Do you know the last time that Auburn beat Vanderbilt?
Hint: it’s not exactly recent.
The Tigers last sunk the Commodores (heh) in 2007 at Beard-Eaves Coliseum by a score of 68-65. Since then, thirteen straight losses, and it seems like all of them have come at that creepy gym in Nashville.
That won’t be the case today. Auburn leads the SEC at 8-1 at the midway point of the season, while Vandy brings up the rear at just 2-7 in league play.
On paper, this should be an easy win at a place where Auburn’s been playing out of its mind. The Tigers are perfect at home this season, and the last time they were at the Auburn Arena they manhandled LSU 95-70 in a game that wasn’t even that close. However, it’s never that simple.
While Auburn was edging Ole Miss on the road this past Tuesday, Vanderbilt was in Lexington providing a much tougher test than Kentucky probably expected. To be fair, the Commodores gave the game away with a late foul that allowed the Wildcats to tie and take it to overtime, and in the extra period, Kentucky scored with only a few seconds left to get the win.
A game like that can have one of two effects — either Vanderbilt realizes that it can play with the top of the conference, or the Commodores wither under disappointment and come out flat tonight. Either way, Auburn won’t be able to overlook a team that they haven’t beaten in more than a decade.
Vanderbilt’s main problem is depth. They’ve got three good players, led by 6’6 forward Jeff Roberson (15.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Joining him as double-digit guys are the elder statesman Riley LaChance (12.7 ppg), Saben Lee (10.4 ppg), and they had Matthew Fisher-Davis posting 11.9 ppg before his injury a couple weeks ago.
After that trio, it’s Joe Toye, a 6’7 guard who broke out with 16 points at Kentucky, but he’s only posting 5.0 ppg on the year. As a team, Vanderbilt doesn’t score much, ranking 238th in the country in points per game, but they do protect the ball, allowing just 102 steals total on the season. However, once SEC play has started, they’re 13th in the league in scoring defense. In terms of the schedule, Vandy’s two SEC wins were by just a combined seven points (76-75 over Alabama, 77-71 over LSU), but they’re definitely battle-tested, playing a good Belmont team, Seton Hall, Arizona State, Virginia, Kansas State, and USC in the non-conference portion of the slate.
Basically, Auburn’s going to have to come out with the wave of emotion that they’ll get in every home game the rest of this season and dominate the opening portion of this game. Vanderbilt’s not Vander-built offensively to erase a big deficit, and if the Tigers can put this one on ice with a flurry to start like we saw last Saturday, they should be fine.
HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN - Auburn vs Vanderbilt - 7:30 pm CST - Auburn, AL
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Auburn Sports Network