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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2007

Vanderbilt visits Savage Hall to play UT

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

In the 1976-77 season, the University of Toledo men's basketball team hosted Mississippi and South Carolina, beating the Gamecocks and losing to the Rebels.

Savage Hall, which opened as Centennial Hall, hasn't seen another Southeastern Conference team since its first year - until tonight.

The Rockets (1-0) play Vanderbilt at 7 p.m., hoping to avenge a 98-93 overtime loss to the Commodores last season.

Vanderbilt went to the Sweet Sixteen last year after finishing second in the SEC East. But UT coach Stan Joplin agreed to a home-and-home deal with Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings before last season, when the Commodores still needed a game in late August.

Taking advantage of his position of strength, Joplin said his team would travel to Nashville that winter in exchange for a home game this year and $6,000.

"We just happened to be in the right place in the right time," Joplin said.

The deal nearly backfired on Vanderbilt when UT led late in the game last December. The Rockets blew a five-point lead with 2:27 left in overtime, though, and then freshman Jermaine Beal made the go-ahead basket on a layup with 4.4 seconds remaining.

"All I remember is the end," junior Ridley Johnson said. "It was so back and forth."

The Commodores lost SEC player of the year Derrick Byars to graduation, but still have an experienced team. Vanderbilt (1-0) had three players score in double figures in its opening-night win over Austin Peay. Seniors Shan Foster and Alex Gordon were both hot from beyond the arc, combining for 12 3-pointers.

Newcomer A.J. Ogilvy, a 6-foot-10 Australian import, had 18 points and nine rebounds in his first college game.

"They're going to try to pound the ball inside," Joplin said. "We're going to be outsized, outmanned inside. We're going to have to have good pressure on the ball and try to keep them off the boards. It's going to be a good test."

After a four-point win over Missouri State Saturday, Johnson said the last two days of practice focused on "rebounding and being more talkative on defense."

"The last game, [Missouri State] got a couple layups when we weren't talking or in the defensive stance," Johnson said.

The Rockets also put in lots of work against the zone, a defense that Missouri State used effectively in the second half to contain Tyrone Kent.

"We've got to get in the paint more and break it down," Johnson said.

Without another home game after tonight until Dec. 8, UT wants to take advantage of a rare opportunity against the Commodores.

"I don't know when we'll ever see a team from the Southeastern Conference come back into our arena," Joplin said.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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