Vandy’s offense impresses, but defense disappoints in blowout of Western Carolina

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 overcame an early deficit to dispatch SoCon opponent Western Carolina 99-79 Tuesday night at Memorial Gym. Here’s The Black & Gold Standard’s breakdown as the ‘Dores ran their record to 7-2 on the season.

–       Vanderbilt started this game flat after a big win over Purdue on Saturday. Prior to the win against Purdue, Kevin Stallings suggested that “players get more excited about playing teams they identify with some name recognition,” and the Commodores certainly did not play with the same intensity as they did against the Boilermakers. WCU’s guards came open for three early and often, allowing a team that averaged less than 35% shooting from long distance coming into the game to gain confidence. The Catamouts’ Rhett Harrelson hit some difficult shots as well, but 79 points is too much to allow to a team that carried the 146th most efficient offense in the NCAA into Nashville on Tuesday. WCU’s 44 first half points were of particular concern, although Vandy’s defensive effort markedly improved around the 8-minute mark of the first half.

–       Wade Baldwin, Riley LaChance, and Matthew Fisher-Davis all had poor defensive games for Vandy, but all three continued to produce offensively. LaChance scored another 26 points, equaling his career high from Saturday, and has proven to be almost automatic from the right wing. If LaChance can provide consistent double digit scoring throughout conference play, Vanderbilt should be able to maintain one of the best offenses in the league.

–       Stallings had his team immediately dump the ball in to Damian Jones coming out of halftime, and Jones’s post proficiency gives Vandy a go-to play when the team hits a cold streak. Curiously enough, Jones did not have a single offensive rebound against WCU, but he consistently scored on the block against the Catamounts’ undersized interior. Best of all, Jones knocked down 6/9 free throws, and his improved stroke at the line has played a huge role in his increase in scoring this season.

–       Shelton Mitchell’s play in the second half helped spark a run that gave the Commodores a lead they would not relinquish. Although Wade Baldwin has put up more impressive numbers this season, Mitchell is clearly the better passer of the two and simply looks like he knows how to run a team. Baldwin seems to be firmly entrenched as the starter at the moment, and deservedly so, but Mitchell may overtake his fellow freshman if the Waxhaw, North Carolina native can start to make some shots. His ghastly 29% shooting does not lie; Mitchell has been unable to score efficiently from anywhere on the court so far.

–       It’s good to see the ‘Dores blow out an inferior opponent, even if the game was close for much of the time. Vandy couldn’t keep pedal to the metal against Lipscomb or Norfolk State, so it is encouraging to see a convincing win. Vanderbilt plays their first true road game against a so-so Georgia Tech team on Saturday, and it is imperative that VU’s freshman backcourt limits their turnovers against the athletic Yellow Jackets. The Commodores’ 18 turnovers against WCU ultimately did not make a difference, but rarely do teams give the ball up that often on the road and come out with a win.

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