UGA notches first SEC win behind Caldwell-Pope’s performance

Georgia finally snatched up its first Southeastern Conference win Saturday night, but two of its players weren’t available afterwards to talk about it.

Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and forward Nemanja Djurisic were left bloodied, but not beaten after Georgia pulled out a 67-58 victory against LSU in Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs (7-10, 1-3) celebrated in the locker room and Djurisic and Caldwell-Pope were treated in the training room.

“A good, hard-fought win,” Georgia coach Mark Fox called it.

With both teams seeking to end their winless ways in the SEC, the intensity was turned up and the injuries began piling up after Georgia broke a tie game and went ahead for good with a three-point play from forward Donte’ Williams with a layup and free throw with 3:24 left.

LSU guard Corban Collins had to be carried off the court with 35 seconds left with a cut above an eye and across his nose after colliding with Caldwell-Pope, whose leg was punctured on the play by Collins’ teeth.

Caldwell-Pope made a steal on the play — his career-high sixth — and stayed in the game to hit two free throws, the last of his game-high 22 points.

Djurisic (seven points, team-high eight rebounds) was gushing blood after getting smacked in the nose with 1:35 to play. He left the court with a towel covering his face after taking a fall under the Georgia basket.

“They’ll be all right,” Williams said. “It’s good to see guys laying it on the line.”

Williams, a 6-foot-9, junior, had his biggest scoring output in more than a month — 14 points on six of eight shooting and two of two from the foul line. He went to the floor on the other end for a steal that led to a jumper from Caldwell-Pope to make it 59-54 with 2:48 to go.

“I know I’ve been in a struggle,” Williams said. “It feels good to just contribute–to score, get steals and get blocks and get rebounds. Hopefully we’ll just build off of this game and keep building.”

Georgia and LSU were two of four SEC teams that entered the day without an SEC win, but they were the only teams left in that position by tipoff time after Tennessee beat Mississippi State 72-57 and Vanderbilt defeated South Carolina 58-51.

LSU (9-6, 0-4) got 16 points and 14 rebounds from forward Johnny O’Bryant, but left in last place in the conference and the only one of the 14 league teams still winless

“We knew we had to get a win today,” Williams said of a Bulldogs team that had lost each of its first three SEC games by double-dights. “We didn’t want to fall to 0-4 in conference play. Everybody just came together and focused.”

Getting a victory for the Bulldogs was particularly important because there is no letup in the early portion of its conference schedule.

The Bulldogs get scorching No. 10 Florida — fresh off a rout of No. 17 Missouri 83-52–for the second time already this month on Wednesday night at home before making their first ever trip to play at Texas A&M on Saturday.

“In this league, every game is tough,” Fox said. “We’ve played probably two of the toughest with the game in Gainesville and the game at Missouri. And the next one’s not easy either. Florida’s coming in here. They’re a terrific team. Our team has not really ever probably felt a great amount of confidence this year. That’s a big hurdle to overcome. We’ve got to keep fighting until we get over it, but tonight was a good step.”

Georgia scored 32 of its points in the paint, taking advantage of its size advantage inside except for 7-3 center Andrew Del Pierro, a former walk-on who was a tuba player in the LSU Golden Band.

“We made a conscious effort to try and get in there and make some plays,” Fox said.

Center John Florveus made all three of his field goal tries for six points, two off his career high.

“We felt like we needed it real bad,” Florveus said. “We were very hungry, determined and just came out and played hard and came out with the W.”

LSU’s smaller, quicker lineup gave Georgia fits in the second half with its press, but the Tigers ended with 21 turnovers, five more than Georgia.

The Bulldogs opened a 41-33 second-half lead, but LSU went on a 14-4 run and led 47-45 with 11:07 to play after a pair of 3-pointers from Antony Hickey. Georgia had six turnovers in the first five-plus minutes of the second half.

Fox said one of his “young guys” was continuously in the wrong spot on the press break, leaving Georgia without an outlet to pass the ball.

“We certainly had some moments in the second half when we got a little sped up,” Fox said. “I thought we were able to compose ourselves and finish the game in a pretty solid fashion.”

GEORGIA 67, LSU 58

LSU (9-6)
Hickey 4-15 1-3 12, O’Bryant III 5-8 6-8 16, Stringer 3-9 1-2 9, Morgan 3-5 4-6 11, Del Piero 1-4 0-0 2, Courtney 0-1 0-0 0, Collins 0-1 3-3 3, Coleman 2-6 1-2 5, Hammink 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-50 16-24 58.

GEORGIA (7-10)
Caldwell-Pope 7-14 6-6 22, Mann 1-6 3-5 5, D. Williams 6-8 2-2 14, Morris 2-5 1-1 5, Florveus 3-3 0-1 6, Dixon 0-0 0-0 0, V. Williams 1-2 2-3 5, Gaines 0-1 0-0 0, Brantley 1-2 1-2 3, Djurisic 1-6 4-6 7. Totals 22-47 19-26 67.

Halftime—Georgia 33-29. 3-Point Goals—LSU 6-17 (Hickey 3-10, Stringer 2-4, Morgan 1-2, Coleman 0-1), Georgia 4-12 (Caldwell-Pope 2-6, Djurisic 1-2, V. Williams 1-2, Brantley 0-1, Mann 0-1). Fouled Out—Coleman, Morgan. Rebounds—LSU 38 (O’Bryant III 14), Georgia 29 (Djurisic 8). Assists—LSU 6 (Hickey, O’Bryant III 2), Georgia 16 (Caldwell-Pope, Mann 5). Total Fouls—LSU 23, Georgia 15. A—5,779.

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