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Vanderbilt at #2 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn looks to regain their 2-game lead in the SEC as Vandy comes to town

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday February 16th, 2022

Vanderbilt Commodores at Auburn Tigers

Auburn Arena

Time: 8:00PM CT

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

On Saturday, Auburn (23-2, 11-1) finally was able to get the monkey off of their back and defeat Texas A&M inside of Auburn Arena. Tonight, they’ll face another team that until recently, Auburn has struggled mightily against.

Scotty Pippen Jr and Vanderbilt (13-11, 5-7) are in town as Auburn looks to regain a 2-game lead in the SEC thanks to Tennessee’s 76-63 win over Kentucky last night in Knoxville. After losing 13 straight against Vanderbilt from 2008-2017, Auburn is looking to defeat Vanderbilt for the 5th straight time tonight.

Auburn comes into tonight with an extra day of rest than they have had the last 3 weeks as this is the first Wednesday game since the home contest against Georgia on January 19th. Of course this means, it’s a quick turnaround for their trip to Gainesville on Saturday but we’ll talk about the Gators on Saturday.

Auburn defeated Texas A&M 75-58 with Walker Kessler posting another triple-double, his 2nd of the year and 3rd in program history with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 12 blocks. Kessler now sits at 116 blocks this season, 10 shy of the single-season record set by Kyle Davis.

The breakdown of Kessler’s first-half on defense from friend of the site Justin Ferguson is just absolutely mind-boggling as the Aggies were just 1-26 from the field when Kessler was on the floor in the first half.

That’s just absurd.

One other positive thing I want to point out from Saturday is Allen Flanigan’s performance. He had a team high 16 points and if Auburn can get that kind of production him on a more consistent basis, that makes this Tigers team even more dangerous come March. I think Flanigan has taken some unfair criticism based on the injury he’s coming back from but ultimately when he returned, the hope was that by the time we got to the end of the season and to the NCAA Tournament, he would be back closer to the Allen Flanigan we saw last season. Saturday was a good sign.

One thing that’s concerning for Auburn going forward is the 3-point shooting. Auburn was just 3-25 on Saturday from 3-point range, the fewest 3s Auburn has made in a game this season. They have failed to shoot 30% in 8 of their last 10 games. Auburn has been able to get by without consistent 3-point shooting but thinking long-term, Auburn has to shoot the ball better going into the tournament to have a chance to get to New Orleans.

Get to Know Vanderbilt

There were a lot of questions around Nashville early in the season concerning Jerry Stackhouse’s future at Vanderbilt. However recently, the Commodores have been playing better and a lot of it is because they are getting healthy. It also helps when you’ve got the SEC’s leading scorer too.

They come into tonight’s game after a tough but close 73-64 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday. The Dores kept this game close throughout but the Vols were able to execute better down the stretch to pull away for the 9-point win. They also played Kentucky tougher than expected at Rupp a couple weeks ago and only lost to the Wildcats by 7 so they are certainly capable of hanging around in this game.

As a team, Vanderbilt averages 68.8 PPG and allows 65.5 PPG. They shoot 33.3% from 3 as a team and 68.4% from the free throw line.

Leading the way as we mentioned earlier is the SEC’s leading scorer, junior guard Scotty Pippen Jr. (#2), Pippen is averaging 18.9 PPG this season and has spent a lot of time at the free throw line. He is shooting 71.8% from the season from the charity stripe as he is 127-177 there on the season. He is shooting 31% (39-126) from 3-point range. The matchup with Zep Jasper guarding him will be a fun one to watch.

Next is junior forward Jordan Wright (#4) who is averaging 12 PPG and 6.3 RPG. Wright is a 35.2% 3-point shooter and the team’s best free throw shooter at 81.8%.

Vanderbilt’s best 3-point shooter statistically is sophomore forward Myles Stute (#10). Stute is averaging 8.8 PPG and is shooting 43.6% from 3-point range (51-117). Stute has made 5 3-pointers in 2 of Vandy’s last 3 games, Saturday against Tennessee and in their home win over LSU.

Before the season started, Vanderbilt was relying on some graduate transfers this season to really help them get out of the SEC cellar and they missed them early on. But they are back now which has certainly helped this team improve over the season.

One of those is guard Rodney Chatman (#3) who spent his first 2 years at Chattanooga, then 2 years at Dayton before returning to Tennessee to play his last year of college ball at Vanderbilt. Chatman has only played in 10 games this season, missing most of non-conference and then 3 weeks early in SEC play but has appeared in the last 5 games. He is averaging 7.8 PPG including a 24 point performance against LSU. He is a 41% 3-point shooter.

The other graduate transfer Vanderbilt was relying on this season is 7-foot center Liam Robbins (#21). Robbins has missed almost the entire season after transferring in from Minnesota, but made his Vandy debut at Rupp 2 weeks ago. He hasn’t made a basket yet this year but expect to see him at least 10-15 minutes out there to go up against Kessler and Dylan Cardwell.

Sophomore guard Trey Thomas (#12) will come off the bench for Vandy but he’s 5th in scoring averaging 5.9 PPG and shoots 31.4% from 3 (33-105).

Senior forward Quentin Millora-Brown (#42) will start in the middle for the Dores. He is averaging 5.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG.

Prediction

I would certainly think the Tigers have benefitted from the break they got from having an early game on Saturday to not playing until late tonight. Auburn has to start shooting the ball better and I think they do that tonight. I also think Vanderbilt hangs around in this game probably longer than Auburn fans want them to, but like I’ve said, Vandy’s been playing much better lately. I think Auburn has too much down the stretch and while Pippen will likely get his points, Auburn has too much firepower as a team.

Auburn 78 Vanderbilt 66