Led by a high-scoring offense, Vanderbilt is one of only a few remaining unbeaten teams.
The No. 15 Commodores could face a big challenge Saturday, however, when they face Massachusetts, which is making noise with its own prolific offense.
Off to its best start in school history, Vanderbilt (14-0) is among six unbeaten teams in the nation. No. 2 Memphis, No. 3 Kansas and fourth-ranked Washington State also play Saturday, with the Tigers and Jayhawks, respectively, tipping off before the Commodores do.
Vanderbilt leading scorer Shan Foster said the team is aware of the increased pressure it faces.
“You become a marked man. But we’re ready for that. We know what to expect and we’ll prepare for that as well,” said Foster, who is shooting 51.8 percent (57-for-110) from 3-point range.
Foster is averaging 20.4 points and a big reason the Commodores are the seventh highest-scoring team in the nation at 86.6 points per game. But they were held to a season low in Thursday’s 76-58 victory over Rice.
Despite the low-scoring game, coach Kevin Stallings was happy with the win.
“It was nice to have an ugly game,” Stallings said. “That means we got in the trenches and guarded. I really like how we played defensively. We had a few fouls that I’d like to take back, but we played aggressively and aware on defense.”
Vanderbilt forced a season-high 24 turnovers and held the Owls to 37.9 percent shooting. Foster scored 24 points while Andrew Oglivy added 14 and nine rebounds for the Commodores, who pulled away in the second half by shooting 50 percent.
Alex Gordon, who finished with 11 points, said the Commodores have been working on their defense to go along with the high-scoring offense.
“That’s been our main focus,” Gordon said. “Coach has been telling us we have to come out and execute defensively. Tonight we did, and it made all the difference.”
Saturday is Vanderbilt’s final game before its Southeastern Conference opener at home Wednesday against South Carolina.
“I’m going to get everybody fired up. I’ll send up text messages,” Gordon said about motivating his teammates. “I just send out mass texts to everybody on the team as I think about it. I just try to get us focused on what we’re trying to do.”
The Commodores are hoping for a similar defensive effort against Massachusetts, (11-2) which is ranked 10th in the nation at 84.9 points per game.
The Minutemen have won six straight, including a 95-89 win over Houston on Wednesday that snapped the Cougars’ 10-game win streak. Gary Forbes led Massachusetts with 19 points while Etienne Brower and Chris Lowe each added 18.
Forbes, who averages a team-high 20.8 points, and Ricky Harris (18.9) pace four Minutemen who average in double figures. In addition, they’ve also had impressive road wins over Syracuse (11-3) and Boston College (10-2) as they prepare for Atlantic 10 Conference play.
“We definitely like being under the radar,” Lowe said. “We just want to sneak up on everybody. We just play hard and work hard everyday.”
The Minutemen’s last win over a ranked opponent was in 2005, when they beat then-No. 21 George Washington.
This is the first ever meeting between the teams.