Offense stays hot as ‘Dores win their first road game

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 headed on the road for the second time this season to face the Saint Louis Billikens on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how it went down in the Commodores’ 70-55 win.

–       Riley LaChance continued his hot streak and appears to have cemented his status as one of the best freshmen in the country on the offensive end of the floor. LaChance, however, hasn’t brought much else to the team aside from scoring this season but racked up seven rebounds and four assists against the Billikens. LaChance clearly projects as an elite offensive talent in the SEC, if he isn’t already. Additional contributions will be necessary if this group of Commodores wants to win games in March, something Kevin Stallings’s last great group never did. Increasing his rebounding and assist numbers is a good way for LaChance to round out his game until he can become an average defender.

–       Saint Louis entered the game with an 8-4 record but with a KenPom rating of only 236. With a 25-point loss to SEC bottom-dweller Mississippi State, it’s easy to see that SLU is a team Vanderbilt should have dominated. This was not the case, but picking up the first road win of the season is encouraging nonetheless. SLU made some shots they would normally miss, but Vandy’s guards need to do a better job of not falling asleep off the ball on defense. The Billikens got too many open threes as a result of Vanderbilt’s poor focus defensively, granted those are the shots that Saint Louis has struggled with this season. Vandy entered the game ranked 38th in the nation in defending the three, so there isn’t much to worry about on that front. It was another average defensive game from the Commodores, but average defense may be enough even in SEC play if they keep up their current level of offensive efficiency (29th nationally through 11 games).

–       Vanderbilt has struggled with defensive rebounding this season and gave up another 10 offensive rebounds to SLU. The Billikens’ big men are underwhelming, and the Commodores need to improve their rebounding if they are to keep athletic SEC frontcourts off the boards. The Commodores’ backcourt actually did a great job rebounding against Saint Louis, but Damian Jones and Luke Kornet probably need to step up on that front.

–       The ‘Dores had 9 first half turnovers, but only 5 second half turnovers. It is great to see those types of adjustments being made, especially with such a young team. Vandy has a chance to assert themselves as the best offensive team in the SEC (yes, even better than Kentucky and Arkansas) if they can start taking care of the ball at a top-75 level or so. Vanderbilt’s turnover percentage is currently 236 in the country, so this is a long climb to make.

–       Yale will enter Memorial Gym on Saturday as a fringe top-100 team according to KenPom, so this will be one of the ‘Dores tougher nonconference games. Surprisingly, Yale has solid size, but the Vandy offense should have their way with the Bulldogs defense. As longs as VU plays decent defense themselves, they should take the win and head to SEC play at 10-3.

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