Defense produces win for Georgia over Ole Miss

The Georgia men's basketball team improved its record to 17-5 while maintaining its hold on the SEC East lead.

ATHENS, Ga. ---- On 2-2-02, Georgia didn't need any threes to end its two-game losing streak.

Held without a 3-pointer for the first time this season, No. 16 Georgia instead used strong defense to produce points closer to the basket in a 79-72 win over Mississippi Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia had not been held without a 3-pointer since the last time it played the Rebels, and the Bulldogs also won that game on Jan. 13, 2001 in Oxford, Miss.

The Bulldogs' biggest wins this season — on the road at Florida and Kentucky and at home against Tennessee — have come on the strength of the outside shooting of leading scorers Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes. But Georgia was 0-for-6 from 3-point range Saturday.

"That's the versatility of our team,'' said Williams, who ranks among the league leaders in 3-pointers made per game. "We don't have to shoot 3-pointers to win. ... Defense, rebounding and running the floor sparks our offense.''

Georgia claimed a dominant 35-19 advantage in rebounds, including an 11-3 edge in offensive rebounds.

Williams was held to a season-low eight points Saturday — only his second game in single figures this season. Williams contributed a steal with 45 seconds left and then forced another turnover on the Rebels' next possession that helped Georgia (17-5 overall, 6-3 in the Southeastern Conference) hold off a late Ole Miss comeback attempt.

"I don't have to score 25 points for us to win,'' Williams said. "I like to get some assists, to help in some other ways.''

The win allowed first-place Georgia to remain one-half game ahead of Florida and Kentucky in the SEC East. Georgia plays at Mississippi State Wednesday night.

Ole Miss (17-5, 6-3) had won four straight SEC games while holding opponents to 58.2 points per game. But Georgia also turned up its defense in taking a 34-28 lead, and the Bulldogs' offense picked up the pace in the second half.

Georgia held three big leads of 16 points, the last time at 70-54 with 5:02 left to play. Kendrick Fox made two late 3-pointers for Ole Miss and Georgia struggled with turnovers while managing only one field goal in the final five minutes.

Williams' defense and three free throws in four attempts by Chris Daniels in the last eight seconds helped keep Ole Miss from coming closer than six points.

"I thought was played pretty well for 35 minutes, and then I thought we relaxed a little,'' said Georgia coach Jim Harrick.

Since returning from a suspension, Steve Thomas had managed only one rebound in two games while playing off the bench. In an effort to boost Thomas' confidence, Harrick put him back in the starting lineup, and the sophomore responded with 16 points and seven rebounds despite some late turnover problems.

Hayes led the Bulldogs with 19 points despite hitting the side of the backboard on one of his two errant 3-point attempts.

"They guard the perimeter real well,'' Hayes said. "It was hard to get off a 3-point shot. Our whole plan was to cut to the back door. ... I like scoring like that. I'd rather do that than with 3-pointers.''

Hayes brought the sellout crowd of 10,523 to its feet with a thunderous dunk with 8:06 left that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of 16 points at 63-47.

"The first 15 minutes of the second half, we were executing the best we have all year,'' Hayes said.

Daniels matched Thomas' 16 points with a game-high nine rebounds.

Derrick Allen led Ole Miss with 19 points. Justin Reed added 17, including 15 in the second half. Allen and Reed fouled out in the final minute.

NOTE: Georgia officials said cheerleader Laura Lee Nesler, a freshman from Lawrenceville, did not suffer a serious injury when she took a fall during a routine. Play was stopped for about 15 minutes in the first half as Nesler was strapped to a backboard and and taken off the court on a stretcher. Officials said Nesler had not suffered any paralysis or any broken bones and would not need to be admitted to a hospital.

MISSISSIPPI (72)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
A Harper        25   2-5   0-0   0-2  1  1    6
Harrison        25   2-4   0-0   0-1  2  4    5
Sanders         37   4-6   3-3   0-3  8  4   13
Reed            33  6-12   4-7   0-2  1  5   17
Allen           33  8-10   3-4   1-4  1  5   19
Fox              6   3-5   0-0   1-1  1  2    8
Johnson          3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Nunnery          8   0-0   0-0   0-3  1  1    0
Wade            23   1-6   0-0   1-1  2  1    2
Kirklin          7   1-2   0-0   0-1  0  0    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 27-51 10-14  3-18 17 23   72
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.529, FT-.714. 3-Point Goals:
8-21, .381 (A Harper 2-5, Harrison 1-3, Sanders
2-2, Reed 1-3, Fox 2-4, Johnson 0-1, Wade 0-3).
Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Reed, Wade,
Kirklin). Turnovers: 12 (Harrison 3, A Harper 2,
Allen 2, Fox 2, Sanders 2, Reed). Steals: 8 (Fox
2, Kirklin 2, Reed 2, A Harper, Allen).

GEORGIA (79)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Wright          36   2-5   4-5   1-5  6  0    8
Williams        30   4-8   0-0   0-1  2  2    8
Ja Hayes        34  8-14   3-3   0-2  1  0   19
Daniels         33   5-7   6-9   2-9  4  3   16
Thomas          28  7-12   2-2   3-7  1  4   16
Dean             4   0-2   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Gibson          16   5-6   0-2   0-1  0  1   10
Jo Hayes        19   1-3   0-0   0-3  3  4    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 32-57 15-21  6-28 17 14   79
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.561, FT-.714. 3-Point Goals:
0-6, .000 (Williams 0-4, Ja Hayes 0-2). Team
rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 2 (Daniels, Ja
Hayes). Turnovers: 11 (Wright 5, Thomas 3, Ja
Hayes 2, Daniels). Steals: 5 (Gibson 2, Ja Hayes,
Williams, Wright).
__________________________________
Mississippi        30   42  -   72
Georgia            34   45  -   79
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 10,523. Officials:
Tony Greene, Mike Stuart, Bernard Clinton.

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