Coach Kevin Stallings is feeling optimistic about Vanderbilt following a runner-up showing in Maui, though there's still a bit of a bad taste in his mouth from how it finished.
Hoping to build on that experience and learn from their mistakes, the 16th-ranked Commodores seek their eighth consecutive home victory Wednesday night against fast-paced Detroit.
Vanderbilt cruised through the first two games and didn't trail at any point of the Maui Invitational until the second half of last Wednesday's 70-63 loss to No. 4 Kansas in the title game.
The Commodores shot a season-low 41.1 percent and went 6 for 27 from 3-point range, but it was their play on the defensive end – particularly in the second half – that disappointed Stallings. After allowing opponents to shoot 34.2 percent – including 19.5 percent from deep – during a 5-0 start, they let the Jayhawks shoot 45.5 percent and 8 of 16 from beyond the arc.
Vanderbilt ranks among the nation's best in scoring margin (22.3), defensive scoring (60.7), defensive field-goal percentage (36.0), 3-point percentage defense (24.3) and blocks (6.0).
“I'm going to leave here with a lot more positive thoughts and a lot more positive feelings than I am negative,” Stallings said. “I don't feel very good about that last 20 minutes, but I'm really proud of my basketball team and really looking forward to seeing what the future holds this season for them.”
The Titans (2-2) could provide another test for Stallings' club since they're scoring 96.0 points per game and sinking 39.2 percent from long distance. Anton Wilson leads six Detroit players averaging in double figures with 15.0 points, while Carlton Brundidge is second with 14.8 per game.
Brundidge had a career-high 23 and Wilson had 19 in last Saturday's 100-95 loss at Oral Roberts. Chris Jenkins, averaging 14.3 points, has totaled 41 points and 17 boards in his last two games.
The Titans have committed a total of 24 turnovers since having 25 in their opener, but they've allowed 97.5 points per game and 24-of-43 (55.8 percent) shooting from 3-point range in two road losses.
Now they'll attempt to contain Vanderbilt's 7-foot center Damian Jones. After averaging 10.0 points and 5.8 rebounds through the first four games, the preseason all-SEC selection totaled 34 points, 20 boards and five blocks against Wake Forest and Kansas.
Luke Kornet had a season-high 14 points and four blocks against the Jayhawks, while Wade Baldwin IV scored 11. Baldwin is averaging a team-high 13.5 points on 50.9 percent shooting and the 7-foot-1 Kornet ranks among national leaders with 2.7 blocks per game.
“What cost us the tournament in the end were the moments that we didn't (play well defensively),” Kornet said. “So I think that's something we'll learn from, and I just think we need to do it for 40 minutes and that's something we need to do down the road.”
Vanderbilt has won by an average of 19.6 points during a seven-game run at Memorial Gym, though it needed overtime to pull out a 79-72 win over Stony Brook in its last game there Nov. 19.
This is the Commodores first meeting with the Titans, who have dropped 24 in a row versus ranked opponents since a 63-54 home win over No. 24 Butler on Jan. 10, 2002.
- Anton Wilson
- Carlton Brundidge
- Chris Jenkins
- Damian Jones
- Detroit Titans
- Luke Kornet
- Vanderbilt Commodores
- Wade Baldwin IV