Getting back home has worked wonders for Vanderbilt.
And apparently a little rest hasn't hurt the Commodores either.
The 'Dores have come out with a vengeance since taking a nine-day break for Christmas, pounding Manhattan 86-48 and Southern Mississippi 82-46 in their two subsequent outings.
"I told them after practice yesterday that we've made some real progress," coach Kevin Stallings said before the rout of Southern Mississippi. "I haven't been able to gauge it because we've been able to separate from our past three opponents."
The current four-game winning streak started after a 76-69 loss to Western Kentucky. The Commodores ended an eight-day layoff with an 84-71 victory over Tennessee State, then really got rolling with a 99-59 rout of Mercer.
The 38-point win over Manhattan and 36-point thumping of USM followed.
"I think after we lost to WKU, we started working harder and being more focused," senior point guard Jermaine Beal said. "Good defense produces good offense, and I think we're going in a good direction right now."
It's a good time for it. The Commodores have one more non-conference game (Middle Tennessee) coming up before opening SEC play at home against Florida.
--Freshman G John Jenkins has been a big reason for Vandy's recent resurgence. Jenkins has led the Commodores in scoring in each of the last three games and has gone 13-of-19 from three-point range over that stretch. He was 6-of-6 against Southern Mississippi from behind the arc. It's all a matter of confidence, he said.
"Confidence is definitely something I struggled with at the beginning of the year," he said. "Confidence makes me shoot better, and it's something that has gotten better as the season goes on. I come out confident and I feel that the team has confidence in me, too."
--Vanderbilt held Southern Mississippi to just 28.1 percent shooting (18-of-64) from the field, the third time this season the Commodores have held an opponent to under 30 percent. Manhattan hit only 25.8 percent and Chaminade 23.8.
ON THE SPOT: Vandy needs to cut back on its turnovers when the Commodores get into SEC play. Though they had only 11 in the win over Manhattan, they had 15 against USM and have averaged 16 a game in their four-game winning streak. They are ninth among SEC teams in turnover margin for the season at minus-.69 a game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm happy when he starts making them like that. I'm also happy when we go 9-for-14 from three." -- Coach Kevin Stallings, after freshman John Jenkins went 6-of-6 for three-point range in the win over Southern Mississippi.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Getting back on the home floor has helped Vandy tremendously. The Commodores have won their last four games, all in Memorial Gym, since losing to Western Kentucky in Nashville's Sommet Center, and have improved to 10-3.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters -- F Andre Walker, C A.J. Ogilvy, G/F Jeffery Taylor, G Brad Tinsley, G Jermaine Beal. Key subs -- F Darshawn McClellan, G F Steve Tchiengang, F Lance Goulbourne, G John Jenkins.
Vanderbilt 99, Mercer 59
Vanderbilt 86, Manhattan 48
Vanderbilt 82, Southern Mississippi 46
vs. Middle Tennessee State, Monday, Jan. 4
vs. Florida, Saturday, Jan. 9
at Alabama, Wednesday, Jan. 13
at South Carolina, Saturday, Jan. 16
vs. Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 23
IN FOCUS: A six-game home stand ends with the visit from the Gators, who have had some problems recently after starting off strong. The game is a critical one in the Eastern Division as both Vandy and Florida are competing for a spot in the upper half of the standings.
--C O.J. Ogilvy was back in the starting lineup against Southern Mississippi for the first time since Dec. 8 when he was sidelined by a heel injury. He scored 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and a 9-of-10 effort from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds, two blocked shots, and three steals.
--G Jermaine Beal played against Southern Mississippi with his right thumb taped after being injured in practice, but he still went 5-of-11 from the field for 15 points and had three assists against no turnovers. "It hurts when I shoot, but I was still able to push through," he said.
The TSX Files - 1/04
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