Vanderbilt followed up one of their worst halves of basketball in 2013 with their best on Wednesday night, rallying from a 17-point deficit to upset Georgia at Memorial Gym. On Saturday, they'll have a chance to roll that momentum into a three-game winning streak when they travel to Auburn.
The Commodores got off to a 1-15 start from the floor and let Georgia run up a 34-17 lead late in the first half, but this team refused to give up. Vandy rallied behind a 16-0 spurt in the second half to take a six-point lead, then battled back for a game-winning shot after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope willed the Bulldogs back into this one. Vanderbilt trailed by a point when Caldwell-Pope, whose back-to-back threes tied the game with a minute remaining, dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds, giving the 'Dores one more chance to take the lead as time wound down.
Kevin Bright, who missed a key three-pointer on the previous play, drove into the teeth of a strong Bulldog defense, rose up for a jumper, and let it fly with a second remaining. The ball hit the rim, caromed into the air, and floated down through the net. Memorial Magic was back in play - Vanderbilt 63, Georgia 62.
The win was an enormous boost for a Vandy team that has too often been on the losing side of close games in 2012-2013. After teams like Ole Miss, Tennessee, and LSU were able to escape upset losses, the Commodores finally got the comeback victory they'd been building towards since topping Xavier back in December. This win could end up being the building block the 'Dores need to move forward in 2013-2014.
They'll have the chance to keep that confidence afloat against a team they've already beaten in 2013. Auburn has been bad in SEC play this year, stumbling to a 3-12 record. They've lost six straight since upsetting Alabama and they dropped a 12-point decision to Vandy just over a month ago.
The Commodores should have a solid blueprint ready to beat the Tigers once more, but they could always stand to learn more. Let's take a look at how Rhode Island beat Auburn on their home court in double overtime back in 2012.
Auburn (9-19 overall, 3-12 SEC, Unranked)
Other Bad Losses: There are 18 of them.
- Defend Frankie Sullivan out to the perimeter. URI held Auburn's leading scorer (14.4 ppg) to just seven points on a 3-14 night. That included a 1-9 showing from long range. Sullivan, a 6'1" senior guard, is a notorious chucker who is good for at least six three point attempts per night despite making only 28 percent of them. Vanderbilt can't afford to let him get hot, because his streaky shooting could be the key to a Tiger upset.
- Rely on your backcourt and wings. URI got 65 of their 78 points from three players - Munford, Malesevic, and Andre Malone. All three are players who work best behind the three-point line and can create their own shots to keep defenses honest. Vandy can replicate that with Kedren Johnson, Kevin Bright, and either Dai-Jon Parker, Sheldon Jeter, or Kyle Fuller. If they can force Auburn to focus on the perimeter, it will open things up for Josh Henderson on the inside.
- Need a clutch shot? Turn to Kevin Bright. Bright has come up big with the clock winding down for the Commodores this season. He hit the game-winning jumper against Georgia on Wednesday, and he hit what should have been the game winning three against Ole Miss back in January. We knew the German was tough, but who knew that the freshman had ice water running through his veins? It looks like his time with the German U-18 National team has given in an on-court stature that reaches beyond his status as a freshman.