Comeback effort falls short at Georgia


ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Coming off perhaps his worst game of the season, Georgia’s Nemanja Djurisic was called to the coach’s office.

Not for a dressing down, but to get some words of encouragement.

The senior responded Tuesday night.

Djurisic scored 15 points, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the first half, and the Bulldogs won their fifth straight Southeastern Conference game with a 70-62 victory over Vanderbilt.

“Obviously, I had not played well lately,” said Djurisic, who also had a team-high nine rebounds. “I tried to improve some things with my spacing, work off screens to get open offensively.”

Coach Mark Fox could sense that Djurisic needed a boost after the 6-foot-8 forward fouled out of last Saturday’s victory at Mississippi State, scoring a season-low 4 points in just 16 minutes.

“I think he was feeling a little weight of his senior year,” Fox said. “I told him to just relax and play. I knew he was due to come back and have a good ballgame.”

Marcus Thornton added 14 points for Georgia, while Kenny Gaines had 13 and J.J. Frazier 12.

The Bulldogs (14-5, 5-2 SEC) broke open a tight game with a 9-0 run early in the second half, capped by Yante Maten’s three-point play. Led by Djurisic, Georgia got plenty of production in the first half with a different kind of trey, going 7 of 12 beyond the arc. The Bulldogs finished 9 of 17.

Vanderbilt (11-9, 1-6) lost its sixth straight since opening SEC play with a win over Auburn, shooting just 36 percent from the field. The Commodores got as close as four down the stretch before Georgia sealed the win at the free throw line, finishing 23 of 25.

Damian Jones led Vandy with 16 points.

“We really didn’t do anything that was good enough to win the game,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. “We played hard, but we didn’t shoot it well enough.”

The first half featured 10 lead changes and a couple of ties, neither team getting up by more than six. Georgia settled for a 31-27 lead at the break.

The Commodores went ahead for the final time on Jeff Roberson’s 3-pointer, which made it 36-35 with 17-1/2 minutes remaining.

Georgia took control from there. Frazier converted a three-point play, Gaines hit a 3 after stealing the ball from Josh Henderson, and Maten’s basket and free throw pushed the Bulldogs ahead 44-36.

Vanderbilt missed five straight shots and turned it over three times, going nearly 5-1/2 minutes without scoring.

Georgia led by as many as 14 points.

SEC player of the week Frazier, coming off a career-best 37 points at Mississippi State, made only 2 of 7 from the field but was perfect on seven free throws.

Georgia swept the season series, also defeating Vanderbilt 70-67 in Nashville on Jan. 14.

Vanderbilt: Roberson and Luke Kornet had 11 points apiece. … Wade Baldwin IV contributed four assists and three steals.

Georgia: The Bulldogs made 19 of 34 from the 3-point line in their two wins over the Commodores this season. … Georgia had a 37-27 edge on the boards. … Along with Frazier, Thornton (5 of 5), Djurisic (4 of 4) and Gaines (2 of 2) were also perfect at the foul line.

Henderson was called for a flagrant foul in the first half when he slammed into Thornton as the Georgia player went in for an attempted dunk. Thornton landed hard on the court, appearing to strike his head and neck as the crowd gasped, but he hopped up quickly. Given a few seconds to gather himself while officials reviewed the play, he stepped to the line and made both free throws.

“They’re young, but they’re dangerous. … They’re going to win their share of games,” — Fox on Vandy’s youthful team, which has three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup, plus two more freshmen playing key roles off the bench.

Vanderbilt: Visits Texas A&M on Saturday seeking its first win since Jan. 6.

Georgia: Travels to South Carolina on Saturday looking to extend its winning streak to six in a row.