As has often been the case this season for the UGA basketball team, Saturday night's game against Ole Miss didn't start out great, was ugly at times, and occasionally appeared ready to slip away. However, as has also become a common occurrence in conference play, in the end the Bulldogs came out on top, downing Ole Miss 61-60 before only the second sellout crowd of the season at Stegeman Coliseum.
Okay, it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a "sellout" given that attendance was boosted by the athletic department's decision to allow students in for free with a student ID. But so what? This is Georgia basketball, and butts in the seats, even butts whose wallets are no lighter for their attendance, are not a given. At the end of the evening there was an actual, live basketball crowd which was invested in the outcome. They saw the Hoop Hounds trail by 11 at one point during the first half before narrowing the gap to 28-23 at intermission.
However Kenny Gaines came alive in the second half, igniting a 13-0 run en route to a 21 point, just 1 point shy of his season high. Fellow 'Dawg Charles Mann chipped in 17, though the bench which kickstarted things against Mississippi State earlier this week was eerily silent. Nema Djurisic's 6 points were the only ones scored by a Bulldog who didn't also start the game, a downright weird little bit of data. Nema did make a huge contribution when he drove to the basket to tie the game with 1:26 remaining. Gaines then nailed a 3 pointer 40 seconds later to give Georgia the lead it needed with inside a minute to go.
Ole Miss didn't go down without a fight, with Jarvis Summers driving the basket, getting fouled, then fitting the free throw to tie it with only 33 seconds remaining. But Charles Mann ultimately hit the hero's shot for the Hoop Hounds, drawing a foul with only 1.5 seconds left on the clock in a tie game. He missed on the first shot, regrouped, and sank what became the game-winning free throw.
All Bulldogs were outscored by Ole Miss senior Marshall Henderson, whose 24 points on 6 of 13 shooting demonstrated that while the guy is undoubtedly a serial asshat, he's also a pretty good basketball player. On this night, however, it wasn't quite enough, as the inbounds pass following Mann's clutch free throw slipped away from the Rebels harmlessly out of bounds, sealing a win for the home team.
The Athenians move to 14-10 overall, and 8-4 in SEC play. That places them all alone in third place in the conference, a position which, let's face it, no one, even the team itself, likely believed they'd occupy after that heinous 1-4 start. Next on the agenda is a trip to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Tuesday night at 9:00 in Knoxville. The Vols are losers of their last 2 and 3 of their last 4, but Knoxville has been pretty unkind to the 'Dawgs in recent years. We'll be back to preview that one soon enough, but for now the Bulldogs just won a conference basketball game in front of a sold-out crowd in Athens. That's a thing worth celebrating. Until later . . .