Neltner hits key baskets as Vandy holds off Georgia
|Vanderbilt's Alex Gordon (3) looks to pass as Georgia's Billy Humphrey, left, defends during the second half of a basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Josh D. Weiss)|
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|Team Stat Comparison|
|· Feb 6, 2008|| VAN 67, @UGA 59||Recap | Box Score|
|Feb 23, 2008|| UGA @ VAN||4:00 PM ET|
|Next 5 Games|
|02/09 @SCAR 5:00pm|
|02/12 UK 9:00pm|
|02/16 FLA 3:00pm|
|02/23 UGA 4:00pm|
|02/26 TENN 9:00pm||
|02/09 @FLA 3:00pm|
|02/13 SCAR 7:30pm|
|02/16 TENN 3:00pm|
|02/19 @UK 9:00pm|
|02/23 @VAN 4:00pm|
| · Complete Schedule: Vanderbilt | Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Ross Neltner returned to Vanderbilt's starting lineup, and it looks as though he'll keep his spot.
Clearly playing with something to prove, Neltner hit two key baskets down the stretch and the Commodores (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) won their second in a row, turning back offensively challenged Georgia 67-59 Wednesday night.Alex Gordon
scored 14 points to lead Vanderbilt (19-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference), including two free throws with 30.3 seconds left that clinched it.
But Neltner was the best player on the court for the Commodores, hitting 6-of-9 from the field in a 13-point performance, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out two assists and coming up with two steals.
Not bad for a guy whose lackluster play prompted coach Kevin Stallings to demote the senior forward to a bench role in the two previous games.
"The first half of the season was not going the way he wanted it to go," Stallings said. "People said I was trying to send a message, but there was no message sent. I just wanted Ross to play better."
Neltner, who started all but one game as a junior and the first 20 games this season, hit a jumper from the wing with 1:57 remaining to stretch Vandy's lead to 63-59. He screamed toward the Vandy bench after the ball went through, hitting nothing but net.
"Those guys fire me up," Neltner said, explaining his reaction. "When you're on the road, all you've got are your teammates. Everybody else in the stadium is against you."Sundiata 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 he 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 off the shot just before the shot clock expired.
"I heard the assistant coaches yelling '5-4-3-2,'" Neltner said. "I just tried to get it up on the rim as quick as I could."
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. 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.
"This game was very similar to the last two," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "We were in position to win going into the closing minute or two, but we just couldn't make the play."
Vandy had four players in double figures. Shan Foster
also scored 13 points, and A.J. Ogilvy
added 12. But Neltner stood out at the end.
"He was as valuable as anyone we had," Stallings said. "He made some very big plays for us. That's what we're going to need from Ross down the stretch."
The Commodores also needed a road win in the SEC. Even though it came against one of the league's weakest teams, they'll take it.
"Wins are wins," Neltner said. "If we're going to accomplish our goals, we need to win our home games and get a few wins on the road."
Gaines and Jeremy Price
led Georgia with 16 points apiece, but no one else had more than eight.
The Bulldogs, averaging just 68.9 points coming into the game, had another dismal shooting night. They shot 44 percent from the field, made 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 went 7-for-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 just two more 3s the rest of the way and never got the lead higher than eight points, the Bulldogs didn't have enough offensive weapons for a comeback.
Price and Gaines were about the only options, and they couldn't get anything to fall in the closing minutes. The Bulldogs were 11-of-29 (38 percent) from the field in the second half.
"We actually had some easy ones, but we failed to make them," Felton said. "That was the story of the game."