Scouting report: Revenge-minded Dores host UGA

Vanderbilt's (16-11, 6-7) Jan. 22 road loss to Georgia (2-11, 8-16) has to rank as the low point of the Commodores' season. Corey Smith (right) and the Dores get a chance to even the score with the Bulldogs Saturday at Memorial Gym, in a game that's absolutely crucial to VU's NCAA hopes. VeeMan takes a hard look at both teams and predicts the outcome. <P> <i>Tipoff: 3 pm CT (4 pm ET)<BR> TV: None<BR> Radio: 104.5 The Zone

Vanderbilt played a respectable game against the Florida Gators in Gainesville Wednesday, and stayed within striking distance the whole way. In the end, however, the 69-61 Gator victory was just about what was expected. Corey Smith led Vanderbilt with 15 points, and Mario Moore (12) and Shan Foster (11) were also in double digits.

The Commodores now have the opportunity to even things up with the Georgia Bulldogs. The 68-59 Bulldog win over Vanderbilt in Athens on Jan. 22 has to be the low point of the season so far for the Commodores, and Georgia's best win. Indeed, Georgia has managed only one other conference victory to date, at home 57-45 over weak Auburn. They played respectably, but lost, at Kentucky (60-51), at Mississippi (59-54), and at home to South Carolina (60-53). Their other efforts resulted in decisive losses: at South Carolina (74-54), Florida (70-47), Alabama (75-47), Arkansas (62-47), and at home to Tennessee (72-65), Kentucky (76-55), LSU (95-79), and Mississippi State (76-62). Their conference record is 2-12, and they are 8-16 overall.

In one respect, Georgia will be stronger than they were when they upset Vanderbilt in Athens. Their leading scorer, 6-1 sophomore Levi Stukes (right, AP photo by Jeff Green), is back in the lineup. He missed five games with an injury, including the one with Vanderbilt, but returned for the most recent two in which he scored 15 points against Auburn and 13 against Mississippi State. He is the fifth leading scorer in the SEC with 15.2 ppg, and takes about half of his fourteen shots per game from the outside, hitting 32.1% of them.

6-1 freshman Sundiata Gaines is the second leading scorer (12.0 ppg) and point guard. His assist/turnover ratio is not much above 1:1, but he gets a lot of steals (2.1 per game) and is the second leading rebounder (5.1 per game). It is obvious that the Georgia offense has suffered considerably from Gaines' lack of experience.

The other starters continue to be 6-10 freshman center Dave Bliss (7.1 ppg), 6-8 sophomore forward Steve Newman (7.7 ppg), and 6-4 freshman Channing Toney (10.3 ppg). Toney recently missed one game (a non-conference affair with Clemson), but seemed to be back in form Wednesday against Mississippi State, scoring 14 points. He makes 32.7% of his threes. Bliss is the leading rebounder (5.6 per game), and Newman is third in that category (3.9 per game). All the Georgia starters except Bliss will put up the outside shot, but on the whole they actually do most of their scoring from in closer to the basket.

Georgia's bench, except for walk-ons, is a short one. 6-7 redshirt freshman Corey Gibbs (4.4 ppg) is a big help underneath since coming back from an early-season injury. Slender 6-9 freshman Younes Idrissi (3.3 ppg) played 21 minutes in the Kentucky game in Lexington, scoring seven points. 6-1 freshman Kevin Brophy (3.9 ppg) did a job on Vanderbilt in Athens, hitting five of seven three-point attempts and leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 19.

The Bulldogs have been calling upon four walk-ons for limited minutes. They are 6-1 junior Jay McAuley (1.2 ppg), 7-0 sophomore Joey Waldrop, 6-5 freshman Matt Womack, and 6-5 senior Tommy Wainscott. Except for providing a little rest for the regulars, these walk-ons (other than Brophy, who started out as one) have contributed little during games.

The SEC team statistics show how weak Georgia is, especially on the offensive end. The team is 12th and last in several categories: points scored per game; scoring margin (they are being outscored by about six points per game); percentage of three-point shots made; rebounding margin; assists; and assist/turnover ratio. They are tenth in free throw percentage and field goal defense, and tenth in three-pointers made per game. They fare better in some defensive statistics: fifth in steals; eighth in blocked shots; seventh in turnover margin; and sixth in defense against the three-point shot.

Georgia is a scrappy team that plays decent defense despite a lack of talent and depth. Sometimes their games get away from them because they can't score, but the only SEC opponent that has racked up a lot of points on them was LSU. Vanderbilt has a tremendous advantage in size, experience, and firepower, and this time they have the home court advantage and presumably a desire to avenge their previous embarassment. There is no way that Vanderbilt should lose this game, and they are picked here to win by ten to 20 points.

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