The Georgia Bulldogs (12-12; 3-7) accomplished a multitude of firsts on Saturday afternoon in their overtime win over #18 Mississippi State – first win against a ranked opponent, first SEC road win, first time this season the Dawgs have strung two conference wins together, etc.
The Bulldogs’ 70-68 overtime victory today was UGA’s first win in Starkville since 2002, and definitely one of the bigger conference road wins over the past decade.
The game looked like it might slip away towards the end of overtime when Jalen Steele connected on three-pointer (that touched everything), putting his team up 66-65 with only 1:22 remaining in the game.
Georgia’s Kentavious-Caldwell Pope responded with probably his biggest offensive play of the year on the ensuing possession, backing his defender off with the dribble and then stepping back to bury a monster, go-ahead three-pointer that gave UGA a 68-66 advantage with just 68 seconds left.
The Dawgs got a stop on the next Missy State possession, and then senior Gerald Robinson, Jr. canned both free throws to put Georgia up 70-66, sealing the UGA victory with 26 ticks left on the clock.
Though KCP was the hero of the afternoon for Coach Mark Fox’s team, this win was truly the result of an overall excellent team effort. Robinson, Dustin Ware and Donte Williams all scored in double-figures, finishing with 13, 11 and 11 points, respectively.
Williams and Marcus Thornton did an amazing job of containing State in the paint, limiting Arnett Moultrie to only 12 points. Moultrie had been especially dominant in SEC home games this season, averaging 21 points per contest. However, he was never able to establish himself on Saturday as Georgia’s match-up zone enabled the guards to double-down on him and reduce his looks at the basket.
The Dawgs did surrender 21 points to Missy State senior Dee Bost, but it took him going 3 of 10 from beyond the arc to get to that total.
Georgia did not shoot the ball particularly well – 40.6% from the floor – but they out-hustled MSU all afternoon and won their second-straight battle of the boards, out-rebounding the Maroon Dogs 37-31.
Mississippi State came into the game playing the worst perimeter defense in the conference, and Georgia was able to exploit their opponent’s weakness, connecting on nearly 43% of their three-point attempts.
Before wrapping this entry up I have to throw one more bone to sophomore Marcus Thornton. Thornton brought his lunch pail to the gym today, leading Georgia with 9 rebounds (4 of which were offensive) and giving the Dawgs a very physical inside presence. If Marcus can continue to bang like he did today for the remainder of his career he will become a very productive player for Coach Fox.
Lastly, congratulations to Coach Fox and his team on a solid road victory over a ranked Mississippi State team. The Dawgs have responded to a dismal 1-7 start in conference play by winning their first two games in the second half of the SEC schedule.
Georgia now not only has a chance of playing themselves into the post-season NIT tournament, but they may catapult themselves into the middle of the SEC pack if they can keep the momentum rolling next Wednesday night in Columbia, South Carolina.
Don’t look now, but the Georgia Bulldogs are riding a two-game winning streak (their first of 2012).