Vanderbilt overcame the absence of two players in its last game and moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season. The Commodores could be without Lance Goulbourne and Andre Walker again as they attempt to stay there.
The No. 24 Commodores host surging Marquette on Wednesday night as they look to extend an 18-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.Vanderbilt (9-2) blew out Southeastern Louisiana and Middle Tennessee in its last two games, giving it seven victories in its last eight contests. The only loss came in overtime to then-No. 15 Missouri, and the surge has pushed the Commodores into the rankings for the first time since last season.Vanderbilt knocked off Middle Tennessee 72-53 on Dec. 21, winning by a comfortable margin despite the absence of Goulbourne and Andre Walker.Goulbourne, the team's second-leading rebounder at 6.7 per game, had to sit out after being suspended indefinitely for receiving an improper benefit involving the purchase of a parking pass last year. The NCAA has yet to rule on when he can return.The Commodores are more optimistic about getting Walker back after he missed the last three games with mononucleosis. The starting forward, averaging 3.7 points and 3.9 rebounds, has been practicing over the last week.Their absences didn't matter against the Blue Raiders. Jeffrey Taylor scored 18 points and Rod Odom, starting in Goulbourne's place, had six rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes."We found out after shootaround that we would be playing without Lance Goulbourne and so I was very worried because we were already down a man at that position," coach Kevin Stallings said. "I was very, very concerned, but Rod Odom and Joe Duffy came in and really played great for us. You can't ask for anything more."Taylor, Vanderbilt's second-leading scorer, will look to continue his strong play Wednesday. He has averaged 16.8 points in the last four games.The Commodores will be facing a Marquette squad that's won two in a row and five of six. The Golden Eagles (9-3) completed a five-game homestand with a 102-77 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 21.Jae Crowder had 16 of his 22 points in the first half and Darius Johnson-Odom scored 19 for Marquette, which shot 57.1 percent in the first 20 minutes and led 56-40 at the break.Marquette's three losses have come against top-ranked Duke, then-No. 22 Gonzaga and Wisconsin. The defeats to the Bulldogs and Badgers were by a combined eight points.The Eagles open Big East play Saturday against West Virginia. The conference has seven teams in the Top 25 and five in the top 10."No more warm-up games, if that's a respectful way of saying it," coach Buzz Williams said. "I think we're heading in the right direction."Johnson-Odom went 5 of 7 from 3-point range against the Delta Devils, matching his season high for made 3s. The junior shot 47.4 percent from beyond the arc last season but came into the Mississippi Valley State matchup at 26.0 percent from long range this season.Marquette leads the series with Vanderbilt 3-1. The teams haven't met since the Eagles won 69-61 in the 1974 NCAA tournament.