Bama stops UGA's winning streak at 5

Georgia forward Donte' Williams (15) and Alabama center Moussa Gueye (14) go for a loose ball in the first half.
Georgia forward Donte' Williams (15) and Alabama center Moussa Gueye (14) go for a loose ball in the first half.

Credit: AJ Reynolds, The Athens Banner-Herald

Credit: AJ Reynolds, The Athens Banner-Herald

In building a five-game winning streak, Georgia was making critical shots and converting free throws down the stretch of all its games. But the Bulldogs ran into a team Tuesday night that knew a thing or two about closing as well as Alabama prevailed 52-45 at Stegeman Coliseum.

After falling behind 41-40 with 2:37 to play, Alabama hit back-to- back 3-pointers and scored eight unanswered points to hand the Bulldogs their first loss since Jan. 23rd.  The victory will keep the fourth-place Crimson Tide (16-8, 8-3 SEC) ahead of Georgia (12-12, 6-5) in the SEC standings and end at five games the Bulldogs' winning streak since 2001.

"We just made too many errors to win the game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Give Alabama credit. Both teams defended well. At the moment of truth, they made a couple of baskets and their offense was better than our defense there late in the game when we took the lead."

The Bulldogs had trailed the entire second half, falling behind by as many as eight points. But a furious 9-0 run in a two-minute span – capped by a Donte Williams’ put-back dunk -- gave Georgia a 41-40 lead with 2:37 to play.

Alabama was undeterred, however. After struggling to score the entire contest, the Tide got back-to-back 3-pointers from Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper to get back ahead 46-41 with 1:34. A series of desperation misses and turnovers by Georgia and some Alabama free throws and a fast-break dunk resulted in the final margin.

“You really have to tip your cap to them; they made some big plays there at the end,” said Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who led the Bulldogs with 22 points, eight coming in the final four minutes. “I thought there was a lack of effort by us. We just didn’t get out on their shooters like we normally do. We lost our focus and didn’t get it done and it cost us.”

Nemanja Djurisic added 12 points and Georgia, led by Caldwell-Pope’s eight boards, won the rebound battle 41-33.

It won’t get any easier for Georgia. The Bulldogs head back out on the road Saturday to take on third-place Ole Miss (18-5, 7-3) in Oxford. Bama gets South Carolina at home.

Georgia did not score a field goal for a stretch of more than 10 minutes in the second half. But Brandon Morris broke the drought with 5:34 left in the game and the Bulldogs would record five baskets in the next three minutes. But Georgia wouldn’t score again for the next 2:15 and Alabama had built back an eight-point advantage.

“We talked about being aggressive and staying aggressive for the whole 40 minutes,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “It was good to see them take those big shots. Fortunately for us they went in.”

Held without a field goal for the first time in his career in Georgia’s last game, Caldwell-Pope jarred a 3-pointer just 2:23 into Tuesday’s game to get the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first. Georgia opened the game by scoring seven unanswered points and led 15-6 just 10:18 into the contest.

But Alabama used an 11-0 run fueled by Georgia’s missed shots and turnovers to take its first lead of the game, 17-15, with 6:45 remaining in the first half. The Tide took the lead on an emphatic driving dunk by freshman Retin Obasohan.

The teams traded leads twice more before back-to-back baskets – the second a 3-pointer by Levi Randolph, gave the Tide a four-point advantage 2:16 before halftime. Bama led 25-22 at intermission.

“We did not have a very good spirit in this game, but we’ve got to be more mature than that,” Fox said. “We had some unintelligent plays throughout the game. You've got to give Alabama credit for their defense, but we did some things tonight that we haven't done for a month."