Vanderbilt started the game 5-5 from the field, and that was basically the ballgame. We never really got going, submitting our worst first half (23 points) of the season, and the Commodores kept us at a comfortable distance for the remainder of the evening.
We made a nice run to cut the lead from 24 to 10, as we tend to do, but back-to-back Vanderbilt buckets put an end to that brief period of hope. By the end of the evening, no one could complain about the 68-54 scoreline. Vanderbilt was the better team on the night.
This was bad basketball by Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt showed up and calmly checked every single “how to destroy a post-heavy team” box in existence. They ran hard doubles on Davis and Williams, they scrambled like bats outta hell to recover if we passed out, and they were extremely aggressive out top on any pick/roll action we tried.
The premise was simple: They knew we didn’t have the patience and passing ability to generate killer shots against an aggressive defense. Our off-ball movement was timid, our interior passing was slow, and our outside shooting wasn’t good enough to make Vanderbilt even consider changing stride.
The Commodores just put our Kryptonite on tape.
The DJ Hogg Dilemma
Hogg missed the last two games with a foot injury, and the team’s offense had perked up a little... so you could understand if we were cautious about his return. But nah. DJ was clearly hobbled on defense, and his usual “I can elevate at any point and get my shot off” quickness wasn’t there on offense. I appreciate the kid trying to gut it out through an injury, but I think the coaching staff and support personnel put him in a bad position.
Kennedy says DJ Hogg (foot) shouldn't have played & Robert Williams (back) hadn't practiced the past 2 days.— Zach Taylor (@ZachTaylorSport) February 1, 2017
That can’t happen. Someone in the program was tasked with Hogg’s “go / no go” decision, and that person failed.
Who is our best five?
We thought we knew the answer a few weeks ago, but Hogg’s injury problems and the surge of “small ball” opposition have re-opened that question.
First, the “Davis and Williams” combo looked poor for the first time in a while. Davis (18 points; 8-9 FG) was excellent on his own, but the interior passing between the two just wasn’t there. If we had executed just one or two early high-low sets between these guys, the Commodores would have been put on notice.
Second, some of the bench guys looked good tonight. Gilder has to play, of course (no worries there - he’s played 199 of a possible 200 minutes in our last five), but the other spots are up for grabs. Can JC Hampton (quietly among the Top 5 in SEC 3PT shooting) reclaim his role as a starter? Can Caleb Smith use tonight’s burst of energy (5 points and an assist in nine minutes) to push for a heavier role? Can Trocha (3-18 from 3PT in his last six) find his outside shot and re-establish himself as a legitimate stretch four option against small teams? These are all really, really important questions... and we have to answer them soon.
If we drop one of these next two against LSU or Mizzou, we’ll be flirting with rock bottom.