Vanderbilt played better the second time around against Kentucky. Thursday, when it faces Georgia for the second time, it’s hoping to do the same, but with a better result.
The 16th-ranked Commodores (20-6, 9-3) have lost three times in Southeastern Conference play — two to Kentucky and one to Georgia. They were much more competitive in the rematch with Kentucky — last Saturday’s 58-56 defeat — than they were in the first meeting.
They’re looking for more than just to be competitive when the Bulldogs (12-13, 4-8) visit Memorial Gymnasium (6 p.m, ESPNU). They’re looking to win and to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since they fell to Illinois and Western Kentucky in early December.
“Sometimes I believe there’s an emotional edge the second time around that (the losing) team has,” VU coach Kevin Stallings said. “The team that wins the first time is more apt to do the things they did in the first game … because those worked in the first game.
“I think when you’ve lost, you obviously are looking for adjustments you need to make to be better the second time around.”
Two things Vanderbilt obviously must do better this time are make shots and rebound. They connected on just 32.8 percent of their field goals overall (26.1 percent of 3-pointers) and were outrebounded 43-28.
Both shooting percentage numbers were the Commodores’ worst in conference play before last Saturday. The rebound total matched their second-fewest in the SEC. Only their first contest with Kentucky was worse.
“We approach every game like it’s a new one,” freshman guard John Jenkins said. “We’re not looking back at the Georgia game like it’s some kind of revenge game or something. We’re just going to go play our game.”
Each the Commodores have lost in conference play this season, their next game has been at home. This one is no exception.
They responded to their first Kentucky defeat with a slim triumph over Mississippi State. After their loss to Georgia, they routed Tennessee on their home floor.
“Our concept this year is that we try to get better every day,” sophomore forward Steve Tchiengang said. “… We also want to play, hopefully, much better than we did the last time we played against Georgia.”
Georgia has not swept the season series since 2000-01 and has not won at Memorial Gymnasium in its last three visits. Similarly, Vanderbilt has swept the season series just once over the past decade.
“They may come in and do the exact same things or they may come in and do things differently,” Stallings said. “They’re capable of both.”
Of course, there can be only one winner.