Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings believes the jury is still out on whether his is a good perimeter shooting team.
The sample size is small and offers mixed results with just two games in the last two weeks. Over the holiday weekend, though, the Commodores get three opportunities to plead their case.
Vanderbilt (1-1), coming off a brutal 3-point shooting performance in a loss at Oregon last week, heads to Orlando, Fla., for the Old Spice Classic. The Commodores open the eight-team tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex against Davidson on Thursday (1 p.m., ESPN2). It will be the first of three games in four days.
“I don’t think we’re a great perimeter shooting team,” Stallings said. “But I think we’re better than maybe what we’ve shown. We’re not as good as what we showed in the second half against Nicholls State when we made 8-of-11. We need to make enough of them. We can’t live and die with it. But we need to make enough of them that other teams are worried about it.”
Oregon didn’t have to fret.
The Commodores shot just 19 percent (4-of-21) from 3-point range and only 34 percent (16-of-47) from the field. The 74-48 loss marked their worst setback since an 84-57 beating by Tennessee in 2007. They also scored their fewest points since a 106-44 whipping by Kentucky in 2003.
“It was definitely a learning experience for our younger guys as well as some guys who are stepping into new roles,” junior Rod Odom said. “We just really learned the level that we have to compete at for an entire 40 minutes to be able to competitive.”
Odom picked up two quick fouls and scored just nine points in 24 minutes. He shot a horrid 1-of-6 from 3-point range, which Stallings says can’t happen. Though Odom stands at 6-foot-9 his ability to drain 3s is essential to drawing out opposing post players.
“I do know this — if our two big guys who start the game don’t make some outside shots then we’re going to struggle,” Stallings said. “One of the things Shelby and Rod can do that is atypical for big guys is they can make perimeter shots. Shelby [Moats went 0-for-2 and] doesn’t score. Rod didn’t score much. For us to be a good perimeter shooting team, those two guys are going to have to make a few shots.”
Odom and guard Kyle Fuller and the rest of the team believe they can.
“We’re a very good shooting team in practice,” said Fuller, who scored a team-high 17 points. “We just need it to transfer to the games.”
After two less than stellar perimeter performances in exhibition games, the sharp perimeter shooting surfaced in the season opener. Against Nicholls State, they made 12-of-26, including eight in the second half and five in a row.
But against a stingier defense and in an unfamiliar environment at Oregon, they tightened up. Seven players missed 3-pointers, including a 2-of-8 night from point guard Kedren Johnson.
“I definitely think it is important but I definitely think it will come so that’s not something we have to worry about,” Odom said. “We’re way better. It is just guys getting used to taking those shots. The more guys get more comfortable taking those shots the more those shots will go in.”
• This will be the third straight year the Commodores play Davidson (1-2).
Vanderbilt has won the last two but got a fight from the Wildcats last year. Despite 67 points from Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli, the Commodores narrowly won 87-83 on the road.
Vanderbilt plays either West Virginia or Marist on Friday. Saturday provides a break before a third contest Sunday against Gonzaga, Oklahoma, UTEP or Clemson from the other side of the bracket.
• Stallings said sophomore shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker will continue to serve his indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules. Parker will not be available this weekend and Stallings reiterated it will be a while before he returns.
• The Vanderbilt women also head out of town for Thanksgiving.
The Commodores (3-1), who slipped to No. 17 after a road loss to Dayton on Sunday, will play in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico. Vanderbilt plays Virginia on Friday and Florida State on Saturday.