Commodores can’t stay with Hogs, drop 82-70 decision in Fayetteville

The Black & Gold Standard is an all-new VandyRadio Blog featuring general commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage (along with, on occasion, Max Herz and Dan Helinek) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the season as the team chases a postseason berth for the first time since 2012. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2014-15 schedule.

Vanderbilt travelled to Arkansas with a résumé devoid of any top-50, eye-catching wins. Arkansas prevented the Commodores from adding what would have been a signature win, dominating the last eight minutes en route to a 82-70 victory.

–       Arkansas entered the matchup ranked highly by RPI (20), KenPom (27), and the AP poll (23) and sported a record of 12-2. Had the season ended prior to this game, the Razorbacks likely would have been awarded with a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. This is an excellent team that has been known as one of the toughest squads to beat at home over the past few years, and today was no exception. Arkansas’s trademarked pressure got the best of Vandy’s backcourt forcing the ‘Dores into a whopping 22 turnovers. Point guards Shelton Mitchell and Wade Baldwin intermittently struggled to run the offense and had little success getting Damian Jones any post touches in the first half. The Razorbacks’ defensive turnover percentage of 22.4 is among the best in the NCAA, and Arkansas’s pace (18th in the nation) led to a couple of quick runs that VU couldn’t recover from.

–       As eye-popping as the turnover numbers were, I would argue that awful defensive rebounding was a bigger reason for this loss. Despite turning the ball over so much, Vandy cut the deficit to just one point at 53-52 with just under ten minutes remaining. Arkansas was struggling to get good shots out of their offense, but Vanderbilt didn’t box anyone out and allowed Razorback center Bobby Portis to do whatever he wanted on the offensive glass for the Hogs. Portis went for 32 points and 11 rebounds, with 9 (!!!) offensive rebounds for the game, a startling and absolutely unacceptable number. The young big man is a highly-ranked NBA prospect, but considering Damian Jones is considered a borderline first round prospect himself I hoped that Dame could keep Portis in check a bit better than he did. Vandy allowed multiple offensive rebounds off of missed free throws in the second half, underscoring the extent to which they were manhandled in this game.

–       Going even further with the lack of rebounding, Luke Kornet had zero defensive rebounds in the game, while Riley LaChance led the team in defensive rebounding with four. When a 6’2” shooting guard is your leading defensive rebounder, there needs to be improvement.

–       Overall, however, this wasn’t a bad performance from the Commodores. Matthew Fisher-Davis had his best game of the year and acted as a sort of press-buster, knocking down open threes when his teammates were able to find him upon being double-teamed. MFD appears to be fully healthy and even got a dunk off of an intelligent backdoor cut. Damian Jones struggled mightily in the first half but bounced back nicely in the second despite getting schooled by Portis (there’s really no way around it).

–       Vanderbilt has another huge game on Wednesday against the 9-4 Georgia Bulldogs, who play at LSU tonight. UGA has established themselves as a likely NCAA tournament team if they can post a solid SEC record, so this is an opportunity to add what would easily be the biggest win on Vandy’s résumé.

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