ATHENS — How do you respond to a 46-point loss on the road? If you’re the Georgia Bulldogs, by beating Vanderbilt at home, of course.
Rayshaun Hammonds deserves a lot of thanks for it. The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Norcross scored 19 points — all in the second half — as the Bulldogs turned a tight contest into dominant win, 82-63, at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia took control of the game with a 12-0 run over 4:29 that finally ended on a Nicolas Claxton foul that sent Vanderbilt to the foul line at the 3:40 mark. The subsequent free throws ended a 4:53 span in which the Commodores failed to score.
In the middle of that run was a pair of 3-pointers from Georgia’s Turtle Jackson and one each from Tyree Crump and Hammonds. The Bulldogs had been struggling from long range before that, but was 9-of-26 in this game. Claxton had nine points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks for the Bulldogs, who had 12 blocks as a team. Derek Ogbeide added 15 points and 9 rebounds and Teshaun Hightower added 11 points.
The victory gets the Bulldogs to 9-5 overall and 1-1 in SEC play. They’ll put that on the line Saturday with a trip to play No. 11 Auburn. Vanderbilt (9-5, 0-2) next visits No. 18 Kentucky.
“The crowd was fantastic,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “We had 2700 students — which is 700 over the allotment — on the first night back on a Wednesday night. That’s just phenomenal, and I can’t thank them enough. And everyone else, 9400 fans, and this is the only game not sold-out. They made a difference. They were excited. There was a buzz in here, and it was great.”
It was a spirited competition from the opening tip as the two teams fought hard to not fall two games down out of the gate in SEC play. The Bulldogs were coming off their worse loss in 59 years after falling to No. 3 Tennessee 96-50 this past Saturday in Knoxville. Foul trouble and an 1-for-20 3-point shooting was Georgia’s undoing there.
Georgia’s shooting issues continued in their return home Wednesday night. The Bulldogs were 2-for-10 from behind the arc in the first half, with freshman Ignas Sangiunas accounting for both. But the normally hot shooting Commodores weren’t having a much better go of it (3-for-10 from 3) and the teams combined to miss 42 shots in the opening period.
Between that and a combined missed nine free throws, five by Georgia, they were nearly all square at halftime. The Bulldogs led 31-30.
Led by Hammonds, Georgia picked it up on the offensive end in the second half and that helped it push ahead by double digits. A technical foul on Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew resulted in a four -point possession by Hammonds and 45-39 Georgia lead at the 15:50 mark.
Scoreless in the first half, Hammonds got then Bulldogs a 10-point lead on a three-point play off a putback of a Tyree Crump missed 3.. The sophomore forward followed that by pushing the lead to 53-41 on a spinning layup off the drive at the 12:34 mark.
The Bulldogs gave all but one point of the lead away with missed 3-pointers and turnovers. But jackson and Crump got them back on track with back-to-back 3-pointers that started a long Georgia run from the 9:12 mark to the final horn.