Just a few days removed from a crushing overtime defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 4-2) collected themselves and managed to bounce back at home on Tuesday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4). Here are the keys that propelled UGA to the 76-68 home win:
Unselfish, efficient offense
Vanderbilt attempted to zone the Dawgs early in this game and UGA ate it up. Georgia did an excellent job of getting the ball into the short corners and finding gaps in the zone. When UGA players penetrated and drew extra defenders, the Dawgs opted to pass instead of forcing up highly-contested shots. Georgia dished out 16 team assists, which marks their highest total yet in SEC play. UGA shot over 45% from the floor, and the Dawgs had four starters finish in double-figures – Yante Maten and Juwan Parker led the way with 21 and 17, respectively. The Bulldogs also knocked down 40% from beyond the arc, and the majority of those three-pointers came on kick out passes from the paint. Lastly, UGA valued the basketball, turning it over just 6 times on Tuesday, which is a drastic improvement for a Georgia team that entered this contest average 16 turnovers per conference game.
Solid first half perimeter defense
Vanderbilt gets 40% of its offense from beyond the arc. The Dores came into Athens making over 40% of its three-point shots in SEC play. However, UGA held Vandy to just 1 of 9 from the perimeter in the first half, which enabled Georgia to take a 34-25 advantage into the break. Coach Mark Fox had his team in a lot of match up zone, and the Dawgs’ defenders closed out and contested nearly every Commodore three-point attempt. The second half was a different story though, as Vandy found its range and connected on 9 of 22 shots from beyond the arc. The Dores ended up with 10 three’s, which is just below their 10.8 average in SEC games, but they only made 34% of them. The Dawgs’ ability to contain Vanderbilt from the perimeter in this contest’s first twenty minutes proved crucial, and it may have been the difference in the game.
Vanderbilt, who only led for 1:35 of this game, had three opportunities to overtake the Dawgs last night. However, each time the Dores closed the gap, Georgia found a way to respond. After building up a 14-5 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the half, UGA’s offense took a breather and scored just 2 points over the next six minutes. With 7:33 remaining before the break and Vandy trailing 16-11, Yante Maten buried a big three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the UGA lead.
Vandy opened up the second half with a flurry of three-pointers, and after Jeff Roberson hit one from beyond the arc the UGA advantage had been cut to 42-39 with a little over 15 minutes left in the game. The Dawgs answered, though, as J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker hit back to back three’s, and Jordan Harris stole a lazy Vandy pass and took it the length of the floor for an electrifying one-handed dunk, putting Georgia up 50-41.
The Dores last effort to catch the Dawgs came late in the game when Riley Lachance sunk a three to trim the UGA lead to 65-60 with 2:17 remaining. Once again, Coach Fox’s team responded to the pressure, getting the ball into the hands of Yante Maten, who was fouled and made both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Parker got a steal and was immediately sent to the line, where he too hit both attempts. With just 1:25 left, UGA had a 69-60 lead that Vandy would not surmount.