By David Dawson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vanderbilt women have thrived behind the 3-point line this season, but on Sunday, the Commodores ran into a road block.
Hounded by a Georgia team that is ranked No. 1 in the country in 3-point defense, Vanderbilt was unable to get its perimeter attack on track during a 64-58 loss to the Lady Bulldogs at Memorial Gym.
The Commodores (15-6, 4-4) entered the day leading the SEC -- and ranked 12th nationally -- in 3-point accuracy. But they finished just 4-of-14 from long range against the Lady Bulldogs (16-6, 4-5), who are limiting opponents to 22.9 percent shooting from behind the arc.
"They were better at their strength than we were at our strength," said head coach Melanie Balcomb. "They are very good defensively, and that was the difference this game."
Vanderbilt was looking to extend a recent hot streak that had seen the Commodores win four of their previous five games, including an upset of No. 12 Kentucky in Lexington on Thursday night, when Vanderbilt made a season-high 10 3-pointers. Georgia, however, put a stop to the surge and saddled the Commodores with just their second home loss of the season.
Vanderbilt senior Kendall Shaw said the Commodores are not allowing themselves get caught up in the emotional roller coaster -- especially during a season in which the SEC appears to have more parity than ever.
"We're trying to not get too high, not get too low -- just stay in the middle," said Shaw.
Georgia's Shacobia Barber finished with a game-high 15 points, Caliya Robinson added 14 and Tiaria Griffin had 13 to help the Lady Bulldogs earn their first win in Nashville since Feb. 19, 2006.
Robinson provided what was perhaps the game's biggest basket when she converted a short jumper with 21 seconds remaining to give the Lady Bulldogs a five-point lead. That basket essentially ended the comeback hopes for the Commodores after they had trimmed a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to three points on three occasions down the stretch.
Christa Reed paced Vanderbilt with 12 points. Reed, who leads the SEC in 3-point percentage, went 2-of-4 from long range, but the rest of the Commodores combined to go just 2-of-10.
Rebekah Dahlman had 11 points and five rebounds for Vanderbilt, and Morgan Batey had 10 points and five boards.
Georgia and Vanderbilt are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the SEC in defense, respectively, and the two teams battled through a physical, defensive-minded contest. Marqu'es Webb and Dahlman both fouled out for Vanderbilt, and Halle Washington fouled out for Georgia.
“I was struggling with some of the calls," Balcomb said. "I see the game a little differently, and it’s usually the way it is."
Vanderbilt opened the game with a quick 7-0 run, but Georgia responded with a 16-0 surge to close the quarter. Robinson ignited the Georgia spurt with three consecutive 3-pointers. The Lady Dogs stretched the lead 20-9 early in the second quarter before Vanderbilt charged back with a 14-3 run to tie the game at 23-23 on a layup by Morgan Batey with 2:21 left in the first half. Georgia carried a 27-25 lead into the break.
The third quarter featured four lead changes and four ties. Vanderbilt owned a 41-40 lead after a layup by Batey with 2:38 left in the quarter, but Georgia closed the period with five straight points to for a 45-41 lead.
The Lady Bulldogs maintained the lead throughout the fourth quarter, and enjoyed their largest lead of the half, 57-49, after two free throws by Barbee with 2:32 to go. Vanderbilt battled back to pull within three points on three occasions, but Georgia had the answer each time.
Vanderbilt will be on the road for its next two games, visiting Auburn on Thursday and Arkansas next Sunday.