Vandy's strong start makes for promising outlook

Vandy's strong start makes for promising outlook

Published Jan. 16, 2012 11:19 a.m. ET

Just when doubters were beginning to wonder what was wrong with Vanderbilt, the Commodores gave them their answer:

Not much.

With their gritty 77-66 victory over Georgia, a team that for some reason has given them fits despite losing the last five games of the series, the Commodores stretched their winning streak to seven games and remained unbeaten at 3-0 in SEC play.

At 13-4 overall, they were tied with Kentucky for the league's top spot.

"I think if you want to be a championship team, like we want to be this season, you have to start off well," junior guard John Jenkins said after his 18-point performance against Georgia. "You can't dig yourself a hole at the beginning of the season, so we're definitely still good where we're at right now.

"The outlook is good for us."

The key tests are still to come.

Vandy's schedule is heavily loaded at the back end with their four meetings with Kentucky and Florida not coming up until February.

Right ahead of them are challenging contests at Alabama, which is just a couple of bounces away from being unbeaten in league play itself, and a home game against Mississippi State.

"We obviously have a very difficult game at Alabama and a difficult week," coach Kevin Stallings said. "We feel good about our team."


Senior C Festus Ezeli has begun to make his presence felt. Ezeli, who was suspended at the start of the season for receiving improper benefits and has battled knee problems since, played a season-high 23 minutes against Georgia.

He scored nine points, his most since scoring 15 against Davidson in his season debut on Dec. 7 and one more than he had scored in his previous three games combined. He had only two rebounds but was averaging 5.6 over his last five games at that point.

"We've won tough games without him, but he can make a difference for us," coach Kevin Stallings said. "He's in there and gave us some good minutes."

The Commodores managed to beat Georgia despite going only 5-of-15 from behind the three-point arc. The Commodores shot 51.0 percent on treys in their first two SEC games.

"I hit some in the beginning and then the second half I missed I think three in a row, so I tried to start driving and get fouled and get to the free throw line," said G John Jenkins, who was only 3-of-11 on threes but 9-of-9 at the free throw line. "And that was what was real good for me tonight."

Senior F Lance Goulbourne has been the "X" factor for the Commodores recently. He was back in double figures with 13 points against Georgia. It was the fourth time in the last seven games at that point he scored in double-figures, but his real work has come on the boards.

He averaged 8.4 rebounds a game over the last five games after settling for six against the Bulldogs, and he also blocked 10 shots and came up with nine steals over that span.


"It was not a thing of beauty, but over the course of 16 games, it's not going to be pretty all of the time." -- Coach Kevin Stallings, on Vandy's win over Georgia to move to 3-0 in SEC play.