When the final buzzer sounded on Kentucky’s victory at Florida on the final day of the regular season and the tiebreaking procedures were worked out, Vanderbilt was awarded the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament.
The Commodores will play the winner of the first-round matchup between Mississippi State and Georgia in the event’s quarterfinals.
With the 68-61 loss at Tennessee the day before, the Commodores finished up conference play with a 10-6 record, same as the Volunteers and Florida.
Article continues below ...
Tennessee ended up with the No. 2 seed, Florida No. 4.
Essentially, the Commodores and Volunteers both got what they wanted: a first-round bye in the bracket opposite that of league champion Kentucky.
A potential date against the Wildcats has been put off until the tourney title game on March 11.
The consensus seems to be that the 21-10 Commodores have earned a spot in the NCAA tourney field no matter how they fare in the SEC tourney, though their recent play has not exactly been confidence-building for a long run in the postseason.
The Commodores have lost two of their last three games with a home win over Florida sandwiched in between losses at Kentucky and at Tennessee.
Getting at least one victory in the SEC tourney might help the Commodores get over their uninspiring effort against the Vols.
“We have to work harder,” senior center Festus Ezeli said after the loss in Knoxville. “Rebounding was really the big key in the first half. That’s how they got their heads up. They were missing and kept getting the rebounds.
“We just have to keep working and get better at that, especially. We’re a good team. We just have to play like it.”
-Junior G John Jenkins’ three 3-pointers (10 attempts) gave him 118 for the season, tying him with Tennessee’s Chris Lofton for the second-best single-season total in SEC history.
The conference single-season record is 134, set by Vandy’s Shan Foster in 2008, the same year Lofton hit his 118.
The baskets didn’t come easy for Jenkins.
“I had to work for my looks,” he said after scoring 18 points in Vandy’s 68-61 loss at Tennessee. “The ones I did have were really tough. They did a good job.”
Jenkins has scored in double-figures in 64 consecutive games.
-Senior F Lance Goulbourne scored 12 points in the loss to the Vols, his second straight game in double-figures, this time while taking on Tennessee’s tough defense.
“Their big guys here are very physical,” he said. “They’re big, physical players. Their guards are very physical.”
-Vandy had a rare off-game shooting at Tennessee. The Commodores shot only 39.0 percent from the field (23-of-59), just the fifth time they have been under 40 percent in a game this season.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
vs. Mississippi State-Georgia winner, March 9, SEC Tournament, New Orleans.
KEY MATCHUPS: Vandy lost its only meeting with Mississippi State, 78-77 in overtime in Nashville. State’s Arnett Moultrie had a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds and G Dee Bost scored 24 points. The Commodores swept two meetings with Georgia, 77-66 in Nashville and 61-52 in Athens. Georgia G Gerald Robinson was in double-figures in both games with 15 points in the first meeting and 19 in the rematch. Freshman G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led Georgia with 19 points at Nashville but managed only six in the second game.
Vanderbilt has reached the semifinals of the SEC Tournament in each of the last two years, but the Commodores haven’t won the event since it was resumed in 1979 after a 27-year layoff. In fact, the Commodores haven’t even reached the title game over that span. Their only SEC tourney title came in 1951, when they beat Kentucky 61-57 in Louisville.
-Senior G/F Jeffery Taylor struggled with 4-of-12 shooting on his way to 10 points at Tennessee. He has failed to reach double-figures in scoring only twice this season.
-Freshman G Kedren Johnson played 16 minutes against the Vols and didn’t score, but he did have four assists against only one turnover. That’s one off his season-high.
-Senior C Festus Ezeli had nine rebounds against the Vols, his most since also getting nine against the Vols when the teams played in Nashville on Jan. 24.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Disappointed would be a better word.” — Coach Kevin Stallings, asked if he was surprised Tennessee was the physically tougher team in Vandy’s loss at Knoxville.