After its worst free-throw shooting performance of the season last week against then-No. 15 Missouri, the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team was greeted by its longest layoff of the season.
That gives the Commodores plenty of time to shore up their performance at the foul line – they were just of 11-of-22 in their overtime loss at Missouri – before they step back on the court and welcome Southeastern Louisiana to Memorial Gymnasium at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The only thing is that Vanderbilt though isn’t fixing something it doesn’t think is broken.
“There is no sense in overreacting to one game where you don’t shoot free throws well,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. “Literally we were in the top 25 in the country in team free-throw percentage. We had a bad game shooting them ... but we haven’t done anything with free-throw shooting (in practice).”
The Commodores (7-2) were shooting 76.1 percent (153-of-201) from the line before playing Missouri. Even with that performance, they are still making 73.5 percent of their attempts, which is tied for 47th in the country and is the best mark in the Southeastern Conference.
Junior forward Jeffery Taylor missed his only two against the Tigers at a critical time – with 27 seconds left in regulation and with a chance to build on a slim one-point lead.
“It just happens sometimes,” Taylor said. “We have always been a really good free-throw shooting team. The past couple years we have been good. It just happens. There is not really anything you can do about it. Just relax and do what you have been doing.”
Vanderbilt’s worst free-throw shooting night also happened to be during its first true road game of the young season.
Coincidence? Stallings thinks not.
“That is why homecourt advantages are sometimes advantages,” he said. “It causes tension. It causes anxiety and that is one of the places where you see it: on the foul line. I think it probably had more to do with the fact that it was our first true road game than anything else. I don’t think that is a trend you will see continue but it was certainly evident that night.”
Along with missed opportunities at the foul line, Vanderbilt also lost the edge on the glass against Missouri. The Tigers outrebounded the Commodores 45-40.
Stallings said the rebounding drills have been intensified this week but, again, chalked the performance up to a bad night.
While he said the extra time off was good for his team, he reiterated that his team isn’t “broken.” Thus, in his mind, there aren’t a lot of repairs to be made
“Unlike a year ago where we really needed some time, I don’t think there is anything about our team that is broken,” Stallings said. “A year ago we had some real broken parts and we needed some time to fix some things. It hasn’t felt that way this year.”
• Starting forward Andre Walker won’t play against Southeastern Louisiana. The junior has missed the last two games due to mononucleosis and isn’t expected to return until after Christmas.
• After partially tearing an artery in his neck nearly three weeks ago, Chris Meriwether is back practicing with the team, but in a limited role. Stallings said the senior reserve guard is staying away from contact-oriented drills but is involved in non-contact activities, such as shooting. Stallings wasn’t sure when Meriwether would return to full-contact drills. Meriwether, a graduate of Father Ryan, has played just eight total minutes in four games this season.
• Walk-on Aaron Noll will be out for six to eight weeks after fracturing his fifth metatarsal in his foot during practice on Tuesday. The junior forward from Fort Mitchell, Ky. has also played just eight minutes in four games this season.
• The Vanderbilt women’s basketball team will end its long layoff on Sunday when it plays Duquesne on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Commodores (6-3) haven’t played since last Thursday and are on a two-game winning streak. Vanderbilt, however, has yet to win a road game (0-3) this season.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for a trio of Commodores. Redshirt freshman center Stephanie Holzer, senior guard Jence Rhoads and senior center Rebecca Silinski all hail from Pennsylvania.