GAME NOTES: The Vanderbilt Commodores will attempt to extend their winning streak to three games on Monday night when they host the Cornell Big Red at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
After winning its opener over Western Michigan (63-55), Cornell dug itself a hole by losing its next four games, but fortunately it has turned things around of late. The Big Red are winners of three of their last four, defeating Presbyterian (89-55), Longwood (84-78) and Colgate (70-63). This matchup will be their first after a 16-day layoff.
The Commodores ran into some similar early-season troubles, losing four of five following an opening night win versus Nicholls State (80-65). However, Vanderbilt has been able to crawl back to .500 in recent weeks by collecting an impressive road win over Xavier (66-64 in OT), and following that up with a blowout victory at home against Alabama A&M on Saturday (71-46).
Vanderbilt has won both previous meeting between these two programs, with the Commodores winning most recently (95-79) in December of 1987.
It has been a sluggish first month for Cornell at the offensive end of the court, as it is making just 40.5 percent of its field goal attempts in averaging 64.9 ppg. However, the Big Red has managed to net 80.7 ppg in their last three wins. The shooting effort wasn't great the last time out (.400), but the squad was able to hold on for the seven-point victory by forcing Colgate into an even worse 37.9 percent effort from the floor. Shonn Miller was a beast in the paint, tallying 20 points and 14 rebounds while also adding four blocks and three steals. Errick Peck provided a spark off the bench with 14 points and seven boards, and Johnathan Gray chipped in 10 points. Not only has Miller been the team's leading scorer this season (10.0 ppg), but he is also one of the most physical forwards in the Ivy League, putting up 7.4 rpg, 2.1 spg and 1.9 bpg. Nolan Cressler nets 9.0 ppg and has drained 17 3-pointers at a 42.5 percent clip.
The mediocre nature of Vanderbilt's season can be perfectly assessed by its scoring margin, as it averages the exact same amount of points as it allows (60.6 ppg). The Commodores were able to take advantage of a weak opponent on Saturday, shooting 51 percent from the floor (including 10-of-21 from 3-point range) in the convincing win over Alabama A&M. Kedren Johnson led the way with 19 points, and he has reached double figures in all but one game this season. Rod Odom drained 4-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 17 points, and Josh Henderson added 13 points on a nearly perfect night from the field (6-of-7). Johnson has been one of the best players in the SEC thus far, as he is shooting well from just about everywhere on the floor (.472 overall, .392 from 3-point range) in averaging 17.3 ppg, while also producing 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg and 2.0 spg. Kyle Fuller nets 12.5 ppg and dishes out 3.0 apg, Odom tacks on 10.1 ppg, and Kevin Bright leads the team with 7.6 rpg.
Both teams appear to be on the upswing after slow starts, but the inconsistencies shown makes it difficult to predict how each will respond on a nightly basis. The Commodores have more dynamic scoring options and the home crowd on their side, giving them the slight advantage in this one.