Inconsistency mixed with sloppiness and a dash of poor concentration.
That is the recipe for yet another Vanderbilt basketball defeat in SEC play. This time it came on the road at the hands of an impressive Arkansas team by the score of 75-55.
With Aaron Nesmith’s absence contributing to the fall of the previously top-ranked scoring tandem in the SEC, the crown was passed to Arkansas.
Arkansas’ Mason Jones (19.4 ppg) and Isaiah Joe (18.2 ppg), now lay claim to the scoring throne in the conference. However, for the first twenty minutes of the game, it was not evident that the Razorback pair would even contribute to a win, much less the rout that the game would become.
The Razorback tandem was held scoreless at the half, leaving the door wide open for Vanderbilt as the Commodores went into the break only trailing by six despite having just three ‘Dores in the scoring column.
Ironically, it was neither Jones nor Joe that played the kryptonite role in Bud Walton Arena, but rather Jimmy Whitt Jr. The senior guard dropped a career high 30 points on Vanderbilt, leading the way for the Razorbacks.
Jones and Joe would combine for just 14 points, but depth pushed Arkansas to the victory line. The Razorbacks were able to get 60 points outside of their top two scorers which would prove to be the difference in the ballgame.
It is no secret that Vanderbilt’s offense has been sputtering without the SEC’s leading scorer in Nesmith. The sophomore guard is out indefinitely due to a stress fracture he sustained in his right foot last week.
There were two instances in the contest where Vanderbilt failed to convert on a field goal attempt in spans lasting over four minutes in length. On one of those occasions Vandy could not find a field goal over a 6:24 spell towards the end of the first half.
There was a third drought, but it fell two seconds shy of reaching the four-minute mark in length.
Vanderbilt finished with 16 turnovers on the night. Junior guard Saben Lee was responsible for five of those. In Lee’s defense, he seemed to be the only player in black and gold that came out ready to compete.
After being held scoreless, he compiled 17 of the Commodores’ 27 points in the second half.
Been a little while since we've seen a good Saben Lee poster. Well, he's back: pic.twitter.com/0hokxhFXCh
— Max Schneider (@Max_Schneider15) January 16, 2020
Vandy center Ejike Obinna constantly bobbled the ball resulting in three turnovers, and failed to make his post touches count on the evening. Obinna would finish with just two points on the evening while going 1-4 from the foul line and committing four personal fouls.
A dash of concentration
Starkly different form past Vanderbilt teams, missed free throws are becoming a defining characteristic of this Vanderbilt hoops squad.
Vandy entered the night as the 11th ranked SEC team when it comes to free throw percentage, converting at a 67.3 percent clip. After Wednesday night, that number would take a hit.
Vanderbilt knocked down only 12 of their 22 attempts from the charity stripe on the evening.
Despite a breakout first half performance that matched his career high of 16 points, Maxwell Evans, a junior guard, failed to find the basket in the second half. Evans finished with sixteen points, but struggled mightily from the free throw line, going just 2-5 on the night.
Vanderbilt will get another try at snapping a 21-game SEC losing streak when in-state rival Tennessee enter Memorial Gymnasium with a 2-2 record in the SEC (10-6 overall) on Saturday night at 5pm.