But the Commodores answered the challenge, taking command in the last seven minutes of the first half and dominating from there for a 78-60 victory over division rival South Carolina.
"We definitely have to have that sense of urgency right now," junior guard/forward Jeffery Taylor said. "We're towards the bottom of the SEC East, so every game from here on out we have to play like it's our last.
"Every game has a huge importance for how we want the year to end for us."
The result left both teams 4-4 in the SEC and tied with Kentucky for fourth place in the division behind Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Avoiding a fifth conference loss was crucial for the Commodores at this point because they have two key games home games coming up against Western Division leader Alabama (Feb. 10) and the first of two matchups against Kentucky (Feb. 12).
"We certainly couldn't afford to lose today," coach Kevin Stallings said. "Our guys played with a sense of urgency.
"We can control only what's with us. We can't control what Florida or Alabama or anyone else above us in our league does."?
--Junior G/F Jeffery Taylor, who is 6-7, got the defensive assignment on South Carolina's leading scorer, freshman G Bruce Ellington, who is only 5-9. Ellington had 13 points but was only 4 of 17 from the field.
"We can't always put him on their best guy because of other variables," coach Kevin Stallings said of Taylor, "but we were able to today, and I thought he was fantastic.
"He has quick feet. He has the foot speed and quickness that Ellington has. He can change direction and move like a six-foot guy. He has great endurance and tenacity."
--After shooting only 39.1 percent in the overtime loss to the Gamecocks in the first meeting at South Carolina, the Commodores shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) in the rematch at home.
BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- The number of 3-pointers Vandy hit (20 attempts) against South Carolina, a high for the Commodores against an SEC opponent this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coach challenged me to really just start rebounding on the offensive end, and I took it to heart." -- Junior G/F Jeffery Taylor, after getting seven of his eight rebounds against South Carolina, on his offensive board.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Alabama, Feb. 10
KEY MATCHUPS: F JaMychal Green is a double-double threat for the Crimson Tide, and F Tony Mitchell also ranks among the conference leaders in both scoring and rebounding. Freshman Travis Releford has made a big difference in the backcourt for the Tide, the surprise leader in the SEC Western Division.
--Feb. 12, at Kentucky
KEY MATCHUPS: Kentucky's freshmen -- F Terrence Jones, G Brandon Knight, and G Doron Lamb -- have gotten lots of attention, but the Wildcats' success seems to come down to juniors Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins. Vandy PG Brad Tinsley needs to stay focused and get the ball to the right players at the right spots (John Jenkins on the perimeter, Jeffery Taylor anywhere, and Festus Ezeli inside) for the Commodores. Enticing Jones to stray outside and shoot the three, which he has done, could play dividends for Vandy.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman F Rod Odom added a valuable nine points, tying career highs with three 3-pointers and two assists, off the bench against South Carolina. He was 3 of 3 from the field. His role has become more important since the injury to junior Andre Walker has forced F Lance Goulbourne to assume a starting role.
--Junior G/F Jeffery Taylor scored 17 points against the Gamecocks, the 18th time he has been in double figures this season. He tied a career high in assists against an SEC opponent with nine. He also had a career-high four 3-pointers.
--Sophomore G John Jenkins was 4 of 5 from the free-throw line, missing from the stripe for only the second time in SEC play (50 of 52).
--Junior C Festus Ezeli was in double figures for the 15th time this season, with 17 points. He was 7 of 13 from the field in the rout of South Carolina.
Vanderbilt feels sense of urgency
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