Eighteen games in, this Vanderbilt team continues to make its case as one of the more unpredictable squads in Kevin Stallings’ 14 years at the helm.
On Monday, Stallings hinted he might add to that uncertainty with a lineup change.
After an 81-59 whipping at Missouri on Saturday, Stallings sounds prepared to try the season’s fourth different starting lineup when the Commodores head to Knoxville to play in-state rival Tennessee on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
“You never know what can happen around here,” he said. “It is a day-by-day process. If you want to keep your job you better produce. We got to try to put the guys out there that are the most productive and see how they do. I like lineups that can score, get stops and get rebounds.”
After combining for two points, two rebounds and three fouls, big men Josh Henderson and Shelby Moats were working with the scout team before practice on Monday.
“I don’t care if [the starting five is] compromised of walk-ons, tall guys, short guys, fat guys, slow guys,” Stallings said. “If they can score, get rebounds and defensive stops then I like them. If they can’t then I got to try to find something else.”
Stallings didn’t dismiss the possibility that 6-foot-9 power forward Rod Odom could move to center or the minutes of seldom-used reserve James Siakam, an undersized but athletic sophomore with a 6-foot-7, 215-pound frame, could increase.
“It is not something I’ve had to do yet,” Odom said of playing center. “But I’m sure if I do have to do that we’ll make the necessary adjustments to help me play the position.”
Against Missouri, Odom tied a career-high with 17 points on six-of-12 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Leading up to the game the junior had made just 28.2 percent (11 of 39) of his shots.
“I had been shooting it better in practice and getting more confidence,” Odom said. “I was just being more relaxed when I shot the ball and I think that helped me a whole lot.”
Moats, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, showed promise against Kentucky three weeks ago when he set career-highs with nine points and 10 rebounds. He has started the last four games but averaged just 2.8 points. He replaced Henderson, a 6-foot-11 center who is averaging just 4.0 points and went scoreless on Saturday for the third time this season.
Both players took an early seat on the bench in the first half while Missouri humiliated Vanderbilt on the boards with a 40-18 rebounding edge.
“There was a message that was sent,” Moats said of Stallings putting him on the bench. “Honestly, we thought we were going to come out and play well. They hit some shots early. I missed some box outs early. It kind of gave them emotion. The crowd got into it. After the first four minutes, they just jumped on us. … After that it was kind of like fighting to not be embarrassed, which was not necessarily accomplished.”
The Commodores (8-10, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) have renewed their focus on boxing out and grabbing rebounds with the Vols (10-8, 2-4) up next.
Tennessee has lost five of seven but squeaked out a 54-53 victory over Alabama on Saturday. Sophomore Jarnell Stokes scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds. He contributed nearly half of the team’s rebounds as Tennessee matched its average with 37. Alabama snatched just 22 rebounds.
Stokes, a 6-foot-8, 270-pounder, averages 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. Guard Jordan McRae ranks 10th in the SEC with 14.7 points a game.
“Their strength and physicality, inside especially, is a problem and daunting for sure,” Stallings said. “We’re not the most physical team in there right now anyway. So it may be more of a problem for us. They had one guy [Stokes] get almost as many rebounds as the entire Alabama team on Saturday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. … Tennessee is as physical up front as any team in the league. Stokes, if he is not the strongest guy in the league, he is certainly one of them and one of the strongest guys in the country. Not only he is big, strong and athletic but he is intelligent in how he uses his strength.”