Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia
There was plenty of pregame hoopla in Athens as Senior Night was celebrated for seven Georgia seniors. In addition, Coach Andy Landers was recognized for winning his 900th game. Women's basketball fans may have noticed on TV graphics that his name doesn't appear alongside those of Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt, Sylvia Hatchell, and Vivian Stringer when 900-win coaches are shown. That's because there's a dispute between the NCAA and Georgia. Georgia recognizes his 82 wins at Roane State, while the NCAA does not.
One of the Georgia Senior Night traditions is signing the big Bulldog. Signatures go back at least as far as Susie Gardner, who graduated in 1986.
The first 300 kids to enter the gym received Georgia Bulldogs superhero capes.
A jumper by Heather Bowe put Vanderbilt head 6-2 early in the game. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, that turned out to be their biggest lead of the game.
One of the perks of being a premium seat ticket holder for Georgia women's basketball s a free meal and unlimited drinks at the game.
Scary moment #1. With Georgia leading 15-13 in the middle of the first half, Elan Brown was hurt and helped off the court. She returned to the court later in the game.
With 5:29 left in the first half and Georgia leading 23-15, Clarke was whistled for an offensive foul, her second of the half, and she spent the remainder of the half on the bench.
A pair of free throws by Jasmine Lister late in the first half cut the Georgia lead back to single digits at 25-17.
At halftime, the Lady Bulldogs led 27-18. It wasn't a good half offensively for Vanderbilt, with only 18 points, 30% shooting from the field, and 14 turnovers.
"They pressured us, got us on our heels and we weren't strong with the basketball," said Coach Melanie Balcomb after the game. "They were just punching the ball out of our hands and took us out of all our timing on offense. So even when we did get a good look, we didn't knock it down. It was a real frustratiing first half offensively."
The second half for Vanderbilt was better than the first. For the first ten minutes or so, it was a stalemate, with Georgia's lead mostly staying around 8-10 points. A critical point came when Clarke picked up her fourth foul with 10:57 left in the game.
But Vanderbilt wasn't done yet. Consecutive baskets by Georgia native Morgan Batey cut the Georgia lead to five points 15 42-37 with 9:25 left in the game. With Clarke on the bench with foul trouble, Balcomb played four freshmen -- Batey, Jasmine Jenkins, Kendall Shaw, Bowe -- plus Jasmine Lister.
Scary moment #2. On the other end of the court, a collision left Lister doubled over in pain while play continued. Playing against only four defenders, Georgia scored on an offensive rebound to go up by seven. Fortunately for the Dores, however, Lister was able to return to the court a few minutes later
Georgia stretched their lead to 12 points at 50-38 with four minutes left in the game. But the Dores had one more run left in them. A pair of free throws by Lister cut the lead to nine points at 51-42.
A couple of baskets by Lister, with assists from Clarke and Batey, cut the lead to six, then a jumper by Batey cut the lead to just four points at 52-48 with 22 seconds left in the game. Vanderbilt clearly had the momentum, but in the end, time ran out, so Georgia held on for the 55-50 victory.
The next action for Vanderbilt will be in Duluth, Georgia, in the SEC tournament. Tournament action opens on Wednesday night with one game between #12-seed Mississippi State and #13-seed Alabama.
Vanderbilt's first game will be on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT against the Missouri Tigers. The winner of that game will advance to a Friday game at 5 p.m. against the #2-seed Kentucky.
Photos copyright 2013 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com