At halftime, the Georgia Bulldogs thought they had Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins figured out. An hour later, they were sitting in the locker room in shock, having witnessed one of the greatest second-half shooting performances this season.
Jenkins scored all 21 of his points in the final 14 minutes, and Georgia blew a 14-point second half lead, losing 64-56 at home to 18th-ranked Vanderbilt.
The Commodores improved to 19-6 (7-4 SEC) and took over second place in the SEC East. The Bulldogs fell to 17-8 (6-5), dropping yet another crucial conference game at Stegeman Coliseum.
Jenkins, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, was held scoreless on 0-5 shooting in the first half, but he erupted in the second, hitting five three-pointers and bringing the Commodores back in a game that looked all but lost when Georgia went up by 14 points with 14:34 left to play.
“We knew at some point he was going to come in and get hot,” Bulldogs guard Dustin Ware said of Jenkins. “He’s a great shooter. You’re never going to completely shut a guy like that out.”
The whole Vanderbilt team was lights out from deep in the second half, going 9-12 from long range. It was a remarkable turnaround from a first half in which the Commodores shot a dreadful 8-37 (21.6%). They stayed close, however, with dominant rebounding. They enjoyed a 49-32 rebounding advantage over Georgia and snagged 23 offensive boards, which they cashed in for 18 second-chance points.
“We won the (rebounding) battle the first game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said after the game, “and they probably put an emphasis on it. They just killed us.”
A three-pointer by Travis Leslie put Georgia up 53-40 with 9:48 to play. From then on, Vanderbilt went on a 24-3 run to finish the game. This included a 15-2 stretch in which the Commodores hit five three-pointers, four by Jenkins.
Gerald Robinson led the Bulldogs with 15 points. Ware added 12, going 4-6 from three-point range. Leading scorer Trey Thompkins struggled all night, finishing 2-10 with eight points.
Center Festus Ezeli had a big game for the Commodores, putting up 10 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. Rod Odom chipped in 11 points.
The Bulldogs led for nearly the entire game, and when Sherrard Brantley hit a three to give the Bulldogs a 40-26 lead with 14:34 left in the game, Georgia looked to be running away with it.
But Jenkins responded with his first three to end an 11-0 Georgia run. Both teams then caught fire from deep, combining for six threes in a 2:35 span where the Commodores answered each Georgia three with one of their own.
Jenkins finally gave Vanderbilt the lead back on a lay-up with 2:50 left to play. The Bulldogs couldn’t get any shots to go down, and Jenkins sealed the win at the free throw line.
“Definitely another tough loss,” Robinson said. “It just all comes down to being able to play all 40 minutes. We played hard. We just weren’t able to hold on to it.”
The loss ends a string of three consecutive SEC wins for the Bulldogs, their longest such streak in four years. The Commodores have now won four straight games.
This loss doesn’t help Georgia out as they try to make a bid for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. And with road trips to Tennessee and Florida next on the schedule, it’s clear that the Bulldogs still have work to do.
“At this time of year, you’re always trying to get as many wins as you can,” Ware said. ”Every game is big. We’re definitely looking to get as many as we can.”