Now, giving Georgia credit where credit is due, the Dawgs showed up to play last night. Mississippi State is a talented team, particularly on offense. Georgia, on the other hand, had been somewhat anemic offensively. Gerald Robinson showed up to play, and they got a man's game out of Djurisic, who completely and utterly dominated Renardo Sidney. On the flip side, as Dee Bost goes, Mississippi State goes, and Dee was not of the on-fire variety last night, but more of the three-chucker turnover machine. Moultrie also had a rough game, which pretty much doomed them.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, things could not have gotten any better for the Commodores. Not only do they free themselves of an disadvantageous match-up issue, but they get a team that has a lot of trouble staying with John Jenkins. JJ had 18 against UGA in their first matchup, followed by 28 in their second. Vanderbilt won the first game by 11 and the second by 9.
Georgia is not a bad team, but is very young in key positions. They are, as a team, decent offensively and decent defensively. That being said, they have one shot blocker, and don't do it well as a group. They don't force turnovers (though they take care of the ball themselves), and they aren't particularly great at getting offensive boards. Vanderbilt loses when they allow second chance opportunities and let the opposing team take large chunks off the clock. Georgia's strength is not in creating these opportunities, and that's why KenPom has us as an 80% win probability here (and Vegas has us at -7.5). The point is, there is even less excuse for us not to win this game.
I'll be looking specifically at three players, whose posture and demeanor will tell me a lot about where this team is heading in the next couple of weeks: 1) Jeff Taylor, 2) Festus, and 3) Brad Tinsley. After a great performance against Kentucky and a really good one against Florida, Jeff struggled mightily against Tennessee. He also didn't play well against either Georgia or South Carolina prior to that. We need Jeffery Taylor to be the catalyst for the team, and so he's gotta shake off whatever mental/physical issues have been nagging him and finish what has already been a masterful season strong.
Festus is clearly hurting, and he is not going to get an healthier. He's not as explosive around the rim, he doesn't have the same agility that he used to, and his hook shot that was so lethal last year just hasn't re-emerged this year. He is still a valuable piece to this team's success, but to think he's going to resume his prowess of last year at this late date is probably a pipe dream. That being said, Festus could do us A LOT of favors by getting after the glass, drawing some fouls, and taking better care of the ball. We cannot afford to turn the ball over once it is in the post. There must either be a missed shot or a foul, if there is no possibility of a kick out (which there usually isn't, because Fez usually doesn't pass out). I think the best thing Stallings can do is get Fez to slow down and simplify, and whatever he does, do not turn the ball over. Lance is a great enough rebounder that he can get some backside boards of Fez's misses, but the shot's gotta go up for that to happen.
Finally, Brad has done a nice job at the point this year. He hasn't been elite, but we never thought he would be. He has done a pretty decent job at taking care of the ball and not turning it over, particularly in his last 5 games. Brad is a good offensive player, and we are team that is starved for offensive balance. With Festus limited, we need Brad and Lance to take pressure off John and Jeff. That means that, if Brad has a look, I want him to take it. I'm not saying shoot transition threes or wild in the lane shots, but Brad can get to double-digits in scoring. As Stallings said in his Tuesday Press Conference, if we can get more out of Brad in what he does well, we'll be a lot tougher out.