Georgia Defeats Fordham 79-68 in Paradise Jam

ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. - Freshman guard Mike Mercer scored 20 points and led fast-breaking Georgia to a 79-68 win in the second round of the Paradise Jam tournament here Sunday night.

The Bulldogs (1-1) are scheduled to play the winner of the Eastern Kentucky-Norfolk State game, which tipped off after Georgia's win Sunday night.

Georgia took an early lead in the game and trailed just once, at 8-7 in the first four minutes. The Bulldogs kept a slim advantage until the final stages of the first half, when Mercer's basket with 5:44 left put them in front 30-26. Sundiata Gaines then converted a 3-point play after a Fordham miss and then followed a Rams' turnover with a second basket, giving Georgia a 35-26 margin.

By halftime, the Bulldogs had opened their largest lead at 44-30.

"We wanted to get better at a few things tonight, and one of them was the running game," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "It's a difficult challenge for such a young team because they're not used to expending the kind of energy it takes to run. But we did finally start to ratchet up the pace and we looked good at times. This was a terrific team win for us tonight."

Fordham, behind All-Atlantic 10 Conference forward Bryant Dunston, made its only serious threat of the second half in the opening minutes. It took the Rams just 3:12 into the second period to trim its deficit from 14 points to five. Dunston made three baskets during their scoring run, and Jermaine Anderson's layup with 16:48 left got Fordham within 46-41.

Georgia restored a double-digit lead, however, on its next two possessions, when reserve Billy Humphrey sank a 17-foot jump shot, and Mercer stripped Anderson and converted a long 3-point shot.

"We think of ourselves as a transition team, and we didn't get much of a chance to show that in our first game," Mercer said. "Tonight I thought we executed our game plan and played the way we are capable of playing."

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