As I said in my last recap, when you play in Memorial Gym you can expect Vandy to make a bunch of 3s, and the officials to blow some calls in their favor at key moments. Last night was no different.
I'm not as upset about this loss as many people seem to be. I mostly just chalk it up to the fact that we can't win in that place. We've had better teams lose to worse Vandy teams in Nashville over the last 30 years. There were a few positives to take away from this game.
The team never quit despite falling down by 15 at one point. The press was very effective at the end of the game, and we almost pulled off a great comeback. Braxton Key is improving, I thought he actually helped us on both ends of the floor at times last night and he ended up with 9 points and 6 rebounds. The rotation, while still not ideal, was much better. We only played 8 guys for meaningful minutes. I still don't like having AJ and Sexton in at the same time, and I think AJ is playing way too many minutes.
I still think we are switching on screens way too much in the man to man defense, and not doing so effectively. We gave up a ton of open perimeter shots in the first half, and Vandy shot over 50% from downtown to take a 10 point lead into the half. My biggest beef with CAJ this game was starting the second half in a 2-3 zone. I get the thinking, Vandy was uncharacteristically one of the worst teams in the league at perimeter shooting coming into the game, but the first half and common sense from past experience should have told us that playing a zone against them is never a good idea. They promptly stretched the lead to 15 before we switched back to a man. I thought the defense played reasonably well for the rest of the game, but give Vandy some credit for getting to the rim on the dribble drive.
One key turn of events happened around the 8 minute mark. We had cut the lead to 4 despite Sexton being on the bench for the previous 2-3 minutes taking a breather. I think we waited too long to put him back in. Dazon turned it over, and of course Vandy made a 3. So instead of possibly cutting the lead to one possession, the Dores had a comfortable 8 point cushion going into the final 5 minutes.
We started pressing and trapping in the final 2 minutes and forced a number of turnovers to make a run to get back into the game. We had the ball down 3 with about 14 seconds remaining, and Collin drove to the basket for a quick layup with 6 seconds left on the clock. The defense forced yet another turnover, as the Vandy player stepped on the line trying to avoid the trap on the in-bounds pass. Of course, the officials did not call it, nor did they review the play. Instead, we had to foul with 3 seconds remaining. Vandy missed the front end of the one and one, but with no timeouts left all we could do was let Collin heave it from the half court line.
I understand that we can't trap and press the entire game, but we should have done more of that earlier in the game. We have too much depth and athleticism to allow a team like Vandy to control the tempo and make it a half court game.
After playing well against Texas A&M, JP was frankly terrible on both ends of the floor. In 28 minutes of playing time he only scored 2 points, was 0 for 3 from the perimeter, and was a liability on defense. This team desperately needs more consistency from him. We are a much better team when he is playing well.
Sexton had another great night with 24 points and 5 assists. If he's on the court for 35 minutes instead of 30, the outcome may have been different. Donta had another nice night with 14 points and 6 rebounds. I thought we should have ran the offense through the post more. It's virutally impossible to win a shooting contest up there.
Up next, we travel to Athens, GA to take on the UGA Bulldogs Saturday at noon eastern. The game will be televised on SEC Network.