Georgia is beginning to make teams play its game.
The Bulldogs forced Indiana and UCLA to abandon their man defense in narrow losses earlier this week.
On Friday night, they made East Tennessee State switch from a zone en route to a 54-38 victory over the Buccaneers.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 points and Georgia shot 63.2 percent from the field (24 of 38), its best mark since Jan. 15, 2011, to snap a four-game losing streak.
This was Georgia’s first game since returning from losses to the top-ranked Hoosiers and 11th-ranked Bruins in the final two rounds of the Legends Classic in New York.
“We played against two, traditionally, very good basketball programs in New York, who traditionally have been great man-to-man defensive teams,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “And we forced both of them to go to a zone because our man offense has gotten much better from where it was a year ago. (Friday night), we played well against a zone, so hopefully we can continue to improve and play well against whatever people choose to defend us with.”
Caldwell-Pope, who has led the Bulldogs (2-4) in scoring every game this season, hit consecutive 3-pointers in the second half to help hold off the Buccaneers (1-3).
Freshman Lester Wilson scored 12 points to lead ETSU, which has lost three straight.
The Buccaneers shot 17.4 percent (4 of 23) from the field in the first half and 28 percent (14 of 50) for the game.
“We don’t score the ball easily,” coach Murry Bartow said. “And when you don’t score the ball easily, you just look bad. There’s no other way to say it. And as a coach, I take full responsibility. I just told the players it’s not on them.”
Donte Williams added 12 points for Georgia.
Caldwell-Pope was 5 for 9 from the field, including 3 of 6 from the 3-point line, and also led the Bulldogs with seven rebounds.
His back-to-back 3-pointers helped Georgia stop a surge from the Buccaneers, who had cut the lead to 46-35 with 6:15 left.
“I didn’t feel like we needed a big shot there,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I feel like we could have had an easy two; I was just wide open and took the great shot that I had. It helped us a lot. Overall we played great.”
Georgia also had 21 assists and blocked nine shots.
Williams found room to maneuver along the baseline to finish with a season-high 12 points.
“I saw where there was a flaw in their zone,” Williams said. “The guy guarding me in their zone was playing up and I was just running baseline to baseline and trying to get a couple of easy buckets. That kind of worked. It worked a lot.”
Georgia built its lead by closing out the first half on a 21-2 run.
They held the Buccaneers without a field goal for the final 7:47 of the first half to lead 31-13 at the break.
ETSU led 11-10 when the Bulldogs scored 15 consecutive points for a 25-11 lead with 4:26 left in the half.
Caldwell-Pope and John Cannon sparked the run with four points each and Vincent Williams added a 3-pointer.
Wilson hit two free throws with 3:54 left, but Nemanja Djurisic and Caldwell-Pope finished the scoring with consecutive 3-pointers for the 18-point halftime cushion.