Georgia escapes Winthrop in OT

ATHENS — Georgia had a pretty good subplot working Tuesday night, with the starting debut of freshman Nemanja Djurisic for the injured Marcus Thornton, but the Bulldogs had to settle for a good game instead.

They took all they could handle from Winthrop, a barrage of 3-pointers and 33 points from Andre Jones. But Dustin Ware made a dagger of a 3-pointer himself with 9.6 seconds left in regulation, and after Winthrop’s second miss in its last 12 free-throw attempts, the Bulldogs forced overtime on a Gerald Robinson layup with 2.4 seconds left.

Ware used the warm spot on the floor to open overtime with another 3-pointer from the right wing, and the Bulldogs did in overtime what they couldn’t do in 40 minutes of regulation, put Winthrop away. Two Eagles fouled out, and Winthrop finally wore down in a 92-86 loss.

“I think Winthrop deserved to win the game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I thought they outplayed us.”

On a night when the Bulldogs might have discovered a pretty good solution in the post, with a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds from Djurisic, Georgia (8-5) turned to its veteran backcourt to win the game late.

Ware and Robinson combined to score 14 points in the final 41 seconds of regulation. Robinson finished with 22 points, while Ware had 20. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 18 points.

“At that point, we just knew our backs were against the wall,” Ware said. “And I think you just saw our competitive nature come out in our whole team. We just really just fought, clawed and scratched and were just able to give ourselves new life with overtime.”

Winthrop had kept coming, from down 13 points early in the second half and from down by eight with seven minutes to play. Jones made three long-range shots three trips down the floor, including a 19-footer after he had spun and hardly set his feet. Winthrop was up 66-62 then, and a lone Winthrop fan at Stegeman Coliseum was shouting “You can do this, Eagles.”

But the Bulldogs buckled down to hold off the pesky Eagles (4-9) for their fourth consecutive win since losing to Georgia Tech on Dec. 7.

“We finished the game about darn near exactly like we needed to in that situation, so I was pleased with that part,” Fox said. “We had the character to keep fighting and get it to overtime. And then we decided we wanted to start guarding. That’s awful late to start doing that.”

Winthrop’s 76 points at the end of regulation was a season-high allowed by Georgia’s defense. Jones was 10-for-15 from the floor, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Afterward, Fox put some heat on the shoulders of his senior leaders.

“Gerald Robinson for instance, who’s been a terrific defender, he was lit up like a Christmas tree at times,” Fox said. “And I love Gerald; he’s a great defender. I trust him on most guys. Tonight wasn’t his night. We need to get better there.”

A lot of how out of sorts Georgia was, Fox said, had to do with the loss of Thornton. Georgia’s leading rebounder underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday and is expected to miss three to five weeks, after injuring it Friday against Furman.

“We needed Marcus Thornton to get hurt like we needed a hole in the head,” Fox said. “We started two true freshmen. Our lineups, our rotations — it’s jumbled up. We’ve got to re-figure it all out. Nemmy made some plays early, but we’ve got to grow up fast without Marcus because our margin for error is very, very slim.”

Djurisic, the import from Montenegro by way of Connecticut, scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half on 5-for-5 shooting, including three 3-pointers.

“I knew I had to take responsibility and play well,” he said.