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.

Getting Back on Track: Commodores head to Columbia in search of third conference win

Coming off two consecutive SEC losses, Jerry Stackhouse and the Vanderbilt Commodores head to Columbia for a rematch against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday night.
Shane Dezonie looks up in the Commodores’ matchup against the Florida Gators on Jan. 22, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

The Vanderbilt Commodores (10-8, 2-4 SEC) will look to get back in the win column as they face the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-7, 2-4) in Columbia on Wednesday night. Just a little over two weeks ago, Vanderbilt fell 72-70 to South Carolina at Memorial Stadium in a game that Vanderbilt students were unable to attend.

The Commodores are coming off maybe their worst game of the season, a 61-42 loss to the Florida Gators. 

“Just one of those games I think you chalk up a couple times a year—just a bad outing,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse told reporters on Monday. “That isn’t who we’ve been for most games this year, so hopefully that doesn’t repeat itself.” 

While the Commodores no longer have to worry about playing home games full of opposing fans—they lost all three contests at Memorial Gymnasium during the Commodores Care period in which students weren’t permitted—they do face a critical juncture in the season. They currently sit in 11th place in the SEC, while the Gamecocks are right above them at 10th. 

With their next two games on the road against South Carolina and at home against Georgia, the Commodores have a chance to get back to .500 in conference play and ultimately be better positioned towards making a potential run in the SEC tournament.

Looking ahead to this Wednesday night’s matchup, the Commodores should look to limit South Carolina’s transition points and play a clean game on offense. The Gamecocks play fast and are third in the conference in tempo (according to KenPom); on the other hand, the Commodores are a slower and more methodical team, ranking 12th in the conference in tempo.

Stackhouse reasons that the best way to stop South Carolina and slow down their offense is by implementing a half-court press.

“They’re good when they create turnovers and get out in transition—they’re really tough to guard,” he said. “I think that if we can get them in our half-court and get our half-court defense set up, that’s our best chance to get a win.”

On defense, the Commodores should also be wary of the damage that the Gamecocks’ Keyshawn Bryant is capable of. The 6’6”, 187-pound forward was 12th in the SEC last season in scoring, averaging just over 14 points a game. So far this season, he has been hampered by a shoulder injury but is coming off a 19-point game in the Gamecocks’ most recent victory over Georgia. 

“We definitely have to be more aware of what he brings to the table, especially his slashing ability,” Stackhouse said. “He’s a driver—we’ve got to be low to the ball and ready to help when he drives. And when any shot goes up, he’s going to the boards.”

Another point of emphasis for Stackhouse’s group is rebounding, an area in which the Commodores have put up some of the worst numbers in the conference. They sit last in the SEC in offensive rebounding and 11th in defensive rebounding and have been outrebounded by opponents in five straight games. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have put up solid rebounding numbers this season—fifth in offensive rebounding and sixth in defensive rebounding—and use that work on the glass to complement their transition game.

“That’s something we’ve talked about since the beginning of the season,” Stackhouse said. “Our rebounding has to be at the forefront for what we need to do on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.”

Vanderbilt still lacks some of the depth it had hoped for going into the season, as center Liam Robbins and guard Rodney Chatman recover from their respective foot and hamstring injuries. Thus, Stackhouse has turned to a number of new faces to generate a spark in the lineup, such as former walk-on Drew Weikert, who has started the past two games for the Commodores.

The senior guard has been held to just two total points but has logged 17 and 11 minutes, respectively, the previous two contests.

“It’s been really nice to get some more minutes right now,” Weikert said. “Honestly, though, as a walk-on, I’ve always been ready to do whatever role coach needs me to.” 

While the Commodores are in the midst of a tough stretch at the moment, losing two in a row and four of their past five, Weikert displayed confidence in himself and in his teammates going forward.

“Sticking to our sets that we know work will definitely help us get some points on the board and hopefully help us come out with a win,” he said. “Other than that, I think that we have the talent to stick with these guys and we just need to listen to our game plan and follow it and we should do pretty well.”

The Commodores and Gamecocks face off at 6 p.m. CST on Wednesday.


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About the Contributor
Andy Carr, Former Assistant Sports Editor
Andy Carr ('22) was a student in the College of Arts and Science who studied economics with minors in business and computer science. In addition to writing, he enjoys running, playing golf and rooting for all D.C. sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
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