Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew switched his team into a zone defense for the first time all game less than 5 minutes into the second half with the Commodores (9-5) trailing Georgia (9-5) 45-39. Inexplicably, Drew kept his team in this look for nearly the rest of the way, and Bulldog coach Tom Crean could not have been happier. After shooting just 2 of 12 from the perimeter in the game’s first 20 minutes, the Dawgs knocked down 7 of 14 three-point attempts in the second half and cruised to an 82-63 victory.
To be clear: this was just a one-point game at halftime, in Georgia’s favor. Typically, when a team begins to heat up from the outside, as UGA did on Wednesday, the opposing squad switches back into a man look. I’m not sure why Bryce Drew didn’t follow suit.
A huge contributor to UGA’s dominant second-half performance was sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored all 19 of his team-high points after the break. Rayshaun Hammonds started slow again after getting blanked against Tennessee in the SEC opener. The sophomore missed all four of his first-half field goal attempts as he looked out of sorts offensively to begin this one. Hammonds woke up quickly out of the intermission, however, as he scored 7 points before even 4 minutes had elapsed.
Teshaun Hightower provided a surprisingly productive 21 minutes for coach Crean, particularly in the first half. Hightower asserted himself more on offense as he made repeated concerted efforts to drive the ball at the rim, which resulted in 8 first half points to go along with 4 boards; the sophomore would finish with 11 points in the game. Of all the Georgia guards, Hightower is definitely the strongest candidate to take on the role of a legitimate point guard that can put some pressure on opposing defenses.
Defensively, the Dawgs did a great job of shutting down Vandy’s star point guard Saben Lee in the game’s second half. Lee gave Georgia fits prior to the break as he scored 10 points, with many of them coming near or at the rim. The UGA guards did a much better job of staying in front of him after the break, and they managed to limit Lee to just 2 second-half points.
Georgia definitely started this contest playing faster than it did last weekend in Knoxville against the Vols. The quicker pace created a helter skelter tempo early in the game that resulted in some sloppiness from both teams – Vandy had 7 turnovers in the first half to Georgia’s 8 giveaways; the Dores converted the UGA turnovers into 14 points prior to the intermission. The Dawgs quickly saw a 14-6 advantage turn into a 19-14 Vandy lead with a little over 11 minutes left in the half; Georgia had 4 turnovers during this stretch. Credit Tom Crean for settling his team down in the second half, where UGA committed just 4 more turnovers the rest of the way.
Georgia showed a lot of resilience in it win over Vandy on Wednesday night, especially considering the thrashing that the Dawgs received last weekend against Tennessee. Getting the conference win was absolutely crucial tonight as the Dawgs have a much taller task on Saturday when they travel to the Plains to take on the #11 Auburn Tigers.