Dawgs shut down Freije; win 71-61

ATHENS -- With its best player back in the lineup, Georgia made Vanderbilt's best player disappear and rolled over the Commodores 71-61 Saturday.

Rashad Wright, who missed the teams' first game due to an ankle injury, led the Bulldogs with 21 points on Senior Night. Meanwhile, Commodore senior Matt Freije, the leading scorer in the SEC, missed eight of 11 shots and finished with eight points.

"We just beat a very, very good team soundly," Coach Dennis Felton said.

The win gives Georgia (15-12 overall, 7-9 SEC) the No. 5 seed in next week's SEC Tournament, meaning it will play Auburn at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs lost to the Tigers 57-54 on Feb. 7 in Auburn.

"I wanted to play them again," senior Jonas Hayes said. "It was a real good game the first time. I expect the same this time, but I expect us to be on the winning side."

Vanderbilt fell to 19-8 overall and 8-8 in the SEC.

The winner of Georgia's first round game will play the Eastern Division's top seed, Kentucky, on Friday. The Bulldogs likely need to beat the Tigers and Wildcats (for the third time this year) to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm to the point now where I'm done speculating and done worrying about it," Felton said. "We're in the postseason, and in the postseason, it's all about winning the next game. We can control our own fate by winning the SEC Tournament."

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said, "I think they should be considered because they're a real quality team."

A crowd of 9,217 gathered in Stegeman Coliseum for what will be the Bulldogs' seniors final game in the gym barring an NIT appearance. Wright led the way by hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers and 8 of 12 shots overall.

He became the 33rd Bulldog to score 1,000 points in his career on a 3-pointer with 15:22 left in the first half. Without Wright in the lineup on Feb. 11, Georgia scored just 39 points in a 24-point loss to Vanderbilt. With him, it led 33-10 with 5:52 left in the first half Saturday.

"I've tried to tell you," Hayes said. "You can not put a price on what Rashad Wright means to this team."

Freije came into the game averaging 19.6 points per game and had averaged 25.6 in the five games prior to Saturday's. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half but only scored two points in second half.

"We wanted to make it as hard as we could off the ball to just limit his touches in scoring areas," Felton said. "Chris Daniels was responsible for the bulk of that, but our whole team was involved."

Stallings said, "They're as good defensively as any team in this league."

Seniors Daniels and Jonas Hayes had 10 and 12 points, respectively. Senior Damien Wilkins had eight points and five assists.

"Most times you can be pretty confident your seniors will give a pretty inspired effort on Senior Night," Felton said.

Freshman Levi Stukes tied his career high with 18 before fouling out in the final minute. He hit 4 of 6 3-point attempts.

Georgia came into the game last in the SEC in 3-pointers per game at 5.4 but hit 7 of 10 in the first half alone against the Commodores. They finished with 10, tying their season high.

"We felt real good at shootaround," Wright said.

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