Georgia fouled Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins twice on 3-point attempts Sunday in the first half to send the sharpshooting guard to the free-throw line.
That wasn’t in the gameplan for the Bulldogs, but letting Jenkins shoot behind the arc without getting hacked wasn’t any easier.
The 6-foot-4 junior sank all four of his 3-point tries in the second half to fuel the Commodores to a 61-52 win in Stegeman Coliseum.
Jenkins showed why he leads the nation in 3-pointers, burying 6 of 8 to finish with 28 points, four away from his career high.
“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached against,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, in his eighth season as a head coach. “I mean he’s phenomenal. He really is.”
Georgia’s 3-point shooting was anything but against the Commodores.
The Bulldogs (12-14, 3-9 SEC) were 3 of 23, including 1 of 9 from Dustin Ware and 0 of 7 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who sat out the final 16 minutes of the first half with two fouls.
Georgia still led 40-35 with 13:38 to play after Caldwell-Pope (six points on 3 of 13 shooting) got his first points on a baseline jumper, but the Commodores (19-8, 84) stormed ahead behind a 15-0 run.
“We definitely felt that we were in good shape, but they just came out and made a run,” Ware said. “They’re a good team, they made some plays. It’s just one of those tough ones to swallow.”
Georgia had a six-minute scoring drought during which it missed eight straight shots and had two turnovers.
“Our main thing today is when they were scoring, we weren’t scoring,” said Georgia guard Gerald Robinson, who scored a team-high 19 points and had four steals. “So we should have been defending even harder and that put us at a big deficit.”
Georgia, the SEC’s worst shooting team, shot 29.4 percent from the field in the second half while the Commodores hit at a 57.9 percent clip and finished the game 10 of 22 on 3-pointers.
“We got a little lead in the gut of the game and when we challenged them, they answered the bell,” Fox said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well.”
It was the second straight loss for the Bulldogs, whose chances of postseason play beyond the SEC tournament have dimmed again after a romp over Arkansas and an upset at Mississippi State.
Georgia held Vanderbilt to just 28.6 percent shooting in the first half and led 29-28 at halftime against a team that scored the most points by any SEC team in a conference game this season in a 102-76 rout at Ole Miss.
Jenkins changed things, making all six of his second-half shots.
“He’s just one of those guys that you almost have to keep it out of his hands, he’s that good,” Ware said. “Jenkins is one of those guys who’s in his own class. He’s a world-class shooter.”
After Georgia closed within six, Jenkins dribbled to top of key and buried a 3-pointer over Ware to make it 53-44. After a Ware airball on a 3-pointer on the other end, Jenkins gathered a rebound and hit another 3-pointer to make it 56-44.
“We didn’t defend him well today all around,” Robinson said. “Everybody got a piece, got a taste in zone. The guy can shoot, flat-out shoot it. No ands, ifs or buts about it.”
Vanderbilt also benefited from 13 points from Jeffrey Taylor, but Jenkins was the talk postgame after he tied his season high for points.
“He made some tough baskets, guarded baskets,” Fox said. “It’s not like he was completely in the clear on very many of those. A great player like that takes special defense and we didn’t do it on him today.”
Georgia plays Wednesday at LSU, a team that has won three in a row. It then faces second-place Florida and first-place and No. 1 Kentucky before closing out the regular season against South Carolina.
“We’re close,” Fox said. “If we make some free throws, finish some easy plays around the basket, this game comes down to the wire. We’re just not finishing those plays.”
Georgia lost its sixth straight game to Vanderbilt.
“We’ve just got to pick ourselves up,” Ware said, “and keep battling.”