Preview: VU Women to battle with Georgia

Matching up against unbeaten Georgia (No. 6 AP and ESPN/USA Today) and 6-5 power forward Angel Robinson on Thursday will be a difficult assignment. And Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2), will have to try without the help of scoring and assist leader Jence Rhoads, who suffered a broken wrist in the final minutes against Kentucky on Sunday.

Freshman forward Tiffany Clarke confirmed the injury Wednesday evening and said that senior starter Lauren Lueders, who sat out most of the game against the Wildcats with an ankle injury, is expected to play.

"We just know that with one person short we have to step it up. We can't use Jence as an excuse. We have to pick up where we left off and work harder. We've got to get outside our comfort zone and do things we're not used to doing."

With losses to unranked Mississippi State and Kentucky, Vanderbilt (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today), faces what seems to some an insurmountable challenge against the Dawgs and No. 4 Tennessee in Knoxville on Sunday. Any naysayers should know that Head Coach Melanie Balcomb always expects her team to win on its home turf. And Tiffany believes they've been working hard enough this week to earn it.

Since those back-to-back SEC road losses, practices have been "more intense," Tiffany said, adding that the team still has access to their locker room. "We're learning a lot and getting back our competiveness." The twice-honored SEC Freshman of the Week said that intensity will be the key to winning Thursday evening. "We're getting out rebounded so we have to bring more heart and hustle to our game."

Junior forward Hannah Tuomi and Tiffany are charged with battling for boards and protecting the paint.

Last season, the ‘Dores split regular season games with Georgia, each program taking home court advantage to advantage, but Vanderbilt tipped the scales with a 69-61 win in the SEC Tournament in the latest bout. During the 55-66 loss in Athens, Hannah led Vandy with 14 points and Jence chipped in 12 last January.

Tiffany said battling against Georgia will be hard, but it's more about that muscle called the heart than height. Former Vandy star Jennifer Risper proved that last season, becoming at 5-9 the nation's Defensive Player of the Year.

"Someone with less height can outwork somebody who's taller," Tiffany reminded. "It's about having heart and intensity. Robinson is 6-5 and I'm 6-0, so I can't jump with her. We'll have to box and check out. It's going to be about the little things in this game. The person who works the hardest will come out on top. If we hustle, we'll be fine."

A larger than usual draw is likely for Thursday's 7 p.m. CST game, to be televised on FSN. Vanderbilt has been averaging around 4,000 per game.

The freshman, who experienced the season's largest crowd to date of nearly 9,200 at Notre Dame, wants another big crowd. "I'm prepared. A huge crowd would be great and add more energy!"

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