Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played maybe his best 4 minutes and 35 seconds of offense as a Georgia Bulldog coming out of the intermission against Southern California on Saturday. KCP lit up the Trojans for 12 points during this time span, erasing USC’s 28-27 lead before Southern Cal even had time to let Coach O’Neill’s halftime speech sink in. Following Pope’s offensive barrage, the Dawgs held a 41-32 advantage with 15:25 remaining.
The Bulldogs took the lead after a KCP lay-up 20 seconds into the second half, a lead they would not relinquish. The Trojans cut the Georgia advantage to 3 points with 10 minutes left following a pair of free throws from Omar “The Pharaoh” Oraby. However, UGA quickly responded on the other end, sending the ball inside to John Cannon who was fouled and converted both free throws.
The game became a little dicey towards the end when Georgia began to lose its touch from the free throw line. The Dawgs, who had made 16 of 20 from the stripe in the game’s first 36 minutes, hit only 2 of 6 in the last 4 minutes of play. Fortunately for Georgia, the Trojan offense fell apart during the same stretch as USC missed both of its field goal attempts and committed 3 turnovers.
Strangely, Southern Cal elected not to foul during the last 35 seconds of the game, even though it was still a two-possession contest. The Dawgs obliged, ran the clock out and walked out of Stegeman with a 64-56 win.
This victory was a nice one for Georgia as a momentum-builder heading into the holiday, and it marks the team’s first winning streak of the season.
KCP was sensational in the game’s second half, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 points (on 10 of 14 shooting from the floor).
The Dawgs’ freshman starters – Brandon Morris and Charles Mann – both turned in solid performances, finishing with 10 and 9 points, respectively. Morris is looking more and more comfortable with the ball in his hands away from the basket, and he has the unique ability for a guy his size to be able to create off the dribble – Morris got 6 of his 10 points from the free throw line, due to the fact that he took the ball right at the rim for most of the afternoon.
Charles Mann peppered the stat sheet, adding 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to his final tallies. Aside from a shot he took late in the game (when he probably should have dribbled it out), Mann once again appeared cool and in total control of the UGA offense.
And last but certainly not least, I have to mention the workman’s effort put in today by big John Cannon, who netted 10 points and hauled in 7 boards against a huge USC frontline. For whatever reason, Cannon saw limited minutes in the second half, making his numbers even more impressive over just 20 minutes of play.
Other than Oraby, the Trojan offense struggled to find the basket in Athens today, hitting only 40% of their field goal attempts and just 26% from beyond the arc.
In merely a week ,this younger-looking Georgia lineup has won two of its three games, with the lone loss coming in overtime. Charles Mann and Brandon Morris have injected life into a UGA team that appeared hopeless a little over two weeks ago following a loss at Georgia Tech on December 4th.
If the law firm of Morris, Mann and Pope can continue to click offensively, this season has the potential to get interesting.