COLUMBIA — Jabari Brown remembers the lights, he remembers the noise and he remembers the crowd.
But most of all, he remembers the loss.
Missouri Tigers (13-2, 0-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt Commodores (8-6, 0-2 SEC)
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tenn.
Radio: Tiger Radio Network
Vanderbilt notable alumni: Former Vice President Al Gore (did not graduate), Skip Bayless and Randy Brooks, the songwriter who penned "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
“It was an introduction to college basketball,” said Brown, who scored seven points in his collegiate debut at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium in 2011 as a member of the Oregon Ducks.
Brown, now with Missouri (13-2, 1-1 SEC), returns to Nashville on Thursday to face the Commodores. Missouri has also lost two straight at Vanderbilt.
“I definitely want to go back there and make things right in that building, from a personal standpoint,” Brown said. “But that will also benefit the team.”
Missouri will face a Vanderbilt team desperate for a positive result. The Commodores are 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play after losses to Alabama and Kentucky. The team will have to try to turn things around without leading scorer Eric McClellan, who was dismissed from the team on Jan. 10 for off-the-court issues. McClellan, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Tulsa, was averaging 14.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
But even with the Commodores adjusting to life without their top player, the Tigers, who fell from No. 21 to out of the Associated Press Top 25 after two rocky games against lower-level SEC opponents, are only slim favorites to win on the road.
Brown knows too well the advantage teams have in their home buildings, and he didn’t need to watch Arkansas dramatically beat No. 13 Kentucky in Fayetteville on Tuesday to remind him that in the SEC, anyone can beat anyone.
“We already knew that,” said Brown, whose Tigers are 1-1 in conference play after nipping host Auburn 70-68 on Saturday. “It doesn’t matter who is ranked and who isn’t. It’s hard to win road games. Teams are always going to be strong at home. It’s all about sticking to the game plan and eliminating those little mistakes.”
With McClellan out, Vanderbilt will rely on 6-foot-9 forward Rod Odom (13.2 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game) and freshman forward Damian Jones (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) to carry the scoring load.
In the Commodores' 71-62 home loss to Kentucky last week, Jones outmuscled standout freshman Julius Randle, tallying 18 points and 11 rebounds
“We know who their key guys are,” Brown said.
Tigers coach Frank Haith typically waits until game day to designate individual assignments, so Brown said Wednesday he didn’t know who he’d be covering. But it's safe to assume he will be placed on the Commodores' most dangerous guard, leaving the task of slowing down Jones and Odom to forwards Johnathan Williams III and Ryan Rosburg. Reserves Torren Jones and Keanau Post will also likely help.
Torren Jones and Post combined for 17 rebounds Saturday against Auburn in what was, up to this point, easily the most impressive outing for each of the first-year Tigers.
In a conference call with the Missourian last week, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale expressed concern, as many have since the beginning of the season, about how Missouri’s frontcourt will perform against strong, skilled forwards of the SEC.
“The one factor they (Missouri) don’t have is size inside,” Vitale said. “They lack the dominating inside player.”
That will be the biggest test for the Tigers matching up against Odom and Damian Jones and a Vanderbilt team looking to avoid an 0-3 conference start.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.