Georgia holds off Vanderbilt, 73-70
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Georgia holds off Vanderbilt, 73-70

Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – With a critical block by sophomore Toumani Camara in the closing seconds, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Vanderbilt, 73-70, Saturday evening before 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum. With the win, Georgia (12-6, 5-6) extended its winning streak to three in a row, the first three-game SEC run for the Bulldogs since March 2017.

Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler led Georgia in scoring with 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting, nearly posting a double-double with a team-high nine assists. Graduate P.J. Horne tallied 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including four 3-pointers, while Camara and graduate Justin Kier each posted 10 points.

Overall, the Bulldogs shot 58.7 percent on the night, the third-highest total for the team under head coach Tom Crean. Georgia also outrebounded Vanderbilt, 31-23, led by eight boards from Camara.

“These are hard games every night you play,” said Crean. “You win by 20 or you win by one. It’s hard to do. It’s an excellent league. Vanderbilt was coming off of their best game of the year. They have been right there in many, many games, whether it’s Mississippi State, whether it’s Tennessee; Kentucky goes down to the absolute last possession. Whatever it is, they’re right there. They’re extremely talented. They’re extremely well-coached. They can really shoot the ball, and so, any win you get in this league is crucial.”

Both teams went back-and-forth in the opening moments, with each consistently working the ball inside for scores as Vanderbilt (5-9, 1-7 SEC) took an early lead. The Commodores continued to extend the lead, but a pair of 3-pointers from Horne helped Georgia regain the lead by the second media break. The margin remained within two points for much of the half, despite the Bulldogs encountering early foul trouble.

After Georgia quickly moved back in front, Vanderbilt countered with consecutive triples from freshman guard Isaac McBride. Camara then heated up as the half drew to a close, mixing two Kier 3-pointers with a smooth put-back dunk to build an eight-point advantage with a minute remaining. The Commodores narrowed the score slightly in the final seconds at the foul line, giving the Bulldogs a 44-37 lead at intermission.

Vanderbilt opened the second half with six unanswered points, narrowing the margin to one before Horne connected on his fourth three of the game. The Commodores eventually tied the game with a 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs rattled off six straight to retake the lead. Even as sophomore forward Dylan Disu singlehandedly kept Vanderbilt in the game, a Wheeler layup maintained a 61-59 Georgia lead at the under-8 timeout.

As the game neared its conclusion, Vanderbilt made a final comeback effort, hitting back-to-back threes to tie the game with 1:37 remaining. Following a pair of made free throws from Camara, sophomore guard Scotty Pippen, Jr. knotted the game at 70. On the ensuing possession, Camara made one free throw before blocking Pippen, Jr. on his drive to the rim. Kier then clinched the game at the line with a pair of makes.

Georgia returns to the road this week for a matchup against Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6) on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Reed Arena in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The meeting with the Aggies is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.


• With the Georgia Bulldogs’ conquering the Vanderbilt Commodores it is the first time since 2017 that Georgia has won three SEC games in a row (Georgia defeated Alabama, LSU, and Auburn between Feb. 23-March 1 that season).

• Vanderbilt owns a 91-56 lead in all-time meetings between the familiar SEC foes. However, Georgia posses a 37-28 edge in match-ups contested in Athens.

• With tonight’s win, Georgia improves to 24-31 all-time games played on Super Bowl weekend. The Bulldogs have faced the Commodores in five of such match-ups, amassing a 3-2 record in those contests.

• Eight different players in The Red & Black have scored in the double figures during the 2020-21 season, combining to produce 72 double-digit performances in UGA’s 18 games. Four different Bulldog’s respectively had a double-digit scoring output.

• Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler bagged his 15th double-figure game of the season and 26th of his career with 16 points.

• Graduate transfer Justin Kier notched a double-digit game with 10 points for the eight time this season and 12th of his career.

• Sophomore Toumani Camara snagged his 14th double-figure game of the season and 22nd of his career with 10 points.

• Graduate transfer P.J. Horne landed his 10th double-digit game of the season and his 24th of his career with 14 points.

• Sophomore Jaxon Etter racked up a career-high night. Etter finished with a career-high 7 points, his first career steal, and a career-most 15 minutes played on the hardwood.

• Junior Tyron McMillan tallied a career-high 8 points.

• The Bulldogs were hot from close range in tonight’s match-up. Georgia had 14 more points in the paint than Vanderbilt. UGA: 40 / VU: 26.

• Georgia’s whole team was apart of this win with 23 points coming from the bench. UGA: 23 / VU: 18.


Georgia head coach Tom Crean

On Toumani Camara’s final block…

“He made a great play, he really did. He didn’t let the disappointment of a missed free throw—I thought he guarded extremely well, especially out on the perimeter. He’s got to do more with his blocking out. We gave up a couple offensive rebounds. But it was a tremendous block against a guy that is one of the best in the league at drawing fouls. So, he went straight up, got great verticality on the block and then saved it. It was huge. It’s hard, hard to win in this league, extremely hard. I asked Mike [Mobley] the other day, ‘When’s the last time a Georgia team has won three games in a row in the SEC?’ and he said it had been since March 3, 2016, and so, I used that with this team. These are hard games every night you play. You win by 20 or you win by one. It’s hard to do. It’s an excellent league. Vanderbilt was coming off of their best game of the year. They have been right there in many, many games, whether it’s Mississippi State, whether it’s Tennessee; Kentucky goes down to the absolute last possession. Whatever it is, they’re right there. They’re extremely talented. They’re extremely well-coached. They can really shoot the ball, and so, any win you get in this league is crucial. I am confident that most coaches would agree with that. It’s very, very hard to win.”

On tonight’s rebounding performance…

“I think we’ve got to get better on offensive rebounding. I was definitely not happy with that at halftime. We shot 59 percent for the game, 46 percent from three, but we’ve got to get our offensive rebounding up. There were a couple of times where we didn’t block out as well. Anytime you’re shooting threes, there’s going to be a lot of long rebounds, and they know that. They’re very adept as getting those balls. For us to outrebound them again, with our size difference, that’s huge.”

On the satisfaction taken from tonight’s win…

“It is a great win. That is all I can say. Any win in this league is a great win. You are satisfied with your win. It is a long week, and you know you have a lot of things to improve upon, but these games are coming fast and furious. Every team that you are playing—when you are lined up, I don’t know if you are not lined up if you can see it? But, when you are lined up across from the other coach, across from the other team, and you see the talent level that you have spent all week—three days whatever it is preparing for that game and you know how good they can be. Once you come out there and win, you never begrudge winning, and you are very thankful for it. Then you figure out what you must do to improve on your strengths and weaknesses.”

On the key to keeping Scotty Pippen Jr. to one of his lowest scoring performances…

“Staying in front. He creates angles. He does a great job of drawing fouls. Unfortunately, he got the same amount of free throws because he is very adaptive at creating contact. A couple of times I was disappointed that he got to the line. The bottom line you must stay in front. We wanted to bring pressure and fatigue to them. We put different people on him. I thought Sahvir [Wheeler] did an outstanding job, Justin [Kier] did as well. Certainly, Jaxon Etter brought a ton to him. Defensively, we are very comfortable with that. I thought Jaxon and Tye [Fagan] played their most minutes and had their best games as Georgia Bulldogs. They both were very instrumental in our win. I think that is one of the keys; you must get contributions from a lot of different people. I have said this so many times and it is so true, momentum is always up for grabs in a game and you never know who is going to grab it. I thought when Jaxon went in he helped grab the momentum of the game. I thought Tye did it in the first half. With that being said you put different people in situations like guarding a young man like Scotty Pippen Jr., who is so good, and so improved and you have to bring fatigue to the game. You cannot just let him set the pace of the game. On the other end, you have to recognize what is there. We went 3-6 from the second half after going 6-9. But, the three-point shooting was not as imperative as getting the ball inside and getting to the rim. We were very conscious of trying to get to the basket so we could get to the foul line because we knew that was an area that needed to be a strength for us against a team like Vanderbilt. ”

On the importance of the efficiency of the offense in tonight’s game…

“It was very important. I didn’t even realize that because I haven’t studied this sheet yet. I just know we had 46 deflections. That’s the number I look at first. I’ll study this when I get upstairs, but we were efficient, very efficient. Sahvir [Wheeler] did a great job controlling pace. We’re asking a lot of him. There is no hiding him on a matchup situation and letting him rest on defense. I think sometimes with high usage guards, we can’t take a backseat to anyone on the defensive end, so he has to do a really good job defensively. I think one of the keys to us improving has been his defensive improvement. His decision making, shooting, getting to the rim, passing are all improving and so is his ability to defend. When you come into the game like P.J. [Horne] and Sahvir being really focused on how you have to guard, it’s amazing how that opens things up for you offensively. P.J. had a bust-out night like that shooting the ball. Again, I think we got a lot of contributions tonight from a lot of guys. It’s not going to be a perfect game. That’s not going to happen. It’s hard to do that. These other teams are good too. The bottom-line is that finding a way to win is as valuable as anything you can have, especially when you’re getting ready to go on the road.”

On Jaxton Etter’s role on the team…

“Let’s just focus on right now that he was in the game today because we won the game, and Jaxon [Etter] works really hard. We have other players, but Jaxon played really well. Really at the end of the day, that’s the story to me. When he plays 15 minutes like that, that’s the story to me.”

On Tyron McMillan’s performance in tonight’s game…

“Absolutely, we’ve seen it coming. I thought he did a good job the other night in the first half of the Auburn game, and it wasn’t his fault that I didn’t play him in the second half. It was just that we had a rotation of three guys. It’s important. Tye Fagan, it wasn’t a great night for him. It wasn’t a great night for K.D. [Johnson] even though those guys did a lot of things. Justin [Kier] made some shots late. There were certain times that he didn’t make shots in the middle. You just have to keep finding your depth to come alive and impact the game when they go in. I think when Ty[ron McMillan] strings together really good practices and he strings together impacting his teammates and he’s having fun and he’s playing with some confidence. I think he can help our team. I think this was a really good step for him, and it’s been his best week.”

On Etter’s guarding and what he saw in practice leading up to the game…

“I think if you remember we put him late in the game, in the Samford game, and he made a big layup. No, it’s not that at all. He is a play-on-demand player, you know he is ready every time he is asked. Christian Brown has been banged up, Tye Fagan has been playing a lot of minutes, K.D. [Johnson] is eligible now. Those things play into it, but he is always ready when you put him in there. He’s got a great attitude, I love coaching him, he does a fantastic job. Again, he epitomizes a term I’ve used, I’ve used it with you guys before, but it’s something I learned a long, long time ago, Scott Skiles, when he was an NBA coach he referred to a guy named Adrian Griffin, who is now an assistant with the Raptors. He referred to him as a play-on-demand player, every time he was called upon he was ready to go. I never forgot that, I heard that when I was early on in my career at Indiana, and I always use that as a reference point with players. Well, if we were going to put a poster up right now for our team, Jaxon Etter would be the epitome of play-on-demand. You know, when you call him he is ready and he goes out there and he impacts the game.”

On Etter’s deflections…

“I don’t have it in front of me, I didn’t look at that. I know he had a good number. I don’t have that in front of me or I’d tell you. I can get that to Mike [Molbey], and Mike can shoot you a text if you’d like. I’m sorry I don’t bring that chart in, it’s on the board. I don’t bring anything In, I just see the stat sheet in front of me. So, I am sorry.”

*”Jaxon had eight deflections, which is probably a career high.”

On winning three straight SEC games and what that means for the future of Georgia Basketball…

“I think it’s huge, right? I mean the prognosticators picked us thirteenth at the beginning of the year, it’s hard to win man. It’s extremely hard to win, it’s tough all the way around. You’re thankful that you get these opportunities. There were 32 games this morning that were cancelled or postponed including two in our league. Not only is it hard to win, tomorrow is not promised you here. It’s just not, tomorrow is not promised to you in college basketball. So, you have to take advantage, I know that sounds cliché but it’s true. Nobody though, when Florida was playing the other night you don’t think that they’re going to be down, you don’t think that [Texas] A&M is going to be down, but here we are. It could happen to us tomorrow it could happen to anybody. So, you just want to do the very best you can do at controlling what you can control, which is your preparation, your attitude, your energy, the togetherness you have with your teammates and being excited to play. I think that says a lot about it, and I am really proud of the way they played.”

#24 PJ Horne | Graduate

On Toumani Camara’s game saving block…

“That was huge. That was a huge block and a huge momentum swing. He was right on time.”

On managing the high number of turnovers tonight…

“We just played to the best of our ability. Some things you just can’t control so you just have to get to the next play. I feel like once we got to the next play and realized that we have to take it one step at a time, everything started clicking.”

On winning when the team doesn’t play its best game…

“Yeah, it says a whole lot about our team and our togetherness. When things are not going your way and you still have a chance to persevere. We did that, and I feel like we can continue doing that.”

On if he did anything different to shoot so well tonight…

“No, I prepare like I always prepare. I don’t really switch it up, I just do what I need to do and today it was a good day so hopefully, I have more days like this in the future.”

On how big Jaxon Etter’s effort was tonight…

“That was really big. He came in when his number was called and he was ready to play, right then and there. He always goes hard in practice and it shows up in the games when he gets a chance.”

On Tyron McMillan’s impact…

“He’s very good when he’s playing at his peak. I’ve seen his growth since I’ve been here and watching him compete and play in practice and in games. I feel like he’s getting there.”

On what the defensive key was on Scottie Pippen Jr. tonight…

“The key was just to stay in front of him and stay in front of him as much as you can. Try to make sure he always sees somebody in front of him no matter where he goes because he’s the key to their offense.”

On his mentality to correct his recent shooting slump…

“I just feel like you adjust. You adjust and never stop shooting because you always have to adjust. By adjusting, I mean making sure that you don’t live in the past. If I missed a shot back then, the next one is going in and you have to always think like that.”

On if the turnovers tonight were because of Vanderbilt, or if they were self-inflicted…

“A lot of it, I feel like, was self-inflicted. A lot of stuff that we could control, but some of it was not being able to get there. On the up and up, we got better today, and I feel like we are together and as one we are able to do anything.”

#11 Jaxon Etter | Sophomore

On Toumani Camara’s big block and his potential…

“That was crucial. I mean, Toumani [Camara] shows up and makes big time plays. He knocked down two clutch free throws and then got a play of the game block. His potential is through the roof. He works harder than anyone I have ever met, and he is an awesome dude—one of my boys.”

On the energy he brought to the game…

“It is with the help of my teammates and the bench. If I don’t feel their energy then there is no energy coming out of me, so it was a team win. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. My coaches who constantly push me in practice, and that’s kind of my role. I found my role, be the energy guy. Move without the ball, do the little things, and it seemed like it kind of worked for me.”

On what is like to contribute in a win like he and Tyron McMillan did off the bench…

“It is very satisfying. You work your tail off every day. You’re ready when your number is called. Ty[ron McMillan] and I were ready when our number was called. Ty had some awesome minutes. Huge rebounds, huge put backs, Ty did a really good job. Shout out to his work ethic in practice every day. When he comes in and gets that extra work in, you know, shout out Ty McMillan.”

On the game plan against Scotty Pippen Jr…

“I mean, lock up, keep the ball in front. The same with Sharife Cooper, the same with Scotty Pippen Jr.—keep the ball in front. Help defense win games.”

On being matched up against Pippen and how he prepared…

“Not necessarily, I didn’t guard Sahvir [Wheeler]. I knew I would be guarding Pippen similarly to the way I guarded Sharife [Cooper]. Chest in front, don’t let him blow by. Stay down, keep the ball in front. I lock in on those keys and put it to good use.”

On how he stays locked in on sometimes playing in games and other times not playing…

“I mentally stay prepare because I am locked in on practice every day. I mean every single guy on team whether they play 40 minutes like Sahvir or zero minutes, everybody is locked in at practice every single game. Shout out Coach [John] Linehan and the entire coaching staff, they do a really good job of keeping the energy up no matter how many minutes you play, and everybody gets reps.”

On what it means for Coach Crean to put his faith in him to guard key opponents and how he stays focused on helping the team with his energy…

“It means a lot. It means a lot that he sees what I am working on in practice and that is something I worked a lot on during the offseason and during [Covid-19]. Me and my little brothers were in the backyard getting quicker, getting faster, getting stronger. That is something that I really took pride in coming in this fall—and the second question as far as being an energy guy. Everybody must find their roll. Not everybody can be a leading scorer. Maybe that seems too obvious, but I feel like a lot of people need to find their role, and I feel like a lot of guys on this team have found their role. I just so happen to take up the energy guy spot.”

On playing with a chip on his shoulder as a walk-on…

“Absolutely, from the jump, no questions asked. There has always been a chip on my shoulder ever since graduated high school and didn’t really have too many offers. I decided to walk-on at Georgia where I grew up being a Dawg. So there has always been a chip on my shoulder. Shout out to my parents, because they really pushed me to be the best.”

On winning three straight SEC games..

“Momentum is key, anyone can pick-up momentum. But, as far as where we are aware, we take it one game at a time. we are 1-0 tonight and we are going to be 1-0 on Wednesday.”


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