Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann scored 22 points apiece as Georgia beat Alabama 66-58 Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum in its SEC home opener.
“That was really a hard-fought game,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We thought coming into the game that Alabama was just terrific defensively and that it would be a game that had to be won in the trenches. We talked about trying to play a determined 40 minutes and we had to do that to beat a good Alabama team. They really guarded us and we couldn’t score, but we guarded them also and that certainly was the difference in the game. Our defensive rebounding allowed us to win.”
After the Crimson Tide (7-8, 1-1) grabbed the early lead, Georgia (8-6, 2-0) closed the first half on a 19-8 run to take a 34-23 lead, largely behind Gaines’s 16 first-half points.
In the second half, Georgia shot just 19 percent from the field and Alabama shrunk the Bulldog advantage to as few as three points, but a resilient Georgia team fought back, riding a 9-3 run with seven minutes remaining to re-solidify its lead and secure its eighth win of the season. Georgia was helped by going 8-for-12 from the free throw line in the game’s final two minutes.
With the win, Georgia starts 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
“What’s important is the next game and that we continue to grow as competitors and grow as a team and that we go down there and give us a chance to win in Gainesville, Fla.,” continued Fox. “We’ve made progress and we’ve learned through adversity. This is the first time that I’ve thought we’ve handled success fairly well, but now we have to keep moving forward and keep getting better because we can really improve as a team.”
The Bulldogs’ defense held Alabama to just 36 percent shooting from the field—nearly ten percent below its season average. The Bulldogs outrebounded Alabama 41-32 and improves to 8-0 when winning the rebounding battle.
Trevor Releford scored 17 points to lead Alabama. Rodney Cooper led the Crimson Tide with six rebounds.
Georgia returns to action on Tuesday in Gainesville against Florida. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
Georgia vs. Alabama Notes
• Georgia’s starting lineup was Marcus Thornton (40th career start), Brandon Morris (25th), Charles Mann (20th), Kenny Gaines (14th) and Donte’ Williams (73rd). It’s the fourth straight game that Coach Mark Fox has employed this lineup to start the game.
• Georgia opens SEC play 2-0 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
• It’s Georgia’s first win in an SEC home opener since the 2010-11 season when the Bulldogs upset No. 10 Kentucky 77-70.
• Today’s win was Georgia’s 500th all-time SEC win.
• Defense remained the key…coming into today’s game, the Bulldogs held opponents to just 58.9 ppg. Tonight, the Crimson Tide scored just 58. Additionally, Georgia opponents have shot an average of 36 percent in Bulldog wins this season. Today, Alabama shot 36 percent.
• Georgia improves to 8-0 when outrebounding its opponent.
• The Bulldogs shot 70.5 percent from the charity stripe…its best performance since beating Gardner Webb on Dec. 19 (76 percent).
• Tonight’s win also marks the first time that Georgia has had two 20+ scorers in the same game since 12/27/12 vs. Delaware State when Gerald Robinson scored 22 and Dustin Ware scored 20.
• Today’s win marks Georgia’s first win in which Nemanja Djurisic was not the leading scorer.
• As a team, Georgia tied a season-high with ten blocks.
• Marcus Thornton set a career-high with five blocks (4 vs. Gardner-Webb on 12/19/13)
• Kenny Gaines set a career-high with 22 points (21 vs. Temple on 11/22/13)
• Charles Mann tied a career-high with seven rebounds (7 vs. Iona and Mercer in 2012)
• Kenny Gaines tied a career-high with six rebounds (6 vs. Wofford and Georgia Tech this season)
The Series: Today’s win was Georgia’s first in its last six tries versus Alabama. Georgia improves to 48-93 all-time versus Alabama, including 30-32 in Athens.
Next Up: Georgia travels to Gainesville to take on Florida (13-2). The Gators lead the all-time series 108-99.