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Georgia women advance in SEC Tournament

DULUTH - The Georgia womens basketball team slumped through the first seven minutes of Thursday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament first-round game. But the rest of the first half proved to be all the No. 9 seed Bulldogs would need to advance.

Georgia (20-10) held the eighth-seeded Commodores without a field goal for more than nine minutes and never trailed after the 7:39 mark of the first half in a 53-43 victory at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Georgia, which will play top seed South Carolina in today’s third round at 12 pm, struggled shooting the ball early on, making just three of its first 15 attempts before Halle Washington found a loose ball and hit a short jumper to get the Bulldogs to within 10-9 at the 12:50 mark.

That got the Athens school going as the Bulldogs capped a 13-2 run and went up 20-12 on Krista Donald’s bucket at the 5:18 mark. In between, Khaalidah Miller made a heads-up decision on an in-bounds play, throwing the ball off the back of Vanderbilt’s Kristen Gaffney and collecting it for an easy lay up.

The Commodores finally snapped a scoring drought of more than five minutes on Marqu’es Webb’s free throw with 4:36 to play in the half.

Vanderbilt grabbed a quick 6-0 lead on a pair of 3-pointers by SEC leading scorer Christina Foggie, and still held a 12-9 advantage after Foggie’s lay up at the 9:44 mark. But the Commodores’ offense disappeared over the final 9 1/2 minutes. After Foggie’s bucket, the Nashville school didn’t have another field goal until Webb scored with 12 seconds to play and Georgia, which made 10 of its last 16 field goal attempts of the half, led 28-15 at the break.

“Defensively, that’s when a lot of things just came together,” Georgia coach Andy Landers said. “We knew how we wanted to defend them…after about 10 minutes, all five of our kids were on the same page.”

“I thought we played really well as a team today, which is the best that I’ve seen us play defensively this year,” said Miller, who led Georgia with 12 points.

Erika Ford was held scoreless in the opening half, but it was a different story during the early stages of the second. The Bulldogs’ junior guard scored eight points over a 2 1/2-minute stretch, including two 3-pointers, helping Georgia build a 43-26 cushion.

Before that, Vanderbilt gotten to within 32-24 after Foggie had five points during a quick, 7-0 spurt. That was as close as the Commodores would get.

“It was the kind of game I think that we thought it would be, extremely competitive,” Landers said. “We just felt challenged defensively by a very good Vanderbilt team, a team that has skillful players. That was a big challenge for us.”

“(Georgia) earned this victory, they did a great job,” said Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb. “We’ve been on a stretch where we haven’t finished games and we’ve gotten behind. I don’t think our mentality was where it needed to be.”

Foggie equaled her season average, picking up a game-high 19 points. Miller led Georgia with 12 points and Donald and Ford added 10 each.

It was the first meeting between the schools in the league tournament since Vanderbilt won in the 2009 quarterfinals.