Final: Vanderbilt 64, Georgia 56
And that's it. Georgia blows another big second-half lead, and this time it costs them.
We'll see if it ends up being a debilitating loss as far as the NCAA tourney chances. But if Georgia does miss out, it will probably look back on the blown 14-point lead tonight as the reason.
Emotions ran high at the end, with the officials the target. Mark Fox, once the game was no longer in doubt, looked like he wanted a technical, going out on the court and visibly berating the officials.
He got the T, and then a few fans started tossing items on the court. The three officials were also the target of fan ire as they were escorted to the locker room.
Say what you want about the officiating near the end, but Georgia's offensive ineptitude in the final stretch was the main difference.
This loss, coupled with last week's blown lead and home loss to Xavier, shows a team still needing to mature. And it's running out of time to do so.
4:27 left in second half, Georgia leads 53-52
And here we go again ... Georgia's once-huge second-half lead has been nearly erased, and it's anybody's game down the stretch.
Georgia can blame its defense, both on the perimeter and the glass. John Jenkins has four 3s, and a series of offensive rebounds has allowed the Commodores extra chances. The latest came on a loose ball which ended up with Brad Tinsley, who nailed a 3.
The Bulldogs may still hold on. But just like at South Carolina, it didn't build up nearly the first-half lead it could have, then had a long lapse after extending the lead in the second half.
9:30 left in second half, Georgia leads 53-43
This game has seen an offensive explosion, as both teams are pouring in 3s. John Jenkins finally scored, and the Commodores have finally woken up - but so has Georgia.
Dustin Ware, Gerald Robinson and Travis Leslie each have 3s in the past couple minutes. So do Jenkins (two of them) and Rod Odom for Vanderbilt.
Georgia is happy to trade 3s with Vanderbilt, considering the score. But as the minutes tick on, I imagine Mark Fox will want the pace to slow a bit, and have that clock run. So look for the tempo to slow a bit.
14:00 left in second half, Georgia leads 40-26
The Bulldogs have their first double-digit lead of the game after an 11-0 run. And John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, still has zero points.
Obviously a great start to the half for Georgia, which is showing the energy and defense it needs to put this one away. I still expect a run (or two) from Vandy. But perhaps Georgia learned a lesson at South Carolina about not putting teams away.
Halftime: Georgia leads 27-21
Vanderbilt's best two players, John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor, have a combined point total of zero. I don't know if that's a good sign for Georgia or not.
Are Jenkins and Taylor just each destined to have one of those nights, and together, the way Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie did at Kentucky? Is Georgia's defense that good and set to continue into the second half?
Or is an eruption from either or both Commodore star inevitable, and the fact Georgia only has a seven-point lead is worrisome for the Bulldogs?
You could look at it the other way too: Leslie (four points) and Thompkins (five points) have been pretty quiet so far too. Gerald Robinson (10 points and two steals) has led the way for the Bulldogs, with Dustin Ware chipping in a couple 3s.
Georgia's rebounding has also been pretty good: Chris Barnes and Thompkins have six rebounds each, and Leslie has five. Of course, Vandy missed a ton of shots.
5:47 left in first half, Georgia leads 19-13
Things are going well, though not perfect, for Georgia so far. And for a second straight game, the Bulldogs are involved in an ugly first half.
Vanderbilt is 5-for-28 from the field. Georgia is doing a great job so far on John Jenkins, always having a man in his face, and sometimes two.
That said, I still think Georgia is leaving too many shots on the floor. Remember last game, when South Carolina shot so badly and Georgia's 19-point halftime lead seemed safe. When the other team's struggling, put them away.
14:32 left in first half, Georgia leads 8-3
The first time Georgia played Vanderbilt, it hoisted 3-pointers all night, struggled and lost. So far the Commodores are daring the Bulldogs to do it again – and the shots are finally falling.
After a very slow start, Gerald Robinson and then Trey Thompkins nailed 3s, and Georgia has an early lead. Vanderbilt is playing a strict zone defense, then leaving center Festus Ezeli in the middle. The message is clear: Beat us with your 3s. (The first game, UGA shot 5-for-21 from beyond the arc.)
Tonight, Georgia missed its first 10 shots, and Vanderbilt its first six. The game’s first field goal came at 16:19 on a put-back by Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom.
A fairly big game tonight for Georgia, which needs one more quality win - at least - to feel good about its NCAA tournament chances. And with the other opportunities coming on the road, tonight's home game against No. 18 Vanderbilt could be the best chance.
Of course Georgia is 6-2 on the road this year, so who knows, it may have a better shot in the next two games at Tennessee and Florida.
In any case, this game is for sole possession of second place in the SEC East. Vanderbilt and Georgia are both 6-4, just ahead of Kentucky (6-5) and Tennessee (5-5). So the winner of this game may have inside track on the all-important bye in the SEC tournament.
But the Commodores are going to be a tough out tonight. Guard John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, may be the best shooter in the nation this side of Jimmer Fredette. (Mark Fox said Tuesday that Jenkins is shooting beyond an NBA level right now). Jeffery Taylor, a preseason first-team All-SEC pick, is an all-court talent. And 6-11 center Festus Ezeli has been a force underneath.
Still, Vanderbilt (18-6) is an NCAA lock, while Georgia knows it needs this. So if it comes down to who wants it more, it favors the Bulldogs.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Final: Vanderbilt 64, Georgia 56