NASHVILLE, Tenn. – John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli scored 18 points apiece and Vanderbilt beat No. 24 Georgia 73-66 on Wednesday night to snap the Bulldogs’ nine-game winning streak and ruin their first game back in the Top 25 since the end of the 2003 season.
The Commodores (12-3, 1-1) bounced back after opening Southeastern Conference play with an overtime loss at South Carolina that knocked them out of the rankings. They took the lead from the start and never trailed while improving to 52-13 against the Bulldogs at home.
Georgia (12-3, 1-1) never got closer than three in the second half. Travis Leslie led the Bulldogs with 21 points, Gerald Robinson added 20 and Trey Thompkins had 13.
Jeffery Taylor had 15 points for Vandy. Ezeli had a double-double, also grabbing 10 rebounds.
Vanderbilt couldn’t protect the lead at South Carolina last weekend and the Commodores lost 83-75 even though they never trailed in regulation. This time, before a sold-out crowd, the Commodores scored first, led 40-32 at halftime and never relinquished the lead.
The Commodores outshot Georgia all over the court, with their biggest advantage coming at the free throw line – 25 of 35 compared to 11 of 15 for the Bulldogs.
Robinson scored 24 points against Vanderbilt as a freshman when the Nashville native played for Tennessee State. He also has played a bunch of pickup games on this floor, and the Georgia transfer opened by hitting his first three shots – all 3s. He also scored six points in a stretch, the last a pair of free throws that pulled the Bulldogs to 56-53.
That was as close as they got in a game that had coach Mark Fox upset enough that he walked almost out to midcourt with 5:03 left, drawing a technical.
Jenkins, who has played plenty against Robinson in the past, answered with two free throws of his own. Ezeli scored on a three-point play and Jenkins hit a 3 to push the lead back to double digits. Ezeli later followed up a missed dunk by Taylor by slamming the ball through.
The Commodores led by as many as 11 in the first half thanks to an 11-2 spurt that included Taylor’s high-flying, one-handed, tomahawk dunk off an alley-oop pass from Kyle Fuller that brought fans to their feet. Rod Odom and Brad Tinsley capped the run with back-to-back 3s for a 33-22 lead.