It was clear based on the first half of this season that Vanderbilt and Georgia each had one dominant freshman.
When those teams met for the first time this season, Thursday at Memorial Gymnasium, it was revealed that the Commodores had at least two others who are capable of big things.
Gabby Smith and Elan Brown each had career-high point totals and combined with fellow freshman Tiffany Clarke to score 56 percent of their team’s points in a 66-44 victory over previously undefeated Georgia before a crowd of 4,086.
Vanderbilt (13-4, 2-2 in the SEC) was without starting point guard and the SEC assists leader Jence Rhoads yet still snapped a two-game losing streak due to a decisive edge in rebounds (39-24) and a smothering defensive effort. Sixth-ranked Georgia (16-1, 3-1) made just one field goal in the final 10:53.
“I had Elan in (Wednesday) night and Gabby in (Thursday) morning and they responded well to us showing them positive clips of other players (and) what they did in our offense in the past, and making clear what their roles are,” coach Melanie Balcomb said. “That includes shooting the ball every time you can.
“… They’re playing for a coach who wants (them) to shoot the ball. I don’t think they got that until (Thursday) night, and it was pretty obvious. Tiffany Clarke already got it.”
Clarke, a Georgia native, and Georgia’s Jasmine James, out of Memphis, claimed six of the eight SEC Freshman of the Week awards given thus far, including each of the last four.
James, one of six freshmen on Georgia’s roster, finished with a team-high 10 points but made just three of 13 field goal attempts.
Not only was she outperformed by Clarke, who had game-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds, she also was bested by Smith and Brown. Smith made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 12 points, and Brown was a perfect 4-for-4 in the second half on her way to 11 points.
“We weren’t surprised,,” senior guard Jessica Mooney, who had 10 points and eight rebounds, said. “I’m sure we shocked a lot of people, but we’ve had a lot of adversity this year with a lot of players going down. So we stepped it up.
“ … It wasn’t just one person, it was a team effort from top to bottom.”
Or from old to young.
• Rhoads is week-to-week with a broken left hand sustained late in Sunday’s loss at Kentucky. She had played all 85 games and started 65, including the last 37, before she sat out against Georgia.
“You can only make a bone heal as quickly as you can,” Balcomb said. “So it will be a while.”
• The Commodores had been outrebounded in each of their first three SEC games this season and five straight in regular season play, dating back to last season.
In this one, they had more defensive rebounds (26) than Georgia had total rebounds (24).
They are now 5-0 when they outrebound the other team.
• Three players – Vanderbilt’s Merideth Marsh and James and Ashley Houts for Georgia, played all 40 minutes. It was the second straight game and fifth time this season Marsh played from start to finish. It was the fourth time for Houts and the second time for James.