(AP Photo/David Manning)
ATHENS-- On Saturday night in Athens the game between Vanderbilt and Georgia was eerily similar to the 1968 movie, "Night of the Living Dead." It seems that for the first ten minutes of the game the team wearing black was composed of stumbling, bumbling zombies, especially offensively. Suddenly with 10 minutes to go in the half, the real Vanderbilt team appeared.
However, later, with 14 minutes to go in the game, the zombies appeared again as Georgia upset Vanderbilt, 72-58.
Vandy started the first half slowly, scoring just 9 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Trailing 19-9, the Commodores, led by Jermaine Beal's threes, outscored the Bulldogs 17-4 to take a 26-23 halftime lead. Vanderbilt got most of their first half points from Beal and Brad Tinsley who combined for 23 points. While Beal and Tinsley collectively made 9-of-13 of their first-half shots, the rest of the team was a frigid 1-of-18 on field goals.
In the second half things were looking good for the Commodores, who charged out to a 38-30 lead with 15 minutes remaining. However, Georgia, which had problems late in the first half with Vanderbilt's press, seemed to suddenly be breaking through the 'Dore press easily. With 12:36 remaining in the game a 3-pointer by Ricky McPhee cut the Vandy lead to just one at 41-40.
The Bulldogs also shot 20 more free throws in the second half than in the first and re-took the lead, 42-41, on free throws by Travis Leslie with 12 minutes remaining. Leslie, along with Trey Thompkins, had 17 points to co-lead Georgia.
After Vandy briefly regained the lead, things began to spiral out of control for the Commodores. With 9:16 remaining the Bulldog lead had grown to five. Vandy threatened to retake the lead after Jeffery Taylor's 3-point play made the score 50-49 with 8 minutes to go. However, Georgia, led by Leslie, quickly built their lead back to six with 6:30 to go. From then on, Vandy would get no closer than five. With 3 minutes remaining Ricky McPhee's 3-point shot put the Bulldogs up by 14 and the Commodores, playing much of the game like zombies, went on to lose their second SEC game of the season.
Brad Tinsley who had his best game of the season, scoring 18 points, felt that Vanderbilt's poor defense in the latter part of the second half was the primary reason for the loss, “We had a good lead in the second but then fell apart defensively. It helped [Georgia] that they got to the line a lot. We broke down mentally and physically and they just capitalized.”
Beal, who had a very good game scoring 21 points, was the only other Commodore to score more than 8 points. Even the normally reliable freshman sensation John Jenkins finished 0-of-9 from the field for Vandy as the Commodores made just 33 percent of their field goals for the game.
Vanderbilt falls to 17-5 (6-2 SEC) with the loss. The Commodores will host Tennessee on Tuesday night at Memorial Gym. Georgia improves to 10-11 (2-6 SEC) and will visit Auburn on Wednesday. Despite the loss to Georgia, Vanderbilt still leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs, 81-48.