A confident, composed, jubilant Commodore team capped Coach Melanie Balcomb's 300th career win over Georgia on Sunday, handing the troubled team its third loss in a row, 61-54 on a night when Lady Bulldog Coach Andy Landers was honored for 700 victories in 28 seasons.
Vanderbilt won its second consecutive SEC road game in recording the program's sixth win ever in Athens. Georgia leads the series 14-6 at home, and 29-20 overall. Vandy topped Georgia at home 67-59 on January 17.
Now 16-6 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, the Dores knocked off Florida 66-56 in Gainesville last Thursday.
It was the Lady Bulldogs third loss in a row, and their second at home, losing to Kentucky 44-47 on January 31. Georgia falls to 3-4 in the SEC and 16-6 overall. It is only the fourth time in Landers' tenure that his Lady Bulldogs have lost three consecutively.
"Our kids had a great time," Coach Balcomb said. "They were all on the same page. I could see the confidence in their eyes and the fight they showed on the road with a great crowd and a great coach. I am proud of their effort and how they handled themselves and they didn't panic. You couldn't tell by their body language the difference in the first half – they looked the same as they did when we got down a point or two. Their faces never changed and that's what's great with a young team."
Junior forward Tina Wirth found enough holes in the Georgia defense to lead all scorers with 18. She sank four 3-pointers and was 100% from the charity stripe at 4 of 4. Junior guard Jen Risper nailed13 points, 9 in the second half, to complement a solid defensive effort, snatching 8 rebounds and grabbing 4 steals. She was 7 of 8 for free throws, on a night when the team shot 76.2% for the game, well above their average of 64%.
Jen said the team was not worried at any point. "We just stuck together and were pretty much composed. I love playing defense and making different plays. I'm going to try to get those rebounds or cause something to happen so we can get ball back." Risper also took the fall for two successful charges, a skill she's been practicing.
"This was very important," Tina said of the win. Her "shots felt really good," as 16 offensive rebounds out of a team 38 led to more offensive looks. "Anytime you get a big win against an SEC opponent and ranked team it's good. We all feel better right now and this obviously helps our standing."
Jen added, "They were on Tina like glue and when she's pulling out, she's allowing us to go in and drive and dish. Even if she's not hitting her shot, she definitely created offense for us."
Georgia jumped to a quick 4-0 start in the first 29 seconds before Vandy guard Meredith Marsh hit a 3-pointer and Vandy's first 7 points. One of 8 ties, the score was 9-9 before a 10-0 Commodore run to end the half at 32-23.
Georgia senior Tasha Humphrey, who exhorted the crowd of 5,700 with fist-pumping and waves, fouled out and finished with 17. Georgia point guard Ashley Houts added13.
With tough road wins under their jerseys, and LSU and one of 2 Tennessee games behind them, Tina suggested the Commodores were underestimated earlier in the season. "We started out with a really tough SEC schedule. Some teams didn't think we were going to be at our best this year, but we're showing people that we are a good team." And spoken with the confidence the Dores are exuding now, she said, "We're going to finish at the top of the SEC one game at a time."
The Commodores next take on South Carolina February 7 in Nashville.
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