The Georgia Bulldogs roll into Nashville on Thursday to take on the 16th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores.
Surprisingly, it’s the ‘Dores that will be the team looking for revenge.
The Dawgs handed the Commodores their second SEC loss back on February 6th in Athens. In the 72-58 victory, Georgia’s bench out-scored Vanderbilt’s 17-5, and Vandy starters A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor were held to a combined 14 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the field.
Too bad Coach Kevin Stalling’s doesn’t want to play the rematch at Stegeman Coliseum as well.
Georgia is now winless in nine true road games this year, and getting the first one in Nashville is going to be difficult. Vanderbilt is 13-1 this season playing at home in Memorial Gymnasium, with their one loss coming at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday.
Last season, the Dawgs lost to the Commodores in Nashville 50-40 (Georgia only had 18 points going into the half).
Actually, Georgia hasn’t won at Memorial Gym since February of 2006. The Dawgs have won only two times in their last 10 games in Nashville. There’s something about that raised floor that just doesn’t sit right with the Bulldogs.
The fact that Georgia was able to hold the ‘Dores to only 58 points in the first meeting is a testament to how well the Dawgs can play defense. Vandy is second in the conference scoring, averaging 77.2 per game. They are also second in the conference in both team field goal (46%) and three-point percentage (34.8%).
The Vanderbilt offensive attack starts with senior point guard Jermaine Beal. Beal is averaging 16.3 points in SEC play this season, and he shoots a robust 45.5% from the field and 41.1% from beyond the arc in nearly 35 minutes of play.
He is a very difficult match-up for opposing team’s because he can create his own shot off the dribble, and he is deadly from three-point range. He scored 21 points in the first game against Georgia, knocking down 4 three-balls.
Swedish native Jeffrey Taylor has been enjoying a very successful sophomore campaign. The 6’7″ Taylor is averaging 14.4 points in conference games, and lately he has been the leader inside. Over his past four games, he is scoring 19.3 points and snagging 5.5 rebounds.
Vandy’s other big threat on the inside is 6’11” junior center A.J. Ogilvy. In SEC games, Ogilvy is netting 15.1 points and bringing down 6.6 rebounds. The Dawgs (namely Albert Jackson) held A.J. in check last game, so I look for him to come out and play with a strong sense of purpose on Thursday.
The rest of the starting five is rounded out by a pair of sophomores – guard Brad Tinsley and 6’7″ forward Andre Walker. Tinsley has struggled with his shooting this year (only 28.6% from three-point range), but he is still averaging 8.3 points and 3.2 assists per contest. Walker isn’t much of a scorer, but in SEC games he is grabbing 6.4 boards a night.
Freshman reserve sharp-shooter John Jenkins is scoring 8.9 points a game in the SEC, and hitting nearly 44% of his three’s on the season. Jenkins is (in my opinion) somewhat of an “X factor” for this team. When he comes off the bench in SEC games and gets 10 points or more, Vandy is 5-1. However, when Jenkins is held under 10 points the ‘Dores are only 2-2 (against the Dawgs earlier this month he scored merely 1 point on 0 for 9 shooting). His scoring off the bench can be critical in giving Vandy the offensive punch they need to power past teams.
Some things to look for:
The Tale of Two Halves:
In the Dawgs’ six SEC road games this year, Mark Fox’s team has gone into the halftime break with the lead in four of them. “Losing the halftime lead” has sort of been one of the mantra’s of this team. These second-half collapses can largely be attributed to defensive lapses and costly turnovers in the game’s final four minutes.
In the first meeting between these teams, Georgia went into the half down 26-23 to Vanderbilt. The Dawgs then came out in the second half and blew the ‘Dores out.
How will the Dawgs start out and finish in Thursday night’s game?
Coach Fox has been preaching lately how much his staff is stressing to the team the importance of playing defense for 40 minutes. He has repeatedly mentioned time and time again how poor second half defense has “crushed” (his words not mine) the Dawgs on numerous occasions.
The good news is that Vandy is not exactly lighting up the nets lately (please don’t let this be the jinx that gets them going again). In the ‘Dores last two games, they have made only 6 of 33 attempts from beyond the arc.
It will be difficult for Vandy’s perimeter shooters to get comfortable from the outside if the Dawgs can consistently contest shots.
Can Georgia commit to this for 40 minutes?
Georgia’s “X Factor”?
Earlier I mentioned freshman John Jenkins’ bench scoring, and how it has made an impact on Vanderbilt’s success.
In the first meeting, reserve Vincent Williams scored 7 points and dished out 4 assists (arguably the freshman’s best game of the season). Jeremy Price came off the bench to contribute 8 points and 7 rebounds.
Who steps up for Coach Fox and gives him big minutes on Thursday? Chris Barnes (coming off his best game), EA, Williams, Price, Ajax?
The game tips off at 7:00PM EST and will be televised on ESPNU.
Is anyone making the trip?
Does anyone have any answers to the questions I raised above?