It was only two weeks ago that Vandy and Tennessee squared off in a battle between rebuilding teams. The Volunteers defended their home court in a tight game, but now Kevin Stallings's young team will get the chance to return the favor.
The Commodores will look to build off of Saturday's blowout win over Arkansas by extracting revenge on the Vols Wednesday night. Vanderbilt had two shots to leave Knoxville with a win when these two teams last met, but Kedren Johnson's jumper and Kevin Bright's follow up both missed their mark, giving Tennessee the win.
The Volunteers have struggled since then, dropping games to Arkansas and Georgia before rebounding to beat South Carolina on Saturday. Vandy has done the same, losing a pair of contests before rallying to dominate Arkansas at home and avenge an embarrassing mid-season loss to the Hogs. They'll have a similar opportunity when Wednesday rolls around.
They'll need another big game from Josh Henderson to get there, though. Henderson, the redshirt sophomore center who missed chunks of 2012 thanks to foot injuries, showed off a smooth shooting touch to score 13 points against UT's hyped big man Jarnell Stokes. He'll have to regain that form to give the 'Dores a chance; he's averaged 5.7 points per game since then, but had a solid 11 point outing in Saturday's win.
Tennessee hasn't lost to a team as lowly ranked as the Commodores this season, but they do have a recent loss to Georgia, the former doormat of the SEC. The Bulldogs beat UT in the midst of a five-game winning streak that has improved them to a surprising 6-4 in conference play. Let's look at how Mark Fox and his team beat the Volunteers in Knoxville.
Tennessee (12-10, 4-6 SEC, Unranked)
Other Losses: at Georgetown, vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Memphis, at Mississippi, vs. Mississippi, at Kentucky, at Alabama, at Virginia, at Arkansas
- Balanced scoring. Nine different players scored for the Bulldogs against UT. While Caldwell-Pope comprised the bulk of Georgia's offense, a balanced attack through the remaining starters and the bench helped power the team. Big baskets from Kenny Gaines and Vincent Williams helped the 'Dawgs extend their lead when they needed it the most, giving Caldwell-Pope some breathing room and helping UGA come away with the win.
- Ball control. Georgia only turned the ball over 11 times against Tennessee, a number that gels with Vanderbilt's 10 turnovers in their first meeting with the Volunteers. UT doesn't force opponents into many mistakes like Arkansas does, so if Vanderbilt can protect the ball moderately well they'll hold on to the extra possessions they need to make up for an otherwise inefficient offense.
- Force Tennessee to take jumpers. Georgia limited Tennessee's forwards and big men to just 13 shots (they connected on nearly 54 percent of them). That left 26 shots to the team's guards, and they made just 42 of those. By pressing the action away from the basket, UGA forced the Vols into low-percentage shots and used that defense to keep UT from mounting a comeback late in the game. That puts a lot of pressure on Josh Henderson and Shelby Moats in the post, but they have the length and strength to pester UT near the rim all night.