ATHENS, Ga. – Vanderbilt marched into Georgia wanting to prove it could win on the road.
A pair of buckets in the final two minutes by Ross Neltner gave the 23rd-ranked Commodores enough breathing space to snap their season-long road blues. Vanderbilt beat Georgia 67-59 on Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum, its first road win of the season in Southeastern Conference play in five tries.
“We needed a quality win on the road and we got it,” VU coach Kevin Stallings said. “We have been getting a lot of grief for not being able to win on the road, and tonight we had a tough opponent and a tough game but it was nice to get the monkey off of our backs.”
Vanderbilt led most of the game. Georgia closed within two on two occasions in the second half. A layup by Sundiata Gaines with 2:30 left in the game pulled Georgia within 61-59.
But Neltner hit a jumper and a layup as Vanderbilt (19-4 overall, 4-4 SEC) outscored Georgia 6-0 to end the game.
“The difference was we made timely shots necessary to win,” Stallings said. “We both played hard and competed, but we made the timely shots.”
Alex Gordon led four Commodores in double figures with 14 points. Shan Foster and Neltner each had 13 and A.J. Ogilvy added 12.
Gaines and Jeremy Price each scored a game-high 16 for Georgia (11-9, 2-5), which has lost four straight games.
“We’ve got to figure out that teams are going to play all the way to the end, the full 40 minutes,” Gaines said. “They were more active, more aggressive and they got more loose balls. They got to rebounds when we didn’t box out and we got a little lackadaisical on defense when it’s game-winning time. We’ve got to understand the urgency that nothing’s going to be easy.”
Georgia cut the lead 50-48 with 12:18 left when Price hit a layup and Gaines made a pair of free throws.
But Neltner and Shan Foster hit back-to-back 3-pointers to boost Vanderbilt’s lead to 56-48 with 9:48 left.
The Commodores made nine 9 of 25 from the 3-point line, including seven of 15 in the first half. Vanderbilt also forced 15 turnovers and grabbed nine offensive rebounds.
Georgia hurt its own cause by converting only 10 of 19 from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs also missed their final five shots and went scoreless the last 2:30.
GOLD NUGGETS: Neltner returned to Vanderbilt’s starting lineup Wednesday for the first time in two games. Freshman Darshawn McClellan had been starting at power forward. …Neltner made his first 3-pointer Wednesday since Dec. 1. …The Commodores are 15-0 this season when leading at halftime.