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Can Northwestern Stop Vanderbilt’s Shooters?

The Wildcats will have to put their defense to work vs. the Comodores

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Northwestern vs Wisconsin Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern will enter their first NCAA Tournament in program history as an 8-seed and will face the 9-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores.

Bryce Drew is the head coach of Vanderbilt. He joined the men’s basketball team as head coach after spending 5 years as head coach at his alma mater, Valparaiso.

While Nate Taphorn is famous for “The Pass” and Dererk Pardon is famous for “The Shot” and together, they’re known as “The Play” that made Northwestern history, Bryce Drew has a famous shot of his own.

In the 1998 NCAA Tournament, Drew played for Valparaiso. They were seeded as 13th facing Ole Miss, who was seeded as a 4. The two teams matched up in a close game in the first round.

In the final seconds when they were down one, Bryce Drew hit a three-point shot from 23 feet away that gave Valparaiso the upset and a chance to play in the second round. This play is known as “the shot” and it is in Valparaiso history as one of the most remarkable plays.

-Who Vanderbilt Is:

Vanderbilt played a similar schedule to Northwestern this season. In the non-conference, they faced teams that Northwestern also played this season.

  • On November 24th, Vanderbilt lost to Butler 76-66
  • On December 3rd, Vanderbilt lost to Minnesota 56-52
  • On December 21st, Vanderbilt lost to Dayton 86-63

Northwestern lost to Butler and Minnesota, but beat Dayton in the non-conference.

-What To Watch For:

-Defending the Three-point line

Vanderbilt is a three-point shooting team. Every player on their roster can shoot from deep, and they rely heavily on it. Northwestern will need to defend the three-point arc well and take the Vanderbilt shooters out of their places in order to win this game.

Northwestern ranks second in the Big Ten and 34th nationally in scoring defense. They allow an average of 65.1 points per game. At points this year, Northwestern struggled to defend the three-point line. In the game at Purdue, Northwestern lost, and a major part of their loss was that the defense could not defend the three-point line. In that loss, Northwestern was also without Scottie Lindsey, their second-best perimeter defender.

If Northwestern defends the three-point line well, they will put themselves in position defensively to win the game.

-Players to Watch For

Matthew Fisher-Davis is the leading scorer for Vanderbilt. He’s a junior guard/forward and he averages 13.6 points per game through the season. In conference play, he dipped to 12.8 points per game, good for second on the team. In conference play, he shot 38% from the floor, 34% from three, and 75% from the line.

Luke Kornet is the second-leading scorer on the team. He is a senior forward who averaged 12.8 points per game through the season. In conference play, he averaged 14.1 points per game, good for first on the team. In conference play, he shot 45% from the floor, 38% from three, and 86% from the line.

Riley Lachance was their best three-point shooter from three, shooting at 44%.

-Getting to the Paint

Vanderbilt shoots 75% as a team from the free throw line and they are not afraid to make contact in the paint from there. Northwestern will have to guard drivers in the lane and be careful with their fouling.

Overall

This is a solid matchup for Northwestern. They’ve seen similar teams like this in conference play and they have the ability to defend well. Look for a tight battle when the two teams face off later this week.