JOE BIDDLE: Vandy hits the wall

Vanderbilt University
Photo: WKRN

Three pressure packed games in three days.

It took a toll on Vanderbilt’s team as Arkansas rolled over the Commodores, 76-62 in a semifinal game in the SEC Tournament Saturday.

Physically and mentally Vanderbilt’s team showed early they didn’t have much tread left.

Give Arkansas credit. The Hogs smelled blood and took advantage of it. Their perimeter players had quick hands, creating chaos.

First year Commodore Coach Bryce Drew, a former player in tournament basketball recognized the signs.

He saw more shots hit the front rim than usual. He saw more shots go off line than usual. He tried different tactics, but with fatigue setting in, nothing seemed to work.

The Commodores fell behind 35-31 as they hit only 17 of 56 shots from the field. They hit only four of 16 shots behind the 3-point line. Hot hands on offense have been their bread and butter this season.

Senior Luke Kornet played 44 minutes Friday night against Florida. He played only 26 minutes against the Hogs. He was one of eight from the field, zero of five 3-point shots. Other Commodores showed their game was off.

Riley LaChance was two of seven overall, one of two from 3-point attempts.

As a team the Commodores shot 25.9 shots in the first half and four of 15 3-pointers. The ended the game shooting 30.4 percent from the field, 25.8 percent on 3s.

“I think we’re a little run down,’’ LaChance admitted, after the Commodores worked overtime Friday night to beat Florida for the third time this season.

“Fatigue was a big factor for us like emotionally and just physically we’re kind of tired from the past three days,’’ added teammate Joe Toye, who managed 11 points.

Drew knew what was happening, but a coach can only do so much in similar situations.

“Our legs were a little tired. That’s a good sign when you’re shots are short and don’t get to the rim. Then we also kept trying to probe, try different things and wanted to get the ball inside, try to get some baskets in the paint and wanted to drive the ball a little more,’’ Drew said.

Don’t confuse this Arkansas team with the heralded 40 Minutes of Hell teams of Nolan Richardson.

Coach Mike Anderson saw that Vanderbilt was affected by the three-day stretch. He knew the Commodores were one of the hottest teams in the country.

His team cooled them off.

“We knew we had to do it with defense,’’ Anderson said. We had to come out and really kind of make the game chaotic for them and of course they didn’t make shots. I thought the second half we really came out and our defense really turned up the pressure on Vanderbilt and gave us some easy opportunities. We extended (pressure) at times and we just disrupted (them) tonight.’’

Vanderbilt’s team will gather Sunday to hear where the basketball committee is sending them.

They were a team that had to make their presence know late in the season with upsetting favored teams. They won seven of eight games before falling to Arkansas.

From here on out, the NCAA Tournament is all about match-ups. The Commodores present a unique challenge.

Hoop, hoop, hooray.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.