Early SEC schedule hits Vandy

Published 11:52 pm Monday, January 28, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference did Vanderbilt no favors in scheduling this season.

And the Commodores aren’t helping themselves either.

Vanderbilt dropped from 14th to 19th Monday in The Associated Press’ rankings after losing 86-64 at Florida on Sunday. It’s their third loss in four games — all on the road in league play as part of a schedule that has the Commodores away from Nashville for six of their first nine SEC games.

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The Commodores (17-3, 2-3), who had to open at Kentucky followed by visits to Tennessee and Florida, must prepare to visit No. 24 Mississippi (15-3, 2-3) on Wednesday night.

‘‘It’s a pretty interesting proposition as far as the way our schedule has broken down,’’ Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said Monday.

He credited the competition so far.

‘‘We’ve probably played in three of the arguably toughest road environments in the country in our first three league … road games,’’ he said. ‘‘So I’m sure that if you could take a lot of teams and send them to Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, they would struggle in those venues with those teams.’’

The Commodores haven’t helped themselves either by falling behind by double-digits in each of those losses.

They trailed 34-6 at Florida where Shan Foster managed only seven points, and freshman A.J. Ogilvy had nine before fouling out.

They were outrebounded and gave up easy shots. Stallings thought he had his team prepared in a week where they had an eight-day break between a 92-76 victory in Nashville over LSU and the trip to Gainesville.

‘‘We’re not a very good basketball team at the moment. We were embarrassed (Sunday), and it was a really disappointing performance and game, and it’s completely disappointing. Florida played great, but we were really disappointed in how we played,’’ Stallings said.

It doesn’t get easier with a trip to Ole Miss. The Rebels lost 88-68 at Mississippi State last weekend in their third straight road loss.

‘‘We certainly drew the short end of the stick on the schedule here early in the season,’’ Stallings said. ‘‘You’ve got to play them where they show up on your schedule. It doesn’t get any easier.’’

Ogilvy’s struggles haven’t helped Vanderbilt. The freshman from Australia hasn’t reached double figures in rebounding yet in an SEC game, and his nine points at Florida was a season-low.

Now Stallings’ challenge is trying to fix the problems and buy some time until the schedule turns in his favor. The Commodores will play Auburn in Nashville on Saturday before visiting Georgia and South Carolina.

Then Vanderbilt can stay home for four consecutive games starting with visits from Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

‘‘You need to get some wins on the road,’’ he said. ‘‘You also have to keep your team’s confidence up so that when the schedule does come back to you finally that you can still have some success with it.’’