Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Pick & Prediction JANUARY 14th 2023

Stadium: Memorial Gym Nashville
Logo Arkansas Razorbacks
Logo Vanderbilt Commodores

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When they meet for the first time this season Saturday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn., No. 15 Arkansas and Vanderbilt need to turn their young Southeastern Conference campaigns around.

For Arkansas (12-4, 1-3 SEC), a team that had high hopes, that need is immediate.

After winning 12 of their first 14 games and getting mentioned in a group of early SEC favorites as a possible Final Four contender, the Razorbacks have lost their last two games against ranked opponents.

The team's current stumbles can be traced back to a pair of unfortunate occurrences earlier in the season.

Freshman sensation Nick Smith Jr. was sidelined early in the campaign with soreness in his right knee. That led to more missed games and an update from soreness to "right knee management."

The ailment currently persists for the talented 6-foot-5 guard -- a five-star talent who can create his own shot and run the offense through him.

"I would assume that that will be the case for the next, not to speculate, but I mean that's probably going to be the case throughout the rest of the month," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said of not having Smith available. "(We) certainly (don't have) the expectation that he'll play in the next few games."

With Smith likely out through January and 6-foot-10 force Trevon Brazile (torn ACL) gone for the season, the Razorbacks have dropped three of their past four games, starting with a 60-57 defeat at LSU on Dec. 28.

Arkansas lost decisively 72-59 at No. 22 Auburn last Saturday, then dropped an 84-69 decision at home against No. 4 Alabama on Wednesday after they were within two points with under five minutes remaining.

In those two defeats combined, Musselman's group made just 45 of 117 attempted shots (38.5 percent) and 4 of 26 from long range (15.4 percent).

"It's hard to win right now when you're not making 3s (and) I don't know if we will," Musselman said after Wednesday's defeat. "We're offensively challenged. That's a fact, not an opinion. And there would be a lot of other teams offensively challenged if two players they built a roster around aren't here."

Arkansas has an all-time record of 29-13 against Vanderbilt but has split the 16 contests in Nashville.

In their most recent meeting, on Jan. 4 of last year, the Commodores stunned the host Razorbacks 75-74, but Arkansas has still won 11 of the last 13 between the teams.

On Tuesday at No. 5 Tennessee, Vanderbilt (8-8, 1-2) played a strong first half and led 39-37 at the break after a last-second layup by Jordan Wright. But the Vols outscored the Commodores 40-29 in the second for a 77-68 win and their 25th consecutive home victory.

"I still think we had opportunities we left on the table," Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said of the impressive first half. "We've been in games for four years now. It's on me and our staff to raise our level."

Added Stackhouse, "In my mind, (Tennessee) is the best team in the SEC."

The loss was Vanderbilt's second consecutive on the road against a ranked team, after losing 85-82 to No. 20 Missouri on Saturday.

Vanderbilt 7-footer Liam Robbins (13.2 points per game) led the squad in both defeats and has scored in double digits his past three outings and 12 of 16 so far. The Davenport, Iowa native leads the team in rebounding (6.1) and blocks (2.9).

--Field Level Media

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Recap JAN 23TH 2021

Vanderbilt went a stretch of 17:35 without a field goal, as Arkansas throttled the Commodores on their Senior Night by an 84-48 score at Nashville's Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday evening.

Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (20 points) and guard Mason Jones (16) led the way for the Razorbacks. Guard Aaron Nesmith led Vandy with 11.

Razorback guard Isaiah Joe (12) broke the all-time Razorback record for 3-point field goals. Joe's third of the game came with 6:27 left, giving him 103 for the season, breaking current UA assistant Scotty Thurman's mark. He would finish 4-for-6 from long range.

The Commodores extended their school-record losing streak to 18 games.

Vanderbilt missed its last 16 shots from the field in the first half -- a span of 13:17 -- and turned it over 10 times.

Somehow, the Commodores trailed 29-25 at the break. But it wouldn't be a contest much longer.

A Gafford dunk with 17:09 left gave Arkansas its biggest lead to that point at 38-25, prompting a Vandy timeout.

Finally, a Gafford goaltend with 15:42 snapped VU's field-goal drought. The Commodores finally got one without assistance with 12:49 left on Nesmith's breakaway layup.

Arkansas grabbed its first 20-point advantage at 50-29 on guard Reggie Chaney's layup with 10:47 left in the game.

A 3 by guard Maxwell Evans with 13:17 left in the first half put Vandy up 15-5. But the Razorbacks got in the bonus with 6:14 left, and Jones gave Arkansas its first lead at 21-19 with the ensuing free throws.

Barely a minute later, Jones stripped Vanderbilt forward Simi Shittu and laid it in on the other end, putting the Razorbacks up by seven.

It was the final home game for Vanderbilt senior Joe Toye.

Vanderbilt, playing without injured starting forward Matt Ryan, is down to eight active scholarship players.

The problem compounded when Nesmith picked up a third foul with 36 seconds left.

The Commodores finished under .500 (8-10) at Memorial Gym for the first time in school history. The building opened for the 1953-54 season.

--Field Level Media