Dawgs Get Going Again with Win over VT

ATHENS – Corey Butler heard the jeers from the crowd as he passed up an open 3 with 40 seconds left to play against Virginia Tech on Tuesday, but he was focused on the big picture.

A few days earlier, Butler was in the locker room after a blowout loss to Illinois in which the Bulldogs failed to score in the game's final seven minutes and players pointed fingers and dished out blame. Tuesday's game would be different.

Butler ran nearly every second off the shot clock before finding center Albert Jackson open in the post, dishing the ball to his teammate for the bucket that proved to be the difference in a 67-66 win over the Hokies.

"I knew the crowd was mad at me, but we wanted to run them down to the end of the shot clock," Butler said. "I saw Albert posting up, and we knew they couldn't stop us inside."

The selfless play that was missing against Illinois was the theme of Tuesday night's game, freshman Trey Thompkins said.

Georgia had seven players score at least six points, but no one had more than 11, and nearly everyone managed to chip in with a key bucket or essential defensive stand.

Butler and Chris Barnes paced the Bulldogs with 11 points each, while Jackson chipped in with seven points and five boards – including the final bucket for Georgia and a rebound at the other end that sealed the game.

"(Against Illinois), we were very selfish," said Thompkins, who hit two 3s en route to a nine-point, seven-rebound effort. "We didn't have our team chemistry we usually have. Guys weren't playing together. Guys were looking for their own shots, we weren't playing team defense. The difference was guys came together and actually played as a team. We knew that we had to depend on each other to win this game."

Barnes came off the bench to notch his season high in points, and Georgia's bench was strong throughout, tallying 29 points to Virginia Tech's 14.

"That's what I bring – energy off the bench," Barnes said. "That's what we need, just somebody like me to bring it off the bench and keep the flow of the game going."

The Bulldogs trailed 41-38 at the half, with Virginia Tech hitting on more than 53 percent of its shots, including a bevy of transition baskets.

That changed in the second half, as Georgia buckled down on the defensive end, holding the Hokies to 32 percent shooting and just two fast-break points.

"We just came out with a little more fire," Jackson said. "Transition D was the big thing, and at halftime we just said we had to stop that. In the second half, we stopped it, and that made the difference in the game for us."

Virginia Tech's A.D. Vassallo led all scorers with 23 points, but just nine came in the second half. Vassallo's last bucket of the game came with 8:53 left to play.

After Jackson's basket gave Georgia the lead with 29 seconds to play, the Hokies tried desperately to create an open shot for their leading scorer, but Butler had Vassallo blanketed, and sophomore

Hank Thorns ended up hurling in a desperate attempt as the shot clock wound down. The shot was no good, and a follow-up tip bounced out of the basket, too, before Jackson finally reeled in the rebound, falling to the floor after a hard foul by Jeff Allen.

Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Hokies one last gasp, but they never got off a shot.

"The last couple of possessions, it's never smooth in a battle that hotly contested," head coach Dennis Felton said. "We did execute very well, we didn't turn the ball over, and we got shots every possession."

Georgia won't play again until Dec. 20, so Tuesday's win was an essential swing in momentum following last weekend's embarrassing loss.

After the Illinois game, the Bulldogs players spoke about a need to refocus on team chemistry. Felton insists it was no special team meeting – just an extended postgame discussion. Whatever it was, its effect was obvious against Virginia Tech, Thompkins said.

"We all looked each other in the eyes and noticed that we hadn't been gelling like we usually do, and it bit us in the butt," Thompkins said. "When we play together, we're a pretty good team. We can play with just about anybody."


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