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 to take on nation’s second-ranked team on Wednesday

The Commodores will travel down to The Jungle in Auburn and face off with the second-ranked team in the country, in pursuit of their first win against a top-two team since the 2011 season.
Mattigan Kelly
Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. goes up for a layup against Missouri on Feb. 8, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

The Vanderbilt Commodores (13-11, 5-7 SEC) will play the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (23-2, 11-1) in Auburn on Wednesday night, the fourth ranked opponent in five games for the Commodores. Vanderbilt is coming off a 73–64 loss in its last rivalry matchup of the season.

In Monday’s press conference, Vanderbilt head basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse offered insight on what went wrong against Tennessee and what he’s keeping in mind for the team’s future success.

 “We feel like our defense travels if we’re able to take care of the ball and rebound the basketball. Those are things that get us in trouble in our losses, when we allow teams to get back and get easy points in transition. That was the difference in the game against Tennessee,” Stackhouse said. “We like our chances when we are able to get back and get our defense set and are able to lock into a game plan with our schemes.”

The loss to Tennessee was the third game that senior center Liam Robbins has played in after recovering from injury. He’s averaged 12 minutes of playing time in those games. Stackhouse explained that he still has a ways to go to figure out the Commodores’ offense.

“Liam [Robbins] hadn’t played basketball in a year, and so it’s good to just have his size and his rim protection for a few minutes,” Stackhouse said. “We just [have] to continue to live with some of his growing mistakes, growing pains and mistakes that he may currently own, because we know as the season [continues], we still have time for him to bring some real value to what we’re trying to do.”

In his fourth game with Vanderbilt Robbins will possibly need to defend Auburn’s reigning SEC Player of the Week, sophomore forward Walker Kessler. Kessler has averaged 11.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and over four blocks per game this season. 

“[Walker Kessler] is protecting the rim at an elite level…They’re really extended on the perimeter because they know they have that type of support behind them,” Stackhouse said. “We got some guys, Liam [Robbins] maybe, with an opportunity where he has to come out a little bit more to defend [Kessler] on the perimeter. It has to be a focus for us making sure that [Kessler is] not able to just sit back there and clog things up.”

While Kessler and fellow teammate freshman forward Jabari Smith—the highest-rated commit in Auburn basketball history—have helped Auburn become a defensive juggernaut, the offensive end of the floor hasn’t held the same prominence; the Tigers’ 3-point shooting percentage is currently 10th in the SEC. 

In their win over Texas A&M, the Tigers shot just 12% from beyond the arc, the lowest 3-point shooting percentage in an Auburn win under head coach Bruce Pearl. The Tigers have shot under 30% from 3 in each of the last seven games. On the other side of the court, Vanderbilt’s defense has allowed opponents to shoot just 29.7% from 3-point range. 

When asked what he will keep in mind with the opportunity to upset the second-ranked team in the country, he repeated one word: possession.

“It’s just about possession. It’d obviously be a great win for us… We’re playing in The Jungle. I don’t think they’ve lost down there this year,” Stackhouse said. “We’ve gone into some places that no other team has won in the SEC before. We went down to Arkansas and got it done, and nobody beat them since we went down there.”

The last time the Commodores played the Tigers in Auburn Area—in 2020—Auburn was a top-five team, and Vanderbilt lost by only 4 points. The last time Vanderbilt played the second-ranked team in the country—Kentucky in 2010—it lost by only 2 points. 

The Commodores have played competitively against the nation’s top-ranked teams in recent history, and given Vanderbilt’s 33.3% 3-point shooting—good for third in the SEC as of publication—and potential for limiting Auburn’s 3-point shooting, only time will tell if history will rhyme. 

Wednesday’s matchup against No. 2 Auburn will air at 8 p.m. CST on the SEC Network. 

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Basim Naim
Basim Naim, Former Staff Writer
Basim Naim ('24) is from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a staff writer for the Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health, and society and minoring in human and organizational development. His hometown and college-town teams — the Alabama Crimson Tide, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores — have him covered from men’s disc golf to baseball. He can be reached at .
Mattigan Kelly
Mattigan Kelly, Former Deputy Multimedia Director
Mattigan Kelly ('22) was Deputy Multimedia Director for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She has been on the staff since her freshman year. Mattigan majored in chemical engineering in the School for Engineering. In addition to shooting for The Hustler, she was the Development Coordinator for Camp Kesem at Vanderbilt, works in a research lab on campus and plays Club Tennis.
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments