Commodores surge late to topple Bulldogs, 80-67


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores finally have had enough of watching big leads turn into painful losses.

Damian Jones scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds leading five Commodores in double figures as Vanderbilt grabbed a big lead early and held on Saturday afternoon in beating Georgia 80-67.

“We kind of just put our foot down,” Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis said. “We’re kind of tired of teams coming back on us, so nobody got rattled and we just locked in on the defensive end.”

The Commodores (16-11, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) won for the third time in four games, this time bouncing back after blowing a 17-point lead Tuesday night when they lost at Mississippi State on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. That was the fifth time the Commodores had blown a double-digit lead and their second loss this season when leading by at least 16.

That prompted coach Kevin Stallings to criticize his Commodores, including himself, for struggling so after being picked to finish second in the SEC. Against Georgia, Wade Baldwin IV added a team-high 17 points. Fisher-Davis had 13, Jeff Roberson 12 and Luke Kornet 11.

“When the game got tight, we had guys step up and make plays,” Stallings said. “They didn’t look around and wait for somebody else to make them. They played aggressively, and we got some big baskets from people other than Wade and Damian.”

Georgia (14-11, 7-7) lost its third in four games.

J. J. Frazier led Georgia with 21 points, Yante Maten added 19 points and Derek Ogbeide had 11.

This game featured not just the SEC’s two best defenses but two of the country’s stingiest with Georgia holding opponents to a league-best 37.8 percent shooting with Vanderbilt just behind at 38 percent, good for seventh nationally. Playing at Memorial Gym, the Commodores shot 45.5 percent (25 of 55) while holding Georgia to 38.1 percent (24 of 63).

“It’s a great shooting team,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They have a terrific low post presence. Probably offensively one of the most talented teams we’ll play all year.”

The Bulldogs led only once on the opening jumper by Ogbeide. Vanderbilt answered with the next 10 points, which included back-to-back baskets by Baldwin, one a 3-pointer, and finished with a 3-point play from Roberson. The Commodores pushed that lead to as much as 16 late in the half Joe Toye’s dunk with 3:08 left at 35-19.

Georgia finished the half with six unanswered points to pull within 37-28.

Vanderbilt scored the first four points of the second half, but the Commodores went cold going nearly six minutes between buckets after Jones’ dunk before Camron Justice hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 11:53 left. In that time, Kenny Gaines finally started shooting after missing his first six shots, knocking down a jumper with 13:36 to go.

Georgia got within four a couple times, the last at 56-62 on a driving layup by Maten. The Bulldogs got no closer once Vandy put together a 7-0 spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Fisher-Davis with 4:35 left.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores’ two losses by at least 16 included Dayton at Memorial Gym in December. … Fisher-Davis fouled out with 4:08 left, the first time the sophomore has fouled out in his career. Fisher-Davis hit three 3s for a fourth straight game. … The Commodores were swept by Georgia last season.

Georgia: Only Maten, Frazier and Ogbeide scored for most of the first half before Houston Kessler hit a 3-pointer. That left the rest of the Bulldogs a combined 0 of 11 in the half with Gaines 0 of 5 and Charles Mann 0 of 3. Both Gaines and Mann finished with five points each, well below their double-digit averages. … The Bulldogs went 11 of 20 at the free throw line compared to 23 of 29 for Vandy.

Vanderbilt: Visits Florida on Tuesday night.

Georgia: Visits Auburn on Wednesday night.