Tennessee is looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s blowout loss at Georgia as they travel to the mid-state Saturday to take on Vanderbilt.
The Commodores are riding a 23-game SEC losing streak that first year head coach Jerry Stackhouse will be looking to end Saturday night. Vanderbilt currently holds an 8-8 record and 0-3 record in SEC play.
Similarly to the 2018-19 Commodores, Vanderbilt has dealt with an injury to its star player. Last season it was Darius Garland and this year it is Aaron Nesmith who suffered a foot stress fracture in a loss at Auburn.
Nesmith had been one of the league’s best players in his sophomore season as he led the SEC with 23 points per game before his injury.
“They haven’t changed a whole lot,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “Guys are still playing hard. Saban Lee is as tough as a guy to guard as anyone in the country. He gets that ball where he wants to get it. They got young guys too that are learning.”
The Commodores may not be much different in what they do without Nesmith, but the execution has dropped severely without the star guard.
Vanderbilt ranks fifth in the SEC with 75.9 points per game, but in the Commodores two games without Nesmith they’ve scored just 50 and 55 points. Without the lead man Vanderbilt isn’t nearly as productive and has struggled to knock down shots.
In his absence, Nesmith’s backcourt running mate Saban Lee has had to help pick up the Commodores offense. Vanderbilt’s junior point guard is averaging 15.8 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Former NBA great Scottie Pippen's son, Scotty Pippen Jr., has had a nice freshman year for the Commodores averaging 10.8 points per game, but similarly to some Tennessee freshman, Pippen is seeing a bigger role during his freshman campaign than what was expected of him.
Vanderbilt will be without Clevon Brown Saturday who has been a solid inside force for the Commodores averaging nine points per game in the nine games he’s played.
Despite some of the Commodores struggles this season there have been some flashes from Vanderbilt in Stackhouse’s first season.
The Commodores have wins over Davidson and Buffalo while losing at 15-1 Auburn by just four points.
“I think Jerry Stackhouse has done a terrific job. I really do,” Barnes said. “He runs some really good things and mixes his defenses. I think they mainly want to play man, but they’ll play some zone.”
The Commodores have struggled on the defensive end this season ranking just 12th in the SEC while allowing 73 points per game while holding opponents to 46% shooting from the field, the worst mark in the SEC.
Tennessee enters Saturday night’s game as 5-point favorites.
Tipoff from Memorial Gymnasium is set for 5 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network.