UGA men’s basketball survives ‘slugfest’ with Texas A&M to extend win streak to five

In the game’s first minute, Vincent Williams got poked in the left eye diving and getting a steal, forcing him to play the rest of the game with just one contact lens.

In the game’s final minute, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew a technical foul for language deemed not suitable.

In between, there were a lot of missed shots, two more technical fouls, nearly 50 fouls called in all and a near-scrum.

Georgia still did what it’s done every time for the last two weeks: just win.

The Bulldogs’ 52-46 victory Saturday night over Texas A&M before 7,380 in Stegeman Coliseum extended their winning streak to five games.

“Well, that was a slugfest,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Really a physical game, a hard-fought game. Both teams were really defending. We had a lot of respect for Texas A&M’s defense coming into the game. They guarded us very well. I thought our defense was pretty solid from start to finish. … Really, just our kids were hungry and made enough plays to win it.”

Georgia has won five in a row in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 2001.

“That’s something,” forward Nemanja Djurisic said, “But I want to tell you something — Coach (Fox) and everyone, they all trusted in us.

They all believed that we could make a run, that we could win. I know we had a rough start, but we kind of got confidence and are a much better team now.”

The Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4 SEC) have climbed back from a 2-7 start to get over .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-0.

They remain in a tie for fifth in the SEC standings. Alabama comes to Athens Tuesday for a 9 p.m. game.

Georgia’s supporting cast may have taken that phrase to a new level on Saturday because Caldwell-Pope, the SEC’s second-leading scorer, was held without a field goal for the first time in his college career on a day field goals were at a premium.

“It was just one of them nights,” the sophomore guard said.

Georgia and Texas A&M each made only 12 in a game Georgia led from the start, where ahead by as many as 12. The Aggies never got closer than 35-32 with 9:40 to play before Williams hit an important 3-pointer.

There were nearly twice as many fouls called (47) as field goals made (24), but the Bulldogs added another victory to their ledger.

“It’s a national story about how physical the game’s getting,” Fox said. “I think you saw good evidence of it today. … Every coach in America knows if you can be more physical, why don’t you be? So as coaches, we’re teaching that. So, yes, we’re guilty … of doing that. We’re teaching our team to be physical. .. I’m going to stay guilty of that until they make the other team change, too.”

The officials were escorted off the floor by police at the end of the game to boos after a heated moment during a tie-up up with 0.4 seconds left. Georgia players pulled Sherrard Brantley away from Texas A&M players before things got out of hand.

Caldwell-Pope got called for his first technical as a Bulldog after arguing a foul called moments earlier with 20 seconds left.

“I was just talking to my teammates,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I guess (the official) overheard or was listening too hard.”

The Aggies hit four consecutive free throws to cut Georgia’s lead to four, but Caldwell-Pope hit a pair of his own with 17 seconds left for the final margin.

Texas A&M (14-9, 4-6) went 19 of 26 from the foul line. Georgia was 25 of 32.

“They got to the free throw line too much,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We got to the line also. The difference in the game came at the line because neither team could really shoot the ball.”

Hard to argue that.

Texas A&M, which was led by guard Fabyon Harris’ 17 points, shot 24 percent from the field. Georgia made just 32.4 percent of its shots.

“Since December, our defense has given us a chance most nights,” Fox said.

It was the fewest points allowed by Georgia in an SEC game in Fox’s four seasons.

“Good D,” athletic director Greg McGarity told Fox as he entered the room for his postgame news conference.

Caldwell-Pope went 0-for-3 from the field, but still was Georgia’s second-leading scorer with 10 points after not missing in 10 tries from the line.

“Once I knew my shot wasn’t falling, I just tried to get to the rack,” Caldwell-Pope said.

“He’s going to find some way to score,” Williams said.

He was guarded by Elston Turner, who himself was contained by Caldwell-Pope.

Turner scored 40 in a win at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena earlier this season, but he was 2 of 14 for the field and scored most of his 13 points at the foul line.

“They both are talented players and I thought both defended pretty well,” Fox said. “Kentavious doesn’t make a basket, but very patient throughout the game. He got to the free throw line and still had a pretty good night for us.”

Djurisic came off the bench to lead Georgia with 13.Williams added seven on a night the Bulldogs scored their fewest field goals in a win since 10 at Mississippi State in a 26-20 win in 1982.

“We came out and played hard and tough and won the fight,” Djurisic said.

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