The Bulldogs (1-1) went ahead 65-55 when Rashaad Singleton hit a layup with 6:03 remaining but would score just two more points. Georgia "definitely" felt they had the game won and relaxed after going ahead by double digits, sophomore guard Mike Mercer said.
"There's no other way I could give you a reason we gave up a 10-point lead," he said. "It wasn't one guy on the floor. We just all let up as a team. Even the bench felt like we had the game won. We thought we had the win."
The Hilltoppers (2-0) didn't take their first lead until Benson Callier hit one free throwwith 20 second left to put his team ahead 68-67. Mercer came down the court and had a short jump shot to give Georgia the lead, but it rimmed out, and Courtney Lee hit two free throws with seven seconds left to put Western Kentucky up three.
Billy Humphrey missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the game.
"I can't speak for them," said Lee, who led the Hilltoppers with 24 points. "All I can say is the game is made of runs. They were on their run. Little did they know, we were about to have ours, too."
Georgia coach Dennis Felton, who fell to 1-2 against his former employer, didn't think his team relaxed. He thought just the opposite, he said.
"We got tight, we just got tight," he said, "and when we missed some plays, we got tighter."
Toney, a junior, decided Monday to leave the program, Felton said. However, he wouldn't have made much of a difference Tuesday. The Bulldogs have plenty of guards, and four of them – led by Levi Stukes and his 13 points – scored in double digits against Western Kentucky.
Stukes reached the 1,000-point plateau in the game, becoming the 36th Georgia player to do that in a career.
The Bulldogs, who had 10 blocked shots but also 20 turnovers, got just 20 points from the seven post players who saw action, but a dominant big man isn't what is missing the most, Felton said.
"We need the kind of leader that grabs a hold of his team and doesn't let them lose a game like this," he said. "This very easily could have been a pedestrian, walk-away win, but when things got a little hairy, we didn't respond well as a team."