Vanderbilt enters the UK game following a 69-50 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday. Head coach Kevin Stallings’ squad has been very streaky since entering SEC play. Prior to the loss to the Vols they won three strait and prior to their three-game winning streak they lost four strait. Overall they have a 15-9 record and they are 4-6 in the league.
After reaching the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, including a run to the Sweet 16 in 2007, head coach Kevin Stallings knew he would be dealing with a much younger team this season. The departure of Shan Foster and others left Stallings with no seniors and only two juniors in Jermaine Beal and George Drake. This Commodore squad includes five true freshmen, with Jeffery Taylor (6-7, forward) and Brad Tinsley (6-3, guard) averaging double figures with 12.2 and 10.5 respectfully.
In the past Vanderbilt has relied on their explosive offense to win games. This year Kevin Stallings has been forced to pull a Greg Maddux and change it up a little bit. In SEC play the Commodores are second in scoring defense (63.8ppg) and third in field goal percentage defense (.391). They entered SEC with a FG% defense of .356, which was good enough for fourth in the country. But, their slip on offense is quite evident as they are second-to-last in the SEC in scoring, with 70.1 points-per-game.
Offensively, they are led by the sophomore from down under, A.J Ogilvy (6-11, center) and junior Jermaine Beal (6-3, guard). After setting freshman scoring records at Vandy, Ogilvy was named Preseason First-Team All-SEC entering this season. He has scored in double figures in 52 of his 57 collegiate games. Three of those five games when he didn’t score in double figures came after he returned from a heel injury. The same heel injury that forced him to miss the first match-up with the Cats. A mobile big man with a strong physical presence underneath, Ogilvy is averaging 17.0 points and 6.7 rebounds-per-game on the season, while shooting 52-percent from the floor.
With the turnover at the guard position Jermaine Beal was forced to step up and so far this season he has risen to the challenge. He is averaging 12.2 points-per-game and has become the catalyst for the ‘Dores. He is shooting 44-percent from downtown and simply does not turn over the basketball. Last season, he led the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 3.06 mark and is doing so again this year with a 2.36 mark. He leads Vanderbilt in both assists (79) and steals (30). Beal simply does a little bit of everything for the ‘Dores.
Jeffrey Taylor, the multi-faceted wing who was born in Sweden, has been sensational for Vanderbilt in his freshman campaign. He has scored in double figures in all but six games and is second on the team in rebounding with 6.1 per-game. Brad Tinsley, Vandy’s other impressive frosh, has been just as good. Tinsley is a combo guard who can guard both the 1 and the 2, is effective from deep (he is shooting 39-percent) and can handle the rock.
In the first match-up between the two at Rupp Arena, Kentucky stretched the lead to twenty in the first half, allowed them to cut it to four at half and then held on late by knocking down free throws. The Vanderbilt game was one of the few games this season where Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks didn’t put up historic numbers. Patterson was held to 11 points, despite the fact that they were playing without Ogilvy, and Meeks finished with 21 points on just 5-of-21 shooting.
It is still unknown whether or not Patterson will play on Tuesday night. Playing without Patterson could really open up things for Ogilvy underneath. Patterson would be able to body up Ogilvy while Stevenson could play off of him and help on defense. Stevenson doesn’t have the body to man-up with anyone underneath, much less Ogilvy, but is excellent at coming from the weak-side and rejecting shots.
Memorial Gym is an extremely tough place to play (I think Billy and Kentucky saw that firsthand last season) so any win you get there is a good one. The Commodores have put up good defensive numbers this year but they did allow Florida to score 94 points at Vanderbilt in a 94-69 embarrassment. If Chandler Parsons can go off for 27 points on 7-of-8 shooting from deep against them I see no reason why Jodie Meeks can’t put up better numbers than he did the first time out. Despite their poor performance against Florida I do believe that their defense is much improved from a year ago. I just don’t think the Commodores have the offensive firepower to stick with the Cats. With or without Patrick Patterson.