In just five years at Missouri, coach Mike Anderson has built a program that prides itself on up-tempo, full-court basketball.
In fact, Anderson has nicknamed his team’s style of play as “The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.” It is fitting, considering Anderson played for and coached with Nolan Richardson and Arkansas – which self-titled its approach as “40 minutes of hell.”
When Vanderbilt plays No. 15 Missouri on ESPNU at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Columbia, Mo., though, the Commodores plan to play more than just 40 minutes.
“We tend to think it is going to be 80 minutes of it because we are going to dish something out too,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “They came in here last year and it wasn’t a one-way game. It was both teams going at each other and that is what it will be (Wednesday) night.”
It will be the fifth meeting between the schools, with Vanderbilt having won the last three including a 89-83 decision last year at Memorial Gym. Despite 24 turnovers, the Commodores led by 14 with more than five minutes left. Missouri then went on a run and pulled within one before coming up short.
This year, Vanderbilt (7-1) enters the game on a five-game win streak. Missouri (6-1) suffered its first loss last week in an 111-102 overtime thriller to Georgetown, which is ranked ninth by the AP.
The Tigers are known for their full-court pressure defense, which has created an averaged of 21 turnovers in seven games. That could spell bad news for the Commodores, who turned the ball over 20 times against Belmont on Saturday and had 23 miscues against Western Kentucky last week.
“I think some of it has been aggressive turnovers. Some of it has been the ones we don’t want, which are just jumping up in the air with nowhere to go and not really having everything thought out,” Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor said. “To be able to have a chance to win at Missouri we have to really not turn the ball over a lot and play under control. We are a very capable team. We have a lot of people that can play basketball so I think we will be just fine (with the full-court press).”
The Commodores will be without Andre Walker, though. The starting forward is expected to miss the next three games due to mononucleosis. He is second on the team in assists and steals and Stallings has called him the team’s best defender. Freshman forward Rod Odom started in his place on Saturday against Belmont. Stallings said Tuesday that he will either start Odom or junior forward Lance Goulbourne against Missouri.
With Missouri’s frenetic style of play, the Tigers capitalize on a lot of fastbreak opportunities. It shows in the results as Missouri has scored more than 90 points three times this season and it ranks 11th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 84.7 points a game. The Tigers have five players who average at least 10 points.
“I think they are kind of unique in the way they play,” Taylor said. “They require a little bit more attention when you are trying to prepare for them. There are a lot of teams that like to press but the way they do it and their defensive rules are a little bit different from everybody else.”
Through eight games, Vanderbilt is showing it has the ability to score, too.
The Commodores average 79.4 points, which is the best among Southeastern Conference teams. Guard John Jenkins (18.6 points per game), center Festus Ezeli (13.3 ppg) and Taylor (12.1) all average double-digit figures. Plus, guard Brad Tinsley averages 9.4 points.
“We have some weapons,” Stallings said. “That’s why when people wondered even before the season started wondered why I was confident in our team, we have weapons. We have good players. ... I knew if things fell together that are team would have a real good shot at being good.
“We have a number of guys who are capable and they are great guys to coach. There is never a day in practice where we are trying to pull the effort out of them or trying to talk them into playing hard or wanting to be in practice. They do it on their own and for those reasons you have confidence as coaches that they’ll perform well.”