The Vanderbilt Commodores's 86-77 win over East Tennessee brings their record to 9-3. It was the second consecutive good performance, although the problems of interior defense and rebounding do not yet appear to be solved. The team is still without Russell Lakey, who was expected to be the starting point guard. Lakey may not play in the final non-conference game, depending on his progress toward recovery from the foot injury that has kept his playing time this season down to only 66 minutes.
The Morehead State Eagles will be Vanderbilt's last non-conference opponent. The Eagles are coached by Kyle Macy, a star at Kentucky in the late 1970s. In his first five years at Morehead, Macy's record was 37-72. Morehead comes into this game at 5-4. Three of the victories were at the expense of non-Division I opponents (Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, Shawnee State, and Asbury). The Eagles beat VMI (98-87) and Wright State (80-72), both at home. The four losses have been to Kentucky (95-74), Dayton (85-41), IUPUI (90-81), and Samford (62-50), all on the road.
Morehead's best player is 6'4" sophomore Ricky Minard (18.9 ppg, 8.3 rebounds, and the team leader in steals and assists). Minard, who is an exceptional athlete, drives to the basket and makes most of his field goals at short and medium range, and also shoots often from beyond the three-point line. He gets to the free throw line frequently, where he hits 80.5% of his shots.
The second leading scorer is a 6'6" senior, Kyle Umberger (12.3 ppg, 6.2 rebounds). Umberger, who weighs 245 lbs, plays under the basket and can be a handful. He saw action as a freshman against Vanderbilt in 1998, a game in which the Commodores beat the Eagles 79-69.
Point guard Marquis Sykes is a 6'0" junior who is averaging over six assists per game. He is scoring 8.6 ppg, but has been ineffective to date from long range (making only two of 13 three point efforts). He is quick, penetrates the defense well, and feeds off to his teammates.
Chez Marks, 6'3" sophomore, is the shooting guard and third leading scorer (11.8 ppg). Aside from Minard, he has been the only real three point threat, making 43.3% of his efforts to date.
The tallest player on the team is 6'9" junior Iker Lopez, who is from Spain. Physically, he is about a match for Matt Freije at 215 lbs, scores 9.7 ppg, and has been rebounding well (6.6 per game). Lopez played only four minutes in Morehead's most recent game, with Samford, and may be hurt.
The sixth man is 6'3" sophomore Casey Lowe (5.3 ppg), who plays almost as many minutes at shooting guard as Marks. David Aliu, 6'6" sophomore from Liverpool, England, scores 5.0 ppg. Others who may see significant action are: 6'8" freshman Corey Burns (2.1 ppg); 6'4" freshman Ramon Kelly (1.9 ppg); 6'4" senior Andrew Keating (1.0 ppg); 6'3" freshman Kyle Hankins (1.7 ppg); and 6'4" freshman Kalilou Kamara (1.5 ppg), who is from France.
Apart from Minard and Marks, Morehead does not appear to have any serious long-range threats. Underneath, the Eagles struggle to hold their own against Division I opponents. However, they are probably as good a team as Centenary, which Vanderbilt beat by only two points. If the Commodores come to play, on a par with their effort of the past two games, they will win by 15-25 points.