It isn't hard to find the cause of the collapse. Forty turnovers in the two games, matched against 17 assists (only six of them from point guards Mario Moore and Alex Gordon), highlight the ballhandling and playmaking problems that plagued the Commodores. After three impressive home games to begin the season, the team found itself trailing from the outset in both Las Vegas games, struggling to catch up and never being able to do so. In the Arizona State game, Gordon led Vanderbilt with sixteen points and three other players (Moore, Dawid Przybyszewski, and Shan Foster) had ten each.
The Austin Peay Governors of Clarksville, Tenn., had one of their best teams in 2003-04, overall 23-10, and an amazing 16-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play. They were upset in the conference tournament and had to settle for the NIT, beating Belmont in the first round and losing to George Mason in the second. Four of the starters from that team were lost and this season hasn't been going so well. They started with three games in the Pearl Jam, in the Virgin Islands, and had a good win (52-45 over St. Louis of Conference USA), but then lost to Eastern Michigan (73-59) and Winthrop (52-36). Most recently they were beaten 72-62 at home by Wichita.
The Governors are coached by Dave Loos, who has been at their helm for fourteen years. He had a composite record of 220-191 at the beginning of this season. Vanderbilt is 11-1 in games with Austin Peay, the most recent meeting between the two teams resulting in a 89-79 win for the Commodores on November 16, 1998. Dan Langhi and Greg LaPointe were Vanderbilt's top scorers in that game, with 21 and 17 points respectively, and Trenton Hassell scored 29 for the Governors.
Austin Peay is led in scoring by 6-2 junior Maurice Hampton, a shooting guard. Hampton was a key reserve last season, averaging 6.5 ppg, and has increased his output to 16.0 in the first four games this year. He is making 45.5% of his threes, best on the team.
Levi Carmichael, a 6-0 senior, has been handling the point guard position. As a junior, he scored only 2.2 ppg, but with more minutes is scoring 8.0 in the first four games. His assist/turnover ratio of 1/1 is not good. He has been the only outside threat other than Hampton.
A third guard, 6-2 senior Anthony Davis has also been starting. He was an all-OVC third-teamer last year, scoring 12.8 ppg. grabbing 4.3 rebounds, and leading the team in steals. Davis has been slow out of the gate this year, scoring only 7.0 ppg.
Zac Schlader, a 6-9 junior who weighs 220 lbs, is the tallest starter and works at the low post. He is pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game and scoring 11.8 ppg after being a key reserve durng his sophomore year (4.3 ppg, 3.0 rebounds).
Rounding out the starting lineup is 6-6 forward Eric Young, a 6-6 senior. He is no scoring threat (1.8 ppg), but Loos calls him a blue-collar type of player who defends well. His place in the starting lineup might be taken by 6-5 senior William Durden, who has been rebounding effectively (7 per game) and scoring 6.5 ppg. Durden hardly played last season.
Another player who sees a lot of action is 6-4 sophomore Fernandez Lockett (5.0 ppg), who can go inside despite his lack of height. Others who will play are four freshmen, 5-9 Derek Wright, 6-5 Todd Babbington, 6-0 Ryan Isom, and 7-0 Tomas Janassauskas (from Lithuania). Wright might see a lot of action; he is from southern California, very quick and a promising ballhandler and defensive player. Janassauskas and 6-10 junior Kareem Matthews have been playing very limited minutes and have hardly come into the picture as yet.
The Austin Peay players that get nearly all of the minutes have little size. With so little effective height, the Governor's best chance might be to go very small and put as much defensive pressure on the Commodores as they can muster. News of Vanderbilt's struggles in the two Las Vegas games will certainly have gotten back to Clarksville.
This seems like an ideal opportunity for Vanderbilt to get back on track. With two tough road games to follow, a loss against Austin Peay could send the Commodores into a tailspin from which they might not recover. That's unlikely to happen on the home court. This should be an easy win for Vanderbilt, by about 10-20 points.