Vanderbilt-Georgia Southern game preview

Vanderbilt easily defeated Alabama A&M 68-40 Sunday night in a game marred by poor shooting and numerous turnovers. A&M's 40 points was the fewest scored by a Vanderbilt opponent since the Commodores defeated Nichols States 85-37 on December 15, 1996. Matt Freije and Corey Smith led the sputtering Vanderbilt attack with thirteen points apiece.

As in the game with Southeastern Louisiana, the Dores went cold in the second 10 minutes of the first half, but A&M was unable to take advantage of the situation.

The Georgia Southern Eagles are likely to be a much more competitive opponent than either A&M or Southeastern Louisiana were. They are favored to win the South Division of the Southern Conference and their high-octane offense could give Vanderbilt's defense a much more significant test than it has had in the first two games.

The Eagles are coached by Jeff Price, who has a 47-39 record since taking over at Southern three years ago. The team was 16-12 overall last year, and went 9-7 in conference play. In their first two games this season the Eagles won the Tip-Off Tournament in Orono, Maine, by defeating John Jay (non-divison I team) 83-60 and the host, the University of Maine, 91-77.

Southern's star is 6-2 senior shooting guard Julius Jenkins. He averaged 14.8 points last season and grabbed 4.3 rebounds per game. In Southern's first two games this season he scored 44 points and made 50% of his 14 three-point shots. He also can move over and play the point when necessary, but his explosive scoring ability suits him better to play on the wing.

Terry Williams, 6-1 sophomore, is the starting point guard. He averaged 9 points as a freshman and should have an outstanding career at Southern. Against Maine he scored 16 points and handed out 10 assists.

There is effective depth at the guard positions, provided by 6-4 junior Kordel Gibson (7.4 points per game in 2002-03) and 6-1 junior Prentice Mobley, a transfer from Delray Beach Community College, where he averaged 27.8 points last season. Both played 15-20 minutes in each of Southern's first two games.

Either Gibson or Mobley may also see action at the shooting forward position, but the starter has been 6-3 junior Kenny Faulk, who averaged 6.2 points last season. Jean Francois, a 6-5, 215 redshirt sophomore, came off the bench to score 23 points in the Tip-Off Tournament games. Two seniors, 6-5 Willie Puckett and 6-8 Sam Cox, could also play.

Frank Bennett, a 6-7, 220-pound junior, is a returning starter at the high post, after averaging 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2002-03. He scored 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Southern's first two opponents this year. He will probably play 30 minutes or more against Vanderbilt, getting some help from 6-8, 235-pound junior Nick Berry, who transferred in from St. Petersburg College, and 6-6, 225-pound junior Marcus Byams, who averaged 2.0 points last year.

Starting at the low post is 6-9, 245-pound Courtney Joseph, a transfer from Chipola Junior College. However Joseph has played limited minutes in the first two games because of foul trouble. His backups are 6-9, 220 redshirt freshman Sean Olivier, and Bennett.

Georgia Southern has good depth and considerable firepower. The Eagles also have better size and strength than either of the Commodores' first two opponents, but no one over 6-9.

This will be the first meeting on the basketball court between Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern.

The Georgia Southern Eagles could provide the Commodores with their first test of the season, but the prediction here is for a Vanderbilt victory in the 8-15 point range. A combination of good Commodore shooting and Georgia Southern weariness from their Maine trip could provide a more decisive outcome. On paper the Eagles are capable of making the game close, or even scoring an upset, if Vanderbilt doesn't play well. Top Stories