Scouting Report: Southeastern Louisiana
Vanderbilt has had ten days to dwell on its overtime loss at No. 11 Missouri. As there always is when one examines a close, overtime game, it's easy to look at the things that happened and think that if just one were different or improved upon, the game's outcome would have been different. In Vandy's case, the first one that jumps out is the 11 of 22 shooting from the foul line. This was very un-Vanderbilt like and needs to change.
The turnovers by Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley also stand out. Both had six and four respectively. But this should have been expected. Taylor was thrust into Andre Walker's press-breaking role and if VU fans knew ahead of time Tinsley would only have four turnovers against Missouri's pressure defense, they would have taken it. Although I'm fairly certain they would take back the overtime turnover that sealed the game for the Tigers.
Speaking of the point guard position, you could also mention the lack of scoring from the No. 1 position. Tinsley failed to hit clutch shots once again and Kyle Fuller missed the only two shots he took from the field in 19 minutes. Stallings clearly expects more from his point guards and that has to be his main concern with conference play approaching.
But while its always easy to dwell on the negatives, there is much Kevin Stallings, his staff, the team, and for the matter Commodores fans can take away from the game.
John Jenkins has proven he is one of the top shooting guards in the conference with his lights out shooting. Festus Ezeli once again controlled the paint. Taylor is starting to emerge from his early season shooting struggles, even if he still is not making his 3-point shots. Most importantly though, Missouri is a team that many are starting to predict to make some noise in March. Vanderbilt took the Tigers to the wire and can attach the proverbial "should've won" tag to the game.
Yes, it was a loss. But the experience gained last Wednesday night in Columbia should go a long way to making upcoming nights in Lexington, Knoxville, and Gainesville much more palatable.
So what about Saturday's opponent?
SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA AT-A-GLANCE
The Lions have a long, but not exactly distinguished history of taking on the SEC in hoops. The school has matched up with the SEC 58 times over the years – winning two of them. Southeastern Louisiana continued its poor showing against the SEC on Wednesday night, losing to a mediocre Alabama squad 59-38 in Tuscaloosa. The Lions last win over a SEC opponent was back in 2005 with their 57-46 victory over Mississippi State.
Its record over the SEC notwithstanding, SELU is 5-3 and is expected to have reasonably successful season in the Southland Conference. The Preseason Coach's poll predicted the Lions to finish 2nd in the conference. The league's sports information directors predicted SELU to win its division of the conference. Up to this point, the season has gone as expected, with SELU beating up on the teams clearly below it, such as Millsaps and Dillard. But every time the Lions have stepped up to play teams from a larger conference, the results have not been favorable, evidenced in the Lions' losses to UNLV, UCF, and Alabama.
Jim Yarbrough is in his sixth season as head coach of the Lions. Prior to coming to SELU he was the head coach at Division II Valdosta State for five years.
Forward – Jason Marks – Senior, 6-6, 190; 2010-11: 4.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg,
The Commodores own a clear advantage in the block in this game. For example, Marks starts at the four, for the Lions, but will give up three or four inches to Lance Gouldbourne and Rod Odom, and in the case of Gouldbourne 40 pounds. No disrespect to Marks, but this matchup is the perfect opportunity for Stallings and staff to capitalize on Gouldbourne's solid game against Missouri to improve his development, as well as Odom's, for the start of SEC play, especially considering Andre Walker is still not expected back.
Forward – David Ndoumba – Senior, 6-7, 225; 2010-11: 10.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg
If Ndoumba thought he had his hands full with Alabama's 6-8 JaMychal Green on Wednesday night, what will he think after matching up with 6-11 Festus Ezeli Saturday? Ndoumba is typical of small school centers in that he puts up impressive numbers against lesser competition but when facing high level, Division I-type centers, he is clearly outmatched. Look for Vandy to use this mismatch to its advantage throughout the game.
Guard – Trent Hutchin – Senior, 6-1, 180; 2010-11: 16.6 ppg, .870 FT% .500 3P%
Very rarely will you find a program from a smaller conference that is not led by its backcourt. The Lions are no different as Hutchin (and point guard Brandon Fortenberry) are the top players on this team. Hutchin is as deadeye a shooter as you can find. His 50 percent 3-point shooting is very impressive considering he usually attempts six to 10 a night. Hutchin was held to 10 points against the Crimson Tide not by poor shooting, but through Alabama limiting his touches. When he had an open look he shot right at his percentage, but ‘Bama made sure his looks were few and far between. Saturday will be a great chance for John Jenkins to continue to improve his defense against an excellent shooter.
Guard – Brandon Fortenberry – Junior, 6-3, 185; 2010-11: 10.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, .478 3P%
Fortenberry is the second half of the Lions' backcourt dynamic duo. While Hutchin continues to have a hot hand, Fortenberry is in a mild slump. He has only connected on two of his last 11 3-pointers and went 0 for 9 from the field against Alabama. He remains a productive playmaker however with a 7-2 assist-to-turnover ratio in his last two games. Brad Tinsley will have the chance to rebound from his struggles at the end of the Missouri game by helping Fortenberry's struggles continue.
Guard – DeShawn Patterson – Junior, 6-4, 220; 2010-11: 4.6 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.8 rpg
While the team has struggled offensively, Patterson is coming off of his best game of the season against Alabama. He scored 14 points while attacking the basket and earning 10 trips to the charity stripe, making seven of those shots. Patterson is clearly more of a slasher than a shooter. What will be tough for Patterson is he will more than likely be matched up against a Jeffrey Taylor who is just as athletic and longer, thus negating much of his dribble attack.
Eight of SELU's players have started at least one game this season. Lions' fans may hope this a sign of depth, but it's more likely a sign of a lack of performance from some players or injury. In the case of SELU it's a little bit of both.
Rodney Jones was a .385 % 3-point shooter, averaging 7.7 points per game, but he has missed the past two games. Gary Dixon is the key backup at the guard position, scoring just below 10 points a night.
Roosevelt Johnson backs up the frontcourt players and scores 8.6 points per game while playing just under 15 minutes a game.
No other Lions' player plays more than 11 minutes a game.
Keys to the Game
1) Dominate the post. Fes and the other members of the Vandy frontcourt have faced frontlines that are much bigger, not to mention better, than anything SELU will throw at them on Saturday night. It's important for Ezeli, Gouldbourne, and Odom to continue to develop and continue to be consistent.
2) Work out the kinks. Normally, one would fear a letdown after having such an emotionally draining game as the Missouri game was. But by the time the game against SELU tips, it will have been 10 days in the past. Instead of dwelling on how close that game was, Stallings will have had time to analyze what went wrong and work on those deficiencies in practice. Saturday will be VU's pop quiz to see if its learned anything from its past games, and what its developing for SEC play.
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