ATHENS, Ga. – The Georgia men’s basketball team closed the game on a 14-2 run, advancing to the second round of the National Invitational Tournament with a 63-56 win over the Vermont Catamounts Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia (20-13) was led by Charles Mann and Marcus Thornton who scored 29 and 16 points, respectively—both career highs. Donte’ Williams led Georgia on the boards with seven rebounds.
“That was a March game versus two very good teams,” said head coach Mark Fox. “Let me start by complementing Vermont’s team. I’ve never had more pleasure scouting an opponent than I did their team. They play the game the right way, they play it together, and they’re experienced. They play the game in a way that I think everyone can appreciate, so I thought that we would have the games full and we did.
“In the first half I thought that our defense was terrific. I thought that in the second half, because Vermont was so good and because they’re defense took a step back, that they wore us out for a period there in the second half. Then our crowd lifted us up. For a team that started slowly before Thanksgiving, this team decided to climb back in it and our fans have been right there with us. Tonight they helped lift us up and win it and that was a real difference in the game.”
Three minutes into the second half, Vermont (22-11) embarked on a 21-2 run, taking a 47-39 lead when Hector Harold hit a three-pointer from the corner with nine minutes remaining in the game. Just a minute later, Georgia pulled to within two points, but the Catamounts quickly responded with five straight points to bolster their lead back to seven points.
However, Georgia stopped the Catamount momentum, closing the game on an 14-2 run, largely behind nine points from Mann, to secure its 20th win of the season and advance to the NIT second round.
In the first half, Georgia held Vermont without a field goal in the final four minutes, closing the half on a 7-1 to take a 29-20 lead into halftime. Georgia forced 11 first-half turnovers and limited the Catamounts to just 33 percent shooting from the field.
With tonight’s win, Georgia has notched its 12th 20-win season in program history and just its second in the past 12 years.
Sandro Carissimo led Vermont with 11 points and five rebounds.
Georgia will host Louisiana Tech in the tournament’s second round on Saturday at 11 a.m. For ticket information, visit Georgiadogs.com
• Georgia’s starting line-up was Marcus Thornton (59th career start), Brandon Morris (44thd career start), Charles Mann (39th career start), Kenny Gaines (31st career start) and Donte’ Williams (91st career start).
• Georgia has won six of its last eight games.
• The Bulldogs improved to 19-4 when outrebounding its opponent (31-18).
• Georgia shot a season-high 92 percent (24-for-26) from the free throw line.
• With 13 tonight, Charles Mann moved into second place for most free throw attempts in a single season, passing Alec Kessler (1990). Mann’s 12 made free throws tonight put him just nine behind Kessler’s No. 2 position for most made free throws in a single season. Zippy Morocco holds the record (210/303 in 1953).
• Tonight’s 26 team free throw attempts set the school-record for most free throws attempted in a season, which was previously 628 set in 1990. Entering the game, the 2013-14 Bulldogs were 24 shy of the record.
• Charles Mann set a career high with 29 points (previously 24 vs. Ga. Tech on 11/13/13).
• Marcus Thornton set a career high with 16 points (previously 15 vs. LSU and Missouri this season).
Georgia in the NIT….
• Georgia is making its 12th appearance and its first since 2007.
• The Bulldogs are now 12-11 all-time in the NIT.
• Georgia will be making its seventh all-time appearance in the NIT second round.
The Series: Georgia improves 2-0 all-time against the Catamounts. Tonight was the first time the two schools have met since January 1974.
Next Up: Georgia will return to action on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Louisiana Tech. La. Tech knocked off Iona 89-88 Wednesday night. Georgia is 1-0 all-time against the Bulldogs, beating them in 1977.