Date: Saturday February 16th
Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores 9-15 (0-11)
Location: Memorial Gym - Nashville, Tennessee
Network: ESPNU, Auburn Radio Network
After a tough loss to Ole Miss at home, Auburn 16-8 (5-6) hits the road again to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores, a team that’s winless in 2019 and 0-11 in SEC play. This is a must win for Auburn if they want to rebuild any confidence with the Auburn fanbase and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes going.
Get to Know Vanderbilt...
2nd year Head Coach Bryce Drew has not had the initial success that many people thought he would have when he took over the Vanderbilt job. Vanderbilt is staring at back to back last place finishes in the conference at the moment.
Vanderbilt is averaging 72.9 points a game while giving up 73.2 points a game this season. The team was thought of as a possible NCAA Tournament team with an outstanding freshmen class but suffered a massive blow to their season early in the year when freshmen point guard Darius Garland tore his ACL in the 5th game of the season and his season was over. Garland has already declared for next year’s NBA Draft. Before his injury, Garland was leading the team in scoring averaging 16.2 points a game before his injury. The Commodores have lost 12 in a row, their last win coming on December 31st against UNC Asheville, a team Auburn also beat this year.
Regarding active players, the Dores are led by sophomore guard (#0) Saben Lee, who is averaging 13.5 points and 3.8 assists a game on the season. He’s coming off a season low 4 points against Florida in their last game. In the 6 games before Wednesday, Lee was averaging 18.3 points a game. Lee doesn’t shoot a ton of 3s as he’s only attempted 5 3s in a game once this year.
On the interior, Vandy is led by 6’10” freshmen (#11) Simisola Shittu, averaging 11.7 points and 7 rebounds a game this year. Shittu was one of Vanderbilt’s impressive freshman class once led by Garland but Shittu has become Vandy’s best freshman player. Another freshman forward to look for is (#24) Aaron Nesmith, averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. Nesmith comes into today’s game coming off a career high 26 point effort against the Gators and leads the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 36.1%.
Auburn has struggled defending the 3, and Notre Dame transfer (#32) Matt Ryan, is another one of Vandy’s best 3-point shooters. Ryan averages 9 points a game and is a 35% 3-point shooter. Finally, senior guard (#2) Joe Toye averages 8.4 points a game and shoots 35.5% from 3-point range.
What to Look for from Auburn...
Honestly, other than Chuma Okeke Wednesday night, nobody had a good game. Okeke had a career high 23 points, 11 rebounds and did everything he could to will Auburn to victory. My hope is that he realizes that he has to emerge as one of the team’s leaders and plays with that aggression for the rest of the year.
Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combined to go 3-20, 2-12 from 3, along with 8 turnovers (6 by Harper) in the loss to Ole Miss. This can’t happen again. Auburn can’t win when they have bad games from these guys, especially Harper. Harper’s ankle is bothering him a little bit but hopefully he will be able to bounce back today in Nashville.
Auburn needs somebody, anybody, to step up in the frontcourt besides Okeke. Auburn needs some production from Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore after combining to score 1 point on Wednesday.
I’ll be brutally honest. This was the game I was more worried about this week and we see how that turned out. Auburn needs a win desperately and all they have to do is go and win in a building they haven’t won in since 2000. After picking Auburn to beat LSU and getting another road prediction wrong, I can’t trust Auburn to win a road game. And Vandy surely has to win a game in the SEC at some point? Hopefully it’s not today but my confidence is pretty shaken right now.
Vanderbilt 71 Auburn 67