ATLANTA – Dustin Ware and the Georgia Bulldogs have been down this road before, and it’s not Highway 316.
So when Tuesday’s game against arch-rival Georgia Tech entered the final minute in a deadlock, the Bulldogs drew on last-second heroics derived from five previous buzzer-beating victories.
Gerald Robinson found Dustin Ware for a game-winning 3-pointer as Georgia downed the Yellow Jackets 73-72 on Tuesday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It was Georgia’s fifth victory by three or fewer points thus far this season. It was also Georgia’s first win against Georgia Tech (4-4) in "The Thrillerdome" since 2000.
"I knew it was going in," Georgia forward Trey Thompkins said of Ware’s final shot. "I was somewhat under the basket so I could rebound. But the way I looked at it, it looked like it was going in. We all have faith in Dustin. He’s a leader and I knew he could hit that shot."
The score was tied 70-70 when Gerald Robinson dribbled into the heart of Georgia Tech’s defense and dished to Ware, who canned his seventh 3-pointer of the game with 18 seconds left.
"Gerald just drove in and made a great pass," Ware said. "He hit me in the hands with the ball and I was wide open. I’d been hitting them all night and it felt good, so I tried another."
The late 3-pointer capped a near-career night for Ware, who scored 21 points, all on 3-pointers. Ware hit 7 of 9 field goals, also all from the 3-point line. He also handed out six assists as he came one point shy of his career high of 22 points
Ware’s torrid shooting seemed a continuation of Georgia’s Monday workout.
"The other day in practice, I wasn’t missing," Ware said. "I just felt like I was that man, especially in shootaround last night. I really felt good. I was able to come out and shoot pretty well. It just felt good. It felt good yesterday. It felt good today. My teammates and my coaches gave me a lot of confidence and I kept it going."
After Ware’s 3-pointer, Georgia Tech’s Glen Rice Jr. hit a layup to pull the Yellow Jackets within 73-72 with seven seconds remaining. Robinson missed a pair of free throws with four seconds left. Travis Leslie intercepted a length-of-the-court pass to end the game.
"Whatever the defense gave us, that was our play," Robinson said. "If the hedge man had come out more, I’d have had my big man down there at the goal. Dustin’s man happened to help off and he was wide-open for the three. He’d been shooting the ball well all night so I had full faith in him making that."
Georgia trailed 70-65 on a Daniel Miller with less than two minutes left. Thompkins started an 8-2 Georgia run to end the game when he converted a traditional 3-point play and Robinson tied the game 70-70 when Leslie fed him for a fastbreak layup with 1:21 left. Robinson rebounded a missed jumper by Brian Oliver with 51 seconds left to set up Ware’s final 3-pointer.
"They ran that ball screen and I thought we did a decent job of getting under it," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "But (Gerald) Robinson is really quick getting to the rim and you have to respect his ability to get to the rim. You don’t want to give up a layup in that situation."
Georgia Tech led most of the game but could never pull away because Georgia hit 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from the 3-point line. In the second half, Georgia hit 7 of 11 to eventually overtake the Yellow Jackets. Ware hit 4 of 5 from the 3-point line in the second half to lead the comeback.
"I told my staff last night that Dustin Ware was going to shoot the ball well tonight," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "He shot well in practice last night and I really thought he was going to shoot it well tonight. Credit Gerald Robinson for getting past his man, and Dustin was ready to stick it into the basket and that was a really big basket for our program."
Georgia Tech was led by Iman Shumpert, who scored 18 points. Rice had 14 points and Oliver added 10.
NOTEWORTHY: Travis Leslie only played three first-half minutes because of foul trouble. He finished with four points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. … Sherrard Brantley scored a career-high nine points in a career-high 20 minutes. … Georgia hit 7 of 15 (44.3 percent) from the free throw line. Robinson, Chris Barnes, Marcus Thornton and Donte’ Williams were a combined 1-of-8. … Rice grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds as Georgia Tech outrebounded Georgia 43-30. … Ware’s career-high 22 points came against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi his freshman season.