By Nate Allen
Special to the News-Times
FAYETTEVILLE - Sporting six seniors, the Arkansas Razorbacks are the oldest team tonight at Walton Arena, but it’s the Vanderbilt Commodores with a couple of old salts whose playing days seem dated back to Noah’s ark.
Seniors Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance lead the Commodores (9-15, 3-8) into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. SEC Network televised game that Arkansas (16-8, 5-6) hosts.
Like Arkansas’ Anton Beard and Trey Thompson, and unlike Arkansas’ other four seniors who 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 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 his second year coaching Roberson and LaChance.
They were initially recruited by and played two years for former Vandy coach and current Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings.
“You’ve got LaChance who has been there and Roberson who has been there for quite awhile,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.
It seemed nearly every time 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.
A 6-6 forward, Roberson’s three games against Arkansas last season included 14 points and 11 rebounds, 12 points and eight rebounds and 10 points and five rebounds.
LaChance, the 6-2 guard, scored 16, 12 and 12.
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 as 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.
Roberson sails on the boards, but also hits over 40 percent of his threes, as does LaChance.
“We've got to find him (Roberson) in transition and we've got to find him in the half court,” Anderson said.
“A lot of what they do goes through him. They'll post him up. He can screen and pop.
“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.
They have also in Nashville beaten SEC rivals Alabama and those LSU Tigers that this season swept Arkansas home and home.
Vandy also in Nashville upset TCU in the Big 12/SEC 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.
Currently high-scoring senior Arkansas guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford (25 and 24 points in Arkansas’ 81-65 SEC success over South Carolina last Tuesday at Walton), only scored five points each against Vandy at Walton last season.
“They came in and played awfully well here at Bud Walton Arena last year,” Anderson said.
“We want to make sure they are a little bit more uncomfortable than they were last year.”
A shoulder injury last month concluded Vandy senior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis’ career, but Anderson said it seems the Commodores seem determined to flow without him.
“Sometimes with subtraction, you get addition, because now other guys get an opportunity to showcase what they can do,” Anderson said.
“LaChance and Roberson have kind of taken charge of this team right now, and the young guys are playing, Lee, Toye, Willis. Of course you've got Payton Willis from here. I'm sure he's looking forward to the game.”