Georgia uses late surge to power past Western Carolina

(Sorry for the late post – I had to head to a holiday event immediately after exiting Stegeman yesterday)

Georgia completed its run through the Southern Conference on Saturday, finishing with a record of 3-1 after taking down the Western Carolina Catamounts 65-63 in Athens. At this point in the year, it’s hard to determine whether UGA’s success against the SoCon is meaningful or not, since App State (3-8) and Chattanooga (4-8) haven’t exactly gotten out to the best starts. Even Davidson – Georgia’s only SoCon loss – is sitting at just 4-8 on the season.

Regardless, the Dawgs narrowly escaped yesterday from a Western Carolina team that led for all but the final two minutes of the second half. Nemanja Djurisic waited until the end of the game to score his only field goals on the day – an NBA-range three-pointer that put UGA up 61-58 with 1:25 remaining, and then a driving lay-up on the ensuing possession to break another tie, giving the Dawgs a 65-63 advantage with only 50 seconds left on the clock.

The Catamounts refused to go away though, and Tom Tankelewicz (try saying that three times fast) evened up the score once again, knocking down a pair of free throws with just 20 ticks remaining.

Fortunately for Georgia, Charles Mann was able to draw contact on his a drive on UGA’s final possession, and the sophomore calmly buried both free throws to finalize the 65-63 Bulldog victory.

While Mann did knock down the game-winning shots from the line, he struggled for much of the afternoon from the charity stripe, finishing with 5 makes on 11 attempts. As a team, UGA only hit 24 of 38 free throw attempts, leaving a lot of points on the table.

The Dawgs had their hands full trying to contain Carolina’s senior point guard Trey Sumler, who led all scorers with 21 points. Sumler showed an ability to score both off the dribble and from the outside, where he connected on 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.

Georgia’s leading scorer on the afternoon was sophomore Kenny Gaines, who quietly put together a 17-point effort, which included going 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Gaines’s shooting performance yesterday was a nice rebound from his previous two games against Lipscomb and Gardner-Webb, where he went only 1 of 8 from three-point land.

This game should leave UGA fans both relieved and concerned. The Dawgs are on a five-game win streak, but they failed to win any of the last three contests by double-digits, making me wonder just how much better Georgia is than Lipscomb, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina.

UGA’s schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher starting next Saturday when Georgia travels to Boulder to take on the #20 Colorado Buffaloes. Then, the Dawgs start 2014 with another road trip on January 3rd, taking on a 10-1 George Washington team before opening up SEC play at #23 Missouri on January 8th.