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3 spree fits for Vandy: Commodores dangerous from outside

by Bob Holt | January 24, 2017 at 2:23 a.m.
Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis (5) shoots a jump shot over Florida center John Egbunu (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Vanderbilt won 68-66. (AP Photo/Ron Irby)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- No SEC basketball team takes or makes more three-point shots than Vanderbilt.

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The Commodores have hit 187 of 479 three-pointers entering tonight's game against Arkansas at Memorial Gym.

Vanderbilt's 39.0 percent three-point shooting also leads the SEC.

Auburn, which has taken and made the second-most three-pointers in the conference, is 163 of 460.

Arkansas' 37.8 three-point percentage (123 of 325) ranks second in the SEC, but the Commodores have outscored the Razorbacks by 192 points from beyond the arc.

Earlier this season the Commodores set school and Memorial Gym records by hitting 19 of 32 three-pointers in a 90-63 victory over High Point. Seven Commodores hit at least one three-pointer.

"We have a bunch of guys who can really shoot the ball well," Vanderbilt senior forward Luke Kornet said. "It's definitely a valuable thing for us.

"It's probably not typical of a lot of teams, but it is for our team."

The Commodores have scored more points from behind the three-point line (561) than inside of it (540).

"I mean, all five of their guys that start are threats," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "They're a balanced team. They can all shoot from the perimeter."

Vanderbilt junior guard Riley LaChance leads the SEC in three-point shooting at 56.9 percent (41 of 72), including 17 of 32 (53.1 percent) in conference games.

Last season, LaChance shot 36.1 percent (43 of 119) on three-pointers after shooting 38.2 percent (66 of 173) as a freshman. His three-pointers in SEC play fell from 38.5 percent as a freshman to 34.4 as a sophomore.

"I think he's regained his confidence," Anderson said. "With a new coach, it takes time."

It shouldn't come as a surprise the Commodores' offensive focus is on three-pointers, considering Bryce Drew is their new coach after Kevin Stallings left for Pittsburgh after leading Vanderbilt for 17 seasons.

Drew, 42, was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Rockets and in six NBA seasons shot 37.1 percent from three-point range. As a college player at Valparaiso, he hit 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts, including a 23-footer at the buzzer that beat Ole Miss 70-69 in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.

"With our personnel, they migrate to the three-point line," Drew said. "They're very good three-point shooters.

"Teams will game plan against that, and they have been, to take away our threes, do we have to come up with other ways to score or other ways to create three-point shots. I think in the last couple of games our guards have done a good job getting into the lane and shrinking the defense so we can score at the rim some."

Regardless of what opposing defenses try, the three-pointer remains a staple of Vanderbilt's offense as evidenced by the Commodores hitting 10 of 25 attempts in their 68-66 victory at Florida last Saturday, including 3 of 4 by LaChance of 3 of 5 by Kornet.

Kornet said Drew has a positive approach with his players taking three-pointers.

"He definitely embraces it unless we're taking bad shots," Kornet said. "But if your offense is flowing well and people are making shots, he'll want us to keep doing it."

Vanderbilt has hit at least 10 three-pointers in five of seven SEC games, including 16 of 32 against LSU, 14 of 33 against Auburn, 10 of 26 against Alabama and 10 of 31 against Georgia.

"When you have guys on the perimeter that all have to be guarded like Vanderbilt does, it really makes it tough on you defensively," Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl said. "Because you've got to account for everybody."

Senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis is second in the SEC in made three-pointers per game (2.8) and has hit 53 of 136 (39.0 percent).

Payton Willis, a freshman guard Fayetteville, has hit 17 of 45 three-pointers (37.8 percent); Kornet 29 of 77 (37.7); senior guard Nolan Cressler 15 of 36 (41.7); and junior forward Jeff Roberson 19 of 68 (27.9).

Alabama Coach Avery Johnson, a former NBA player and coach, said how Kornet, 7-1, shoots three-pointers reminds him of how he used 7-0 Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks against the Houston Rockets' 7-6 Yao Ming.

"We couldn't handle Yao Ming inside," Johnson said. "So I said, 'OK, we're going to force you outside and get you out of the paint with Dirk's three-point shooting.'

"Kornet presents those same challenges of making big guys move further and further away from the basket to have to deal with his three-point shot."

Anderson said the Razorbacks will use 6-10 Moses Kingsley and their other post players to challenge Kornet on the perimeter when necessary.

"We've got to be out there with him and hopefully make him uncomfortable," Anderson said. "We can't sit there and let him spot up."

Arkansas' opponents have hit 33.2 percent (141 of 425) of their three-point attempts, including 9 of 15 by Minnesota, 12 of 26 by Mississippi State, 12 of 30 by North Florida, 10 of 29 by Mount St. Mary's, 9 of 26 by Florida and Missouri, 8 of 22 by Houston and 7 of 20 by LSU.

The Commodores average 10.6 made three-pointers in SEC games.

"We have to do a much better job of guarding the perimeter, because we've had teams that really kind of torched us," Anderson said. "We have to be at our best on defense."

Sports on 01/24/2017

Print Headline: 3 spree fits for Vandy

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