VU beats UGA, advances to SEC semis

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – John Jenkins scored 15 points and Vanderbilt overcame a shaky first half for a comfortable 63-41 victory over Georgia on Friday night in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Brad Tinsley added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Commodores (22-10), whose triumph set up a semifinal matchup on Saturday with Mississippi, a 77-72 overtime winner over Tennessee.

Dustin Ware scored 10 for Georgia (15-17), which had upset Mississippi State a night earlier but faded against the Commodores while missing 21 of 27 shots in the second half.

“Our defense was the difference,” Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. “It was really solid throughout; got better as the game went along. I thought that Jeffery Taylor was as good defensively as I ever remember seeing him. And obviously for us to hold Gerald (Robinson) and Kentavious (Caldwell-Pope) to three and two points, we couldn’t have even hoped for that.”

Vanderbilt trailed by a point when the second half began but quickly vaulted in front with a 12-2 run that began when Tinsley hit a driving layup as he was fouled and followed that up with a driving finger roll.

Lance Goulbourne capped the spurt with a two-handed jam set up by Taylor’s drive and no-look pass. Goulbourne added a 3 and a dunk soon after, and Vandy led 50-35 when Festus Ezeli scored inside.

“You don’t see us with 20-point victories very often when we go 6 of 25 from three and only shoot 11 foul shots,” Stallings said. “Generally we’re a good 3-point shooting team and we get to the foul line a lot, and that’s usually why we’re a good offensive team. Tonight obviously it was much different than that.tinsleygeorgia3912.jpg

Ezeli and Goulbourne each finished with 10 points, and Ezeli made five of six shots.

Vanderbilt outshot Georgia 43.9 percent (25 of 57) to 31.9 percent (15 of 47). The Bulldogs were plagued by 17 turnovers, while the Commodores lost the ball eight times.

Vanderbilt entered the game shooting 40 percent from 3-point range on the season, but made only 3 of 13 from long range in the first half, and shot only 34.6 percent (9 of 26) overall in the opening 20 minutes.

Jeffery Taylor, who came in as one of Vanderbilt’s leading scorers with 17 points per game, missed his first five shots, including a couple of air balls.

The Commodores’ dry spells allowed Georgia to claw back each time Vanderbilt seemed to be on the verge of pulling away early in the game.

An early 7-0 run highlighted by Ezeli’s fast-break layup and Jenkins’ 3 allowed the Commodores to take an 11-3 lead, but Georgia was able to score the next eight points, including Ware’s 3 and mid-range jumper, to tie it.

Late in the half, Tinsley hit a 3 and layup in succession to help Vanderbilt move ahead 24-19. Georgia, however, scored the last six points of the period and took a 25-24 lead into the locker room.

Notes: With the win, Vanderbilt advances to the SEC semifinals for the third straight season. Vanderbilt will face Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday on ABC. The other semifinal features Kentucky against Florida and begins at noon CT.