ATHENS — Reclaiming his spot in the lineup, Ross Neltner hit two key baskets in the final 2 minutes and No. 23 Vanderbilt won its second in a row, holding off slumping Georgia 67-59 Wednesday night.
Alex Gordon scored 14 points for the Commodores (19-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference), including two free throws with 30.3 seconds left that clinched it.
Vanderbilt looks to be back on track after losing four of six, which took some of the luster off its 16-0 start. It was the Commodores’ first SEC road win of the season after four straight losses.
Georgia (11-9, 2-5) has trouble winning anywhere. Sundiata Gaines scored off a follow with 2:33 left to close the gap to 61-59, but that was it for the Bulldogs in their fourth straight loss.
The SEC’s lowest-scoring team has gone three straight without even reaching 60 points.
Neltner, one of four Vandy players in double figures with 13 points, hit a jumper off the wing with 1:57 remaining to stretch the lead to 63-59.
He screamed toward the Vandy bench after the ball went through, hitting nothing but net.
Gaines missed and the Commodores took off the other way. With the shot clock running down, Gordon was surrounded by three players as he tried to drive and lost control of the ball.
But it deflected straight to Neltner standing all alone on the baseline.
He quickly drove for a reverse layup that extended the lead to 65-59 with 56 seconds remaining, getting it off before the 35-second clock expired.
Shan Foster also had 13 points for Vanderbilt, and A.J. Ogilvy added 12.
Gaines and Jeremy Price led Georgia with 16 points apiece, but no one else had more than eight. The Bulldogs shot just 38 percent (11-of-29) in the second half.
Neltner started the first 20 games for Vandy this season, but his disappointing play and the team’s slump prompted coach Kevin Stallings to bench the senior forward for two straight games.
He returned to the lineup against Georgia and responded by hitting 6-of-9 from the field, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out two assists and coming up with two steals.
Georgia, averaging just 68.9 points coming into the game, had another dismal shooting night.
The Bulldogs shot 44 percent from the field, hit only 5-of-17 from 3-point range and were barely above 50 percent (10 of 19) at the foul line.
Vanderbilt was content to keep firing up 3s — not a bad strategy considering they were leading the conference at 41.2 percent beyond the arc.
They made 7 of 15 in the first half, including Gordon’s shot with 6 seconds remaining that sent the Commodores to the locker room up 37-30, their largest lead of the half.
Even though Vandy managed only two more 3s the rest of the way and never got the lead higher than eight points, the offensively challenged Bulldogs just didn’t have enough weapons to manage a comeback.
Price and Gaines were about their only options, and they couldn’t get anything to fall in the closing minutes.