Georgia reversed its performance in a 46-point loss to Tennessee by securing its first SEC win of the season Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs and the Commodores kept the game tight throughout the first 20 minutes, but Georgia pulled away late in the second half to secure an 82-63 win over Vanderbilt.
“It was a great win for us, I know it helped us out a lot coming back home in front of our fans,” sophomore Nicolas Claxton said. “It was huge getting this win, first SEC win under our belt.”
The teams played evenly in the first half, with Georgia leading 34-33 at the intermission. Vanderbilt still trailed by one with 9:58 remaining in the game, 56-55, when the Bulldogs went on a tear, out-scoring the Commodores 26-8 the rest of the way.
For the game, sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds led the Bulldogs with 19 points, and Derek Ogbeide scored 15.
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Coach Tom Crean said he was excited about Hammonds’ performance on the court in the second half, after he recorded zero points in the first half and one offensive rebound.
Crean then put out a challenge to Hammonds to up his game.
“And then he comes out in the second half and bangs that first shot, looks good doing it,” Crean said. “He has another gear in him, it’s our job to keep pulling it out of him.”
Georgia showed early its capabilities to rebound both its own missed shots and Vanderbilt’s in the first half, while also capitalizing on those moments with points. Claxton led the Bulldogs with nine rebounds in the half, 12 in the game.
As the game continued, the offensive rebounds dropped off. Georgia finished with 17 defensive rebounds and seven offensive rebounds to total for 24 rebounds in the first half. It was a similar story in the second half, with defensive rebounds more prominent than offensive. Georgia finished with 14 defensive and five offensive rebounds in the second half.
The Commodores’ fouls throughout the first half allowed the Bulldogs to enter the double bonus, yet Georgia was not able to capitalize off the opportunities as much as it could have. The Bulldogs made eight of their 13 free throws. The foul discrepancy continued in the second half for Vanderbilt, leading to a technical foul on coach Bryce Drew, and Georgia capitalized on the opportunity with two made free throws by Hammonds.
A flagrant foul was called on Vanderbilt’s Joe Toye with about nine minutes left in the first half. Claxton took and missed both shots, but responded with a jumper to put Georgia down by two, 24-22.
In the final two minutes of the half, the Bulldogs regained the lead by two points, 33-31. A 3-pointer, a free throw from Claxton and a pair free throws by Vanderbilt’s Saben Lee ended the first half with Georgia in the lead over Vanderbilt 34-33.
The score stayed tight throughout the beginning of the second half until Georgia started to pull ahead with six points with 15 minutes left in the game. Georgia then led by 12 points, but Vanderbilt answered and closed it back to one point with less than 10 minutes. Two consecutive 3-pointers re-surged Georgia’s lead back to seven and eventually returned to 19 points.
“We stayed true to making sure we were locked into the defense, and all of a sudden, things start to happen offensively when you’re doing that,” Crean said. “That’s the maturity we’ve got to have moving forward.”
The Bulldogs didn’t relinquish their lead, and gave up six points in the last four minutes.
Claxton said he thought the team’s execution against Vanderbilt was one of its more complete performances on the court, and the momentum they need to head into the next game.
“Just the way we game out in the first half solid,” Claxton said. “And the second half, having that surge and staying locked in and not letting the game get away from us like we have a few times this year.”