Georgia navigated some significant obstacles in a frenzied second half to hold off and then put away LSU, notching an important 91-78 victory Thursday night in Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs won for the first time in more than two weeks, snapping a three-game losing skid against a team that was in a groove.
LSU trimmed a 13-point halftime lead to 48-45 in less than five minutes as Bulldogs coach Mark Fox ditched his jacket and not long after directed his displeasure at veteran official Mike Kitts, drawing a technical foul.
Georgia leading scorer Charles Mann hit the floor hard and was down for a couple of minutes after falling on his ribs after getting blocked after trying to dunk on LSU’s Jordan Mickey with 9:52 to go with the Bulldogs up a 61-53, but returned after a few minutes, and the Bulldogs pulled away.
“That’s a heck of a win for our young people,” coach Mark Fox said. “As we build our team, our program, you have to have belief in yourself, you have to have belief through adversity. We had a tough 10 days where we didn’t play very well and we stuck it out, hung together and kept getting better and got to work this week and we beat a terrific basketball team. I’m proud of our win because we beat a very good team in an absolute battle.”
Georgia (11-10, 5-4 SEC) shot a sizzling 60 percent from floor, a season-high.
“We were a sound basketball team tonight,” said forward Nemanja Djurisic. “We played together.”
Djurisc had team-high 17 points and six rebounds and threw down a two-handed dunk and completed a three-point play for a 75-65 lead with 6:40 to go. Freshman J.J. Frazier hit a couple of key 3-pointers.
Mann scored 16 with four assists and forward Marcus Thornton had a career-high 15 points and 10 rebounds in a game Fox said his team played “extremely well.”
Mann returned to the game with 6:40 to go and the Bulldogs rolled to the victory.
“He’s a tough player,” Djurisic said. “I knew he was going to take a few minutes, but get back up.”
Said Mann: “I was going to go back no matter what. I didn’t care what happened. I wanted to win.”
LSU (14-7, 5-4 SEC) which had forwards Johnny O’Bryant and Shavon Coleman foul out late in the second half, had won four of its previous five games.
The Tigers got 19 from Mickey and guard Andre Stringer, but O’Bryant was held in check. He averaged 26 points in the last two games but finished with nine in 14 minutes.
“His foul trouble was key for us because we were able to build a lead when he was on the bench,” Fox said.
The Bulldogs mustered 54, 54 and 67 points in their straight losses to Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Auburn while guards Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker battled through injuries but the Bulldogs are now close to full strength.
“Tonight, we were mature, we helped each other and we had a couple of days to practice and get our rhythm back, quite frankly,” Fox said.
“This is definitely a key game to get it turned around and going in the right direction,” Thornton said. “A big game for us.”
Georgia entered the game with an SEC worst 10 assists per game, but matched that number in the first 20 minutes with six different players getting assists. The Bulldogs scored 16 of their first 18 points in the paint, but LSU made its run in the second half as the Bulldogs gave way on the boards.
“We put our foot down and decided we were going to turn it around,” said Thornton, who made six of eight from the floor.
“We had a few moments where we were a little bit heated and made some mistakes in the second half,” Djurisic said.
Fox said he couldn’t remember the specific play that got him fired up — “it was a physical game” — but appeared to be upset with a no call on a Thornton drive.
Djurisic and Mann calmed Fox down after his technical.
“I was fine to be honest with you,” Fox said. “I appreciate their poise. Part of that was to get them to rally and stand up and be men, too. It’s just part of the game. They did a nice job.”
Fox noted he doesn’t “have long to enjoy” this one.
The Bulldogs turn around and host Texas A&M Saturday at 8 p.m.
Marc Weiszer: twitter.com/marcweiszer