The Legends Classic didn’t turn out how Georgia hoped it would on its own home court.
David Bristow/For the Athens Banner-Herald
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 17 points on the night.
At least this time, the Bulldogs took Southern Miss to overtime, but point guard Vincent Williams had the ball stolen with 31.9 seconds to play and the Golden Eagles turned it into a breakaway layup from Dwayne Davis for the deciding points in a 62-60 Bulldogs loss Thursday night.
Georgia dropped its second game in Stegeman Coliseum in four days in the early-season tournament.
“There’s a difference definitely this loss from the last loss,” forward Nemanja Djurisic said referring to an uninspiring 68-56 loss to Youngstown State. “I think we competed hard. I think this was a hard-fought game. Definitely, we have so many little mistakes like the last steal they got. To fight that hard and lose a ball in the halfcourt …and lose the game, it’s hard. It’s a hard-hit for us and hopefully we’re going to get up and learn something.”
Georgia was looking to bounce back after shooting 32.1 percent Monday, the third-lowest field goal percentage under coach Mark Fox in 99 games with the Bulldogs.
Win or lose these subregional games, Georgia was headed to the Legends championship rounds in New York.
Ready or not, the Bulldogs next play top-ranked Indiana, coming off a 99-45 romp over Sam Houston State on Thursday night. The game is Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“I know that we can compete,” said post player Donte’ Williams, who had four points and four rebounds in 25 minutes in his first game of the season after sitting for two games for disciplinary reasons. “Guys need to step up and play. …You just can’t be scared.”
Georgia (1-2) will play either No. 13 UCLA or Georgetown on Tuesday night.
“We haven’t played well out of the gate, but we have a lot of opportunities in front of us,” Fox said.
Fox said the Bulldogs’ downfall Thursday had a lot to do with making just 11 of 21 free throws and being outrebounded 20-9 in the second half.
Georgia again had trouble offensively in the first half despite having Williams, who said Fox told him a while back that he would make his season debut in this game.
“Just me making poor choices, being irresponsible,” Williams said of the reason.
He said it was “something else,” not related to his possession of marijuana charge in May that was dismissed in July.
The 6-foot-9 junior checked into the game with 16:40 left in the first half with Georgia leading 3-2, getting applause from the crowd of 4,521.
With or without Williams, Georgia had trouble solving a zone defense that Southern Miss changed up and that guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points on 5 of 21 shooting, including 3 of 14 on 3-pointers) said put a lot of pressure on the guards.
“Their zone is really good,” Fox said. “We ran a lot of different things against it and at the end Vinny just mishandled and I think we had one guy miss a cut where he should have cut. We knew it would be a challenge going against their zone.”
The Bulldogs dug themselves an early 15-3 hole, crept to within four at halftime and then stayed within striking distance for much of the second half before Djurisic (12 points) hit a fallaway jumper to tie the game at 55 with 1:26 left.
In overtime, after Williams had the ball stolen by Michael Craig and the Golden Eagles went ahead, Caldwell-Pope missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left, got the rebound but was blocked on another. After an inbounds pass, he was long on another 3-pointer to end the game.
“I think one or two were decent looks,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I could have used my teammates to get me open.”
The Golden Eagles hammered home three dunks in its first 11 baskets and scored 16 of their first 24 points in the paint.
“Georgia had a much bigger team than we did, but we had the speed,” said guard Jerrold Brooks, who scored a team-high 17 points“We knew if we blocked out and ran the floor we would have a good chance to win.”
Southern Miss (2-0) has won both of its games this season in overtime. It turned back Western Kentucky, 67-64, in its opener.
The Golden Eagles had a major makeover after going 25-9 and reaching the NCAA tournament last season.
Coach Larry Eustachy left for Colorado State and Donnie Tyndall was hired to replace him after six seasons at Morehead State. They returned just one of their top five scorers, but notched their second win over an SEC team in as many years after beating Ole Miss last season.
Georgia shot 38.5 percent for the game, including 2 of 7 in overtime.
“They were kind of stacking the inside up with the zone, making us shoot the jump shots,” Donte’ Williams said. “It was kind of hard getting the ball in the middle in a zone like that.”
The competition takes a big step up next week.
“We’ve still got a long season, still got more games to play,” Donte’ Williams said. “We’ve got to keep working, keep pushing.”