Vanderbilt’s defense forces Marquette into tough jump shots
Vanderbilt relied on a part of their game that has struggled so far in the early part of their season, their defense. They held Marquette to 0.83 points per possession, their second best defensive efficiency of the season (behind December 21st’s 0.82 PPP by Lafayette) and Marquette’s worst offensive output by far. Much of this can be attributed to the presence of Festus Ezeli guarding the rim but the performance against Marquette was a total team effort.
The defense of Vanderbilt was designed to give up three point shots to the Golden Eagles while taking away dribble penetration. They showed some pack line defense principles throughout the game as they sagged off the three point line while closing any lanes to the rim. This caused Marquette to settle for many three point shots, as they were not aggressive in trying to create lanes for penetration.
Meanwhile, the help defense was focused on rotating to penetration when Marquette did find lanes, while leaving shooters on the perimeter. Vanderbilt was content with giving Marquette looks from beyond the arc and letting a 34% 3 point shooting team continue to shoot from long distance instead of finding space at the rim.
These philosophies by Vanderbilt forced Marquette into 3-15 shooting from the three point line. They sagged off shooters to take away penetration and rotated several defenders to the ball while leaving shooters open when penetration did occur. Marquette has not shown they are an elite shooting team and Vanderbilt allowed them to shoot from the outside all night.
This defense also forced Marquette into mid range jump shots instead of layups at the rim off penetration. Vanderbilt did a great job of taking away lanes to the rim and forcing Marquette to settle for jumpers. Some blame has to be placed on Marquette for not being more aggressive but Vanderbilt was excellent in making Marquette a passive team.
Vanderbilt surprised many by winning this game with tough defense and forcing Marquette into jump shots by taking away their routes to the rim for layups. Having Ezeli is not the sole reason that their defense played tougher this game but having him as an anchor on defense really helped their mentality, as they were more aggressive in their rotations, knowing Ezeli was there to cover up their mistakes. The question now is whether Vanderbilt can use this performance as a springboard for the rest of the season or whether they will revert to their early season form, where their defense was being shredded.