The 79-60 loss of the Vanderbilt Commodores to the LSU Tigers on Wednesday was their third consecutive defeat. Only Matt Freije's 27 point performance prevented an even worse trouncing. Brian Thornton (12 points) was the only other player to score in double digits. The opening minutes of the game indicated that it would be a close affair throughout, but then the Tigers ran off 24 unanswered points and the result was never in doubt thereafter.
The Georgia Bulldogs come into this game having lost three of their last four outings including a 94-91 loss to the Commodores in Nashville on January 29. They need four more wins to guarantee themselves of an NCAA berth and they are bound to regard this game as a golden opportunity to get one of them.
Georgia has three weaknesses, which are rebounding, defense, and a lack of depth. Seven players see 20 or more minutes of action per game, and the largest one of those is 6-8 junior Steve Thomas. Other than two 6-4 players, senior Richard Wehunt and freshman Wayne Arnold, the rest of the roster is composed of walk-ons. However, Wehunt is a dangerous outside shooter and scored his season's high of 16 points against Vanderbilt.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs were, until recently, about the best offensive team in the conference. Then, in their last three games, they were held to 67 points against Mississippi State (in a 67-63 win at home), 72 points against Tennessee (in a 78-72 loss on the road), and 67 in a bad trouncing at Kentucky (87-67). A hip injury to one of their wing players, All-American candidate Jarvis Hayes, a 6-7 junior, slowed him down for awhile, but he now seems to be back in stride. But 6-4 senior Ezra Williams, the other wing player, has slumped off lately. Both Hayes and Williams must be playing well for the Bulldogs to approach their potential.
Despite these recent problems, Hayes is scoring 17.2 ppg and Williams
16.8. Hayes makes 45.7% of his three-point attempts and Williams 45%. Williams has been the better rebounder, grabbing five per game, and Hayes snares about four.
6-7 junior Chris Daniels and Thomas each pull down 6.9 rebounds per game. Daniels scores 10.2 ppg and Thomas is averaging 9.8. They are good players, but found themselves overwhelmed on the inside by Kentucky's taller post players, Marquis Estill and Jules Camara.
6-7 junior Damien Wilkins, a transfer from North Carolina State, had the best game of any Bulldog against Kentucky. He plays nearly every position on the court and is scoring 8.3 ppg. 6-8 junior Jonas Hayes is strictly an inside player, scoring 7.3 ppg and nabbing five rebounds per game.
Steady point guard Rashad Wright is scoring 8.0 ppg and easily leads the team in assists (5.4 per game). He averages only 1.6 turnovers per game.
Coach Jim Harrick admits that the Bulldogs have lost their momentum, however Georgia is still a very dangerous team. With the home court advantage they have to be solid favorites to defeat Vanderbilt.
This isn't likely to be the game in which the Commodores get back on track. They certainly have the advantages of superior depth and height, but have been held back by erratic guard play and lack of toughness on the boards against tough opposition. Freije and Thornton have been consistent scorers, yet they usually get limited help even though almost every one of the other top nine players has scored 15 or more points at least once.
The Bulldogs will be out for revenge for the close loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville. Look for Georgia to find the range, score over 80 points, and win by eight to fifteen.