Auburn, Ala.--A Vanderbilt basketball team that has struggled away from home will try to do something about that on Saturday vs. the Auburn Tigers, who have struggled everywhere they have played recently.
Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. CST on Saturday at Auburn Arena as Coach Bruce Pearl’s short-handed Tigers will look to snap a six-game losing streak.
Auburn, 9-14 overall, is 3-8 in SEC games. Vandy, a team expected to make a strong run at winning the league regular season championship, is 6-5 in SEC games and 14-10 overall.
Included in Vandy’s victory total is a 75-57 victory vs. Auburn in Nashville where the Commodores are 13-2 this season. Away from Memorial Gym, Coach Kevin Stallings has seen his Commodores struggled. They have won just one of eight road games.
With Auburn’s leading scorer, Kareem Canty, out of the picture for the rest of the season after he quit the team on Thursday following a suspension that had kept him out of the last two games as well as out of practices, Pearl will try to put a combination on the court that can improve his team’s offensive output. The Tigers are coming off a 71-45 loss at Tennessee that included their worst shooting performance of the season and lowest point total.
Commenting on Canty’s announcement that he is leaving the team to pursue pro basketball, Pearl said, “We wish him well. He has also decided to leave Auburn for personal reasons. It was his decision and we do wish him well.
Kareem Canty averaged 18.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds.
“Kareem accomplished a lot on the basketball court,” Pearl said. “I think the frustration of the season, of so many injuries and not winning, those combinations really took its toll on him as a competitor, which then led to the kind of conduct that was detrimental to the team. That put me in position in which he was suspended indefinitely.”
With injuries to guards T.J. Dunans, Tahj Shamsid-Deen and the ineligibility of guard Danjel Purifoy, the Tigers were struggling to win even with Canty on the court. Auburn’s assignment should be particularly tough on Saturday because Vandy leads the SEC in field goal defense, allowing opponents to make just 37.9 percent of their shots, which leads the league and ranks eighth nationally.
The Tigers rely heavily on three-point shooting. Vandy is allowing opponents to make just 27.8 of their threes, which ranks first nationally.
Sophomore guard Wade Baldwin leads the Commodores in scoring at 14.7 points per game while seven-footer Damian Jones is next with 13.4 per contest to go with 6.7 rebounds. Another seven-footer, junior Luke Kornet, is the top rebounder at 7.6 per game and he is averaging 9.8 points per contest.
In the first matchup vs. Auburn, Kornet personally blocked 10 shots and made it a triple-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Hoops Notes: Pearl said on Friday that 6-10 senior forward Tyler Harris, who had to leave the Tennessee game early with back spasms, is doing better and should be ready to play at or near 100 percent vs. the Commodores...Cinmeon Bowers, New Williams and walk-on Patrick Keim are expected to share the point guard duties again on Saturday...The game will be televised by the SEC Network with Joe Tessitore doing the play by play...Coach Sonny Smith and his 1985-86 Elite Eight team will be honored on Saturday at Auburn Arena. Smith said that if the Tigers had not suffered injuries to key reserves he believes that team could have won the national title instead of Louisville, the team that rallied to defeat Auburn for a trip to the Final Four. The key player for the 1985-86 Tigers, Chuck Person, is associate head coach for Pearl...The Auburn Network radio broadcast, which features Rod Bramblett and Sonny Smith, will be available on Sirius and XM channels 81.