The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Commodores looking to defend home court, keep win streak alive against South Carolina

After a close win against Arkansas, the Vanderbilt Commodores look to win their first SEC game at home this season against an evenly matched Gamecocks squad.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Quentin Millora-Brown goes up for a block against Arkansas in Vanderbilt’s win on Jan. 4, 2021. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Thanks to a Rodney Chatman 3-pointer and a Myles Stute block with under a minute to play, the Vanderbilt Commodores left Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Tuesday with a 75-74 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. 

On top of being the first win of their SEC schedule, Tuesday’s game increased the Vanderbilt win streak to four games for the first time in the Stackhouse era. The Commodores will now look to stretch their streak to five against South Carolina Saturday afternoon at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Gamecocks, like Vanderbilt, sport a 9-4 record. In their first SEC contest on Tuesday, they were defeated by the No. 9 Auburn Tigers, 81-66. Their other losses came to Princeton, Coastal Carolina and Clemson. 

The two programs currently split the all-time record with 23 wins apiece, even splitting the last 10 appearances 5-5, but Vanderbilt is 2-0 under Stackhouse. Both teams made their last March Madness appearance in 2017, though South Carolina made their first Final Four that year while Vanderbilt was eliminated by Northwestern in the first round. 

Safe to say, these two teams are incredibly even and sport similar playing styles. Both teams have an emphatic focus on defense, having almost equal defensive efficiency ratings, allowing around 94 points per 100 possessions, and are both top 50 in the country in opponent turnover ratio. Expect an intense defensive contest with loads of steals, blocks and last-second heaves at the end of the shot clock. 

On the offensive side of the ball, South Carolina’s scoring load is much more spaced out than Vanderbilt’s. Whereas the top two leading scorers of Saturday’s game sport the Black and Gold—Scotty Pippen Jr. at 18.4 and Jordan Wright at 12.5 points per game, respectively—the next six leading scorers belong to the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks also shoot slightly more efficiently from the field—43.8 percent compared to Vanderbilt’s 40.8 percent—and from 3—33 percent compared to 30.3 percent. 

The point of emphasis in this game for Stackhouse and the Vanderbilt squad will be breaking down the South Carolina defense. The Gamecocks defense aims to push the offense as far away from the hoop as possible by picking up ball handlers at the half-court line and denying the next pass, a defense that Vanderbilt has previously struggled against. Racking up points in the paint will also be a struggle as South Carolina averages around 5.5 blocks per game. Look for Vanderbilt’s off-ball movement and pick-and-roll success to be their make-or-break factors in Saturday’s matchup. 

Trey Thomas is a guy to watch for the Vanderbilt squad against South Carolina. The undersized sophomore sniper started the season shooting under 20 percent from 3 in the first nine games but has shot an astounding 55 percent from long range throughout the Commodores’ four-game win streak. His last game against Arkansas was a 15-point, five 3-pointer performance with 71.4 percent efficiency from behind the line. Watch out for the sixth man when he checks into the game as he’ll either draw a lot of gravity or light up the gym if left unchecked.

Defensively, the pressure will lie on the shoulders of center Quentin Millora-Brown. The Rice transfer is having a spectacular season whose impact goes well beyond the box score. From setting screens to forcing turnovers to taking charge of defensive communication, Millora-Brown is doing whatever it takes to ensure Commodore success. 

However, South Carolina will be his greatest test as a defender this year. The South Carolina offense puts a large focus on dribble handoffs and the pick-and-roll to either get an open mid-range shot for the guard or to get the big man in position for a post-up opportunity. It’ll be his responsibility to not only contest the mid-range once the guard comes off the screen but also be able to shut down the post play of the Gamecock big-men. 

A Vanderbilt win Saturday would not only push their winning streak to five games but also bring the Commodores to 2-0 in SEC play before their game against the fierce No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats on Jan. 11, their first ranked opponent of the year. More importantly, a win this Saturday would send a slight shockwave through the SEC. After tallying only three conference wins in the last two seasons of the Stackhouse Era, walking away with two wins in the first week of conference play would send a message that they’re not a team to be messed with anymore.

The Commodores and Gamecocks will tip off from Nashville at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday, Jan. 8.

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About the Contributor
Connor Campbell
Connor Campbell, Senior Staff Writer
Connor Campbell ('25) is a human and organizational development and cinema and media arts major from Staten Island, N.Y. Connor shares a strong love for both sports and film, leading to his interest in "The Ringer" and, consequently, his casual and quippy style of writing. Outside of The Hustler, Connor does freelance photography, runs the social media accounts for Vanderbilt Club Hockey and is the president of Vanderbilt Tap That. You can reach him at [email protected].
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