March 9, 2012
Baton Rouge, LA. --- Gerald Robinson scored 23 points and Dustin Ware added 13, all in the second half, as Georgia defeated Mississippi State 71-61 in the SEC Tournament first round here Thursday night.
The Bulldogs (15-16), who defeated State for the second time this season, have advanced to the second round for the third consecutive season under head coach Mark Fox. They'll face third-seeded Vanderbilt at approximately 10:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday.
"That was a terrific win for us," Fox said . "We beat a very good basketball team. So to do that, we had to play very well, which I thought we did a lot of really good things in the game. I thought that offensively we played really within our system and played together and felt like we had a lot of good possessions."
Georgia appeared in trouble when State took a 14-7 lead early in the game and the Bulldogs, meanwhile, were saddled with foul trouble. Both frontline starters Donte' Williams and Marcus Thornton incurred two first-half fouls and played just nine minutes between them in the opening period.
Robinson, however, and freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope keyed a Georgia rally that got the Bulldogs back into contention. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 2:47 left in the half evened the score at 25 and after a Jalen Steele miss, Robinson drove to the basket and was fouled with 2:19 left. His free throw put Georgia into the lead at 26-25.
Robinson's layup with 23 seconds left in the first half gave Georgia a lead it held for the game's remainder.
Ware, who had missed his only three shots of the first half, heated up in the second period. He scored a 2-pointer and 3-pointer on consecutive trips amid a 10-0 run for the Bulldogs, who blew the game open in the first eight minutes. A free throw by Nemanja Djurisic at the 13:06 mark got Georgia its first double-digit lead at 44-34.
Ware's third trey of the half pushed the Bulldog lead to its largest at 49-36 with 11:51 remaining. They achieved that margin one final time at 54-41 on a Robinson layup with 8:18 left.
Nine straight points by Steele, who led the maroon Bulldogs with 19 points, put State back into contention late in the game. His 3-pointer at the 3:50 mark trimmed the margin to 60-57. Djurisic responded with a putback on Georgia's next trip.
Perhaps the game's biggest bucket came on a mid-range Robinson jumper with a minute left, giving the Bulldogs a 66-59 lead. From there, they secured the victory by making five of six foul shots.