Three quick takes as Vanderbilt escapes from Central Arkansas
It took up until the buzzer, but two late free throws by Ezra Manjon helped Vanderbilt to escape with a 75-71 win over what was KenPom's 329th ranked team heading into Friday night.
Vanderbilt moves to 3-1 as it heads to Las Vegas for the Vegas showdown. That doesn't mean that it doesn't have questions, though.
The Commodores were outrebounded 37-34, shot over 20% lower beyond the arc than the ASUN's lowest ranked team and struggled to close this one out despite Central Arkansas not having Cam Hunter, its best player.
Three quick takes:
How long can this keep happening?
It's not Kentucky, not Auburn and not Tennessee, it's Central Arkansas.
It's also Presbyterian and USC Upstate. That makes threee teams that haven't finished in the top half of their leagues that Vanderbilt has been neck-and-neck with down the stretch.
One of those teams lost 18 division one games in a row before coming to Memorial Gymnasium, one lost by nearly 30 points to South Carolina just days before and one was picked last in its preseason poll and was without its best player.
Vanderbilt is without three rotational guys, we get that. At some point you're in the SEC and the other teams aren't, at some point you've gotta help yourself in the computers.
At some point this can't keep being a realistic outcome. Vanderbilt knew it had to win these games by a significant margin, it hasn't.
If this keeps up, Vanderbilt will have about as steep of a climb as it can get once it reaches SEC play.
Vanderbilt got a reminder as to how important Ezra Manjon is
All the life that a Vanderbilt lead gave Memorial Gymnasium was sucked out of it when its best player to this point sat grimacing on the floor and was helped off by trainers.
Manjon was the SEC's leading scorer heading in to Friday night, is Vanderbilt's leader and its heart and soul. Vanderbilt has some capable ballhandlers but it's hard to see a way that it could consistently move forward without Manjon.
Heck, it struggled when he had to sit out a half last year at LSU and this year against Presbyterian with foul trouble.
Luckily for Vanderbilt, Manjon checked back into the game
It's gut check time
Vanderbilt has struggled to find much to hang its hat on through four games, its computer numbers have fallen and it has a quad four loss.
Next week's MTE in Las Vegas will present some opportunity for Vanderbilt, not only to pick up some rèsumè boosters but to find out what it really has.
Tyrin Lawrence, Ven-Allen Lubin and Lee Dort's return seems likely. We'll find out if that's the reason for these early-season struggles or if this is who Vanderbilt really is.
The Commodores' Feast Week trip to Vegas feels more important than it should.
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