Vanderbilt falls to hot-shooting Georgia, now 1-2 in SEC

The Black & Gold Standard is an all-new VandyRadio Blog featuring general commentary and advanced statistical breakdowns following every Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball game. Robbie Weinstein of The Homefield Advantage (along with, on occasion, Max Herz and Dan Helinek) will be bringing you the best analysis of Commodore basketball throughout the season as the team chases a postseason berth for the first time since 2012. Check out the Black & Gold Standard for all kinds of new content as the young ‘Dores fight through the 2014-15 schedule.

At 1-1 in the SEC, Vanderbilt entered a pivotal game against Georgia in need of the season’s first big win. Instead, the Commodores fell to the Bulldogs 70-67 after mounting a late comeback attempt. Vanderbilt never led, as UGA’s injury-depleted roster snapped the Dawgs 9-game Memorial Gym losing streak.

–       Vanderbilt didn’t appear to play well in many aspects of this game, and many onlookers have become concerned about the drop-off in Damian Jones’s production over the last few games. Jones has struggled a bit and went just 3-10 against the Bulldogs, and admitted after the game to being frustrated by Georgia’s constant double teams. I think it’s too early to be overly concerned about Jones for one big reason: Vanderbilt played a very weak nonconference schedule that resulted in artificially raised expectations for Jones and his potential production. After consistently dropping 16 and 8 on cupcakes like Penn and Tennessee State, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Jones is finding it harder to score against SEC competition. Few big men run amok for 18 conference games against SEC frontcourts, and Damian is no exception. Give Jones time to get back on track and for the Vandy backcourt to figure out how to get him the ball in advantageous situations. Damian will be just fine, even if he isn’t the top-20 NBA draft prospect he looked like earlier this season. As Kevin Stallings said following the loss, “halfway through his sophomore year, nobody plays their best every night, and you can’t expect him to either.”

–       Stallings said that Vandy wanted to take away the lane from UGA and force the Bulldogs to knock down three pointers. Coming into the game Georgia had shot less than 32% from three, but Mark Fox’s team took advantage of their open looks as they knocked down 10-17 threes. Stallings implied that the team did an adequate job of executing the defensive game plan but that Georgia simply defied their scouting report. Despite the barrage of threes from UGA, Vanderbilt somehow snuck back into the game, which to me suggests that there may not have been much VU could do. Georgia is a good team and played better; sound strategy can only take you so far before talent has to kick in.

–       Surprisingly, Vanderbilt lost this game despite cutting down on their turnovers (11) and outrebounding the Bulldogs (36-27). Jones confirmed that battling more on the boards was a point of emphasis coming into this game, and it’s good to see that the ‘Dores were able to shore up that aspect of their play. Strangely enough, Vanderbilt’s weaknesses looked fine, while two of their strengths (shooting and three point defense) failed them.

–       The problem with losing this game is two-fold: Vandy will likely be only at 2-2 heading into Kentucky next week (they must beat a weak Mississippi State team in Starkville first), and the Commodores still do not have a top-50 win to hang their collective hat on. A home contest against LSU on January 24th might provide the next good opportunity to do so, assuming VU doesn’t pull off any magic in Lexington.

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