Press Conference Notes: Stackhouse previews upcoming rivalry matchup against Tennessee

Jerry Stackhouse addressed the media on Tuesday, discussing Vanderbilt’s recent close losses and a rematch against the Volunteers.

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DJ Harvey drives to the basket in Vanderbilt’s 82-78 loss to Kentucky on Feb. 17. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

Alyssa Muir, Deputy Sports Editor

Coming off back-to-back tough losses by a score of 82-78 each, Vanderbilt men’s basketball head coach Jerry Stackhouse spoke to the media Tuesday to discuss Vanderbilt’s close losses and its impending matchup against the No. 25 Tennessee Volunteers. 

“It’s one thing if we weren’t getting the shots and we weren’t executing and giving ourselves an opportunity to take shots. We’re taking shots and, unfortunately for us, we haven’t been able to make them in a timely fashion,” Stackhouse said.

Vanderbilt’s last five losses have come by a combined 24 points, with the Commodores having chances to win down the stretch in every single one. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about guys making shots and making plays in those moments,” Stackhouse said. “And we had the shots to do so. [I] thought we got great looks down the stretch, had opportunities in all those games. ” 

While Vanderbilt has come extremely close to winning its last few games, that was not the case in its first matchup against the Tennessee Volunteers on Jan. 16. In Knoxville, Scotty Pippen Jr. picked up a couple of early fouls and ultimately fouled out as the Commodores fell 81-61. 

“I thought we guarded them pretty well last time in the half court,” Stackhouse said. [We] got some cheap fouls, got some guys in foul trouble when we were in Knoxville last time. So hopefully we can play without fouling and give ourselves a good chance to continue with some good, positive momentum. We haven’t got the wins from it, but I think we’re playing some really good basketball on both sides.” 

The Volunteers, who were ranked tenth when Vanderbilt first played them, are going through a rough stretch of their own. They have lost two of their last three games, including their most recent matchup, a 70-55 loss to Kentucky at home. 

During that Kentucky loss, Tennessee shot just 27% from three. 

“I think we’ve got to make [Tennessee] more of a perimeter team,” Stackhouse said. “Right now, those guys are capable of making shots from the outside but their strength is when they’re able to get in the paint. I think if we can limit their points in the paint and get in the paint ourselves, that’ll be our shot at trying to get us a victory tomorrow night.”

In the first matchup between the two teams, Vanderbilt struggled with some of Tennessee’s defensive schemes and turned the ball over 16 times as a result. 

“Right after that game we really started working on our press offense a little bit,” Stackhouse said. “They did some half court trap stuff that kinda threw us out of sync. They got back-to-back turnovers there, and I think that spurred us to make sure we were more ready for those types of situations. I think, with teams that have pressed us since then, we’ve done a really good job of handling that.”

Stackhouse also mentioned the fact that his team has multiple players dealing with nagging injuries that have kept them out of recent practices. As a result, Vanderbilt hasn’t been able to have full practices in the past few days. 

“Yesterday was a really light day,” Stackhouse said. “We just watched film and did some more player development stuff, working on our pick-and-rolls and setting screens, different things like that. Today will be more of a full practice where we can see who can go and who’ll be available tomorrow.”

One of the players who’s battled some injury issues is Disu, though you wouldn’t know it based off of his recent play. After averaging 23 points and 15.5 rebounds during his last two games, Disu was named SEC Player of the Week

“[Disu]’s doing a great job on both sides of the ball all while battling some knee issues,” Stackhouse said. “We’ve really been taking it light with him in practices. He’s pretty much only just playing in the games; [he’s] not able to really practice. So it just speaks to his warrior mentality and wanting to be out there to help the team.”

Finally, Stackhouse addressed the potential NBA futures of his two star players: Pippen Jr. and Disu. 

“The way they’re playing, the competition they’re playing against in the SEC and the numbers they’re putting up, I think they’ve definitely given themselves an opportunity to be [NBA] prospects,” Stackhouse said. “I don’t think they’re necessarily ready to make that move. Obviously, I’ve seen growth in their game, but I saw more growth in Aaron [Nesmith]’s game, more potential growth in Saben [Lee]’s game.” 

Despite not necessarily believing that going to the NBA after this season concludes is in the best interest of Pippen Jr. or Disu, Stackhouse acknowledged that both have performed well enough to put themselves in positions to be on NBA radars. 

“I’m hoping that we have an opportunity to coach them again after this year but the reality of this business, and guys having the success and being able to play in this system to showcase themselves, [is that] you never know,” Stackhouse said. “That’s kinda a decision between them and their family. Obviously I have some input in that, but I’m never one to try and sway kids one way or the other because I think that’s the worst thing you could do.” 

The Commodores will be back in action Wednesday as they host the Tennesse Volunteers in a rivalry matchup at 8 p.m. CST.