Second half blitz leads Vandy past overmatched Penn

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 defeated the Penn Quakers 79-50 Monday night with the help of a 20-4 run to begin the second half. Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stats make their debut today on the Black & Gold Standard as we break down the blowout win that brought the Commodores to 8-3 on the season.

–       Kevin Stallings switched up the starting lineup, moving Shelton Mitchell back in for Wade Baldwin and James Siakam in for Luke Kornet. Siakam played arguably his best game of the season, while Mitchell had 6 rebounds and 7 assists in the first half alone. Vandy fans know Siakam as one of the best “energy guys” in the SEC, and his offensive rebound % ranks 4th in the entire country. Siakam’s offensive contributions this year have been overlooked, as the redshirt senior sports an offensive rating of 126.2 (second highest on the team) and is shooting 69% from the field. If Kornet can break out of his offensive slump, Vanderbilt’s frontcourt rotation should be among the best in the SEC.

–       Shelton Mitchell looked good at times, but finished with a whopping 6 turnovers. The freshman’s assist rate and turnover rate are both the highest on the team, suggesting that Mitchell may need to cut down on his high-risk, high-reward passes. On the other hand, it seemed that most of Mitchell’s turnovers against Penn came in situations where he simply lost the ball rather than throwing it away. Regardless, Mitchell must do a better job taking care of the ball, as his 2014 turnover rate of 31.1 is way too high. Wade Baldwin played a great game off the bench, giving Stallings even more to think about as far as who will start at the point. Baldwin’s reputation coming to Vanderbilt was that of a tough, athletic, defensive-minded guard who needed to improve his shooting, yet the freshman from Belle Mead, New Jersey has shot a scorching 11-23 from beyond the arc this season.

–       While the ‘Dores offense has been among the nation’s best this season, the defense has produced only average results. Part of these relative struggles may be Vanderbilt’s inability to create turnovers on defense, as their defensive turnover % ranks 269th in the nation. This comes despite the fact that the Commodores’ schedule thus far has included no teams in the top 100 nationally in taking care of the ball. Vandy turned this around, however, against Penn and forced the Quakers into 17 turnovers. Opposing defenses should provide more resistance as Vanderbilt moves into SEC play, so forcing more turnovers will be important if the ‘Dores are to maintain their current level of offensive efficiency over the course of the entire season.

–       Vanderbilt does not play again until a New Year’s Eve road trip to Saint Louis (8-4, 224 RPI). The Billikens have won three straight, but have losses to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and South Dakota State to go along with close calls at home against numerous low level teams. Make no mistake, Saint Louis is not a good team. Coach Jim Crews’s squad has traditionally been tough to beat at Chaifetz Arena and plays strong defense like always, but this is a game that the ‘Dores must win by double digits if they hope to gain respect heading into SEC play. A home test against Yale probably represents a greater challenge, but Vandy needs to win both games to avoid another blow to their postseason résumé.

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