The Kentucky Wildcats picked up a big win on Tuesday over the Texas A&M Aggies while handcuffed with only 7 scholarship players available. Based on Coach Cal’s comments yesterday, it would appear that the roster may be shortened again today. If the Cats do get minutes out of any of the injured players, they will surely be limited.
Today’s match up brings the Cats to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy is a year away from being a contender in the SEC, with two 5-star recruits already committed. However, with likely only 7 contributing today for the Cats, the Commodores cannot be overlooked.
Head Coach Bryce Drew is in his second season at Vanderbilt, and he’s making the most of what he can do with Kevin Stallings’ players, but this season has been a struggle so far. Sitting at 6-10 on the season, the Commodores are looking to avoid their third string of losing three straight games this season. There should be no issue for a full-strength Kentucky team against Vanderbilt, but we have to keep in mind that the Cats have four injured players.
#11 Jeff Roberson, Senior Forward, 6’6″
Jeff Roberson is now a four year starter for the Vanderbilt Commodores. He was the team’s leading rebounder last season, despite the presence of 7-footer Luke Kornet in the lineup. Roberson has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in two out of his first three years.
The senior is the leading scorer for this Vanderbilt squad, at 14.8 points, and leading rebounder as well, at 7.8 rebounds per game. He can score from both inside and outside, and his shooting touch is the best its been his entire collegiate career. He’s shooting 43.3% from three-point land and 87.5% from the free throw line.
The Commodores lack a lot of size on their roster, and in this projected starting line up, Roberson is the second tallest player. At 6’6″ and 220 pounds, he will be at a real size disadvantage in his match up with Kentucky’s PJ Washington. Washington has the length of a real power forward and outweighs Roberson by just under 20 pounds. PJ’s streak of good games as of late means that he should be able to play some bully-ball in the paint with Roberson, but defending Roberson on the perimeter should be a challenge.
#5 Matthew Fisher-Davis, Senior Guard, 6’5″
Matthew Fisher-Davis was an on and off starter for the past three seasons, and it continues this year. He’s now started 69 of 115 games scattered throughout his career. Last season’s leading scorer, Fisher-Davis is a bonafide scorer and loves to shoot from the outside. He came into this season ranked 8th all-time in career made threes in Vanderbilt history.
As a senior, Fisher-Davis is ranking second on the team in both points and rebounds on the season. He’s currently averaging 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and a team leading 1.2 steals per game. Unfortunately for Fisher-Davis, his shooting percentage has fallen to the worst of his career this season, hitting 34.3% on the year. His drop in percentage hasn’t stopped him from shooting though, as 102 of his 156 shots attempted on the year have been from behind the arc.
Fisher-Davis is more of a shooting guard, but with two other guards in the projected starting lineup, he moves to the 3 position. Kevin Knox measures in at 6’9″ and 215 pounds, giving him a four inch and 30 pound advantage on Fisher-Davis. We saw Knox get back to his scoring ways against Texas A&M, but he needs to work on not picking up stupid fouls so he can stay on the court. Look for Knox to continue his aggressiveness against the Commodores today.
#13 Riley LaChance, Senior Guard, 6’2″
Riley LaChance is in the midst of his 47th season at Vanderbilt…or at least it feels like it. The senior has been a starter since stepping on campus at Vanderbilt. His freshman season was actually his best, as far as averages go, and he was named to the 2014-15 SEC All-Freshman Team.
The third senior in the starting lineup, LaChance is also the third dynamite outside shooter in the starting lineup. LaChance shoots 43% from the outside and nearly 89% from the free throw line. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per contest on the season. LaChance played the point guard position last year, but has made the move to the two-guard position for a lot of this season.
LaChance starting at the two -guard position would mean he would match up with Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo, but if he starts at the point, he’ll be defended by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. With Kentucky not having a healthy Quade Green today, Gilgeous-Alexander will likely be playing a ton of minutes again. If Diallo is matched up with LaChance, look for Kentucky to try to feed Diallo for scores, similar to the second half against Texas A&M.
#0 Saben Lee, Freshman Guard, 6’2″
Saben Lee has been starting opposite Riley LaChance in the backcourt and is setting up to be a big contributor for the future for Bryce Drew. Lee was a three-star recruit out of Corona Del Sol High School in Arizona. He chose the Commodores over Louisville, Stanford, Florida State, and Nebraska.
Lee hasn’t been a starter all season, but he is playing over 24 minutes per game as a freshman. He’s giving Coach Drew 11.2 points, a team-leading 3.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. He’s not a great outside shooter, only hitting 26.3% of his threes, but can definitely score going to the rim.
The freshman starting at the point guard position means he’ll most likely match up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. I mentioned above about how important Gilgeous-Alexander will be in this game should Quade Green not be able to go, and defensively will be the most important part. With good three-point shooters all over the court for the Commodores, a zone may be out of the question for parts of this game. This means that Vanderbilt will most likely try to run Shai through a large amount of screens to wear him out.
#12 Djery Baptiste, Sophomore Center, 6’10”
Djery Baptiste was originally a four-star prospect out of Plano, Texas. He redshirted his first year in Nashville and played less than 8 minutes per contest last season. Born in Haiti, Baptiste speaks four different languages and actually hopes to be a diplomat for his native country after his basketball career.
The redshirt sophomore is the resident big man in the starting lineup for a lot of this season for Bryce Drew. He’s currently contributing 4.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and a team leading 1.1 blocks per game. He’s a blue collar type player and is a strong presence in the paint. He hits 73.3% of his free throws.
At 6’10” and 235 pounds, Baptiste is a solid sized big man to match up with Kentucky’s starting center Nick Richards. Richards has been struggling as of late, between not contributing a ton statistically and picking up early fouls. In the Texas A&M game, when Kentucky needed subs, Richards still barely played in the second half. He’ll have to step up down the stretch if Kentucky is going to be the best team it can be.
Go Cats. Beat Commodores.