Bulldogs end non-conference slate with ugly win over Delaware State

Georgia’s 58-51 victory Friday afternoon over Delaware State was so uninspiring that that the most talked-about play of the day came on a 60-foot shot by freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the first half expired.

Caldwell-Pope’s launch put the Bulldogs up 32-29 and brought an end to a half in which Georgia (9-5) fell behind by 10 points within the first eight minutes and struggled to keep pace with a Delaware State (4-7) team playing without its leading scorer, freshman Taj Tate, who earlier this month was suspended indefinitely.

“I wasn’t happy with probably anything in the first half,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose team won its fifth consecutive game and finished December with a 5-2 mark. “I’m trying to think of a play in the first half I really liked and I can’t. Maybe I’m just too hard to please, but we rebounded the ball and made some plays in the first half, (but) we can’t play like that and compete in the SEC. We’ve got to grow up.”

Fox couldn’t even muster much enthusiasm for Caldwell-Pope’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“The way we played, we didn’t deserve that ball to go in,” he said. “I’m glad Kentavious made it, but I’m not happy with the way we played.”

Caldwell-Pope, who just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, said he’d been fooling around in practice with similar shots, and felt that the heave may have provided a spark going into the second half.

“One day, two days ago, we were in the gym playing around and throwing shots up like that, so I guess it carried over to the game,” he said. “I saw the time running down and threw it up and it just went in. It provided a little momentum. We came out in the second half and started playing defense a little harder.”

Several players said they’re at a loss to explain Georgia’s slow starts this week (the Bulldogs also fell behind early Tuesday against Winthrop) but they’re well aware that from this point on, Southeastern Conference teams will be much less forgiving than the Winthrops and Delaware States of the college basketball world.

“Part of it’s being young, part of it’s being the holidays and we’re kind of doing nothing but basketball, so sometimes we are a little complacent,” said Dustin Ware, who came off the bench to lead Georgia with 15 points. “But we’ve got to make sure we come out every night and be ready to go. Non-conference is over and there’s no way we can start like that and be successful.”

“We just started off flat,” added Donte’ Williams, who also flirted with a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds. “We’re a young team and I don’t know why we started flat, but we need to get after it from the jump. Our defense needs to improve. If our defense gets better, we’ll start the game better.”

While Georgia dominated the glass (outrebounding the Hornets 40-26) and had only eight turnovers, Fox was unhappy with his team’s effort on either side of the court. The Bulldogs shot 39.3 percent (18 of 48) from the field and allowed the Hornets to score 30 of their 51 points from beyond the 3-point arc.

“We did rebound the ball better,” Fox said. “I thought (John) Florveus and Donte’ both made some good plays at the start of the game. We’ve made some strides on the boards, but we didn’t play a complete game and you want your team to play a good game. Offensively, we were just firing up jumpers and we didn’t execute well offensively.”

Georgia took an eight-point lead at the 10:40 mark on a layup by Ware, but Delaware State refused to crumble, chipping away with a jump shot by Amere May and a 3-pointer by Tyshawn Bell to pull to within three points at the 7:40 mark. But the Bulldogs allowed but five Hornet points in the final 2:37, including a 3-pointer by Casey Walker with but 10 seconds left on the clock.

“You’re not going to play well every time, but you should play hard,” Fox said. “We’ve been making some shots, but we did not play as hard as I would like for us to, especially at the start of the game. We have to get back to defending at the level of intent before we started making shots. Since we started making baskets a couple of weeks ago, we haven’t defended as well.”

The Bulldogs open conference play at 7 p.m. next Saturday, hosting Alabama (10-3), which closed out its pre-conference slate on Thursday with a 72-55 victory over Jacksonville in Tuscaloosa.

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@RecDawg34 Believe that was just for spring.

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