Basketball Scouting Report: Austin Peay
This is one of the last true breathers on the schedule for the Vanderbilt men's basketball team. Only the Jan. 4 game against Northeastern will offer the Commodores the ability to take liberties with their lineup and their rotations, knowing that the difference between victory and defeat doesn't hinge on every substitution and game-management move by Kevin Stallings. This game against the Austin Peay Governors offers Vanderbilt a chance to see what it has learned over the past week and a half of down time. Stallings needs to gain an idea of what he can work with before Saturday's key game against Georgia Tech and an even more important resume-building occasion on Dec. 30 against Saint Louis.
There's no need to overanalyze this game and its implications for the road ahead. The main thing is for a lot of players to get a good run in, and for Stallings to see how various combinations work after an extended period of time removed from the chaos of live gameday action.
AUSTIN PEAY AT-A-GLANCE
The Governors – who reside in Clarksville, Tenn. – are coached by Dave Loos, who has been with the Ohio Valley Conference program since 1990. Once every several years, Austin Peay has been able to make the NCAA tournament, but the early returns from this season do not point to a breakthrough for Loos. The Governors are 5-5 against a mediocre roster of opponents. They are immersed in a process of simply finding their way through a readjustment period. They hope they can get a decent seed in the OVC tournament, to the point that they can find a manageable draw.
Here's a timely report on Austin Peay from reporter Luke Thompson of the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, published on Dec. 13. The excerpt details a few significant changes to the Governors' rotation, giving Vanderbilt fans a sense of what to expect tonight. The emphasis at the beginning of the piece is devoted to Austin Peay's troubles at the point guard spot:
"We're better," (coach Dave) Loos said. "We're not where we need to be at all. (Damarius Smith) is a little more vocal, takes charge a little better than we were, but we're still turning it over too much."
"Zavion Williams lost his starting spot to fellow Clarksville native Smith after four games, and the former Kenwood star said he didn't expect to be playing the position so much. It didn't take him long to get comfortable in the role, but he knows he needs to cut down on his turnovers after committing six in both of Austin Peay's losses to East Tennessee State and Samford.
"The Govs are tied for last in the Ohio Valley Conference with 17 turnovers per game, barely better than the 17.7 per game they were averaging at the same point a year ago. Loos said his biggest concern about this season's issues is how many of those mistakes are coming in the halfcourt against zone defenses, when opponents aren't applying serious pressure.
The thing to keep in mind as you digest that overview is that Austin Peay hasn't even played many supremely difficult opponents. A Nov. 14 game against Memphis is APSU's only power conference game to date, and the Tigers handed the Governors a 95-69 loss. Most of Austin Peay's games have been played in the 70s or 80s. If Vanderbilt doesn't score at least 80 points in this game, something won't necessarily be wrong (remember, no overanalyzing here), but it will be reasonable to conclude that the Dores are taking things easy and not trying to empty the tank in advance of Georgia Tech's visit to Memorial Gym.
Center – Chris Horton – Sophomore, 6-8, 195; 2013-14: 13.3 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game
How is a 6-8, 195-pound center snapping down 10 rebounds per game? The likely answer is that he's going up against vulnerable opponents that also lack physically imposing centers. Vanderbilt should be able to box out Horton and establish control on the glass.
Forward – Will Triggs – Senior, 6-6, 230; 2013-14: 11.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
Triggs is the beefy muscle man on the Austin Peay roster, but despite his 35 pounds of added weight when compared to Horton, he's a far less productive rebounder. This deficit relative to Horton suggests that Triggs isn't light on his feet, and that his lack of length hurts him in terms of winning loose balls in the air. That might seem like soccer (or international football) language, but an overlap in terminology between or among sports sometimes applies, as is the case when a receiver "boxes out" a defensive back in American-style football. You get the larger point: Triggs needs to find ways to be a more productive rebounder. This will make him a better scorer who can add more value to the Governors' starting five.
Forward – Ed Dyson – Junior, 6-4, 190; 2013-14: 7.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Dyson hits 41 percent of his threes, but he doesn't take many of them. Of the Governors' five starters, Dyson averages the fewest minutes per game, at 21.5, though it should be said that former starter Zavion Williams averages 20.8 per game. Dyson is a role player for this team, and Vanderbilt will need to see if the Governors get meaningful production from fifth, sixth, or seventh sources in this game. It's reasonable to say that Austin Peay is a four-person team at this point in time. Dyson is the fifth man on the team, and Loos knows he'll need more from the small forward as the season moves along.
Guard – Travis Betran – Senior, 6-3, 185; 2013-14: 13.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.9 assists per game
Betran is the team's leading scorer, but his field goal percentage is just under 35. As a point of comparison, Horton hits 58 percent of his shots, Triggs 56, and Ed Dyson 54. Betran shoots just 31 percent from three-point range, making him a less than dynamic leading scorer for APSU.
Guard – Damarius Smith – Junior, 6-2, 190; 2013-14: 8.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.5 apg
Loos's decision to move Smith into the starting lineup at the point guard spot seems to be a very wise maneuver. Smith's ability to share the ball while also helping out on the glass makes him a valuable team player, someone who contributes in many different ways at both ends of the floor. Vanderbilt probably needs to worry more about Smith than any other perimeter player the Governors have. The Commodores need to pay attention to Horton more than any other interior performer for APSU.
In what is essentially a seven-man rotation on a relatively thin team, Loos now makes Zavion Williams his primary reserve after removing him from the starting five. Williams averages 9.4 points per game but does not do much in the realms of passing or rebounding. The final man in the seven-man rotation, the only other player who averages at least 11 minutes per game, is forward Chris Freeman, who averages nearly three boards per contest.
Keys to the Game
1) Wipe Horton off the glass. Horton's length and leaping ability make him a rebounding force. Erasing this particular source of production – and second-chance points – for Austin Peay will make tonight that much smoother for VU.
2) Blended, diverse contributions. This is a night for multiple players to step up, play at least 15 minutes, and feel empowered on numerous levels before the Georgia Tech-Saint Louis stretch. Vanderbilt needs to leave this game with a roster that is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
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