Playing without injured forward Marcus Thornton, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs hosted the Winthrop Eagles in Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday night, struggling with the visitors for 40 minutes before ultimately prevailing in overtime.
The Hoop Dogs felt the absence of Thornton, the team’s leading rebounder, as Winthrop matched Georgia with 19 first-half rebounds and edged the host squad on the glass, 12-11, in a second period that saw the two teams combine for a lone offensive board. The Eagles leapt out to a 7-0 lead, but the Red and Black tied the contest at 19 on a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer along the way to a 34-30 halftime lead.
The visitors shot almost exactly 40 per cent in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 13 of 32 from the field and two of five both from beyond the arc and from the free throw line, but the Bulldogs bettered each of those percentages, including a five-of-seven mark from the charity stripe prior to intermission. In the ensuing 20 minutes, the Classic City Canines hit nearly two-thirds of their two-point tries (17 of 26) and outscored Winthrop, 26-8, in the paint, yet still found themselves outscored, 46-42, in the second half.
Georgia built up a 48-35 edge with just under 14 and a half minutes to play in the second half, but the Eagles battled back to snarl the score at 50 with three-point baskets and free throws. The next six points were scored by the Athenians, including two on a dunk by Caldwell-Pope, but Winthrop pulled to within 59-58 on a fastbreak jump shot and three free throws, all by Andre Jones, with a little more than five minutes remaining.
A subsequent Jones trey staked the visitors to a 64-62 advantage with two and a half minutes to play, and, despite a Caldwell-Pope turnover, Gerald Robinson was able to atone for a missed three-pointer a few moments earlier with a layup on a fast break to keep the game within reach at 66-64. A trio of Dustin Ware free throws cut the gap to 68-67 with 34 seconds on the clock, after which the teams traded fouls and free throws until Ware fired the shot from beyond the arc that permitted the Bulldogs to pull within 75-74 with eleven seconds left.
Nine seconds later, Robinson tied the game at 76 on another fastbreak layup to send the game to overtime, where the Red and Black used a Ware bucket from downtown and a quintet of free throws to establish an 84-78 edge, but the Fox Hounds missed five of their next six shots to find themselves clinging to an 86-82 advantage once Jones hit another free throw with 85 seconds remaining. From there, the Athenians drained six of seven from the charity stripe to card a hard-fought 92-86 victory.
Andre Jones poured in 33 points for Winthrop, but only one other Eagle managed more than twelve, while Georgia got 17 from Nemanja Djurisic, 18 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 20 from Dustin Ware (who made three of six from three-point range), and 22 from Gerald Robinson (who went eight of eleven from the field with four assists and five rebounds). While this game should not have been as competitive as it was, a young Georgia club was not easily able to absorb the loss of Marcus Thornton, yet still the Bulldogs managed to do what Coach Fox’s teams have made a habit of doing since the start of last season; namely, win the games they’re supposed to win, albeit often by narrower margins than we’d have liked.