ST. LOUIS (AP) – Yante Maten scored 25 points to lead Georgia to a 78-62 win over Vanderbilt in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Wednesday night.
Maten, the Associated Press SEC player of the year, was 9 of 12 from the field for the 12th-seeded Bulldogs (17-14). The 6-foot-8 senior has scored in double figures in all but one game this season for Georgia, which led throughout and advanced to face No. 5 seed Missouri in the second round on Thursday.
Teshaun Hightower added a career-high 13 points off the bench for the Bulldogs, and Rayshaun Hammonds had 10 in the win.
Riley LaChance scored 17 points to lead the 13th-seeded Commodores (12-20), who made 9 of 32 shots (28.1 percent) in the first half. Jeff Roberson added 16 points in the loss, and Saben Lee also finished in double figures with 12.
The Bulldogs opened the game on a 10-0 run and led by as many as 25 points in the first half before settling for a 43-22 halftime edge. Vanderbilt cut the Georgia lead to 15 points early in the second half, but the Commodores never threatened after that and were unable to recapture the form that led to an 81-66 win over the Bulldogs on Feb. 7.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, but they hit 6 of their first 24 shots (25 percent) on Wednesday and never led in the first-round exit. The loss ends a difficult season for Vanderbilt, which started the season 3-7 and will become the first Bryce Drew-coached team to miss the postseason in his seven seasons as a head coach – five at Valparaiso and two with the Commodores. Drew has reached the NCAA Tournament three times along with two trips each to the NIT and CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Georgia: The Bulldogs had the look of an NCAA Tournament team after starting the season 9-2 following back-to-back wins over Georgia Tech and Temple. They struggled to a 7-12 record after that, however, and entered Wednesday 81st in the NCAA’s RPI ratings – meaning they still likely need to win the SEC tourney to have any hope of reaching coach Mark Fox’s third NCAA Tournament in nine seasons at Georgia.
Georgia advances to face Missouri on Thursday.
The Commodores season is finished.