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February 28, 2008

Foster makes statement in Tennessee game

Vanderbilt forward Shan Foster eloquently stated his case for SEC Player of the Year on Tuesday night at Memorial Gym, leading No. 18 Vanderbilt to a 72-69 upset of No. 1 Tennessee.

Foster, a senior from Kenner, La., poured in 32 points. He shot 9-of-13, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. He was the only player in the game who shot better than 50 percent.

It was a terrific performance for Foster, who took back the SEC scoring lead from South Carolina's Devan Downey and also leads the conference in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage. Center A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt's second-leading scorer, got into foul trouble and was held to a season-low four points in just 12 minutes. His absence essentially rendered the Commodores an all-perimeter team, and still Tennessee couldn't rein in Foster.

"Shan Foster is pretty incredible," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "Sometimes I wish we wouldn't necessarily wait around for him to score, but he got it going early against Tennessee. And when he gets it going, he kind of carries the rest of the guys with him."

Foster had one of his worst shooting games of the season in the first game against Tennessee, and the Vols drilled the Commodores 80-60. He scored 14 points and was 6-of-17 from the field.

"The first time we played them I struggled, and I never want to play like that again," Foster said. "(This time) I was able to knock down some shots, and my teammates did a good job of looking for me at certain spots."

All of Foster's points from the floor in the first half came from 3-point range. He hit a huge 3-pointer at the 3:59 mark of the first half after Tennessee had closed to 26-23. Stallings had taken Foster out of the game shortly after he picked up his second foul. He sat from the 7:39 mark with Vandy leading 24-17 until the 4:25 mark.

Vanderbilt senior forward Shan Foster has been on a tear during the Commodores' current seven-game winning streak. Here is a game-by-game look at what he has done:
Auburn 6-11 4-916
at Georgia 5-13 3-1013
South Carolina 8-15 5-1121
Kentucky 8-10 2-320
Florida 7-16 3-919
Georgia 11-18 3-929
Tennessee 9-13 6-932
Totals 54-96 (56.3%) 26-60 (43.3%) 21.4 ppg
"We got to a point where we really couldn't score," Stallings said. "We need all of our weapons to score against them on the best of days. We're sitting there without our main weapons, so we have to put Shan back in. He hit a '3,' we offense-defense subbed him the rest of the half. I don't like to play guys with two fouls, but I don't like to have them sitting over there having fouls left at the end if we're watching the game slip away from us, either."

Foster wasn't about to let it slip away. He scored 19 second-half points, including 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.

He has been on an absolute tear during Vanderbilt's current seven-game winning streak, averaging 21.4 points and shooting 56.3 percent. That includes a ridiculous 77.8 percent inside the 3-point arc.

Foster, who is 19 points away from surpassing Matt Freije as the Commodores' leading career scorer, has been at his best against the Commodores' top competition. He had 20 in each game against Kentucky, 26 against South Alabama, 26 against Wake Forest, 32 against Massachusetts and the 32 against UT.

"Foster is a great player and a great shooter," Vols coach Bruce Pearl said. "He had six '3's and got to the foul line obviously. He stepped up in a huge way."

Vanderbilt is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and it's now working on climbing up the seedings. A victory at Arkansas on Saturday would cement the Commodores as a top-four seed, with the potential of reaching a No. 3 or even a No. 2.


Each week basketball editor Bob McClellan picks six things to watch for over the weekend:

1. Indiana's final exam. The Hoosiers (24-4 overall, 13-2 in the Big Ten) have not been nearly as impressive in the Dakich Era as they were during the first 26 games of the season, with narrow victories over Northwestern and Ohio State. Sunday, they travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State (22-5, 10-4), which has split its past six games and could use a big win. At one point, the Spartans were 17-2 and looked like not only a threat to win the league but to be a serious player come NCAA Tournament time. But with a game at Wisconsin on Thursday night, the Spartans could be a wounded animal against the Hoosiers. This is really the last test for D.J. White, Eric Gordon & Co., who get Minnesota at home and then play at Penn State. If IU wins its last three, it's in a solid position to receive a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

2. The SEC East race. Like Jason in the Friday the 13th series, Kentucky (16-10, 10-3) refuses to die. Given up for dead after being drawn and quartered in the non-conference schedule, the Wildcats not only are in position to play their way into the NCAA Tournament if they can win at No. 1 Tennessee (25-3, 11-2) on Sunday, but they can take over the lead in the SEC East by virtue of having swept the season series with UT. UK won the first matchup in Lexington 72-66 on Jan. 22. The Vols, though, are stinging after losing at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Despite Chris Lofton's 25 points, the Commodores prevailed 72-69. It was the first game in Tennessee history as the nation's No. 1 team, and the loss means Sunday's game against the Wildcats probably will be the Vols' last game as the No. 1 team for at least a little while. Pearl figures to have them ready to go, so we'll see how Billy Gillispie and the 'Cats respond.

3. The Michael Beasley road show. The leading candidate for national player of the year honors has been closer to mortal on the road this season. In true road games, he's shooting just a shade under 50 percent (compared with 54.3 percent for the season) and averaging only 23.7 points (compared with 26.2 for the season). The Wildcats (18-9 overall, 8-5 in the Big 12) travel to Lawrence on Saturday to take on revenge-minded Kansas (25-3, 10-3). K-State ended KU's unbeaten streak at 20 with an 84-75 victory on Jan. 30. Beasley had 25 points and just six rebounds in the first meeting.

4. To Arizona, with Love. If someone put a gun to my head and why would they over such trivial things as my pick right now to win the NCAA Tournament I'd have to choose UCLA as the favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio in April. I'll change my mind if the Bruins (24-3 overall, 12-2 in the Pac-10) don't take care of business on the road this week against the Arizona schools. Both the Wildcats (17-10, 7-7) and Sun Devils (17-9, 7-7) are in dire need of padding their NCAA resumes, not to mention their natural hatred for their Pac-10 rival. Freshman Kevin Love leads the Bruins in scoring (17 ppg) and rebounding (11 rpg), and he was dominant when the Arizona schools visited Pauley Pavilion. Love had 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting in a 33-point blowout of ASU and 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting in a 22-point blowout of UA.

5. Georgetown at Marquette. The Hoyas (23-4 overall, 13-3 in the Big East) have shown some chinks in their armor in recent weeks, with losses to Louisville and Syracuse. Consequently, the resurgent Cardinals are tied with them atop the Big East standings. The Golden Eagles (21-6, 11-5) have won eight of 10 and are making a late-season charge of their own. One key has been defense: During its current five-game winning streak, Marquette has held its opponents to 22.8 percent shooting from 3-point range. Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace will present a big challenge; he's shooting 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from beyond the arc over the past four games.

6. Saint Mary's at Gonzaga. If the sequel is as good as the first matchup, this should be a treat. The Gaels (24-4 overall, 11-1 in the West Coast Conference) won the first meeting 89-85 in overtime. Each team had four players score in double figures. Jeremy Pargo had a game-high 27 for the Bulldogs (22-6, 11-1). Gonzaga has won the West Coast Conference regular-season title in each of the past seven seasons. The streak ends Saturday if they don't avenge their loss to Saint Mary's.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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