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MBB Preview: Can Vanderbilt Capitalize on a Second Chance to Beat Georgia?

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Vanderbilt didn't lead for a single minute of their 67-70 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. Will Tuesday night's clash between the two teams in Athens be any different?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

When Vanderbilt and Georgia last met, each team was coming off a loss and looking to put their season back in order behind a solid conference victory. The Bulldogs came out on top in Nashville 70-67 and haven't lost since. The Commodores, on the other hand, have been forced to watch their postseason stock plummet thanks to a five-game losing streak.

Vandy can right their universe by stealing UGA's momentum with an upset win in Athens Tuesday night, but it won't be easy. The Commodores had to battle back from multiple double-digit deficits in their first loss to the 'Dawgs to make it a two-point game with 30 seconds left. Georgia rose up to make some clutch free throws and shut the door on any chance of a home team comeback.

The result was just another example of this young team's struggles when it comes to finishing close games. Vanderbilt is 1-6 in contests decided by five points or fewer this season. Their one win came over Yale in double overtime.

If the Commodores want to beat Georgia in hostile territory, they'll have to reverse that trend. Let's take a closer look at what the Bulldogs will have in store for Vandy on Tuesday.

The Opponent: The University of Georgia (13-5, 4-2 SEC)

KenPom Rankings: Georgia is 28th. Vanderbilt is 66th.

Key Stat: Eight. Every member of Georgia's starting lineup scored eight points or more when these teams last met. That balanced attack kept a Vandy team that relies on help defense from creating a cohesive effort and led to some big UGA runs. Let's look back at some of the Bulldogs' momentum-swinging stretches.

Time Run # of Different Scorers
1st half 11-2 4
1st half 9-3 3
2nd half 20-15 4

When Georgia scores in bunches, it isn't the product of one player heating up (though J.J. Frazier's experience against MSU says otherwise, see below). It's the end result of a well configured roster that can fill up the basket from anywhere on the floor. Mark Fox's team has excelled when it comes to finding a counterbalance for opposing defenses. When opponents key in on the Bulldogs' perimeter game, Marcus Thornton gets more touches inside. When defenders slump in to stop UGA in the paint, they move the ball around and find players like Frazier who can light it up from outside. That will give Kevin Stallings plenty of fits on Tuesday night.

Matchup to Watch: J.J. Frazier vs. Vanderbilt's backcourt defense. Frazier is coming off the best game of his college career, and while his 37-point explosion may have come against unstable Mississippi State there's no doubt that he's capable of igniting the nets at Stegeman Coliseum. The sophomore is a diminutive guard at just 5'10" and 150 pounds, but his lateral quickness creates open spaces and opportunities to get off uncontested three-pointers (45.2% for the season).

It seems likely that Shelton Mitchell, Vanderbilt's point guard, will wind up earning most of the one-on-one duties when it comes to slowing the hyperactive Bulldog. Neither he nor shooting guard Riley LaChance has the speed to contain Frazier, but Mitchell's strength and long arms give him the tools to make up for that disadvantage. Wade Baldwin IV, who had a breakout game on Saturday against LSU, could also be leaned on to provide man defense against UGA's microwave scoring threat. Either way, they'll have to stop Frazier if they want to end Vandy's five-game losing streak.

Starters and Rotation Players:

Vanderbilt
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Shelton Mitchell 5.0 2.4 4.1
G - Riley LaChance 13.2 3.3 2.6
F - Jeff Roberson 4.4 3.3 0.9
F - James Siakam 8.6 5.4 0.6
C - Damian Jones 15.6 7.1 0.9
Key Reserves
G - Wade Baldwin IV 7.3 3.8 4.3
G/F - Matthew Fisher-Davis 6.1 2.0 1.0
F - Luke Kornet 8.8 4.1 0.7
Georgia
Pos. Player PPG RPG APG
G - Charles Mann 11.4 5.6 3.7
G - J.J. Frazier 10.7 4.2 3.6
G - Kenny Gaines 11.8 3.2 2.0
F - Nemanja Djurisic 10.7 4.7 1.5
F - Marcus Thornton 13.4 7.3 0.9
Key Reserves
F - Yante Maten 4.8 3.5 0.2
F - Cameron Forte 2.9 1.7 0.3
G/F - Juwan Parker* 5.5 4.0 0.9


*Parker is questionable for Tuesday's game with an Achilles' injury.