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.

Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball squares off against No. 13 Auburn at home

The Commodores take on a red-hot Tigers squad as they look for their first SEC win of the season.
Ophelia Lu

Vanderbilt lost to Ole Miss on Saturday and will now face the  No. 13 Auburn Tigers, one of the top SEC teams. Vanderbilt displayed many of the same flaws that it has shown all season against Ole Miss, and the Commodores must improve drastically to compete with the Tigers.

The Auburn Tigers are one of the best teams in the country, as evidenced by their rankings of No. 4 in KenPom and No. 8 in the NET. They are led by star forward Johni Broome, who averages a dominant 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. The 6 ’10” junior is going to be a matchup nightmare against the Commodores, as Vanderbilt’s lack of size is very evident. 

While Auburn’s squad undoubtedly runs through Broome, the rest of its roster is loaded with high-impact players. Senior guard Jaylin Williams averages 11.9 points per game on impressive 41/61/79 shooting splits. Freshman guard Aden Holloway has been one of the breakout stars of the season, averaging over 10 points per game while turning the ball over fewer than once per game. In total, six players average at least 7.3 points per game for the Tigers. As well as shooting the ball at an efficient rate, the team has an abundance of great defenders, boasting both a top-10 offensive and defensive efficiency rating on KenPom.

When taking into account Auburn’s lethalness and Vanderbilt’s hapless 5-11 record, this game seems like an uphill battle for the Commodores. However, there is reason for optimism for Vanderbilt fans, as there have been two polarizing sides to this disappointing Vanderbilt squad. For the more pessimistic view, there are certainly plenty of stats that show how lackluster Vanderbilt has been this year. The Commodores currently rank No. 191 in the latest KenPom rankings, where they are surrounded by teams such as Marshall and Utah Valley. Included in the Commodores’ 11 losses is a home defeat to No. 309 Presbyterian, who are one of the worst teams in the nation. To top the stats off, Vanderbilt is still winless against quad 1 and quad 2 opponents.

However, despite those stats, Vanderbilt has displayed a more promising side this season. They’ve taken No. 10 Memphis and an explosive Alabama team down to the wire. If a shot or two fell the other way, the Commodores would have two quad-1 victories this season. That would certainly change the perspective of  Vanderbilt’s season so far. Additionally, freshman Jason Rivera-Torres has broken out as a knockdown shooter, scoring at least 10 points per game from the bench in four of his last five games. 

For Vanderbilt to pull off the monumental upset, three key things need to happen. 

Firstly, Tyrin Lawrence must be efficient with the ball. Seen as the Commodores’ star player entering this season, Lawrence has had an inconsistent year. He’s still scoring 13.6 points per game, but his scoring is coming at the cost of efficiency. He’s shooting 38.3% from the field, an even uglier 27.9% from deep and coughing up the ball at a rate of 2.2 turnovers per game. In order for Vanderbilt to defeat Auburn, Lawrence must take care of the ball. The Commodores will have a chance if Lawrence shoots a high percentage, but they will stand little chance if he has another poor shooting night with multiple turnovers.

The second key to the game is the explosiveness of Ezra Manjon and Jason Rivera-Torres. Manjon has had a fantastic season, scoring 16.3 points and dishing out 3.4 assists per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Rivera-Torres has been a revelation here in Nashville, scoring at least 10 points in four of his past five games. He’s a true shooter who can get red-hot at any time, and he is more than capable of going on a run all by himself. Thus, if Vanderbilt is to hang around with Auburn, these two will likely need to combine for at least 40 points. Manjon needs to get there by chipping in with baskets throughout the game, never running too hot nor too cold. However, Rivera-Torres needs to get there with one or two blazing runs. If given the touches, it is fully within the realm of possibility that Rivera-Torres has another 20-point game.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, head coach Jerry Stackhouse must find a creative way to slow down Broome. If Broome is one-on-one with Vanderbilt centers Ven-Allen Lubin and Carter Lang, he is a threat to score 30 points and grab 15 boards. It’s not a ding on Lubin or Lang, but rather a testament to how good Broome is. Whether it’s a straight double-team, a 2-3 zone that collapses on Broome, or something else, Stackhouse must get creative. Auburn’s other players are capable of destroying the Commodores if all of the attention is on Broome, but Vanderbilt will at least give itself a chance. If Broome has his way down low, this game will get ugly.

The Commodore upset bid is going to be tough. The Auburn Tigers are a loaded basketball team who are playing their best basketball right now. However, if the Commodores can accomplish the three objectives listed above, the Tigers may be on upset watch.

Vanderbilt tips off against Auburn at 8 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 17th.

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About the Contributors
Adam Burns
Adam Burns, Staff Writer
Adam Burns (‘27) is from Scottsdale, Ariz., and studies human and organizational development, business and data science in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing sports, spending time outdoors or exploring new places. He is also an extremely passionate Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Diamondbacks fan. You can reach him at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Director
Ophelia Lu (’26) is from Los Angeles and is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to a lot of music, studying at Starbucks or lying on Alumni lawn. She can be reached at [email protected].
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