January 16, 2008

Dawgs stem Tide

There was an eerie feeling of déjà vu during the final two minutes of Georgia's SEC home-opener Wednesday night against visiting Alabama.

It was just last year when the Crimson Tide erased an 18-point deficit to steal a two-point victory.

This time, Georgia led by 15 before Alabama closed the gap to four points with just 1:42 to play.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Billy Humphrey wasn't interested in a repeat as his 3-pointer with 1:14 left enabled Georgia to hold off the Crimson Tide 61-54 before an announced Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 7,982.

"We tried not to focus on last year's game too much because this was a new year," Humphrey said. "But we owed them one."

Indeed the Bulldogs did.

Last year's 78-76 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa was one of those losses the Bulldogs never quite got over, and when back-to-back turnovers by Georgia (10-5, 1-1) enabled the Tide (11-7, 0-3) to close within 55-51, it appeared a similar ending would perhaps occur.

But with the 35-second clock winding down, Humphrey let fly a shot from the left wing that found the bottom of the net and Georgia eventually extended the margin to 10 points before a meaningless 3-pointer by Alabama's Brandon Hollinger accounted for the final score.

"That 3-pointer pretty much iced it," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "Obviously, there were some shaky possessions heading into that shot and we were down to a few seconds left on the clock when he hit that. But Billy made a play. He made a shot, and obviously turned it back into an easy win when it could have been otherwise."

Humphrey finished with a team-high 13 points followed by freshman Jeremy Price with 11. Richard Hendrix led Alabama with 19 points and 10 rebounds, with Mykal Riley and Hollinger chipping in with 10 points each.

The Bulldogs led the entire evening, at one time enjoying a margin of 15 points at 46-31 with 15:36 to play.

Georgia was pretty much able to maintain the margin until Alabama went on a 12-4 run to close within 55-51 before Humphrey's back-breaking shot.

"You've got to give them credit for making key shots on key possessions because that was something we did not do," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "They made some clutch shots on key drives and defensively they were getting after it and it was the difference in the game."

Georgia got the victory despite being outrebounded by the Crimson Tide 35-28, including a 14-9 edge on the offensive side.
Alabama even outshot the Bulldogs 42.3 percent to 40.8 percent.

The difference in the game was Georgia's ability from three-point range.

Georgia was an impressive 10 of 22, while Alabama made just 3-of-20 shots from long range.

"We had good success tonight by pushing tempo and scoring in transition," Felton said. "That was a good chunk of it, and we did bounce back as a team from a standpoint of being more patient. We were more persistent to pass the ball and make extra plays to get better shots."

Georgia returns to action Saturday with a home game against Arkansas. Gametime is 7 p.m.

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