Tchiengang's approach unchanged even as primary role is altered

Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 8:51pm

Steve Tchiengang is well aware of his role even though, at times, he happens to morph into others.

For example, last season, the Vanderbilt forward shot a team-high 41.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. That’s right, the 6-foot-9 Tchiengang outshot sharpshooter John Jenkins, who did make an impressive 40.8 percent on nearly five times as many attempts.

This winter, Tchiengang was moved inside. He started 12 games, filling the void left by injured center Festus Ezeli.

But there hasn’t been any confusion about who Tchiengang actually is.

“He’s not Festus. He is not John. Steve is just Steve,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Steve is not going to be a 20-point-a-game guy. But he is a tough kid. He is a physical kid. He comes to play every day. His attitude is as selfless as anybody that we have. Steve has been a great contributor to this team this entire season.”

The senior from Cameroon is coming off his best offensive performance of the season as the Commodores (12-4, 2-0 SEC) host Georgia on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network). He scored a season-high 10 points on four-of-five shooting in a 67-57 victory at South Carolina on Tuesday.

In his previous outing against Auburn, he went scoreless and fouled out as he came off the bench for just the second time.

“My confidence has never been down,” said Tchiengang, who averages 4.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes. “I’m a confident guy every time I step out there. I believe I am going to do just as well as I can do. Against South Carolina, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Brad [Tinsley] having great vision was finding me the wide-open layups.”

At 240 pounds, Tchiengang can be a physical presence inside — twice this season he has grabbed more than 10 rebounds — but also keeps teams honest on the outside with his perimeter shooting.

This season, though, he has been off the mark on his 3-pointers. He has made just 25 percent (3-of-12).

“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I go out there in the gym every day, every night and work on that. I know I am going to make the shot that matters the most when the time comes.”

Ezeli is working his way back into the starting lineup. He has started two straight games for the first time all season.

That could allow Tchiengang to be more of a mid-range jumpshooter and 3-point threat again.

To Tchiengang, though, his job won’t change.

“My role has been the same," he said. "Go out there and compete, play hard and bring a lot of intensity on the court."

Briefly

• Georgia sits at 9-7 and 0-2 in the conference after losses to Alabama and No. 19 Florida.

The Bulldogs no longer have playmakers Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, who are in their rookie seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Georgia is led by freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14.2 ppg) and Tennessee State transfer and Nashville native Gerald Robinson (13.3 ppg).

• Vanderbilt is riding a six-game winning streak and over its last four games defense has been the difference.

The Commodores have held their last four opponents to an average of 19.3 first-half points with a shooting percentage of 26.3.

• Four of Vanderbilt’s starters are shooting near 50 percent for the season.

Jeffery Taylor (53.6) leads the way, with Lance Goulbourne (50.5) Brad Tinsley (50.0) and John Jenkins (48.9) close behind.