ATHENS, Ga. – In a competitive, back-and-forth contest, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team fell 73-66 to Vanderbilt Saturday evening before 6,980 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum.
Junior Jaxon Etter led Georgia (5-12, 0-4 SEC) with a career-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Senior Braelen Bridges tallied 14 points and six rebounds, while graduate Aaron Cook pitched in with 10 points and four assists. For the evening, the Bulldogs shot 44.8 percent from the field and outrebounded the Commodores by a 38-28 margin.
“We had too many points off turnovers in the second half,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “Our low post defense was not great, and they do a really good job of making the double hard because they run the split action on the ball side. We gave up a couple of those buckets…There’s very little you can do to defend a live ball turnover, and that hurt us.”
Georgia quickly ran out to a 10-5 lead with all five starters scoring in the early going, but Vanderbilt (10-6, 2-2 SEC) eventually tied the game up near the midway mark of the half. After the Commodores moved ahead, Etter put the Bulldogs back ahead with a 3-pointer followed later by another triple from junior Dalen Ridgnal and a lay-in from Bridges that made it an eight-point game with under five minutes to play.
As the half wore down, Etter extended the lead with back-to-back threes, clinching a new career high in scoring. Bridges continued his strong first half with a driving score, while sophomore Kario Oquendo also connected on the fast break. However, Vanderbilt scored five unanswered points in the final minute to cut Georgia’s halftime lead to 36-28.
The Commodores continued their scoring streak with eight straight to open the second half, forcing an early Bulldog timeout with the game now tied. Following the timeout, a Vanderbilt dunk and 3-pointer brought the run to 18 consecutive points before Bridges posted back-to-back scores to narrow the newfound deficit. Unfortunately, the Commodores continued to surge with another 8-0 run to go up by nine with 13:24 remaining.
Following a six-point Georgia burst, Vanderbilt responded with a pair of layups before a Noah Baumann layup and Etter’s fourth three of the night brought the score to 55-54 with under nine to play. Once again, the Commodores responded with an 11-2 run to refurbish their lead, capping off the sequence with a thunderous fast break dunk. After trying furiously to close the gap, the Bulldogs made one last rally with six unanswered points in the final 95 seconds, drawing to within four before Vanderbilt sealed the game at the foul line.
Georgia returns to the road this week as it travels to rival Auburn on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The game will tip at 9 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on ESPNU.