ATHENS — Vanderbilt didn’t have an answer after Georgia shut down top scorer Christina Wirth.
Ashley Houts scored 18 points, Angel Robinson had 16 and Georgia beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season with a 66-55 victory over the No. 17 Commodores on Thursday night.
Porsha Phillips added 15 points, including five points in the final 2:31, for Georgia.
Georgia (12-7 overall, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) took its first win in three tries against ranked opponents. The Lady Bulldogs haven’t been ranked all season after missing out on the preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1980.
“Our backs are kind of against the wall,” Houts said.
Vanderbilt (14-5, 3-1) dropped to 4-4 on the road as Wirth was held to a season-low three points, 11.8 below her team-leading average. Wirth did not score in the first half and finally managed her first field goal in the final seconds.
The Commodores couldn’t make up for the loss of Wirth’s scoring.
“We will really have to work on playing as a team in the first half,” said Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb. “We had no communication and no unity. We have to get back to being a team, and being good teammates.”
Wirth played only eight minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
“We were very concerned about Wirth,” Robinson said. “She’s a good player. We did a good job containing her.”
Wirth, Hannah Tuomi and other Vanderbilt players struggled in the defensive matchup against the 6-foot-5 Robinson, who made 6 of 9 shots from the field and added 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
“Being undersized is what’s tough,” Balcomb said. “We played with a lot of heart, but we have to play with a lot of heart for the whole 40 minutes. We came out well in the second half, but we had already dug ourselves in such a hole that it was too late.”
Tuomi led the Commodores with 14 points. Jence Rhoads added 12 points.
Georgia coach Andy Landers said the Lady Bulldogs played their best game of the season. He said the next challenge is to make sure it’s not the Lady Bulldogs’ only season highlight.
“You don’t want it to be the end-all,” Landers said. “I think they’re proud, I think that they’re pleased, I think that they’re somewhat relieved. But you want it to be a starting point. You don’t want it to be a celebration point.”
Georgia has struggled with turnovers in its losses, but the Lady Bulldogs had little difficulty moving the ball up the court against Vanderbilt’s press. Houts patiently directed the offense, consistently working down the shot clock before setting up high-percentage shots.
“We knew going in they were going to try a press against us with their full-court defense,” Houts said. “It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. We made one, two or three passes and we were ready to go. We were patient, and not being in a hurry solves a lot of problems.”
Houts played most of the second half with four fouls.
Robinson had 12 of Georgia’s first 25 points as the Lady Bulldogs, who never trailed, led 25-10 midway through the first half and 40-23 at halftime.
Georgia stretched its lead to 51-30 before Lauren Lueders, who didn’t play in the first half, made two straight 3-pointers to help the Commodores cut the lead to 58-50.
“Lauren did great with the two 3s late in the second half,” Balcomb said. “We came out and created what we wanted, but then we gave it back to them. Meredith wasn’t hitting her 3s so I put Lauren in off the bench and she shot well.”
Phillips answered with a basket to push Georgia’s lead back to 10 points.
Landers said sophomore forward Jasmine Lee of Bessemer, Ala., was dismissed from the team this week for behavior the coach said was “draining energy from our coaches and from our players and from our team.”
“It has been a year and a half old,” said Landers.
Lee was averaging 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. She started the first 12 games of the season before accidentally swallowing a piece of jewelry during the Christmas break and having to miss the team’s Dec. 30 game against Xavier.
Landers said he did not know if Lee would seek a transfer.