Vanderbilt is on the verge of recording the best start in school history, but coach Kevin Stallings has not been pleased by his team’s recent play.
After several close games, the No. 15 Commodores look for a 13th straight win to open their season as they host an Iona team coming off its lowest-scoring game in 38 years.
With a 92-85 win over Tennessee-Martin on Saturday, Vanderbilt (12-0) matched the 2003-04 season for the best start in school history. The last three games, however, have been closer than Stallings would have liked: a 91-85 overtime win over DePaul on Dec. 12, an 83-74 victory over Tennessee State on Dec. 22 and Saturday’s scare.
Stallings told his team last week it was the nation’s most overrated despite being unbeaten and ranking among the nation’s top 10 in scoring.
“I don’t lie to them,” Stallings said. “My job is to help them get better and tell them the truth.”
Freshman star Andrew Ogilvy had 21 points and nine rebounds Saturday for the Commodores, who have posted only four of their 12 wins by double digits.
Vanderbilt had a 13-point lead in the first half, but fell behind Tennessee-Martin with 9:24 left and the game was tied at 83 with 3:20 remaining. Leading scorer Shan Foster’s 3-pointer 12 seconds later put the Commodores up for good.
“We feel that if the game is close, we’re going to win,” said Foster, who scored 16 points—his fewest in eight games. “We don’t like them close, but we’ve developed confidence when they are close, but by no means do we want to play games that close.”
The Commodores shot a season-low 39.7 percent, but it was the team’s defense which most frustrated Stallings. Tennessee-Martin shot 49.2 percent from the field and the 85 points were the second-most allowed in regulation by the Commodores this season.
“I’m not too pleased with how we played today, especially on defense. It’s certainly my job to get that fixed,” Stallings said. “Our defensive intensity was fine, but our execution just wasn’t what we wanted. There’s not a lot for us to be pleased with right now.”
Vanderbilt has given up at least 79 points in six of the last eight games, but now faces a team coming off a dismal offensive effort.
Iona (5-8) shot 19.0 percent (11-of-58) from the field in a 67-36 loss at Louisville on Saturday. It was the fewest points for the Gaels since a 45-33 loss at Army in 1969.
Their starters combined for just 16 points and team scoring leader Dexter Gray, who averages 12.9 points, scored just three and shot 1-of-11 from the floor.
The Gaels, who came in having won five of six, played their second game of the season against a major conference opponent and their first since a 107-72 loss to top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 18.
Vanderbilt won 92-56 in 1980 in the only previous meeting between these teams.
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