Unable to break out of the funk that they have been trapped in for the past several weeks, the No. 8-seeded Commodores lost their SEC Tournament opener on Thursday, falling to No. 9-seeded Georgia, 53-43, at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The defeat stretched the Commodores' losing streak to four games, and marked the first time since 1999 that Vanderbilt has failed to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament.
Georgia's Khaalidah Miller scored 12 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs (20-10), who will face top-seeded South Carolina on Friday.
Christina Foggie finished with a game-high 19 points for the Commodores (18-12), who have gone 2-9 since Jan. 20.
"We've been on a stretch where we haven't finished games," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "I don't think our mentality was where it needed to be (today)."
Now, the Commodores -- who lost six of their final seven games in the regular season -- will have to wait to see if they receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced on March 17.
Vanderbilt has made the tournament 14 consecutive seasons, including making 11 straight appearances since the Balcomb's arrival in 2002.
The Commodores were hoping to use Thursday's game as a chance to strengthen their case to make this year's tournament. Instead, they endured a rough afternoon in which they produced their lowest scoring total of the season and struggled badly at the free throw line, making just 6-of-20 attempts.
Georgia's defense limited Vanderbilt to 17 total field goals, and Lady Bulldogs won the rebounding battle, 35-28, including collecting 13 rebounds on the offensive glass.
"Georgia came ready to play and worked really hard, dominated us on the boards, was more physical, more aggressive, got a lot more shots," said Balcomb. "They earned this victory. They did a great job."
Vanderbilt, which beat Georgia 66-58 in the SEC opener for both teams on Jan. 2, shot just 30 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes and trailed 28-15 at the half. The Commodores trimmed Georgia's lead to 32-24 when Foggie converted a 3-point play at the 16:19 mark of the second half, but Georgia responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Erika Ford and Miller to push the lead back to 38-24.
The Commodores never got within 10 points the rest of the way.
"We weren't as aggressive as (they were) from the jump, neither on defense or offense," said Vanderbilt senior Jasmine Lister, who finished with six points after being limited to only six shots from the floor. "We let them take us out of our offense."
The afternoon started promisingly for the Commodores when Foggie hit a pair of early 3-pointers to give Vanderbilt a quick 6-0 lead, but Georgia responded with seven straight points to move in front. Vanderbilt briefly rebuilt a three-point lead, 12-9, when Foggie hit a layup with 9:44 left in the half.
Then the Commodores went cold.
They went the next nine minutes without a field goal -- and were outscored 19-1 in that stretch -- before Marqu'es Webb finally ended the drought with a basket in the paint with 34 seconds left in the half. Vanderbilt went to the locker room trailing 28-15 after their lowest-scoring first half of the season.
The Commodores opened the second half with a quick flurry of success, making their first four shots in the opening 3:40 of the half. But Vanderbilt then endured another lull, making just two baskets during the next eight-plus minutes.
The Lady Bulldogs put together a 13-4 run during that span to build a 45-28 lead, and they stayed in control from there.
The loss marked the final SEC tournament game in the careers of Foggie and Lister, two of the most celebrated players in team history.
Foggie said the Lady Bulldogs set the tone early in the game and never backed off: "I think Georgia came out with an aggressiveness," she said, "and we needed to do that from the start."
Photos copyright 2014 by Whitney D. for VandyMania.com