Dawgs beat Rebels with defense

ATHENS – Even when his team's offense is really bad, which it has been at times all season and was at times Saturday, Georgia coach Dennis Felton harps on defense and rebounding.

Those two factors carried the Bulldogs to their most significant conference win, a 72-65 victory over Ole Miss in front of 7,136 in Stegeman Coliseum. The Rebels (13-4, 3-1 SEC) entered the game as the co-leaders of the Western Division.

Georgia (12-6, 2-3) shot just 41 percent from the floor, including 21 percent from behind the 3-point line, but outrebounded the Rebels 40-31, including 20 to nine on the offensive glass. It was just the second time the Bulldogs have outrebounded an SEC opponent and their best rebounding total in the conference.

"That was a big, big point of emphasis, and I think that might be the biggest reason we won the game," Coach Dennis Felton said.

Georgia allowed Ole Miss 49 percent shooting from the field, but created 18 turnovers and outscored the Rebels 29-7 on those turnovers.

"I do feel a lot better about our defense than I do about (the Rebels' shooting percentage)," Felton said. "I'm a little mystified by that number. I do know we turned them over a good bit and sometimes you can't do both."

Starting center Dave Bliss reached double figures for the first time this season with four of the most critical points of the game, a bank shot from the left side and two free throws on the next possession that made a four-point lead an eight point lead with 3:14 remaining. Bliss finished with 10 points.

"I just felt like I'd been having good success all game getting some touches and making some shots," he said. "I just made myself available and took the shots."

Bliss has been bothered all season by a back injury that keeps him out of more than half the team's practices and limits his minutes during games.

"I'm very happy for him," Felton said. "This has been as frustrating a year for him as there could have been for anyone on our team. He hasn't had a lot to feel real good about personally because it's such a struggle for him, but he's tough and he delivered."

One game after getting zero points from its frontcourt players, Georgia got a combined 18 from Bliss and Kendrick Johnson alone. Johnson's career high eight all came in the first half. Center Rashaad Singleton added two points, three rebounds and three of the Bulldogs' five blocks.

"That makes everybody on our team feel better," Felton said of the inside production.

Georgia got just eight points from leading scorer Levi Stukes, but point guard Sundiata Gaines had 12 points, a game-high seven rebounds and four steals.

Ole Miss was led by 6-foot-8 center Dwayne Curtis, who had just four points in the first half but finished with 19.

The Bulldogs held the lead until the 10:35 mark of the second half when Ole Miss Curtis scored inside and converted a three-point play to put the Rebels up 47-46. Ole Miss had a chance to extend that lead with 9:45 left when Clarence Sanders went to the foul line for a one-and-one, however a lane violation never gave Sanders a chance to shoot his first free throw.

Georgia went back ahead with 8:38 remaining on a 3-pointer by Billy Humphrey and scored 10 of the next 13 points to establish a 56-50 lead with 5:53 left.

"We were tough at many of the junctures we had to be tough to maintain control of the game and win it," Felton said. "This time, unlike some other times, we beared down and got back after it."

The Bulldogs now play two games on the road, against LSU and Auburn, before returning home for a Feb. 1 game against Alabama.

"This was a big step for us because it keeps us in that range of .500," Bliss said.

NOTES: Forward Steve Newman' on-again, off-again relationship with the lineup was back on Saturday. Newman started for the first time in three games, taking the place of freshman Terrance Woodbury in the lineup. … The Bulldogs added walk-on Corey Butler, a 6-foot-3 guard from Cross Keys High School, to the roster Saturday.

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