FAYETTEVILLE — Sporting six seniors, the Arkansas Razorbacks are the oldest team Saturday night at Walton Arena, but it’s the Vanderbilt Commodores with a couple of old salts.
Seniors Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance lead the Commodores, 9-15 overall, 3-8 in the SEC, into the 7:30 p.m. SEC Network televised SEC game that Arkansas, 16-8, 5-6, hosts.
Like Arkansas’ Anton Beard and Trey Thompson, and unlike Arkansas’ other four seniors transferred in, Roberson and LaChance are four-year senior lettermen.
However unlike Thompson, the Forrest City High grad and big man nearly always playing off the Arkansas bench, and North Little Rock High grad Beard, the point guard in and out of the Arkansas starting lineup the last three years though starting every Arkansas game this season, Roberson and LaChance have been Vandy starting fixtures since their freshman year.
They seem around forever because it seems opponents have touted and scouted them forever. They even have two Vandy years on their coach. Bryce Drew is in Year Two coaching Roberson and LaChance. They were initially recruited by and played two years for former Vandy Coach and current Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings.
It seemed nearly every time UA coach Mike Anderson looked up last season that LaChance and Roberson were scoring or threatening to score.
Between playing home and home and in the SEC Tournament Arkansas played Vandy three times last season with LaChance and Roberson always excelling.
Roberson is Vandy’s biggest rebounder playing bigger than his 6-6 height yet handles the ball like a guard. So does 6-7 Joe Toye and Vandy true guards Lee Saben, averaging 10.7 points, sophomore Payton Willis, coming home against the Hogs a graduate of Fayetteville High, and often starting guard Maxwell Evans.
“They’re all guards,” Anderson said of Vandy’s starters as ball handlers and passers.
“We've got to find him (Roberson) in transition and we've got to find him in the halfcourt.” Anderson said. “A lot of what they do goes through him. They'll post him up. He can screen and pop. and we've got to be able to keep him off the boards as well as take him off the three-point line and be in position when he does drive the basketball. He’s very athletic.”
Vandy’s 3-8 SEC record may sound like easy pickings but the Commodores at their Memorial Gym in Nashville on Wednesday whipped Georgia, 81-66, and also in Nashville have beaten SEC rivals Alabama and those LSU Tigers that this season swept Arkansas home and home. Vandy also in Nashville upset TCU in the SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge.
Vandy hasn’t won a game anywhere but Nashville this season but Anderson is wary. Last season in Nashville the Razorbacks escaped, 71-70, at Memorial Gym and 76-62 in the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. At Walton, where the Hogs customarily prevail, Vandy thumped them, 72-59.