The Vanderbilt Commodores showed why they were picked to finish 2nd in the SEC behind Kentucky. The Commodores came out throwing haymakers and Texas A&M took every one on the chin from the opening tip-off. The core of Damian Jones, Luke Kornet, Jeff Roberson, and Wade Baldwin IV combined to shoot 26-33 in a 77-60 romp over the Aggies. It was a perfect storm of Vanderbilt firing on all cylinders and A&M, well, shooting themselves in the foot. Here some quick takeaways.
Tonight proved that something changes for the worse whenever Texas A&M plays on the road. In road games this season, A&M are 3-3 with 2 double-digit losses and 2 victories by a combined 5 points (against bottom-of-the-pack Tennessee and Mississippi State mind you). The Ags consistently have come out of the gate sloppy and out of sorts and usually find themselves playing from behind. Every time it seemed where a comeback started to materialize, the Ags would constantly dig themselves back in a hole with sloppy turnovers and bad defense. Vanderbilt was white hot from 3-point range, but many of their attempts were wide-open look and it looked as if A&M's perimeter defense was lost on several occasions.
It's a mystery whether this is attributed to lack of focus, tightening up in a hostile environment or just having a bad night. Regardless, the struggle has become a habit and must be fixed A&M wants to win the SEC and have a top-4 seed come tournament time.
Poor Jalen Jones.
1-13, 4 points.
Yeesh, that was tough to watch. Tonight, Jalen Jones was a living embodiment the scene in Varsity Blues where James Van Der Beek and company played hungover and couldn't do anything right. Except for one made field goal, literally nothing else went right for the senior leader.
Vanderbilt's strategy from the get-go was to hound Jones with double-teams and bruise him inside the paint. Couple that with Jones somehow not getting a single foul call underneath the basket and you have one hell of a long evening in Nashville. Jones's game thrives when he can attack the basket and get to the free-throw line. It's worked for him all year, but tonight the senior just could not find either the basket or the charity stripe.
Biggest 3-Game Stretch of the Season
Mr. Gigthem08 already gave us a preview of this fate-determining 8-game streak that started at Arkansas and will end at Reed Arena February 20th against Kentucky. Zoom in even closer and the next 3 games include a home matchup against 1-game-back South Carolina, then back-to-back road games at Alabama (beat SC in Tuscaloosa), then a re-match in Baton Rouge against Ben Simmons and the now-tied-for-first-place LSU Tigers.
For A&M, this stretch can either secure them atop of the SEC standings, or throw them in the logjam and create a free-for-all for the SEC Regular Season title.