Dustin Ware has played through a tough stretch of days after the death of his grandfather.
Ware will attend the late Edward Benison’s funeral today. But before he could leave Athens, he helped Georgia beat Bowling Green 63-54 in the first game of the CBE Classic on Sunday at Stegeman Coliseum.
“It affected me to a degree, but I had to work to keep it out of my mind,” Ware said. “I know that (the funeral) is going to be pushed back to tomorrow. Right here and right now, I had a job to do and we had to win a game and I had teammates to play with. I had to just keep it out of my mind.”
Ware scored nine points and made four steals as Georgia (2-0) won its second straight game to start the season. Also for the second consecutive game, the Bulldogs found themselves in a closely-contested fight before finding breathing room late.
“At the moment of truth we just dug deep and fought,” Ware said. “We made stops when we needed. We got a couple of turnovers when we needed. We just kept battling. That’s something we’ve been doing ever since practice started and I think we just went back to our habits of just battling and fighting.”
Benison was from Tuscaloosa, Ala. and wanted to see his grandson play close to his home. But when Ware signed to play at Georgia, Benison eagerly added red and black to his wardrobe.
“He was probably my biggest fan,” Ware said. “Any game he could get to, he was always there. He loved watching me on TV. He used to call all his friends back home just to tell them I was on TV and stuff. But that’s one of the biggest things I’ll miss about him. It’s definitely been tough, but I had to just keep fighting through because I had a job to do.”
Gerald Robinson led Georgia with 15 points and five assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds despite sitting most of the first half with foul trouble.
“It was really tough,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I kind of got frustrated because I got two fouls and the game just went away from me. I just put my head down in the first half a bit, but I had to come back different in the second half. … I got a little more comfortable (in the second half). I started playing defense well and just let it flow.”
Georgia led throughout, but Bowling Green (1-1) cut the Bulldogs’ advantage to five twice in the second half. A layup and free throw by Dee Brown pulled Bowling Green within 53-48 with 2:49 left in the game. But Georgia hit 10 of 14 from the free-throw line to put the game away. Ware hit 3 of 4 and Robinson sank 6 of 8.
“We understand that we’re a good free throw shooting team and we practice that every day,” Robinson said. “So I guess the hard work showed up.”
Georgia saw some offensive improvement from its frontcourt after Friday’s game. Marcus Thornton scored nine and had five rebounds, while John Florveus added six points and four rebounds. Last Friday Georgia’s starting frontcourt of Thornton and Donte’ Williams combined for just five points.
“John Florveus was good early,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I thought Marcus Thornton gave us a nice lift. I think he played very well in the first half. I think our frontcourt improved. We didn’t rebound very well but I think we’re getting better.”
Bowling Green outrebounded Georgia 43-28 in the game. The Falcon’s A’uston Calhoun led all rebounders with 11 and teammate Schott Thomas added eight. Brown led Bowling Green with 15 points while Thomas added 10 and Craig Sealey had 10.
“We played a little bit better, but we lost the battle on the boards, so we’ve got to get better in that area,” Florveus said.
NOTEWORTHY: Georgia held Bowling Green to 23 of 62 (37.1 percent field goal shooting, including 2 of 11 (18.2 percent) from the 3-point line. … Connor Nolte missed his second game with a sore hamstring and Fox ruled him out of Wednesday’s game with South Dakota State . … Georgia has been outrebounded in three of the four halves it has played so far this season.