Vanderbilt will seek its first win in Southeastern Conference play as the Commodores host Arkansas on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.
To get that win, the Commodores will have to reverse trends in the series.
Arkansas (11-4, 3-4 SEC) has dominated the recent series, winning the past six (and 10 of the last 11), including 13- and 20-point wins over the Commodores last season.
First conference wins have been elusive the past three seasons for Vanderbilt (4-6, 0-4 SEC), which has had two of its past three scheduled contests postponed.
The Commodores started last season 0-8 in SEC play before knocking off LSU. The prior year, Vanderbilt was 0-18 in the league.
Vanderbilt has come close this season, losing by three to both Mississippi State and Kentucky. However, the Commodores trailed by double digits in the final 12:33 on Saturday in an 81-61 loss at Tennessee.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good basketball and had some stretches [against Tennessee], but we’ve just got to have more contributions,” coach Jerry Stackhouse said.
Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. ranks second in the SEC in scoring (21.2) and assists (5.3) per game. Against Tennessee, Pippen scored 18 points for the fourth straight game, but had a season-worst numbers in turnovers (six) and assists (one).
Dylan Disu (13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds) is the only other Commodore to average more than 23.7 minutes or post a double-figure scoring average.
Vanderbilt has struggled on defense in league play, allowing SEC-worsts in points per 100 possessions (118.9) and both 2- and 3-point percentages (58.4, 39.7) allowed, according to KenPom.com.
The Razorbacks won a wild one at home against Auburn on Wednesday. Arkansas trailed 37-18 with just over four minutes left in the first half, were up eight with 2:40 left, then, hung on for a 75-73 win after Auburn cut the lead to one with 1:03 left.
“A lot of times in games like that when you fall behind, you can go up but the other team makes the last run and still gets the win,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “I think our guys were excited about that.”
Now, the Razorbacks are looking for their first winning streak in SEC play this season. Arkansas followed its previous win with 16- and 31-point road losses at LSU and Alabama, respectively.
Scoring isn’t an issue for Arkansas, which has five players — Moses Moody (16.7 points), JD Notae (14.3), Desi Sills (12.0), Justin Smith (10.8) and Jalen Tate (10.6) — averaging in double figures. The Razorbacks average 84.5 points per game and play at the 19th-fastest tempo on the country, according to KenPom.com.
Auburn’s Sharife Cooper burned Arkansas for 25 points, leaving Musselman aware of the importance of stopping another scoring-oriented point guard — Pippen — on Saturday.
“I think [Pippen’s] a little bit of what we saw [Wednesday] with Cooper: A point guard that can score the ball,” Musselman said. “He’s a high-volume free-throw-attempt player, so you’ve got to be disciplined and try to keep him off the foul line.
“He can make 3-point shots and can also take you off the bounce. … It’s important that we be disciplined with Pippen and that we go vertical.”
–Field Level Media