With the help of a seasoned senior and an Aussie freshman, Vanderbilt is back in the top 25.
The 23rd-ranked Commodores look to cement their status in the rankings when they host Wake Forest Wednesday.
Last season, Vanderbilt (7-0) advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the second time in four years. The Commodores lost two of their top three scorers, but got back senior Shan Foster, who averaged 15.6 points in 2006-07.
Foster has increased that number to 19.6 this season while shooting above 50 percent from 3-point range.
The Commodores also added a 6-foot-10 freshman center in Andrew Ogilvy. The Canberra, Australia native is averaging 18.1 points, shooting 69.2 percent from the field and grabbing six rebounds per game.
He’s helped lead Vanderbilt to its best start since a 12-0 run to open the 2003-04 season, when the Commodores also won two NCAA tournament games. The fast start has put Vanderbilt back in the top 25 for the first time since it fell out after the Feb. 26 poll last season.
Foster had 17 points, Ogilvy added 16 and senior forward Alan Metcalfe had 15 in a 92-79 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Metcalfe is averaging 8.1 points per game off the bench.
“There is a little bit of pressure taken off with a great player like Andrew (Ogilvy),” Metcalfe said. “… It is all clicking for the whole team, so it is just fun to play with them right now.”
Vanderbilt boasts one of the nation’s best offenses - averaging 85.7 points - but the defense stood out against the Yellow Jackets.
“Coach (Kevin Stallings) talked about after the game that when he envisions the potential of our team and how good we can be, that is pretty much the thought that comes across his mind,” Foster said. “And it started on the defensive end. We paid attention to defense, we were very aware and very physical from the beginning of the game and it just carried on out.”
Defense was a problem for Vanderbilt when Wake Forest (5-1) scored 47 first-half points en route to an 88-78 win over the Commodores last season. Four of the Demon Deacons’ starters from that game are back, but they lost leading scorer Kyle Visser, who had nearly twice as many points as any of his teammates last season, to graduation.
Wake Forest also lost its coach when Skip Prosser died of an apparent heart attack in July. Former assistant Dino Gaudio took over after Prosser’s death.
Gaudio is in charge of a senior-free roster with three sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. Like Vanderbilt, the Demon Deacons also have a talented freshman big man in James Johnson, who leads the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg).
The 6-8 forward had 15 points and 11 rebounds in Wake Forest’s 72-48 win over South Carolina Upstate Saturday, as the Demon Deacons bounced back from their lone loss, a 63-59 defeat Thursday at Charlotte.
“Things don’t bother him, even if you’re yelling at him. He’s a really confident kid,” Gaudio said of Johnson. “He learns from it, but it doesn’t affect his psyche as much. He plays hard, and really has a good feel for the game.”
The programs have split eight meetings all-time.
Vanderbilt has won 17 of its last 18 overall home games.