The Mississippi State match-up was an adventure. Only one player scored for the Commodores in the last three minutes of the game, and it was a pair of free throws from our huevos-grande freshman John Jenkins. I'm sure Coach Kevin Stallings ripped the team up post-game, as their late game lull appeared to be disturbingly similar to the team's early season first half problems. They'll need to head to Athens fired up in what looks like a big-time trap game against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia's record is misleading; they're better than a 9-11 team, but maybe not as underrated as some knowledgeable sources suggest. The Bulldogs have been marred by inconsistency. For the most part, they've been unable to beat opponents from high-major conferences, but have mixed in victories over Illinois, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee between close losses to teams like Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. Saturday's game presents a dangerous trap game, and past results indicate that this one will probably go down to the wire.
Georgia (9-11, AP NR, Coaches NR)
Worst Loss: vs. Wofford (RPI #103, KenPom #108) 57-60
Other Losses: at Kentucky, at UAB, vs. Mississippi, at Missouri, at Florida, at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, at Virginia Tech, at St. Johns, vs. Arkansas
Georgia's (RPI #105, KenPom #90) road schedule has been brutal - the team has had eight games against RPI Top 100 teams and has lost all of them. In Athens, the team is 9-3, with wins over three teams in the Top 80, but the Bulldogs have yet to win any road games this season. Unfortunately, Vandy gets the Bulldogs at home and in the middle of a losing streak - the same scenario that Tennessee had when they were upset two weeks ago.
Despite their record, Georgia lacks a truly terrible loss. Despite lacking name value, Wofford falls just outside of the Top 100 in the RPI and has even beaten UK-toppler South Carolina. A four point loss to Arkansas at home, as well as a 10-point loss to St. John's were also considered for evaluation. In the long run, the early-season upset to a mid-major school stuck out as the biggest disappointment of the season so far.
Key to destruction: Against Georgia, Wofford jumped out to an early 19-8 lead, and held off a Bulldog comeback on their way to victory. Each time Georgia pulled close, the Terriers responded on the next possession with big plays - three pointers, layups plus fouls, and long jumpers. They held the Bulldogs off by destroying their momentum and not allowing them to string together points - the exact opposite of what nearly killed the Commodores vs. Mississippi State.
Anytime Georgia threatened to take the lead, Wofford came up big offensively. Even though the team shot poorly for the night (38.2%), they made the most out of the baskets they got. The Bulldogs displayed some alligator blood by never letting the game get out of reach, but every time they came up with a big play, Wofford matched it. Even in the last two minutes of the game, it seemed as though Wofford couldn't come up with any offense unless Georgia struck first.
Aside from this, the Bulldogs were the better team in almost every other statistical category that night. Trey Thompkins put up a dominant double-double (14 points, 16 rebounds), and Travis Leslie scored 17 points on 11 shots - but no one else for Georgia scored in double digits. Conversely, Wofford's top four scorers chipped in over 10 points apiece in a low scoring game, and two of them came off the bench to do so. While Thompkins and Leslie are top tier sophomores in the SEC, the rest of the Bulldog squad is struggling to keep up with them. They combined for 40 points in the team's upset against Tennessee, and shot a crisp 17-24 in the game. Stopping this duo will be paramount for the Commodores, as will responding with a balanced attack.
Keys to the game:
Crush Georgia's momentum with run-breaking shots - anytime Georgia had a chance to take the lead, Wofford broke them down with a big play. It kept the crowd at bay (Peanut butter kid had no comment) and deflated the Bulldogs' performance on the court.
Focus the defense around Thompkins and Leslie - Georgia has a starting sophomore duo that produces more than our own, and they've come up big in UGA's upset wins. Fortunately for Vanderbilt, the team's production drops off after these two. Making guys like Ricky McPhee and Dustin Ware carry the load on offense will take a big toll on the home team.
Counter Georgia's two-headed monster with a balanced attack - Wofford won with scoring coming from all over. This plays to Vanderbilt's advantages in depth and overall talent. A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal, and Jeffery Taylor will all get their points, but spreading the attack out to include Andre Walker, Brad Tinsley, and John Jenkins will give the Bulldogs fits. If Vandy has four or more players scoring more than 12 points Saturday, it's tough to see a way that Georgia wins this one.