It’s no secret. A cold shooting night can be contagious. And when buckets won’t fall early, it can have a snowball effect.
Through four conference games, the Commodores (12-6, 1-3 SEC) have struggled to find an offensive rhythm from the get-go. Vanderbilt is shooting a combined 31 percent (36-for-117) from the field and 22 percent from three-point range (8-for-36) in the first half, including a season-low 18 percent (5-for-27) during last night’s 76-63 loss to Tennessee.
Despite the rough starts in SEC play, Vanderbilt has remained within striking distance, trailing by no more than eight points entering the second half. But playing from a deficit can take its toll on a younger team over the course of a game.
"We start off poorly and they start off well, and we spend the rest of the night playing from behind,” head coach Kevin Stallings said about the Tennessee game. “Now your margin for error is way down.
“It just seemed like there was a lid on that basket in the first half. We dug ourselves a hole and every time we needed to make something happen in the second half, we seemed like we'd miss a shot or a free throw."
One of the difficulties has been that opponents are buckling down in the post to contain Vanderbilt’s top-scoring threat, A.J. Ogilvy, forcing the Commodores to hit shots from the outside. Last night was no different as VU went 6-for-23 from downtown while Ogilvy ended up with one field goal on six attempts, both season lows.
"If they choose to play that type of defense on us, we're going to have to step up and hit perimeter shots,” Stallings said. “That's just what we're going to have to do."
With the Commodores reeling from its first 1-3 conference start since 2002-03, they'll need to find some consistency on the offensive end to turn things around.
“When it comes down to it, certain guys have to play better," Stallings added. "We'll have to go back and look at the film. We had four starters that had three field goals and that's not going to do it. We just have to figure out a way to help them.”