Bulldogs come back from brink to win in overtime

Nobody was happier to see Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer go in at the end of regulation than Georgia’s Charles Mann. The freshman point guard had missed two free throws with 19 seconds remaining as the Bulldogs trailed by one.

Eleven seconds later, Caldwell-Pope bailed him out with a 3-pointer that sent Saturday’s game against South Carolina in overtime. The sophomore guard then added four more in the extra period to lead the Bulldogs to a 62-54 victory.

“It was a great shot by Kentavious,” Mann said with a wide grin. “That was a big stress reliever.”

For both Mann and Georgia.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Bulldogs (13-14, 7-7 SEC) and keeps them in the hunt for a first-round bye in next month’s SEC Tournament in Nashville. Georgia plays at Vanderbilt (11-15, 5-9) Wednesday night at 9 p.m. (FSN).

Caldwell-Pope’s shot came off a set play. Georgia called a time out following two free throws by South Carolina’s Eric Smith with 17 seconds left. Mann got the ball on a dribble-weave outside the 3-point arc. After starting a cut down the lane, kicked the ball out to Caldwell-Pope on the right wing. Caldwell-Pope came open thanks to a Nemanja Djurisic screen and swished the shot from 20 feet.

“They executed (the play) perfectly,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “They did it from baseline to the shot perfectly.”

The Bulldogs still weren’t out of the woods. It appeared South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer. But officials gathered during the TV timeout and determined too much time had run off the clock before the inbounds.

They put back 4.5 seconds on the clock and replayed the inbounds. Again South Carolina was left with a desperation 3-point try from Ellington and Georgia’s Donte Williams blocked this attempt. The Bulldogs then outscored the Gamecocks 9-1 in the extra period.

“It was fair,” Fox said of the replay. “Just a timing error.”

South Carolina, which lost to Georgia 67-56 on Feb. 2 in Columbia, falls to 13-14 and 3-11 in SEC play. Ellington led the Gamecocks with 11 points.

"Up four with a minute to go, you have to win that game," South Carolina first-year coach Frank Martin said.

Mann had 14 points and Djurisic added 11 for the Bulldogs. Both Djurisic and Caldwell-Pope were scoreless at the half. Georgia out-rebounded South Carolina 47-39 but was 28-of-46 from the foul line. Even Caldwell-Pope, an 81 percent foul shooter, missed five of his 13 attempts, including three in a row on one trip to the line.

“Thursday (night)-Saturday afternoon (transitions) are hard,” Fox said. “I thought Kentavious just looked smoked. I thought he was tired, just flat worn out. When he misses three free throws after being fouled on a 3, that’s not him.”

So the Bulldogs felt fortunate just to get the game to overtime. In fact, they trailed by four with just 1:21 to play. That’s when Caldwell-Pope made one of two free throws to make it 51-48. Djurisic made two with 51 seconds remaining.

Georgia pressed South Carolina into a turnover. But then Mann missed both two fouls shots and South Carolina’s Eric Smith made two a second and a half later. That set up Georgia’s final possession trailing 53-50.

Caldwell-Pope took care of the rest.

“It was a real big win,” he said. “We needed that one to get is back on track.”