Dec. 7, 2006
The game may be somewhat historical in its magnitude, but the advice the Lipscomb Bisons are receiving about playing the Vanderbilt Commodores is no different than they would get for any other game.
If they shoot like they are expected to shoot, play defense like they are expected to play defense and take care of the ball like they are expected to take care of the ball then everything should be O.K.
The two teams are only a few miles apart, but have not faced each other in a basketball game since 1955. Game time is 8 p.m. Thursday at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym. The game will be televised live on CSS with George Plaster providing the play-by-play and Wimp Sanderson, father of Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, serving as color analyst.
A victory by the Bisons would be another chapter for the school's sports history book, but Scott Sanderson isn't making a big deal out of this game.
"I've always looked at games like this different," Sanderson said. "If you make one game bigger than your other games then how do you get your players ready to play those other games. I haven't figured that out yet."
The Bisons haven't played since Saturday afternoon. Vanderbilt played ETSU, another Atlantic Sun team, Tuesday night, leaving them one day to prepare for the Bisons.
"Our preparation for Vanderbilt has been no different than it is for anybody else," Sanderson said. "We have had three days of preparation so hopefully that will be of benefit to us. But as far as the emphasis or what we are doing there is not anything different going into it."
Sanderson admits there is a lot of excitement surrounding the game with Vanderbilt. He also realizes a victory over a Southeastern Conference team would be a major boost for the program.
"Beating those guys would mean a lot to our team and to our university," Sanderson said. "There is been more interest because we are playing a team of local interest. Going over there and playing them is a win-win for us.
"We want to go over there and play well. We are getting exposure, but more than anything it gives us an opportunity to get better playing an SEC team in preparation for the rest of our A-Sun Conference games."
The Bisons, defending A-Sun regular season champions, opened conference play last week with home wins over Jacksonville and North Florida. When it comes to NCAA and NIT berths Sanderson knows it is all about conference play, especially for mid-major schools.
"I would much rather win our Atlantic Sun Conference games than to go over and win against Vanderbilt," Sanderson said. "People might say I'm crazy, but those conference games are far more important than any of our non-conference games. Our league at our level is very important. A league like the SEC is going to get six at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
"The games against Jacksonville and North Florida were very, very important. If we had lost one of those games it would have been critical."
Lipscomb and Vanderbilt players spend a great deal of time playing each other in pick-up games during the summer so there is familiarity with the personnel for both teams. And both teams are also very similar in their styles of play.
"They are very guard-oriented and we are very guard-oriented," Sanderson said. "They haven't shot the ball well until they played ETSU. We have shot the ball O.K. They want to push the ball down the floor. We want to push the ball down the floor. We both play man-to-man defense.
"But when I look at Vanderbilt the best thing they do is execute the half-court offense. They know the shots they are going to be taking. They are very unselfish. They move the basketball."
"For whatever reason we have had a different guy step up each night," Sanderson said. "The beauty of that is we are still winning. When you are not playing well and you are still winning that is a good sign.
"Do we have to play better against Vanderbilt to have a chance to win. There is no question about it. We have to play much better, not only offensively, but we have a lot of room for improvement defensively. Guarding people is our forte and we have not been great defensively. And the most important thing is our players know it."