After a perfect run through the non-conference portion of its schedule, Vanderbilt is struggling in SEC play. Determining why is not difficult.
Looking to get their offense back on track, the 16th-ranked Commodores hope to avoid their first three-game losing streak in almost two years Saturday when they meet struggling LSU at Memorial Gym.
Led by one of the nation’s top offenses, Vanderbilt (16-2, 1-2) won all 15 of its non-conference games while recording the best start in school history.
The Commodores, though, struggled to beat South Carolina 80-73 on Jan. 9 to open its SEC schedule—the lead changed hands eight times in the second half. Three days later, they would taste defeat for the first time this season with a 79-73 double-overtime loss to Kentucky.
While that defeat wasn’t one coach Kevin Stallings could be overly upset about, he had plenty of reasons to be disappointed with his team following Thursday’s 80-60 loss at sixth-ranked Tennessee.
The Commodores registered season lows in field goal percentage (36.8) and 3-point percentage (14.3). They also committed 22 turnovers for the second straight game and were outrebounded 43-38.
“That was not a lot of fun,” Stallings said. “We had some opportunities to make it interesting, but each time we missed the shot.”
Vanderbilt’s potent offense has cooled since entering SEC play, averaging 71.0 points after averaging 87.3 in its first 15 games. The Commodores have shot 29.2 percent from 3-point range in the last three games after hitting 45.3 percent in non-conference action.
Leading scorer Shan Foster was limited to 14 points - more than six below his season average - and went 1-of-11 from 3-point range on Thursday.
“You can’t afford to have 20-plus turnovers on the road in the SEC,” said Foster, who has 11 turnovers in three SEC games. “It’s the same thing that happened in Kentucky.”
Freshman center A.J. Ogilvy had 12 points - two in the first half - on 4-of-9 from the field. He is averaging 14.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in his last two games after putting up 19.6 and 7.2 during the 16-0 start.
“You can’t come to this place with their team and only play a half and win,” Stallings said. “He’s a freshman, I think we forget that.”
Foster and Ogilvy remain two of the SEC’s top scorers. Ogilvy averages a league-best 20.2 points while Ogilvy is fourth at 19.0 per game.
Vanderbilt hasn’t lost three straight since a four-game skid from Jan. 28-Feb. 8, 2006.
A two-game losing streak probably doesn’t sound too bad right now to LSU (7-10, 0-3), which has dropped six in a row. The Tigers hope to avoid their first 0-4 conference start since the 2000-01 season.
Averting another conference loss won’t be easy given LSU’s recent play on the road. The Tigers have lost all four road games this season, and 13 in a row on opponents’ home courts since a 60-53 victory at Oregon State on Dec. 17, 2006.
“Certainly, going to Vandy is not a good place to get well right now because they are playing extremely well and scoring baskets easily,” LSU coach John Brady said.
The Tigers squandered a nine-point second-half lead in a 74-67 home loss to Auburn on Wednesday.
Marcus Thornton matched his season high with 27 points and Garrett Temple added 17 for LSU, which shot 10-of-26 in the second half while allowing Auburn to hit 18-of-26.
LSU’s three-game win streak against Vanderbilt was stopped with a 64-53 home loss in the last meeting on Jan. 24. The Tigers had lost four consecutive road games against the Commodores before a 77-66 victory in Nashville on Feb. 22, 2006.