NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt Commodores have proven time and again how well they can shoot the ball, especially beyond the arc. Now they are showing they can win a bit ugly, too.
John Jenkins scored 18 points, hitting all nine of his free throws, and Jeffery Taylor added 16 points as Vanderbilt held off Georgia 77-66 Saturday. It's the Commodores' seventh straight win and keeps them undefeated in Southeastern Conference play along with only No. 2 Kentucky.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings credited his team's experience with four senior starters for helping pull out this victory.
"Not a thing of beauty, but over the course of 16 games it's not going to be pretty all the time," Stallings said. "So we won one that was a little ugly today, and we'll take it."
The Commodores (13-4, 3-0) didn't lead by more than six until Lance Goulbourne grabbed a rebound off Festus Ezeli's missed free throw and laid it back up for a 68-60 lead with 2:58 left. Vanderbilt sealed this victory at the free-throw line where the Commodores hit 15 of 22 in the final 4:53.
Vanderbilt wound up outrebounding Georgia 35-27 and had a big edge at the free-throw line (30 of 44) compared to Georgia (16 of 20). It was Vandy's most free throws made and attempted since going 35 of 45 on Dec. 4, 2010, in a win over Belmont.
Goulbourne finished with 13 points, and he said the Commodores have the capability of driving inside. They also know rebounding will be crucial to their success this season.
"If we can get second chances, then it's going to be pretty hard to stop us because we make a lot of our first shots on offense," Goulbourne said.
Georgia (9-8, 0-3) never went away in losing its third straight overall and fifth straight in this series. Vincent Williams hit a 3 to pull the Bulldogs within 62-60, but they never got any closer. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a team-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Gerald Robinson finished with 15 and Donte' Williams added 12 before fouling out.
"We had three guys foul out tonight," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "That might be a record. That's the hard part. Our defensive numbers weren't good enough, and we gave them 44 free throw attempts."
The Bulldogs had plenty of chances in the final 90 seconds.
Taylor was called for a foul and a technical for yelling something. Taylor said later it was just frustration over his play and not directed at any official.
Dustin Ware hit both free throws on the technical with 1:21 left, then Tim Dixon went to the line for what was called a one-and-one even though both teams were in the bonus. Dixon missed the first, and Robinson missed a couple 3s in a scrambling flurry.
Georgia didn't score again as the Commodores hit 7 of 8 at the line in the final 1:07.
"That's the difference there," Fox said.
This was a much tougher game for the Commodores, who had been rolling over opponents in this streak and shooting 47.3 percent from 3-point range. Vanderbilt led 36-32 at halftime after a half where Georgia outshot the Commodores and outworked them on the boards for most of the first 20 minutes. Donte' Williams scored the first six points of the game for Georgia.
The Commodores adjusted after the first 10 minutes and started driving to the basket. Jenkins, the SEC's top scorer and the nation's top 3-point shooter averaging four made per game, followed himself after missing a couple more 3s in the second half. He got to the line where he hit all six attempts in the half.
"It feels good," Jenkins said. "We spend a lot of time on the free-throw line and, of course, we stress finishing games a whole bunch. In order to win in this conference, you have to be able to hit free throws."
Caldwell-Pope, the freshman guard, kept the Bulldogs close in the second half.
Vanderbilt led by as much as six, the last at 40-34 on a pair of free throws within the opening minute on Donte' Williams' third foul. Then Caldwell-Pope hit three straight 3s and had another go in and out. His third gave Georgia its last lead at 45-44 with 13:51 left. Caldwell-Pope said he liked playing at Memorial Gym, the SEC's oldest basketball arena.
"We just didn't pull it out like we wanted to," Caldwell-Pope said. "We just gave up some easy baskets, and slipped up on our defense at the end of the game."
Dai-Jon Parker put Vanderbilt ahead to stay at 46-45, driving the baseline for a layup with 12:39 to go. That started a 9-2 run, capped by Rod Odom's 3-pointer, to match the Commodores' biggest lead of the game with 9:20 left. Caldwell-Pope, with Taylor back guarding him, missed a couple 3s during the stretch.