Georgia is finally learning how to finish what it started.
That’s the biggest difference for the Bulldogs (8-11, 2-4 SEC), who have won two of their last three SEC games. They will attempt to string two SEC victories together for the first time this season when they play host to Auburn (8-11, 2-4) Wednesday night at 7.
Most of the year, Georgia has been a pretty good first-half team. In fact, the Bulldogs held halftime leads against then-No. 1 Indiana (30-29), then-No. 11 UCLA (30-25) and then-No. 8 Florida (27-24). But in each case the Bulldogs withered away in the second half
In all the Bulldogs have held halftime leads in 10 games this season. They're 6-4 in those contests.
“Donte (Willliams) talked about that as we were going to weight room one day,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He said, ‘hey guys, we’ve got to keep getting stronger because we’ve got to develop that endurance and strength for the second half.’ He’s been through a few wars so he understands that.”
Williams’ statement came the day after Georgia’s 64-47 loss to the Gators. The Bulldogs were overwhelmed 40-20 in the second half.
But the Dogs were able to close the deal against Texas A&M this past Saturday and against LSU on Jan. 19. Georgia led 27-23 at the half and was able to withstand a furious rally from the Aggies en route to a 59-52 victory. It was the Bulldogs’ first conference road win since February of last year.
“We’ve talked about it,” sophomore Nemanja Djurisic said of closing out games. “We had a pretty good first half against Florida, not great but pretty good. Defensively we played like we’re supposed to; the second half, not so much. But against LSU we did that in both halves mostly. At Texas A&M, we had good starts in the first and second halves. For us, it’s important to keep playing well in both halves.”
Some of it can be blamed on Georgia’s youth. The Bulldogs’ top five players in minutes are two sophomores (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Djurisic), two freshmen (Charles Mann and Brandon Morris) and the junior Williams. Younger players tend to be less developed, both physically and mentally.
“That’s only part of it,” Fox said. “It is about becoming consistent and stringing together two halves or stringing together more good minutes, more mistake-free minutes, really. That’s something we’ve talked about that.”
The most consistent aspect of the Bulldogs this season has been Caldwell-Pope. The 6-5 guard has led them in scoring in 17 of 19 games. He had 22 against the Aggies and also led the team with 7 rebounds and 2 steals.
But while no other Georgia players scored in double figures against Texas A&M, nine others scored points and recorded rebounds. The Bulldogs will be looking for more of the same against Auburn.
“We’ve figured out the way to win, how to finish games,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re more comfortable on offense and our defensive is starting to pick up, too. We’ve just got to continue that.”
Georgia will have to put together two good halves against Auburn. The Tigers have lost four in a row, but a closer look reveals that includes a double-overtime road loss at Arkansas and two-point loss to No. 16 Ole Miss this past weekend.
"They're a dangerous, dangerous team," Fox said.