Previewing Kentucky vs Vanderbilt

"For us, we have to do a good job of protecting the basketball. That is No. 1 priority. Then we have to get it to the right spots on the floor and get the ball to people at places where we can have the most success." Stallings said.

Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli readily admits he has watched No. 1 Kentucky play and knows what he'll be facing Saturday against the Cats and center Anthony Davis, the nation's top shot blocker.

"I've watched them play, they're are really good team. The kid Anthony Davis is really good," said Ezeli. "They have a lot of good role players, and they know their roles. He (Davis) is good shot blocker and it will be a good test of my post game."

Vanderbilt is 17-7 overall, 6-3 in Southeastern Conference play after beating LSU Wednesday as part of what coach Kevin Stallings acknowledged was a "big week for us to get back on track" after losing two road games last week. Saturday night's game with Kentucky is part of Vanderbilt's first ESPN GameDay experience.

"It is a big thing. It is something I think all programs want to do and want to have," Stallings said about GameDay. "This is our first experience and we are excited about it. Hopefully it is just a sign that our program has elevated itself over the course of time to where the powers to be in that regard think enough of us to put GameDay here.

"I'm pretty sure the gym will be energized. I'm pretty sure both teams will be as well."

Stallings said after Wednesday's win that he would "try to figure out our plan" against Kentucky. "Someone (Indiana) flew one in on a prayer to give them their only loss of the season," he said.

LSU coach Trent Johnson says there is a lot to like about the Commodores.

"Vanderbilt is a good basketball team. They are very experienced, skilled, and balanced. We have a hard time playing 40 minutes against a team of that caliber. We tried to stay within reach, but Jeffery Taylor. Jeffery Taylor, I don't think he gets enough credit. He's an athletic player. He is going to play for money. In college, we don't get enough athletes like him," Johnson said. "Vanderbilt is not a basketball team anyone is going to want to play in the (NCAA) tournament."

Georgia coach Mark Fox is a Taylor fan, too.

"Taylor is a great player for Vandy. Effective scoring, defending and rebounding. Very complete. He had a chance to go in the draft and stayed in school and that's an advantage for their team. Jeffery is really a good player and defender," Fox said.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, who rarely talks about an opponent a week in advance, confirmed Monday that he has been impressed with Taylor, a senior hitting 47.8 percent from 3-point range and averaging 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

"They have played some other teams we are playing, so I have watched him but not zeroed in," Calipari said. "What I have seen is man, has he gotten better."

Calipari said Taylor looks more aggressive, is finishing around the basket better and has an improved overall skill set.

"He has just done stuff, you say, ‘Wow.' I don't know if there is an answer to him," Calipari said. "His skills have gotten much better with the ball. Obviously, he's shooting the ball. He's just a better, more confident player than he was a year ago and let me say this, he was pretty good a year ago. I am just telling you he has taken it to that next step I think."

Another senior, John Jenkins, leads Vanderbilt in scoring at 19.7 points per game and is a 44.3 percent 3-point shooter. Guard Brad Tinsley hits 41.2 percent from long range.

Ezeli, who missed nine games to start the season, adds 10.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and leads Vandy with 28 blocked shots. Lance Goulbourne averages 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.

"I know Jenkins is a really, really good player," Johnson said. "I think Vandy is very balance. I?have a lot of respect for Brad Tinsley. Jeffrey Taylor is as good as is gets. They are a very complete team. They are big, strong and experienced. Ezeli is a kid that enjoys playing center post. A lot of guys with that size and strength want to play on the perimeter. He wants to play powerful and do the dirty work. If you let him post deep, you are going to have problems. They are a very complete team. There is nothing they don't have. I think they are as good as any team in our league."

Other league coaches agree about Vanderbilt.

"Vanderbilt is as good, if not best offensive team in our league, in terms of their versatility," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said.

"I think Vanderbilt is terrific and on any given night they are capable of beating anybody," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Stallings knows his team faces a difficult matchup with Kentucky, which has won its last four SEC games by 20 or more points. However, he knows what must happen first for the Commodores to have a chance to win.

"For us, we have to do a good job of protecting the basketball. That is No. 1 priority. Then we have to get it to the right spots on the floor and get the ball to people at places where we can have the most success. We have a veteran group. Players don't care from one game to the next much about what other people do," Stallings said. "But we certainly know what a big opportunity and challenge we have."

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