Davidson aims for more defensive improvement vs. Vanderbilt

NCAA

Davidson, coming off a road victory, hopes to start a winning streak when it hosts Vanderbilt on Tuesday evening.

Four Wildcats, led by Carter Collins (22 points), hit double-figure scoring in Davidson’s 67-58 win at Rhode Island on Friday — the conference opener for both teams.

It came in atypical Davidson fashion.

The Wildcats (4-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10), who’ve ranked in the top 35 in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency in three of the past four years (including this one), typically struggle to match that excellence on defense.

That was a problem in last year’s 76-71 loss at Vanderbilt, when Davidson allowed 1.1 points per possession.

But Davidson held the Rams to 0.91 points per possession, something that didn’t escape Wildcats coach Bob McKillop’s notice afterwards.

“I’m just delighted with the toughness we showed,” McKillop said. “Top to bottom on our roster, everyone who played made some significant contributions. The number of loose balls that we got on the floor in the first half was such a pivotal part of setting the tone for the rest of the game for us.”

That defensive improvement, if sustained, makes the Wildcats a scary opponent given the offensive firepower of Collins (13.4 points per game), Kellan Grady (17.7) and Hyunjung Lee (16.7).

Vanderbilt (3-1) beat Radford by a 59-50 score on Saturday evening, but it wasn’t easy.

For the third straight game, the Commodores were sluggish in the first half but found enough of a spark from Scotty Pippen Jr., who tied a career high with 25 points while adding seven assists and four steals.

Vanderbilt was also without coach Jerry Stackhouse, who was in North Carolina for his father’s funeral Saturday. Assistant coach Adam Mazarei, who served in his absence, dwelt on the positives given Vanderbilt’s 11-point home loss to Richmond three days before.

“Today was a big day to grow as a team, to really trust each other and take a step forward, and I think we did,” Mazarei said. “It was a really good test to see where we’re at from the Richmond game and bouncing back from that loss; we just got to keep rolling.”

The Commodores have struggled to find options outside Pippen (21.5 points per game) and Dylan Disu (11.3 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game). The stat sheet is telling: no Commodore outside of Pippen or Disu averages more than 6.8 points or 19.7 minutes per game.

Vanderbilt, led by Pippen (30 of 32, 93.8 percent), continues to shine at the foul line, where it has hit 82.6 percent of its attempts and connected on more tries (57) than opponents have hoisted (39).

–Field Level Media

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