Dawgs beat Vandy at home

With Tennessee's 66-59 home win over Florida Saturday, Georgia is still a game behind the third-place Vols in the SEC East. Georgia plays at Alabama Tuesday night at 9 ET.

ATHENS, Ga. - After his team remembered how to play aggressive defense, Georgia coach Jim Harrick remembered how to smile.

Holding Matt Freije to a season-low eight points, No. 20 Georgia beat Vanderbilt 83-70 Saturday in a game marred by a combined 59 fouls.

Even  though the game was not televised, it lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes. Georgia made 34 free throws - three shy of its team record. It's 45 free-throw attempts were five shy of its team record.

Three players fouled out - two from Vanderbilt - and six players finished with four fouls. The Commodores were called for 31 team fouls and Georgia was called for 28. Including two technical fouls on Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, there were a total of 61 fouls called.

"It was ugly, kind of like a root canal, but it was nice to win,'' Harrick said.

Georgia (14-7 overall, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) had lost three of its last four games but most of its struggles were on the road. With Saturday's win, Georgia is 10-0 at home.  Vanderbilt (10-12, 3-8) has suffered four straight losses.

There were 82 free throws in the game, including four made by Georgia's Richard Wehunt when Stallings was ejected with 16:13 left to play. The irony was the coach was tossed for complaining there should have been even more fouls called.

"I asked the (official) if you put your forearm in a guy's back, is it a foul,'' Stallings said. "Of course, he didn't answer, so I said 'I guess it's not a foul if you're at home' and he gave me a (technical foul).''

Added Stallings after the first ejection in his 10-year career: "Then he gave me another one. I deserved the second one.''

Stallings was not the only observer to complain about the whistle-happy referees. Fans in the Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,523 spent much of the day booing and chanting at the officials.

"That's the game that has probably been stopped the most of any that I've played in,'' said Georgia's Jarvis Hayes.

Some of the whistles were called on touch fouls, but others were a result of both teams playing aggressive defense.

Georgia, which had spent most of the last six weeks playing zone schemes, opened with an aggressive man-to-man defense as Harrick looked for a way to give his team a spark.

"That's what we do best,'' Harrick said before adding "It's not what (scheme) you play, it's how you play it.''

Added Harrick: "I thought our defensive intensity was outstanding.''

The most obvious example of the improved defense was Freije, who ranked third in the league with 18.1 points per game, being held to a season-low eight points on 2-for-10 shooting.

In Vanderbilt's 94-91 home win over Georgia on Jan. 29, Freije scored a career-high 31 points. Also, forward Brian Thornton was held to seven points on 1-for-7 shooting Saturday after scoring 16 points in the earlier game.

"(Defense) was the thing we worked on in practice,'' said Jarvis Hayes, who matched Ezra Williams for game-high honors with 16 points.

Defense was  the obvious key early in the second half when Georgia pulled away. Chris Daniels opened the half with a steal and a jam, and Hayes followed with another steal and jam.

"That set the momentum for us,'' Williams said.

Georgia's big lead was 16 points, but Vanderbilt was still within four points with 5:38 left in the game. Williams scored 11 points in the final 4:11 to push the lead back to double figures.

Daniels, who scored 13 points, finished with five of Georgia's 10 steals and two blocked shots. Steve Thomas added nine points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal.

Corey Smith led Vanderbilt with 14 points. Freshman Julian Terrell added 13 points and 11 rebounds, each career highs.

With Tennessee's 66-59 home win over Florida Saturday, Georgia is still a game behind the third-place Vols in the SEC East. Georgia plays at Alabama Tuesday night at 9 ET.

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