While its chances of winning the SEC East are slim, Vanderbilt still has the upper hand on a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
The 16th-ranked Commodores will try to snap a six-game slide at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday when they face an Arkansas team that’s hoping a return home can get it back on track.
A 58-56 home loss to second-ranked and East-leading Kentucky last Saturday essentially ended any chances Vanderbilt (21-6, 10-3) had in winning its first regular-season conference championship since 1992-93.
Kentucky can clinch the title with one victory in its final three regular-season games or one Commodores defeat.
Still feeling the sting from last weekend’s loss, Vanderbilt needed overtime Thursday to defeat Georgia 96-94. Jermaine Beal scored six of his career-high 28 points in overtime and junior center A.J. Ogilvy posted his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Commodores rallied from a five-point deficit with 33 seconds left in regulation.
“Our guys were hungover all week from the Kentucky game,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “… On Tuesday and Wednesday, it looked like we were someplace else. I was not surprised we struggled and not surprised that this was a hard-earned win.”
With a road game against Florida on Tuesday that could help decide which team clinches the second spot in the East and a bye into the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament, Vanderbilt will first look to win its first game at Arkansas since the 1995-96 season.
Winners of four straight at home, the Razorbacks (14-14, 7-6) return to Bud Walton Arena following losses to Auburn and LSU. Arkansas committed a season-high 21 turnovers and shot 34.0 percent in Wednesday’s 65-54 loss to LSU.
“Turnovers really hurt us and not just the turnovers, but the turnovers that led to baskets for them,” said coach John Pelphrey, whose team fell a game behind first-place Mississippi State in the West. “It was not a good shooting night for us.”
It hasn’t been a good shooting year for Razorbacks leading scorer Courtney Fortson, who is hitting 37.2 percent from the field while averaging 19.3 points.
Fortson, a sophomore guard, missed 20 of 27 shots and scored a team-high 18 points in the last meeting with Vanderbilt - a 75-58 loss in Nashville on March 8.
Commodores swingman Jeffrey Taylor had 16 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six assists in that matchup while Ogilvy scored 12 with 10 boards. Ogilvy could have another big game if the Razorbacks are without senior Michael Washington, who could miss a second straight contest with a sprained ankle.
In Vanderbilt’s last game in Fayetteville, Ogilvy had 20 points and six rebounds in a 78-73 loss March 1, 2008.
Beal, who leads the Commodores with 14.9 points per game, needs 17 to pass Billy Joe Adcock (1,190) for 28th all-time at Vanderbilt.