With 2.5 seconds left and the game tied at 63, Charles Mann was on the free-throw line.
The Georgia guard sunk his first shot, and when coach Mark Fox called a timeout before his second free throw attempt, Mann anticipated what was coming next.
Fox wanted Mann, who’d already missed six free throws in the Georgia’s 65-63 win over visiting Western Carolina Saturday afternoon, to miss this one.
“When I made it, I was like, ‘Aw, we need a stop now,’” Mann said. “I was just praying he didn’t make the shot at the end.”
Western Carolina’s Tom Tankelewicz’ 3-point attempt fell short, giving Georgia (6-4) its fifth straight win.
Georgia captured its first lead of the second half when Nemanja Djurisic hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Mann to give the Bulldogs a 61-58 advantage with 1:25 left.
Georgia and Western Carolina (6-8) swapped scoring possessions until the game was tied at 63. With barely two seconds left, Trey Sumler fouled Mann, and the two made free throws gave Georgia its closest win of the season.
“We just kept believing and fighting back,” Mann said. “We needed this game just to see that we could win the close games, and this was a confidence booster.”
Said Fox: “You’re not going to play pretty every night, and when you cannot play as well as you want to play and win, that’s a good thing.”
Georgia did not lead by more than three points in the first half and the score was knotted at 29 at the break after Kenny Gaines hit the tying layup as time expired.
Georgia forced five missed Western Carolina shots in the final four minutes of the game, including three missed 3s.
Western Carolina had sunk nine 3s throughout the game. Trey Sumler paced the Catamounts with 21 points, including four 3s, and Brandon Boggs finished with 12 points, nine of which came from 3-pointers.
“I can’t really say why (defense) wasn’t there in the earlier moments in the game,” said Gaines, who led Georgia with 17 points. “We were pretty desperate and we knew we had to get the win, so we had to do something other than offense, so we tried to turn up our intensity on defense.”
The win concludes Georgia’s five-game home stand. The Bulldogs will play at Colorado on Dec. 28 and start 2014 with games at George Washington and Missouri before hosting Alabama on Jan. 11.
“We’re much better after these five games,” Fox said. “…We’re getting some teeth into it right now. I think we’ve gotten a lot of experiences that we needed and now it’s time to go test them.”