Vanderbilt, under new head coach Bryce Drew, is sitting in a four way tie for eighth place in the SEC but the ‘Dores are coming off an upset win over No. 21 Florida in Gainesville. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, who will bring his Razorbacks into historic Memorial Gym Tuesday night, said Vandy’s win did not surprise him.
“They’ve got a veteran group of players,” Anderson told reporters in a Monday afternoon press conference. “When you think about (Riley) La Chance, this guy’s a junior. He’s played for two years in the SEC. (Luke) Kornet’s a senior. (Matthew) Fisher-Davis, he’s a junior. (Jeff) Roberson, a very good player. The (Nolan) Cressler kid, he’s a transfer that’s been there. This is his 4th or 5th year.”
On paper Vanderbilt would appear to offer a huge challenge to an Arkansas team that has struggled with defensive inconsistencies. The Commodores lead the SEC in three point shooting and scoring but they can also attack in the paint with success.
“All five of their guys who start, they’re threats,” Anderson marveled. “They all can shoot the ball from the perimeter. That opens up the floor and when you’ve got the big (7-1) kid Kornet in the middle, he has deep range and and he can go inside, outside.”
“We got to be out there with ’em,” Anderson continued, “hopefully make them uncomfortable but you can’t sit there and let ’em spot up and think that they’re not going to make ’em. They’ve shown the capacity to make three point shots. That’s what they do. But they also attack the basket and do a lot of great things offensively. Spread the floor. We’ve got to guard ’em. It’s going to test our patience.”
Anderson is hoping to have guard Manny Watkins back at full strength by Tuesday night. Watkins played just two minutes due to illness in Saturday’s win over LSU. The Tigers shot 52% against Arkansas and put up 49 second half points in a 99-86 scoring contest. Anderson blamed some of his team’s lax defense on the absence of Watkins, telling reporters, “We saw the effects of that even in the LSU game. Manuel being a senior, he has that mentality he’s not going to let down on defense.”
The Razorbacks return to Memorial Gym for the first time since 2014. With team benches located behind the baseline instead of the traditional sideline arrangement at most schools, Anderson admitted coaching becomes a little more difficult, especially when his players are on the opposite end of the court. At times they have to coach themselves, he stressed.
“They got to talk and communicate with one another. They got to be the ultimate team in that setting,” Anderson concluded.