Another good defensive effort and some good free throw shooting helped propel Georgia to a 66-58 win over Alabama Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum. The win gives Georgia its first 2-0 start in the SEC in over a decade.
Neither team was able to get off to much of a start as both teams combined to score just 15 points over the first 10 minutes of action. Georgia's Kenny Gaines and Alabama's Shannon Hale carried their respective teams early offensively. Hale scored 11 of Alabama's first 13 points but it was Gaines who helped spark the Bulldogs to a late run.
Gaines scored five straight points to put the Bulldogs up 20-15 and started an 11-0 run. Georgia outscored Alabama 19-8 over the last seven minutes of the half and took a 34-23 lead into the half.
Neither team developed much of an offensive rhythm in the second half but the Bulldogs were able to work their way to the free throw line regularly. The Crimson Tide would make a run in the second half behind Rodney Cooper and Trevor Releford whose layup with 7:43 remaining cut Georgia's lead to just three at 46-43.
Georgia went without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes in the second half but were able to remain in front thanks to some good free throw shooting. Charles Mann broke the field goal drought on a drive with 3:20 left to put the Bulldogs back up 57-48. That bucket would be the Bulldogs' last from the field as they scored their final nine points from the free throw line.
Gaines scored 16 of his 22 in the first half. He finished 7-14 from the field and 4-7 from beyond-the-arc. Charles Mann also finished with 22 and did most of his damage from the free throw line where he was 13-18. Georgia would finish 31-44 as a team from the charity stripe.
Marcus Thornton finished with nine points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots. His 2-9 shooting looks ugly but it was his presence around the bucket that led Georgia's interior defense. He was huge inside and even knocked down some key free throws down the stretch.
The Bulldogs win despite Nemanja Djurisic being held to just three points while going 0-7 from the field. Djurisic also played some big minutes defensively but was largely ineffective on the offensive end.
Releford led Alabama with 17 points while Rodney Cooper finished with 15 points and six rebounds off the bench. Hale added 14 and five rebounds.
Georgia improves to 8-6 on the season and 7-1 at Stegeman Coliseum. Up next is a road trip to Gainesville on Tuesday for a matchup with No. 10 Florida.