The Southeastern Conference schedule brought Georgia its quickest turnaround all season between league games this week.
The Bulldogs might want to lobby for more the way it worked out this time.
Georgia had to labor to do it but grabbed its second win in a span of 49 hours by pulling away from Texas A&M for a 62-50 win Saturday night in Stegeman Coliseum.
Coupled with a victory over LSU Thursday night, the Bulldogs now have a modest two-game winning streak after losing three straight.
Guard Kenny Gaines’ big second half after being shooting 0-for-4 and being shut out in the first half proved to be key.
“I was praying in the locker room that I wouldn’t go 0-for tonight,” Gaines said. “Just let me hit one.”
Gaines finished 5-for-13 and helped deliver coach Mark Fox his 200th career win.
“This is about our team, this is about the sixth league win,” said Fox, who is 200-116 in 10 seasons at Nevada and Georgia, where he is 77-73.
“Congratulations to Coach Fox,” center Donte’ Williams said, “but I feel every game is important if it’s 201 or 199.”
Gaines scored all 14 of his points after intermission, including a pivotal 3-pointer with 3:46 to go to give Georgia a 52-47 lead. The Aggies had just crawled to two down after Gaines had been whistled for fouling guard Jamal Jones on a 3-point try (“I definitely did give him a high five,” Gaines admitted) and Jones sank all three en route to a game-high 17 points.
Gaines added a 17-footer for a 54-48 lead and Charles Mann (10 points) scored on a breakaway jam after a steal from Brandon Morris (10 points) as the Bulldogs scored 10 of the game’s final 12 points.
“Kenny made some critical plays when it mattered, but it certainly wasn’t one of his better days,” Fox said.
Forward Nemanja Djurisic limped off the floor with 1:42 to go with an ankle injury, but Gaines said he was “walking fine,” but expected him to get treatment.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Fox said.
Georgia (12-10, 6-4 SEC) remained tied for fourth in the SEC with Tennessee and LSU.
Fox said he subbed liberally because of fatigue in part because of the second game in three days.
Gaines said that turnaround also brings “mental fatigue,” because of getting a scouting report the day after a victory.
“What was fortunate was we were at home both games and we didn’t have to travel in between,” Fox said. “Certainly, we had a much better week than we did a week ago and for that I’m proud of these kids.”
Texas A&M (13-10, 4-6) lost for the sixth time in the last seven games.
Hours before the game, Fox said he had to get on his team in gameday shootaround for the first time all season because he didn’t sense his team wasn’t focused and shooting not at full speed.
It may have carried over to the game when three of Georgia’s starters—Gaines, Mann and Marcus Thornton–went without a point in the first half but Georgia still led 25-23.
“Kenny, I don’t think he was concentrating, dialed in mentally,” Fox said. “He made some plays early that I just thought, `What is he doing?’ Give him credit for slowing down, taking a deep breath and maturing and making some really big baskets for us.”
Said Gaines: “I was trying to rush a couple of shots. I had a lot of energy in the first half and I was just trying to expend it everywhere.”
He said his offense picked up after he channeled his energy to the defense.
Georgia clamped down in the second half, too, holding the Aggies to 29.6 percent shooting and 33.9 percent for the game.
The Aggies, which briefly led by one twice in the second half, were 1 of 19 on 3-pointers and SEC assist leader Alex Caruso fouled out with no points and one assist.
“We just couldn’t make a shot,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
Williams had three blocked shots (he thought it was actually four) and nearly had a double-double, finishing with 10 rebounds and nine points.
“Donte’ got scored on once or twice in a row, he got an and-one done on him and another dude that came in and I kind of got up in him and I was like `Bro, block their shots,” Morris said. “If they’re calling fouls on you for walling him straight up, you might as well get a foul trying to block him. He took that and he got mad and it carried over to the game. He was out there swatting everything left and right. I told him he looked like a little Anthony Davis.”
Georgia swatted away the adversity it began the week with by getting a pair of wins.
“It was a bump in the road,” Morris said. “We had adversity to face and I feel like we took it on and bounced back pretty good this week.”
Notes: The Bulldogs will play three of their next four on the road, starting Wednesday at Mississippi State at 9 p.m. … Georgia is now 3-0 against Texas A&M all-time, all since the Aggies began SEC play last season. … Gaines had a career-high seven rebounds.