A Vanderbilt team that has struggled mightily this season – but nearly used Memorial Magic to pull off a home upset of Kentucky two days ago – will visit Arkansas on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Commodores (6-7, 0-1) will find the Razorbacks (9-5, 0-1) – who had won five in a row before performing an epic fail Wednesday night at Texas A&M – desperate to get back into the win column.
The key question is who will bounce back best – the visiting team coached by Kevin Stallings that lost a 60-58 heartbreaker when an apparent shot clock violation went uncalled or the home team which put forth its worst effort of the year?
"I think the question that everybody is going to ask is not, ‘Did we generate confidence from (Thursday) night?' but ‘Can we bounce back from (Thursday) night in that quick of a turnaround?'" Stallings told the Nashville Banner. "That will be the test to me that will indicate whether there's any real growth that's taken place with our young team."
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, whose team lost 67-51 to the Aggies, knows the Razorbacks can't really afford to fall into an 0-2 hole in SEC play with a home loss.
"When you get into league play you have got to defend the home turf," Anderson said. "This is a big and important game for our basketball team for a lot of reasons."
Anderson is not sure the fact that the Commodores played on Thursday and has a quick turnaround is a disadvantage, but does think playing at Bud Walton Arena is certainly an advantage for his team.
"…Every game has its own characteristics, so I don't think there's an advantage," Anderson said. "Hopefully the advantage is we get a chance to play at home and hopefully get the bad taste out of our mouth from the second half of that Texas A&M game, where we just didn't play well. We didn't shoot the ball well. We didn't rebound the basketball well. And you see the results of that when you don't do something well."
Vanderbilt is a far different team from the one last season that finished 25-11, won the SEC Tournament and a game in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Wisconsin with the Sweet 16 on the line.
The Commodores lost their entire starting five - three NBA draft picks in center Festus Ezeli, forward Jeffrey Taylor and guard John Jenkins along with fellow starters Brad Tinsley, forward Lance Goulbourne and sixth-man Steve Tchiengang.
The current team averages just 59.5 points - which is a woeful 318th in the country - and will try to end a two-game losing streak to Arkansas.
"So, now you've got a team now that's dependent on more guys, and so that makes them even a dangerous team," Anderson said. "I think their play has been kind of up and down, but it's a team that ... Again, we're in SEC play, and it's a big game for them, it's a big game for us."
After falling behind big early against Kentucky, the young Vanderbilt squad used an 18-0 run to take the lead at Memorial Coliseum – a place they have had a great deal of success.
Kedren Johnson (16.7) – a 6-4 sophomore guard - had 18 points against the Wildcats while 6-9 junior forward Rod Odom (9.8, 4.2) added 12 despite a horrific 3-16 night from the field.
Those two join 6-1 junior guard Kyle Fuller (11.5), 6-5 freshman guard Kevin Bright (6.1, 6.5) and 6-11 sophomore center Josh Henderson (4.3, 3.1) in the starting line-up.
Also seeing significant minutes off the bench are 6-7 freshman Sheldon Jeter, 6-3 sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker and 6-8 sophomore Shelby Moats (9 points, 10 rebounds against Kentucky).
The normally sharpshooting Commodores are shooting just 41.1 percent overall from the field, 57.6 percent from the free throw line and 34.5 percent from the 3-point line.
"They'll be inside-outside, they shoot the 3-point shot, a lot of guys that can shoot the 3-point shot," Anderson said. "(They) have some size guys, so we've got to make sure we've got to be able to defend and we've got to create some tempo. We've got to create some tempo where we can get the game up and down the floor."
The Razorbacks are shooting 47.6 from the field, 68.6 percent from the free throw line and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Arkansas – which had been fifth in the country in scoring – dropped to 11th (80.6) with its 51-point effort against Texas A&M.
One of the very few bright spots was the shooting of 6-3 freshman guard Anthlon Bell, who knocked down 3-of-6 3-pointers and has hit 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the last two games.
"He, of all the guys right now, when you talk about shooting the basketball, he's catching it ready to shoot," Anderson said. "He's getting in position to shoot the basketball. So now with just more repetition and getting some playing time, hopefully he can be a weapon that can open up floor for our guys. So now guys can score inside, and now guys can get in the lane."
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