbilt had to find alternative avenues of offense.
Buffalo (5-3) is coming off their fourth NCAA tournament berth in the past five seasons and engage in a unique brand of basketball, unlike any team Vanderbilt has seen this season. The Bulls get out in space and push the ball with shots typically coming in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock.
After falling victim to the preferred tempo of Buffalo early, Vanderbilt was staring down the barrel of a 10-1 deficit four minutes into the game. Head coach Jerry Stackhouse sat down with his team at the first TV timeout of the contest to devise a plan of attack to throw Buffalo’s tempo off.
Once action resumed, Vandy began to attack the interior of Buffalo’s matchup zone defense, scoring 37 of their next 40 points from inside the paint or via the free throw line. After back-to-back three pointers from Aaron Nesmith and Clevon Brown, Vanderbilt took a 47-34 lead, putting a bow on the most impressive half of basketball eight games into the Stackhouse era.
Vanderbilt would continue to punish Buffalo on the inside as they went on score 56 points inside the paint. The ‘Dores also stroked 22-of-26 from the free throw line, which is also a season high.
“This is a big win,” said Stackhouse following the game. “We will look back at this at the end of the year and be really proud because I think that is a tournament team that is going to cause some guys a lot of problems.”
While the past few games saw significant contributions coming from only three players, Vanderbilt’s bench helped round out the scoring assault. Vanderbilt was getting contributions from up and down its roster, taking the pressure off the team’s usual scoring suspects in Nesmith and Saben Lee.
Lee paced the Commodores with a career high 25 points, four rebounds and four assists. The help from the bench was important as Aaron Nesmith failed to find a rhythm throughout the game and finished with 16 points on just 4-of-11 from the floor. He was perfect from the free throw line, however, connecting on all seven of his free throws.
Stackhouse said he thinks Saben Lee could "lead the SEC in assists" because of how he "sucks in the defense."
Here's that quote personified: pic.twitter.com/bA2iL4JA85
— Max Schneider (@Max_Schneider15) December 4, 2019
Brown ended with 14 points and eight rebounds while Max Evans rounded out the ‘Dores in double figures scoring 13 points and grabbing seven boards.
Of all the Commodores to end up in the box score, none was more surprising than Isaiah Rice. The junior walk-on was thrust into action with just under six minutes to play in the first half. This marked the second time all season Rice had seen action, but made the most of his minutes by drilling a corner three and igniting an 21-4 Commodore run to close the half.
Ironically, it was important for Vanderbilt to have an off-night shooting in one of these early nonconference games. Although seeming unstoppable at times, Nesmith will have days where he will not be able to buy one from three and Vandy will be forced to look elsewhere for buckets.
Finding different and unique ways to win ball games like this one, where Vanderbilt strays away from its identity, will be a useful reference point as similar situations are guaranteed to arise when SEC play kicks off in a month.
Vanderbilt will have the next 10 days off before they play host to another 2018-2019 tournament team with Liberty coming to Nashville.
Featured Image via Vanderbilt Athletics