ATHENS — It’s only January, but the Georgia Bulldogs have already equaled their win total from a season ago.
Thanks to a dominant edge in rebounding, efficient 3-point shooting, and fast starts in both halves, Georgia rebounded from a tough loss to Tennessee earlier in the week and ran away with an 86-64 victory over Mississippi State in a Southeastern Conference showdown Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.
“For Tennessee to get one on us, it meant a lot for us to come back and get this one,” said junior forward Trey Thompkins, speaking of Tuesday’s 59-57 home loss to the Volunteers, a game decided in the final seconds.
Georgia moves to 14-4 (3-2 SEC) on the season, a year after finishing 14-17 in coach Mark Fox’s first season with the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State fell to 10-8 and 2-1.
Leslie Travis and Gerald Robinson led Georgia with 17 points each, and Thompkins added 15 for the home Bulldogs, who jumped to a 21-7 lead in the first half. Georgia led 42-29 at halftime and outscored Mississippi State 17-9 to start the second, building a 21-point lead.
“It’s important to win the first five minutes of every half because it sets the tone for the rest of the half, and we did so today,” said the junior Thompkins, who added seven rebounds and was 2-for-3 from the 3-point line.
Georgia built its lead mainly through second-chance points, converting 17 offensive rebounds (Mississippi State had just two) into 14 points. For the game, Georgia outrebounded Mississippi State 48-23.
Georgia also attacked Mississippi State’s zone defense with the 3-pointer, shooting 11-for-19, while the maroon Bulldogs were just 7-for-24. Georgia’s Dustin Ware was 3-for-3 from 3-point range and Sherrard Brantley was 3-for-5 off the bench. Travis Leslie (2-for-5) and Gerald Robinson (2-for-2) also chipped in.
“I think we are a pretty efficient offensive team,” Fox said. “I think everyone on our starting five has had at least 20 points or more at some point this season. One of the things that was important to us was to have balance.”
Added Robinson of Georgia’s 3-point shooting, “It’s all in our game plan. More so, it’s all about exploiting (the defenses) and getting better shots. Just because we see a zone doesn’t mean we have to sit back and shoot 3s. But if it’s a good shot then we take it.”
Dee Bost led Mississippi State with 20 points and five steals — both game-highs. Renardo Sidney had 15 points and nine rebounds and Ravern Johnson had 13 points for Mississippi State, which only got three points from its bench, compared to Georgia’s 27 — led by 11 from Jeremy Price and nine from Brantley.
Sidney’s long jumper 17 seconds into the game gave Mississippi State its only lead at 2-0. Price’s basket gave Georgia a 16-5 lead at the 15:07 mark and the Bulldogs led by double-digits the rest of the way.
Mississippi State never challenged Georgia in the second half and got no closer than 13 points. The home Bulldogs’ largest lead was 85-62 with 2:21 remaining and moments later, Fox emptied the bench, signaling an end to an impressive Georgia showing.
“I’m certainly happy to win and am pleased with the end results today,” Fox said. “We didn’t show any tape of the (Tennessee) game, we just moved on to this one and were fortunate to play well and get the win.”