Bulldogs get an eye-opening win

semerson@macon.comFebruary 9, 2013 

ATHENS -- Vincent Williams’ left eye, sunken and bruised, symbolized the brutality of Saturday’s game and the resurgence of the Georgia men’s basketball team.

On one of the first plays of the game, Williams hit the floor hard making a steal against Texas A&M. He lost the contact in his left eye, and it was forever lost amid a game that was consumed by fouls and ill feelings.

Then late in the game, with Georgia in danger of losing its longtime lead and the shot clock close to expiring, Williams nailed a critical 3-pointer.

It led to a run that basically decided the game, Georgia eventually holding on for a 52-46 win. And Williams did it with basically one eye.

“That’s what it was, a fist fight,” Williams said.

It was also another set of landmarks in Georgia’s surprising roll:

• The Bulldogs now have a five-game SEC win streak for the first time in 12 years.

• They are above .500 overall for the first time since winning the opener, then losing the next one and eventually falling to 2-7.

• And at 6-4 in SEC play, they sit among the top six teams in the 14-team SEC.

It’s an amazing turnaround for a team that was once headed for a lost season.

“Coach, and everyone, they all trusted in us,” sophomore forward Nemi Djurisic said. “They all believed that we can do it, that we can make a run and we can win. I know we had a rough start, but we kind of got confidence that we’re a much better team.”

That confidence always has been there for star guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. It was lacking in his supporting cast before this run, and Saturday’s win was another example of Georgia becoming a more well-rounded team.

Caldwell-Pope scored a season-low 10 points, all at the free-throw line. It marked the first time in his college career that he has failed to hit a field goal in a game.

But Williams hit the big 3-pointer for a 38-32 lead after the Aggies had gotten as close as the game had been. Georgia jumped out to an 11-1 lead, and the Bulldogs never led by fewer than three after that.

And Sherrard Brantley nailed another 3 to cap the 8-0 that was started by Williams’ shot.

“We’ve just found more guys that can score the ball,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “We don’t have a designated second gun; that guy hasn’t emerged. … We’ve just become a pretty solid team on the offensive end, where we play together and each guy makes their share of plays.”

“I feel the whole team is confident,” Williams said. “Taking the right shots, nobody is really forcing shots, and we’re starting to share the ball a lot.”

There were a total of 47 fouls, and the shooting was not good. Georgia shot 32 percent from the field, and Texas A&M was 24 percent. Each team only made 12 baskets.

Georgia did nearly give the game away in the final minute. A 10-point lead became eight, then a turnover led to a shooting foul, and a complaint about it led to a technical foul on Caldwell-Pope.

“I was just talking to my teammates, or whatever. I guess he just overheard or was listening too hard,” Caldwell-Pope said, with a smile.

He made up for it by hitting two free throws to extend the lead to six. Then in the final seconds the game nearly got uglier.

A loose-ball scrum led to pushing and shoving with 0.6 seconds left. Brantley had to be pulled away by teammates, and Georgia assistants corralled players before they could leave the bench.

It was a fitting end to a game that Fox termed a “slugfest” and another indication of the physical state of the college game.

“It’s becoming that way because -- this is a national issue, OK -- every coach in America knows that if you can be more physical, then why don’t you be?” Fox said. “And so coaches, we’re teaching that. So yes, we’re guilty of doing that. We’re guilty of teaching our team to be physical. Other coaches are guilty of that. But I’m gonna stay guilty of that until they make the other team change, too.”

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