Dawgs survive State

Georgia trailed by five points before Williams finally shook free from a game-long shooting slump that also had a firm grip on teammate Jarvis Hayes.

ATHENS, Ga. - For the first 37 minutes Saturday  night, 15th-ranked Georgia "couldn't throw one in the ocean,'' according to Coach Jim Harrick.

 Finally, however, Ezra Williams kept his team from drowning.

 Georgia trailed by five points before Williams finally shook free from a game-long shooting slump that also had a firm grip on teammate Jarvis Hayes. Williams made three 3-pointers in the final 2:35 and Chris Daniels made two big plays in the final minute as Georgia fought back to escape with a 67-63 win over No. 21 Mississippi State.

 A Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,523 that included Gov. Sonny Perdue and his wife, Mary, saw Hayes held to a career-low five points on 2-for-12 shooting.

 Williams also struggled, making only 5 of 15 shots from the field, but he was responsible for his team's only four 3-pointers of the second half.

 "I haven't seen a team of mine shoot like that in a long time,'' Harrick said. "... We had enough shots to start an infirmary, but we couldn't make any of them.''

 The Bulldogs had made only 1 of 16 3-point attempts for the game before Williams finally ended his drought with his first shot outside the circle with 7:56 left to play.

 Despite the struggles, Williams said he couldn't back away from the shots.

 "Not at all; I'm a shooter,'' Williams said. "You just have to stick with it.''

 Mississippi State (13-5 overall, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) led 59-54 before Williams took over with three straight baskets, each from behind the 3-point line.

 Georgia switched from its zone defense to a man-to-man scheme for the final two minutes, and that helped to turn the momentum back to Georgia (13-5 overall, 5-2 SEC).

 The Bulldogs were only 4 for 8 on free throws in the final 44 seconds, but Daniels grabbed a loose ball after one of the misses and called time out to help Georgia keep possession and work the clock.

 Daniels, who scored 16 points with nine rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals, also grabbed a key offensive rebound to set up Williams' final 3-pointer.

 "(Daniels) played huge all night,'' said Williams, who scored a game-high 17 points. "Chris and Steve (Thomas) played magnificent all game.''

 Thomas added 13 points with eight rebounds. Even though State claimed a 45-33 advantage in rebounds, with Mario Austin and Branden Vincent sharing game-high honors with 10 each, Austin scored only 14 points.

 Hayes' previous career low at Georgia was six points against Hawaii last season. He has struggled for three straight games while battling a hip flexor, but the junior ran and jumped better Saturday night.

 "I just stayed confident and tried to do other things like defense and steals to help us win,'' Hayes said.

 Hayes was not credited with a blocked shot in the official boxscore, but he confirmed that he deflected a layup attempt by Timmy Bowers with less than 20 seconds left.

 Georgia led by 11 points at halftime - 40-29 - despite having only a combined six points from Williams and Hayes.

 The Bulldogs were only 1-for-8 on 3-pointers in the half but instead beat the Mississippi State defense with surprising production from their inside game.

 Instead of camping out beyond the 3-point line, Georgia instead worked the ball inside to Thomas and Daniels. The two combined for the last six field goals of the half for the Bulldogs, and by the break Daniels (11 points) and Thomas (10 points) each already had topped his scoring average.

 "It's always good for the team when two guys are having an off night but other guys can pick it up for you,'' Daniels said.

 "We knew eventually Ezra was going to get going, him and Jarvis. Since they had been off, we knew the defense would sag off of them.''

 Georgia has a week off before playing at Tennessee next Saturday.


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