After blowing a 13-point lead in the second half, things weren‚Äôt looking terribly promising for Georgia in the final minutes of its encounter Tuesday against Winthrop, but the Bulldogs managed to come from behind to tie the game in regulation and pull out a 92-86 overtime victory.
Georgia (8-5) was down 75-71 with 15 seconds remaining, but Dustin Ware‚Äôs 3-pointer with 9.6 seconds on the clock pulled the Bulldogs to within a point, and after Winthrop‚Äôs Derrick Henry made 1 of 2 free throws on the other end, Gerald Robinson put the game into overtime at 76-76 with a twisting left-handed layup with 2.4 seconds left.
It wasn‚Äôt much of a contest in the extra period as Georgia outscored the Eagles 16-10 to escape with a victory that might have been easier to procure with the services of forward Marcus Thornton, who had surgery on his knee earlier in the day and will be out for an undetermined length of time.
‚ÄúWinthrop deserved to win ‚Äî they outplayed us,‚Äù said Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose team won its fourth consecutive game. ‚ÄúWe may have had our highest shooting percentage of the season but gave up the most number of points this season. I was not pleased with our defensive effort ‚Ä¶ We‚Äôre fortunate to win.‚Äù
Fox said that the absence of Thornton ‚Äî who averaged a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game ‚Äî had a profound influence on Georgia‚Äôs inability to put Winthrop (4-9) away.
‚ÄúWe needed Marcus Thornton to get hurt like we needed a hole in the head,‚Äù said Fox, whose team hosts Delaware State at 2 p.m. on Friday. ‚ÄúOur lineups and rotations are all jumbled now and we‚Äôve got to re-figure it all over again after 12 games. Not having Marcus was a big part of how disorganized we played. We‚Äôre going to have to grow up fast.‚Äù
The frenzied run-up to the extra period overshadowed an outstanding performance from Georgia freshman Nemanja Djurisic, who received his first collegiate start in place of Thornton. Djurisic, a 6-foot-8 forward from Montenegro, finished with career highs in minutes (34), points (17) and rebounds (nine).
‚ÄúI was a little nervous, but I knew I had to take responsibility and play well and help them team while Marcus is out,‚Äù said Djurisic, who was 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc. ‚ÄúI was a little surprised with the game; we knew (Winthrop) was a good team, but I thought our defense didn‚Äôt do well. We should have shut the door earlier in the game.‚Äù
‚ÄúHe played aggressively and he played really well, especially on the offensive end,‚Äù Ware said of Djurisic. ‚ÄúHe did well in Marcus‚Äô absence and we‚Äôre all going to have to keep playing well and keep improving.‚Äù
The night‚Äôs highlight-reel performance, however, belonged to Winthrop‚Äôs Andre Jones, who torched the Bulldogs for 33 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 night at the free-throw line.
‚ÄúGerald Robinson is a terrific defender, but he got lit up like a Christmas tree,‚Äù Fox said. ‚Äú(Jones) may be the best guard we‚Äôve faced all season, and we‚Äôve already played some good ones.‚Äù
The Bulldogs had four players finish in double figures ‚Äî Robinson led the way with 22 and was followed by Ware (20 points), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18) and Djurisic (17). Winthrop‚Äôs Jones was complimented by freshman Henry (17) and Georgia Valentine (12).
Although the Bulldogs managed but one more rebound than Winthrop, Georgia managed to maintain the good ball security they‚Äôve enjoyed lately, giving up only 12 turnovers. The Bulldogs shot 43.8 percent from the field, but Winthrop was better in that category, making 31 of 57 shot attempts (54.4 percent).
Georgia had a four-point lead at the half and took off on a 14-5 run to begin the second half, but Henry scored eight points in a 60-second span to spark the Eagles, who took a 64-62 lead on a Jones 3-pointer with 2:39 to play and did not trail again until overtime.
‚ÄúWe had the character tonight to keep fighting and get it into overtime, and that‚Äôs when we decided to start guarding and playing defense,‚Äù Fox said.