Vandy's Last Game
For the fourth straight game, the Commodores held their opponent below 35 percent shooting, limiting the Golden Eagles to 33.3 percent from the floor. Aside from leading scorer Frank Davis, Tennessee Tech couldn't get anything going from the perimeter; take away Davis's 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, and the Golden Eagles converted on just one of ten long-range attempts.
A.J. Ogilvy's 20 points led four Commodores in double figures. The sophomore center made eight free throws in as many attempts as Vanderbilt continued to make a living at the charity stripe. Most encouraging for the Commodore offense were the shooting performances of Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley. The guards combined to go 6-of-9 from three-point distance, injecting life into what just three games ago was a listless perimeter game. With just three more games until conference play begins, the ‘Dores hope to continue diversifying their attack against the Paladins.
Far removed from the team that upset a Vanderbilt squad that eventually reached the Sweet 16, this year's Paladins (1-7) have started sluggishly for the second straight season. After a season-opening win over Emory, Furman has lost its last seven games, including a 24-point defeat at South Carolina.
The Paladins added size over the offseason hoping to improve upon an offense that averaged 61.2 points per game last year. Through its first eight games, though, Furman has mustered only 61.8 points per contest. Poor scoring efficiency and an inability to force turnovers has limited the Paladins' attack. Jeff Jackson's squad is shooting 42.1 percent from the floor, including 30.8 percent from beyond the arc, and they compound their offensive struggles by failing to force turnovers.
Jordan Miller – Sophomore, 6-2, 175 lbs. – Miller, Furman's best perimeter threat, leads the Paladins with 16.0 points per game. His 15 three-pointers are tops on the team, and he's converting them at a 51.7 percent clip. The sophomore has drastically increased his scoring efficiency from a season ago; his 47.8 percent shooting from the floor leads Furman starters and is up 15.1 percent from last season. Though Miller is Furman's most capable perimeter shooter, he does most of his damage inside the arc, using a quick first step to get into the lane. In his most recent outing, the sophomore scored a career-high 26 points.
Alex Opacic – Senior, 6-10, 230 lbs. – An Australia native, Opacic leads the Paladins in minutes played, primarily because he's been the team's lone consistent post presence. Armed with the strength and touch to score around the basket as well as the ability to knock down the perimeter jumper, the senior center is Furman's most versatile scorer if not its most prolific. The senior averages 11.0 points on 46.4 percent shooting, a somewhat modest rate for a big man. His 6.4 rebounds per game lead the team, but despite his height, Opacic is not an imposing defender. He has yet to block a shot this season and too often shies away from contact.
Justin Dehm – Sophomore, 6-1, 182 lbs. – Furman's third leading scorer at 7.9 points per game, Dehm gives the Paladins another option out on the perimeter. He has struggled to this point in his sophomore campaign, shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from long range compared to 42.4 and 38.0 percent last season. When Dehm isn't making shots from the perimeter with consistency, he loses much of his value, as he is an average defender and hasn't been a factor on the glass (0.9 rebounds per game).
Darryl Evans – Junior, 6-1, 185 lbs. – Though he's not much of a scoring threat, the Paladins' point guard gives the team a capable distributor and a physical presence to lead Furman's perimeter defense. A sub-40.0 percent shooter for his career, Evans is averaging 6.1 points on 36.2 percent shooting this season. His 3.3 assists per game lead the team, but he's been inconsistent at the helm of the offense, matching his assists with 3.3 turnovers per contest. While Evans will not typically hurt opponents from the perimeter, he is capable of creating a shot in the lane.
Bryson Barnes – Sophomore, 6-5, 205 lbs. – Perhaps the Paladins' best rebounder, Barnes returns to the Furman lineup after redshirting last season. He averages 5.8 boards in just 17.9 minutes per game. Undersized for a power forward, the sophomore has nevertheless made his presence felt on the defensive end, blocking nearly two shots per game. While Opacic tries to corral Ogilvy, Barnes will be called upon to demonstrate his defensive chops against the sizable Vanderbilt forwards.
A pair of forwards bolsters the Furman frontcourt. Noah States, a 6-8, 210-pound sophomore, can score from the outside or in the post. Despite his early struggles from beyond the arc, States is shooting 48.8 percent en route to 5.8 points per game. Brandon Sebirumbi, a 6-9 freshman, is Furman's third leading rebounder, grabbing 4.1 boards to go along with his 5.4 points per game.
Rounding out the Paladins' regular rotation is 6-6 swingman Connor Nolte. The sophomore shoots three-pointers in bulk; though he is shooting just 25.0 percent from beyond the arc, 28 of his 39 shot attempts have come from three-point land. Nolte is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Keys to the Game
Civil War – Monday's game features a pair of Australian centers, as Furman's Opacic will attempt to contain Vanderbilt's Ogilvy. The Commodores' leading scorer has posted back-to-back 20-point games, both of which have been routs. Opacic, meanwhile, is the only Furman regular to have played in the Paladins' win over the ‘Dores in 2006. Ogilvy wasn't on that 2006 team, though, and these Commodores will look to establish his presence early and often in their bid for revenge. If Vanderbilt's Australian representative can continue his hot streak against his countryman, look for the hosts to win handily for the fourth straight game.
Come Together – Now that Lance Goulbourne has returned to the court after a bout with mono, every Commodore who will be a factor this year is finally healthy and eligible. Only three games separate the ‘Dores from their SEC opener at Rupp Arena; they'll need to use those games to continue defining roles, especially on offense. Monday's game should begin to clarify what the rotation will look like come conference season. In particular, look to see if a third consistent perimeter threat emerges and who among Darshawn McClellan, Festus Ezeli, and Steve Tchiengang can add some punch in the low post.
Prediction: Two years ago, Furman caught Vanderbilt at the perfect time. Those Commodores were reeling from two season-opening losses and had yet to polish the four-guard attack that led them to success that season. This time around, the Commodores have won three straight, and their freshmen are looking more confident by the game. To make matters worse for Furman, the Paladins don't have the talent they did when they last visited Memorial. All this adds up to yet another Commodore blowout. Final score: Vanderbilt 80, Furman 59.