ST. LOUIS – On a night that could have signaled the end of this disappointing Georgia basketball season, UGA instead offered a glimpse of what could have been.
Georgia trounced Vanderbilt 78-62 in the first round of the SEC Tournament in a game that wasn’t that close. Georgia led by as many as 25 in the first half. It was a wholly different performance than the Bulldogs have put up in other games, including the regular-season match-up with the Commodores, which was a 15-point loss.
Now 12 th-seeded Georgia (17-14) moves on to a Thursday afternoon with fifth-seeded Missouri, which is due to get back star freshman Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played all season. It will make it that much tougher for the Bulldogs to keep their season going. But they at least have the chance after playing one of their best games of the season.
Georgia scored the game’s first 10 points and at one point led 38-13. Unlike much of this season, when star senior forward Yante Maten didn’t get enough help, he did this time, with three teammates reaching double figures. The Bulldogs were also as locked in as they’ve been all season, committing just three turnovers.
After being dominated in February by Vanderbilt’s 3-point shooting, Georgia made this game about its inside game, where it dominated. And just for good measure the Bulldogs also did well outside, making it a rout.
Four who mattered
Maten: Georgia’s star player was dominant. He scored a game-high 25 points, going 9-for-12 from the floor, and was able to sit the final four-plus minutes with the game out of reach, saving some energy for the next afternoon.
Nicolas Claxton: The Georgia freshman forward had a few highlight reel plays, including a dunk off an offensive rebound, holding onto the rim to avoid coming down on the shoulders of a Vanderbilt player. Claxton finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Rayshaun Hammonds: The freshman forward also had a strong game underneath, grabbing eight rebounds and scoring baskets off some strong drives. He finished with 10 points.
Derek Ogbeide: The junior center had a game-high 10 rebounds, and also had seven points.
More like avoiding a turning point: The game was never close in the first half, but Vanderbilt used a 13-2 run to draw within 14 early in the second half. At that point Georgia focused again on getting the ball inside, which resulted in fouls, free throws and open 3-point shooters: Teshaun Hightower nailed one to basically end the threat.
The first game was decided at the 3-point line: Vanderbilt 11-for-24 and Georgia was 2-for-9. This time, Vanderbilt began the game 0-for-6 on 3s and Georgia began 4-for-8. Eventually the 3-point shooting numbers evened out, but by then Georgia’s inside game had also proved too strong.
Georgia and Missouri will meet in the second game of Thursday’s session. The game is due to start approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the game between Alabama and Texas A&M.
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