Commodores head to Missouri to face struggling Tigers offense

Ziyi Liu

Vanderbilt will visit a lackluster Missouri team on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT. Even though Vandy’s 5-6 conference record isn’t much to get excited about, Missouri only has one win in 11 conference games so far this year.

Most recently, Missouri lost to Texas A&M by three after getting its sole SEC win against Arkansas. The victory over Arkansas ended a 13-game losing streak, which included seven losses by double digits. Forward Jordan Barnett has been leading the offensive production in Missouri’s past two games, averaging 20 points on 63 percent shooting off the bench.

Vanderbilt also beat Arkansas in its most recent game, which started with a Vandy lead of 25-4. The win over Arkansas marks Vandy’s fourth in the last six games, which includes a road upset over Florida.

This stretch of winning started when head coach Bryce Drew went to a rotation heavily featuring Luke Kornet, Jeff Roberson, Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis. Each of them have played 25-plus minutes in each of the games in this stretch— aside from Fisher-Davis’ suspension against Arkansas — along with a mixture of Nolan Cressler and Joe Toye.

Kornet, Fisher-Davis, and LaChance have shouldered the offensive load while Cressler and Toye have been the main defensive contributors, with each ranking in the 80th percentile overall in points per possessions scored or allowed on their respective sides of the ball, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Taking all of the information into consideration, the outcome of this game is almost entirely dependent on how well Vanderbilt plays on offense. Missouri can easily drag the contest into a low-scoring matchup because of its underwhelming offensive production.

Missouri ranks pitifully in every offensive measurement with its post offense being the only way of scoring that’s above the 60th percentile by Synergy’s data. Vandy’s main defensive objective will probably be stopping forward Kevin Puryear. If Vandy’s shooting can get going, the game could get ugly quickly.

Defensively, Missouri matches up well against Vandy’s most effective ways of scoring, which are spot-up shooting, post-up scoring and pick-and-roll offense, according to Synergy.

Missouri’s Russell Woods will probably be assigned to guard Kornet, which could turn out to be a good matchup. Woods ranks well in spot-up and post defense, per Synergy, and as a team Missouri is in the 80th percentile in post defense.

Looking toward the implications of March, this game can help Vandy with seeding in the SEC Tournament. Going into Saturday, the Commodores are tied for seventh place with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Auburn. This next month will decide much of the SEC, with Arkansas and Tennessee also being in the mix in the middle of the conference standings.

Vandy’s chance to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament is close to zero with a 12-12 record. The Commodores absolutely have to win their last seven games by the time the conference tournament starts to have much of a chance. This final stretch of games include playing at No. 15 Kentucky, rival Tennessee and hosting No. 17 Florida and No. 19 South Carolina, which can help them in terms of strength of schedule but also makes the challenge of winning out that much greater.

Vandy ultimately needs to, and likely will, beat Missouri to have any hopes to play into the postseason.

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