Bucknell-Vanderbilt Preview

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is not pleased with how his team overlooked its last opponent, which led to a stunning loss to an unranked squad.

After that experience, a visit from the reigning Patriot League champions should have the No. 18 Commodores' attention.

Vanderbilt tries to rebound from its first defeat when it plays Bucknell in a regional game of the Legends Classic on Tuesday night.

Coming off a 78-64 season-opening victory over Oregon on Friday, the host Commodores fell 71-58 to Cleveland State on Sunday. Vanderbilt shot 35.3 percent (18 for 51) and had its 21 turnovers converted into 22 Vikings points.

The loss caused the Commodores to plummet 11 spots in the Top 25.

"I would expect us to play harder (Tuesday) and with more execution," Stallings said. "Our kids didn't take it seriously when I told them (Cleveland State) was as good of a team as they are. They had 27 wins last year. (But) maybe we were completely ready to play and got beat by a team that's just better than we are."

Before heading to East Rutherford, N.J., for a matchup with North Carolina State in the tournament semifinals Saturday, the Commodores will test themselves against Bucknell for the first time.

The Bison, who finished 25-9 last season following a first-round NCAA tournament loss to eventual champion Connecticut, arrive in Nashville after losing their opener 70-58 at Minnesota on Friday.

Bucknell shot 34.8 percent from the field and didn't convert a field goal in the final 5:53 after Cameron Ayers' 3-pointer put his team up 51-44. The Bison were outrebounded 41-33.

"We just couldn't close it," coach Dave Paulsen told the school's official website. "We couldn't keep them off the glass, we turned the ball over at key times. We need to show more poise and resolve in those types of situations.

"... hopefully we'll play better (against Vanderbilt) than we did Friday night."

The Bison's perimeter defense was solid in the opener as they held Minnesota to 3 of 15 from 3-point range, but Bucknell is preparing to spend even more time guarding the arc.

The Commodores have launched 45s - making just 13 - with leading scorer John Jenkins hitting nine of his 24 attempts.

The junior guard is averaging 20.5 points after scoring 17 on Sunday to become the 42nd Vanderbilt player to reach 1,000.

Bucknell junior Bryson Johnson, who hit four 3s for a team-best 16 points Friday, will likely see plenty of time matched up against last season's SEC scoring leader.

"I think (guarding Vanderbilt's outside shooters is) going to be a challenge - much different than Minnesota," said Ayers, who scored 13 points in his first collegiate start Friday. "But I think if we stay to our key values on defense and pressure the ball and get out at the shooter and just rebound - which I think is our biggest weakness right now - then I think we can get the job done."

Bucknell junior Mike Muscala, last season's Patriot League player of the year, had 12 points and 11 rebounds Friday, but he's likely going to need plenty of help on the boards.

Jeffrey Taylor (team-high 15 rebounds), Steve Tchiengang (13) and Lance Goulbourne (12) have picked up the slack for Vanderbilt with starting center Festus Ezeli likely sidelined for two months with sprained right knee ligaments.

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