Things were looking rather bleak for the Georgia Bulldogs (8-5) when they were trailing the Winthrop Eagles (4-9) 75-71 with just 15 seconds remaining in the game. Winthrop forward Matt Morgan stepped up to the free throw line, where he had recently knocked down four straight shots. Morgan made the first attempt but missed the second, leaving the door slightly open for the Dawgs.
Georgia capitalized on the ensuing possession with senior Dustin Ware burying a three-pointer from the corner, cutting the Eagles lead to just one point.
Winthrop only made one out of two from the line on their next possession, bringing the lead to 76-74 with only a little over 6 seconds left.
Luckily for Georgia, Gerald Robinson only needed about 3 seconds and some change. The senior guard flew down the court and scored the tying lay-up with 2.4 seconds on the clock – he was moving so fast it looked as if he might continue on up into the section where I was sitting behind the Bulldogs’ basket.
Once overtime began, Georgia started playing defense like they had in their previous three victories. Offensively, the Dawgs connected on 11 of 15 free throws, enabling them to escape on Tuesday night with a 92-86 victory (Georgia’s highest scoring output of the season).
The Dawgs came out of the gates with almost zero intensity and found themselves trailing Winthrop 9-2 in less than 4 minutes of play. “We didn’t feel like we were playing very hard in the first half,” said Georgia Coach Mark Fox after the game.
If not for Nemanja Djurisic’s 13 points before the break, there is no way the Dawgs would have been able to take a 34-30 lead into the half.
After the intermission, Georgia stormed out of the gates and opened up a 48-35 lead over the Eagles with 14:27 remaining, following a Connor Nolte runner.
But Winthrop, or Andre Jones I should say, was not to be denied. Jones, the Eagles leading scorer, was at first unguarded, and then eventually became unguardable. The senior carried his team with 33 points and nearly put Georgia away all by himself.
Coach Mark Fox, who seemed rather displeased with the fact that his team allowed an opposing player to score more than 30 points, commented after the game, “Our defense really failed us in the second half. We shot 65% in the second half and we got outscored by four – that shows you how bad we played defense.”
Georgia’s offense was very successful against the Eagles on Tuesday night with the Bulldogs shooting nearly 55% from the floor and over 38% from beyond the arc. The Dawgs saw four players – Djurisic, Ware, KCP and GR2 – finish the game in double-figures.
Robinson led all UGA scorers with 22 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists (to only 2 turnovers). Gerald never gave up on this game, relentlessly pushing the ball down the court to preserve time and score quick baskets. Robinson’s senior leadership was exemplary at the end of the game and it definitely enabled Georgia to push the contest to overtime.
Djurisic set career-highs in both points and rebounds, finishing with 17 and 9, respectively. Nemanja was extremely active on the offensive glass, and though he only secured 3 o-rebs he did an excellent job of getting his hands on the ball and keeping it alive.
Dustin Ware, along with GR2, played a vital role in the Bulldogs‘ comeback, scoring 8 points in the final 5 minutes of regulation. Ware ended the game with 20 points, with 15 of them coming after the intermission.
Kentavious-Caldwell Pope scored a quiet 18 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. When Fox watches the game film today he may regret not putting KCP on Winthrop’s Andre Jones defensively instead of the Eagles’ other guard Reggie Middleton, whom Pope limited to just 9 points on 3 of 17 shooting from the floor.
UGA fans will probably look at the headlines from this game and lament the fact that the Bulldogs had to go to overtime to beat a 4-8 Winthrop team at home in Stegeman. However, my ride home to Atlanta as well as my general mood last night would have been significantly worse had Georgia not pulled off the comeback.
The Dawgs had a full-game lapse defensively but they were still able to walk away victorious, extending their current win-streak to four games.