Before Saturday's game between Georgia and Clemson, Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton referred to Tigers coach Oliver Purnell as a good friend.
Oliver Purnell must like Dennis Felton, too, considering the gift his team gave Georgia in the second game of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic in Philips Arena. Despite less-than-crisp play most of the afternoon, the Bulldogs beat Clemson 61-56 in front of an announced crowd of 11,018.
"It was a grind it out game, and we grinded it out a little tougher," Felton said. "That's what we have to do."
Still, the game did little to change the perception of the programs as teams that will finish at the bottom of the SEC and ACC. Under different circumstances, it might have been a thriller. There were 12 ties, 11 lead changes and neither team led by more than six points.
Senior forward Chris Daniels finally secured the win by putting back his own miss to put the Bulldogs ahead 59-54 with 37 seconds remaining. Georgia improved to 5-2. Clemson fell to 3-3. The Bulldogs return to action Thursday at home against South Alabama.
"We played hard," point guard Rashad Wright said. "We knew what we were doing. It was a good game to get, especially after a tough loss last week (to Winthrop). We had to get this victory to get back on the right track."
Senior Damien Wilkins led the Bulldogs with 13 points but hit just 4 of 12 shots. Chris Daniels had his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
But the highlight for Georgia was freshman Steve Newman, who had a career-high 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting. Newman had nine points in the first half but took only two shots in the second half, one on an offensive rebound and another on a desperation heave as the shot clock wound down.
"As long as we score, it doesn't matter who scores," he said. "If I do, that's fine. If somebody else does, that's even better."
The Tigers had 19 turnovers, shot 29.2 percent in the second half and hit only 11 of 22 free throws. They were led by Chey Christie's 24 points. The Tigers' last lead came with 8:08 left in the game.
Clemson led 31-29 at halftime despite 13 turnovers and missing 9 of 11 free throws.
"We just put too much pressure on our defense," Purnell said.
The Tigers played mostly zone after watching Georgia struggle against that defense against Winthrop.
"The finally started hitting some shots in the second half," Purnell said.
The fact that the game wasn't pretty didn't bother Felton at all. In fact, he said, he enjoyed it.
"We made another step forward," he said. "Nothing was easy in today's game, and, as a coach, I always feel good to win a game where it wasn't easy."
NOTES: In an eight-possession span in the second half, Georgia was called for five offensive fouls. ... Former Georgia assistant coach James Holland scouted Saturday's games for the Washington Wizards. Holland lost his job earlier this year when Jim Harrick resigned.
Ford 2-4 2-6 6, Babalola 1-7 0-0 3, Hobbs 0-2 0-0 0, Hamilton 1-3 0-0 2, Christie 8-14 5-8 24, Rice 5-11 1-2 14, Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Hudson 0-1 1-2 1, Robinson 1-3 2-3 4, Akingbala 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 19-47 11-22 56.
Wilkins 4-12 4-4 13, Hayes 3-5 2-2 8, Daniels 5-9 0-1 10, Wright 5-11 0-2 10, Stukes 2-4 0-2 4, Wehunt 1-5 2-4 4, Newman 4-6 3-4 12, Sikes 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 11-19 61.
Halftime - Clemson 31-29. 3-Point goals - Clemson 7-18 (Christie 3-6, Rice 3-7, Babalola 1-3, Hudson 0-1, Robinson 0-1), Georgia 2-14 (Wilkins 1-2, Newman 1-3, Wright 0-4, Wehunt 0-3, Stukes 0-2). Fouled out - None. Rebounds - Clemson 34 (Ford 7), Georgia 38 (Daniels 13). Assists - Clemson 13 (Robinson 4), Georgia 13 (Wright, Wehunt 3). Total fouls - Clemson 19, Georgia 19. A - 11,018.
Tigers Fall to Georgia, 61-56
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