ATHENS -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope kept hoping that Southern California would keep using one man to defend him in the second half.
The Trojans didn’t disappoint.
“It was shocking to me that they didn’t double me,” he said. “Most teams, when I’m hot like that, will try to double me or box-in-one me to try to stay close, but it shocked me.”
Caldwell-Pope scored 12 of his 25 points in the first five minutes of the second half, John Cannon and Brandon Morris each added 10 points and Georgia beat Southern Cal 64-56 on Saturday.
Omar Oraby finished with 14 points for Southern Cal, which has lost 13 straight on the road.
Caldwell-Pope’s jumper on the first possession of the second half made it 29-28 and gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game. Georgia (4-7) never trailed again.
“That’s him,” point guard Charles Mann said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting for. He felt it and he kept shooting. We were giving him the ball. We believe in him and his confidence and (he) just kept on shooting and making it. “
After beating Mercer by nine points earlier this week, the Bulldogs have won two straight for the first time since last March.
“I told our players that we played 39 good minutes against Mercer, but that one bad minute came at the beginning of the second half,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “We needed to come out of halftime playing well.”
Eric Wise added 12 points for the Trojans (4-8), who have lost seven of eight overall.
The struggles that Southern Cal endured last season aren’t getting any easier for head coach Kevin O’Neill. With a 10-34 record since the start of 2011-12, O’Neill is trying to keep an upbeat approach.
Southern Cal was coming off a seven-point home loss to UC Irvine this week.
“When you’re playing at Georgia right before Christmas, that’s a hard game,” O’Neill said. “I liked a lot of things that we did. It’s a matter of us just putting this thing together at some point to give us an opportunity to break through and start winning games on a regular basis.”
Cannon pulled down seven rebounds and Mann handed out six assists for Georgia.
Georgia was 2-for-12 from the field to begin the game, but the Bulldogs shot 61.9 percent (13-of-21) in the second half as Fox instructed his team to play more physically and get the ball to the rim.
Caldwell-Pope did most of his damage from the perimeter, scoring six of his 10 field goals on jumpers. Regardless of who was defending him, the sophomore guard from nearby Greenville either seemed to have a good look at the basket or he found an open man.
The Bulldogs took advantage of some mismatches, too.
“Usually when they ran a screen, they would switch, and I had the big man on me,” Mann said. “I would see a hole and take advantage of it.”
Georgia played mostly man-to-man defense in the second half and occasionally used a full-court press to harass the Trojans into making mistakes or taking bad shots.
After Oraby’s three-point play cut the lead to 60-55 with 3:02 remaining, Southern Cal couldn’t get any closer.
The Trojans took only two shots from the field the rest of the way as Georgia pulled down rebounds on missed 3s by J.T. Terrell and Ari Stewart.
Southern Cal finished with only 12 turnovers, but in the second half, the Trojans hit only one of eight 3-point attempts and pulled down just three offensive rebounds on missed jumpers.
“We wanted to push the ball,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We figured they were getting tired by the way they showed their body language. We just tried to push the ball and get some easy baskets in transition.”
Georgia is off until next Saturday when Florida A&M visits Stegeman Coliseum.