A season that opened on the brink of disaster now sits on the cusp of a triumphant turn about. Charles Mann scored 22 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double and Kenny Gaines went 6 of 7 from behind the arc, adding 21, as Georgia rolled over LSU 69-61 at the Maravich Assembly Center Saturday to stalemate Kentucky for a piece of second place in the Southeastern Conference Standings and the third seed in the SEC Tourney.
With the third seed the hard charging Bulldogs claim a double-bye and need only one Tournament win to land in the SEC semi-finals.
The historical significance of the Dawgs’ achievement can not be minimized. Not since 1990, when Georgia won the SEC championship with a 13-5 mark, has a Bulldog team earned this high a finish. Even more remarkable, this Bulldog team competed the entire season exclusively with sophomores and freshman in the backcourt and at the small forward position.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox. “I thought we came with a determined look about them on this trip. We talked about that before we ever left Athens. We didn’t want to rely on someone else to help us out. Let’s go play well and win this game.”
The Dawgs took control of the game in the second half on a 9 – 0 opening run which began with a short Nemi Djurisic banker at the 15:57 mark for a 40-35 Georgia lead. After an LSU miss, Gaines connected from beyond the arc for an 8-point lead. Djurisic followed on Georgia’s next two trips with layups, the latter with 14:04 left, for a 47-35 lead. The Bulldogs shot 48 percent for the game, 60 percent from 3-point range, and outrebounded the Tigers 37-29. They committed 16 turnovers for the game but only three in the second period.
“We knew the stakes coming into this game,” Fox said. “We’re smart enough to know what was at stake today. But I think what’s important for us is that we play Friday. As we get ready to play that game, no matter who it’s going to be against or when it is, we stay focused on that one particular game.”
Georgia is now 18-12 overall and 12-6 in SEC play. It was Georgia’s fourth SEC road win this year and Georgia’s first win in Baton Rouge since 2002.
The Bulldogs are three wins from rewarding their lone senior, Donte Williams, with an SEC Title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.