UGA Basketball

Five observations from Georgia's decisive win over Vanderbilt in SEC Tournament

Georgia forward Yante Maten celebrates after a made 3-pointer.
Georgia forward Yante Maten celebrates after a made 3-pointer. AP

Here are five observations from No. 12 seed Georgia's 78-62 win over No. 13 seed Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

Suffocating defense

Taking the entire season into account, Georgia's defense hasn't been a problem. If anything, one could nitpick and say the 3-point defense was shaky sometimes. But overall, Georgia was a sound defensive team more often than not.

Against Vanderbilt, Georgia (17-14) controlled the Commodores on the defensive end and never let them establish a rhythm whatsoever. Vanderbilt missed its first nine 3-point attempts, and it wasn't like it was missing open shots. Most of the shots were contested with clean close-outs from Georgia defenders.

Compare this with Vanderbilt (12-20) making 11 3-pointers the first time these two teams played one another in Nashville, Tennessee.

The game-plan was to press the perimeter and force Vanderbilt to score from the interior. That is not a strength for the Commodores and it showed. By taking away the perimeter from Vanderbilt, Georgia's size outmatched the Commodores down low. Vanderbilt was only able to shoot 36 percent from behind the arc, with Georgia coasting to a decisive victory.

Limited turnovers

Averaging 13.2 turnovers per game entering the SEC Tournament, Georgia has not done a good job of protecting the basketball this season.

The Bulldogs did not live up to this reputation Wednesday night. The Bulldogs turned the ball over only four times in the victory over the Commodores. Given the fact Georgia runs a methodical half-court set that works some time off of the shot clock, careless turnovers do no one any favors.

Being able to protect the basketball against Vanderbilt helped Georgia find good shots without getting into a transition game going the other way. If the Bulldogs' run is to continue past Thursday, the turnovers will have to once again be at a minimum against Missouri.

Maten shines again

A day after earning the AP SEC Player of the Year honor, senior forward Yante Maten lit up the stat sheet.

Despite playing with an injured jaw suffered against Tennessee, Maten went off for 25 points and four rebounds. Georgia has gotten this kind of production from Maten all season long, so this was nothing new. But it just goes to show what kind of player Maten is, considering Vanderbilt frequently sent a double team in his direction.

As long as Maten is on the floor, Georgia has a chance in almost any game it plays. It is all about getting the requisite help around him.

Hightower, Hammonds step up

Teshaun Hightower just might be Georgia's best true point guard at this point of the season.

That's not taking anything away from Turtle Jackson or Tyree Crump. Both of those players are solid point guards who can both hit shots when playing off of the ball. But Hightower showed his ability to get to the hoop at times. He also put in two 3-point attempts on open looks, which is something he has added to his arsenal down the stretch of the season. Hightower scored 13 points and dished out six assists.

Forward Rayshaun Hammonds came up with a huge game against the Commodores. Hammonds scored 10 points and brought down eight rebounds. Hammonds also played exceptional defense throughout what was one of his best games of the season.

What's next

It was already going to be a tough matchup against a Missouri team that ended the regular season winners of seven of its past 10 games.

But now, the fifth-seeded Tigers are getting Michael Porter Jr. back in its lineup. Porter, the nation's No. 2-ranked recruit in the class of 2017, has missed all but the season opener due to injury. Expected to be out the entire year, Porter is expected to play Thursday. Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters that Porter probably won't play 30 minutes and he won't start.

But having a player of Porter's caliber could be a lift for a Missouri team that has enjoyed quite the turnaround this season.