Second Basketball Scouting Report: Georgia

Georgia's SEC season found new life against Vanderbilt in Nashville. Now, the Commodores will try to start a winning streak of their own by winning on the road in Athens. The future is bright for VU, but it must build toward that future by being able to take care of business in the present moment.

The Vanderbilt Commodores are headed in the right direction. It’s just going to require some time and patience to get where this team needs to go. The 2015 season will not produce an NCAA bid, and it might not even generate an NIT ticket, but it becomes easier – not harder – to think that Vanderbilt can do big things in the 2015-2016 season.

Yes, we have a 2014-2015 season to continue to worry about, starting with tonight’s game at Georgia, a rematch of a meeting roughly two weeks ago in Nashville. Yet, it’s worth building on what was said in our LSU preview from Friday: Vanderbilt needed to play well against the Tigers following the strong outing against Kentucky if it wanted to show that the larger project of VU hoops is on course.

Sure, the Dores made a few crippling mistakes here and there, but their overall effort and their display of skill against a talented LSU bunch were enough to catch national attention. It is quite apparent that as long as Damian Jones stays healthy, Kevin Stallings should be able to do a lot with him in the offseason. Jones is in position to be a beast for next season, and with Stallings drawing up plays that consistently get him open either in post-ups or on cuts to the basket, Vanderbilt should have its best interior scoring threat since Festus Ezeli… only better.

Jones’ talent is obvious. He is light on his feet. His length and reach are substantial. He plays with a great deal of energy. The package of skills is there. It just needs to be polished. Against LSU, Jones sometimes failed to twist his body out of the path of a defender on a dive to the basket. He more often displayed the discouraging tendency to bring a ball to his waist or hip when in traffic. Anyone who coaches basketball knows that for a big man to “play big,” he needs to keep the ball at eye level or higher, so that smaller defenders can’t swipe at the ball. Jones will learn how to improve these skills with time and development, and as long as the rest of this roster (which is fairly young) is able to coalesce around him next season, Vanderbilt really and truly will have a chance to become an NCAA tournament-level team. That’s very exciting for a program which has endured a lot of bad luck in recent years with transfers, early departures for pro ball in Europe, and disciplinary issues. It really does seem that the Good Ship Vanderbilt will have some high-quality Commodores at the helm next season. Being able to push Kentucky and LSU in consecutive games, without a letdown, points to a better future for this program.


The Bulldogs can say that they jump-started their season against Vanderbilt. It was against the Dores that Kenny Gaines shot the ball better than at previous points in his season. Georgia is regularly scoring in the low 70s (69 against Ole Miss) and shooting very effectively. Georgia shot at least 49 percent from the field or better in three of its last four games, the only exception being a 42-percent showing against Ole Miss. In that game, the Bulldogs were able to hold the Rebels to 40-percent shooting from the floor. Georgia’s distribution of production among its core-rotation players has worked out perfectly for head coach Mark Fox. If someone is off on one night, another player is there to compensate and provide enough offense to push the team across the finish line. Georgia, thanks to the non-conference wins (Seton Hall, at Kansas State) that were mentioned in the first scouting report on the Dawgs, now has a resume that could very possibly put this team into the NCAA tournament. Georgia is right on the bubble and will have a chance to either play its way in or out of the field. Vanderbilt hopes to be where the Dawgs are 12 months from now (maybe slightly better).

Starting Lineup

Forward – Nemanja Djurisic –
Senior, 6-8, 230; 2014-15: 10.7 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game

Djurisic’s scoring average is down 0.9 points since the first meeting between these teams, and his rebounding average is down 0.7 boards. Of note in the past two weeks is that Djurisic really hasn’t done anything to transform himself on offense. It’s his defense which is the steadier part of his game, enabling Georgia to move forward.

Forward – Marcus Thornton – Senior, 6-8, 235; 2014-15: 13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Thornton’s scoring average is down 0.2 points since the first game against Vanderbilt, and his rebounding average is down 0.6 boards. Yet, those downturns in average are a bit misleading. Thornton produced three straight 16-point games before tossing in a clunker against Mississippi State on Saturday. Thornton has been largely dependable, and what jumps out about those three 16-point games is that Thornton went 19-of-33 from the field in aggregate.

Guard – Kenny Gaines – Junior, 6-3, 200; 2014-15: 11.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2 assists per game

Gaines’ scoring average is unchanged relative to the last time Georgia played VU. His rebounding and assist averages are both down 0.1. However, Gaines also used the “play three quality games and one bad game” approach over the course of the last four contests. He hit 5 of 7 threes against Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym, and he hit 4 of 5 triples against Florida. He was a solid 4-of-9 from the field against Mississippi State, committing zero turnovers in 32 minutes. Georgia players will have the occasional off day, but for the most part, they’re delivering more consistency and are minimizing the wild fluctuations in play which marked the team’s 0-2 SEC start.

Guard – Charles Mann – Junior, 6-5, 215; 2014-15: 11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.7 apg

Mann’s scoring average is down 0.7 points per game since the previous UGA-VU game. His rebounds are down 0.2 boards. His assists are up 0.1 per game. Mann is still committing 3 to 4 turnovers a game, but he’s also still pounding the boards – 12 in his last two games – and he hit 4 of 8 shots against Ole Miss to help his team to a 69-64 win.

Guard – J.J. Frazier – Sophomore, 5-10, 150; 2014-15: 10.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apg

Frazier is a new starter in the Georgia lineup, and with good reason. He’s increased his scoring average by two whole points in the short time since the Dawgs last played Vanderbilt. If these teams had gone two months between games, that wouldn’t seem like much, but since these teams last played on Jan. 14, Frazier has soared into the spotlight, given a chance to be a starter because previous starter Juwan Parker suffered an injury. Frazier has made the most of his opportunity. This past Saturday against Mississippi State, he merely played one of the best games you’ll see from anyone, anywhere, this college basketball season. Frazier scored 37 points on 12-of-14 shooting, hitting all seven 3-point attempts. He added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Georgia’s four-game SEC winning streak is built on the fact that someone’s getting really hot in each game. Frazier went off against Mississippi State. Gaines couldn’t miss against Florida. Someone’s stepping up in a big way every night or Saturday afternoon.


You’ve met these players before: forwards Yante Maten and Cameron Forte, with the new addition being guard Houston Kessler, who has now moved into the rotation while Frazier graduated to the starting five. What’s worth noting here, relative to the last UGA-VU game, is that Forte has increased his scoring average by 0.7 points per game. Kessler owns no real statistical footprint to speak of. As long as he can defend, he’ll be useful for this team in the short run.

Keys to the Game

1) Lock down Frazier and Gaines, paying attention to drive-and-kick actions.
Vanderbilt’s most disappointing characteristic against LSU was its scattered perimeter defense. Players were easily drawn out of position, including on drive-and-kick plays from the Tigers. Responding better to drive-and-kick offense has to be a priority for VU, which got toasted by Georgia’s perimeter shooting nearly two weeks ago.

2) Two role players making shots. Jones needs help. He can’t do everything in the low post, and VU opponents are going to make sure he doesn’t win games singlehandedly. In a road game, the Commodores need two wing or perimeter players to shoot at a reasonably high percentage. If VU can get two strong offensive performances from the perimeter while containing Georgia’s long-distance shooting, it will have a great chance to win, with Jones making a difference near the tin. Top Stories