Vanderbilt’s disappointing 67-58 home loss to Tulsa on Saturday night left a sour taste in Commodore nation’s mouth to cap off the Thanksgiving weekend.
But even in a losing effort, this Vandy team (5-2) still has much room left to grow and continues to learn more about itself in the inaugural season of what the Commodore faithful are hoping will be a new and improved program under head coach Jerry Stackhouse.
Aaron Nesmith is a player Vanderbilt fans all over are thankful for. The sophomore turned in another astonishing effort dropping 26 points as he continues to break in his throne while he sits atop the SEC averaging 23.7 points per game. Nesmith persisted in his unrelenting barrage from beyond the arc stroking 5-of-8 from long range. This performance effectively raises his three-point percentage to a gaudy 54.1% percent on the season.
But, it was on the defensive end where Vanderbilt can walk away knowing that this loss was not suffered in vain. The Commodores proved that they are not to be counted out late in a game. While facing a 60-48 deficit with five minutes to play, Stackhouse dialed up a full-court press to throw the Golden Hurricane’s out of their rhythm.
The strategy paid off as Vanderbilt’s tenacious defense was able to whittle away at Tulsa’s lead by forcing the Golden Hurricanes into a slew of mistakes and cut the lead down to four with 3:21 left on the clock. While it was not enough to cause a reversal of fortune tonight, it is definitely something that this Vandy squad should feel confident in using as needed throughout the year.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) December 1, 2019
“It’s rag tag basketball,” said Stackhouse who admittedly does not enjoy full court pressure as he prefers a free flowing brand of hoops. “The game calls for it sometimes and I think it’s a good thing that we are seeing these different types of defenses.”
Despite the feisty Commodore defense, carelessness with the basketball ultimately led to their own demise. Undisciplined play translated into 16 turnovers where Tulsa was able to capitalize by scoring 22 points off Vandy’s miscues. To add insult to injury, when the Golden Hurricanes gave them an opportunity at the foul line, the ‘Dores were unable to cash in, finishing a paltry 10-of-16.
“Some of tonight’s loss was our own doing and we have to clean those things up,” said Stackhouse following the defeat.
While Nesmith had another outstanding performance, Saben Lee was not himself, scoring 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting with seven turnovers on the evening. Vandy is without the luxury of depth on its roster, turning every night into a feast or famine event with the ‘Big Three’ in Nesmith, Lee and Scottie Pippen Jr. In turn it puts the ‘Dores in a precarious position where the chances of winning drop dramatically with a subpar outing from anyone in the top scoring trio.
Dylan Disu was the catalyst for the black and gold on the defensive end of the floor. The 6-foot-9 freshman uses his length to get in passing lanes and make his opponent’s life miserable on a nightly basis. Disu showed his defensive prowess Saturday night as he finished with five steals and two jump balls despite being held scoreless. It was his gritty performance that was responsible for swinging the possession arrow like a pendulum in the second half.
Disu is still figuring out where he fits in Stackhouse’s offense, but with his three-point shooting and lockdown defense it is easy to see how, with time and repetitions, he could evolve into an elite two-way player for the Commodores down the road.
The next step for Vanderbilt is stringing together 40 consecutive minutes with an energy level consistent with the way they fought during the last five minutes of the Tulsa game.
The ‘Dores do not have time to wallow in the loss as they face a quick turnaround with Buffalo (4-2) coming into town on Tuesday night.