Vandy Cages Dawgs, 66-61

NASHVILLE- It wasn't pretty at times but the end result was thing of beauty for the Vanderbilt Commodores. Derrick Byars scored 20 points and Dan Cage added 19 as Vanderbilt vaulted over Georgia in the SEC standings with a vital 66-61 victory over the Bulldogs. The win should assure the Commodores of at least another week in the Top 25.

In the first half Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and led 17-14 with 7:34 remaining in the half. A Shan Foster 3-pointer gave Vanderbilt a 25-20 lead with 3:08 remaining in the half. Leading just 22-20 with 4:10 remaining in the half, Vanderbilt surged with a 10-2 run to finish the half with a 32-22 lead.

The final moments featured a bone-crushing pick of a Georgia guard Sundiata Gaines by Ted Skuchas. Vanderbilt held the Bulldogs to just 33 percent shooting (8 of 24) in the first half. The Commodores also forced 8 turnovers while giving up just 4 to Georgia. The 22 points was Georgia's lowest offensive output during a first half so far this season.

After a technical foul call on Georgia coach Felton, Vanderbilt's Dan Cage made two free throws and then drilled a 3-point shot on the ensuing possession to give Vandy a 13-point lead at 39-26. Georgia battled back to pull to within 4 at 41-37 on free throws by Takais Brown with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

Cage's back-to-back 3-pointers put Vanderbilt up by 10 at 53-43 with 6:20 remaining. There was no quit in Georgia as the Bulldogs then pulled to within 4 at 57-53 with 3:42 remaining. Two free throws by Ross Neltner gave Vanderbilt back a seemingly comfortable 60-53 lead with 2:50 remaining. However, a lay-up by Gaines with 6 seconds remaining pulled the Dogs to within 3 at 64-61. Cage made 2 free throws with 5 seconds remaining to seal the win for Vanderbilt.

Cage, who was 0-3 from 3-point range in the first half, seemed to find his mark after making the two technical foul shots. Cage went on to make 4 of 6 3-pointers in the second half.

After the game Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings credited Cage's shooting for being the difference in the game for the Commodores, "Dan's back was bothering him at the half but he was lights out in the second half. He was obviously the difference for us in the game," said Stallings.

Stallings counterpart, Georgia head coach Dennis Felton concurred that Cage was the difference, "Cage in particular really played like a senior tonight. He's an exceptional shooter, really a machine shooting the ball. He hit four in the second half and I'm sure that at least three were not of the easy variety and were heavily contested."

The win improved Vanderbilt's all time record versus the Bulldogs to 78-46 (48-13 in Nashville) and avenged an earlier 85-73 loss to the Bulldogs in Athens on January 13th.

Vanderbilt improved to 16-7 (6-3 SEC) and gets a bye date before traveling to Tennessee on February 10th. Georgia falls to 13-8 (5-4 SEC). Next up for the Bulldogs is Florida on Wednesday night.

Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings and Georgia's Dennis Felton share a laugh. (VM/Stan Jones) Top Stories