The Georgia Bulldogs (14-5, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) went on a 20-5 run in the second half and held on to beat Vanderbilt Commodores (11-9, 1-6 SEC) 70-62 on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs thwarted Vanderbilt’s attempt to avenge an earlier 70-67 loss, and in the process swept the Commodores for the first time in 14 years.
Junior Kenny Gaines scored 13 points for Georgia, who had four of their five starters score in double-figures. With Georgia leading 38-36 in the second half Gaines turned the ball over but hustled back to make an emphatic block on Vanderbilt guard Matthew Fisher-Davis. On the ensuing possession Gaines redeemed his turnover when he caught a deflected Vanderbilt pass and dribbled into a pull-up 3-pointer. The made basket ignited the team and the home crowd.
“I feel like it was huge,” Gaines said. “I just want to be a difference maker, and help the team out anyway I can.”
[break] Georgia shot the ball extremely well from 3-point range in the first half going 7-for-12, but the team defense on Vanderbilt was the key reason for the win. Vanderbilt shot 37 percent in the first half and ended the game at 36 percent. However, head coach Mark Fox was critical of the team’s performance early.
“I thought they outplayed us in the first half,” Fox said. “I think we can play better.”
[break] [break] The first half featured 10 lead changes. Senior Nemanja Djurisic anchored the Bulldogs in the tough first half. Djurisic had 11 of his 15 points in the half, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Djurisic was a rebound shy of a double-double as Georgia controlled the glass throughout the game. Fox credited a meeting he had with Djurisic about his struggles in recent games as a factor in his performance.
“I think he was feeling a little of the weight of his senior year,” Fox said. “I told him just relax and play.”
Georgia students were given free T-shirts with Djurisic’s number and he responded with one of his best games this year. “That and the new haircut had me feeling good about myself, “Djurisic said.
Georgia led by as many as 14 points in the second half but Vanderbilt cut the lead to eight with 4:07 remaining. Charles Mann, J.J. Frazier, Gaines, and Djurisic responded with clutch free throws down the stretch to close out Vanderbilt. Georgia came in shooting 66.5 percent from the charity stripe, but finished 23-of-25 (92 percent) from the free throw line as a team.
“That’s a great part about this group is that it really truly is a team and they enjoy being a team,” Fox said.
[break] [break] Notes
– Vanderbilt freshman Riley Lachance received boos from the Georgia student section every time he touched the ball. The students pick a player to boo every game and the freshman was an easy pick after scoring 21 points against Georgia in the first meeting. Lachance missed all five of his shots and was held scoreless in Tuesday’s contest.
“I felt like we played better team defense,” Gaines said.
– Georgia next plays against South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia at 4 p.m. Then the team will ready themselves for a much anticipated matchup against the No.1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats on the road next Tuesday.