ATHENS — Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin had some choice words for his players at halftime.
"In rebuilding our program, guys competed hard even when they were outmanned," Cronin said. "We're not going to lose games due to a lack of toughness, a lack of competitiveness and lack of manhood. That's not happening on my watch."
Sean Kilpatrick scored 22 points, Dion Dixon added 19 and Cincinnati held off Georgia 57-51 in the Big East-SEC Challenge on Friday night.
The Bearcats (5-2), playing their first road game this season, erased an 11-point deficit early in the second half with a 16-4 run capped by Dixon's layup, giving Cincinnati a 39-38 lead with 10:40 remaining.
Georgia (4-4), which has lost three straight, scored just three field goals after Gerald Robinson's layup put the Bulldogs up 38-31 with 13:02 left.
Kilpatrick indicated that Cronin, who led the Bearcats to 26 wins and an NCAA tournament appearance last season, was livid during intermission with Georgia playing more physically than Cincinnati.
"He said if we're going to keep doing this, we're going to be down in the hole and then we've got to keep struggling to get back up," Kilpatrick said. "It's kind of tough playing on the road, especially with a young team like this, but we were able to get us one."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led Georgia with 16 points, but was scoreless in the second half before his 3 cut the lead to 55-51 with 8.8 seconds remaining. Robinson added 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Kilpatrick's two free throws with 7.5 seconds left in the game ended the scoring.
Cincinnati, which won its second straight game, is off until Dec. 10, when it visits crosstown rival Xavier.
Georgia hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
Cincinnati, which was playing the Bulldogs for the first time, showed its size and strength in the second half, shutting down Georgia's motion offense with a tight zone. Sporting a bigger front line, the Bearcats repeatedly stepped in Georgia's passing lanes and held the Bulldogs to 28.6 percent shooting (6 of 21) in the final 20 minutes.
Georgia had eight turnovers and three assists in the second half.
"They were playing over the top of our big men and they were spreading our guards wide," Caldwell-Pope said. "It just made it hard for us to get the ball inside."
Caldwell-Pope, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound freshman swingman, has been given a lot of responsibility on both ends of the floor. Georgia coach Mark Fox needs him to go up quickly after Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left school early for the NBA.
"We want him to shoot the ball well and score points, we want him to play 30 minutes a game and a lot of the time he's guarding one of the better players on the other side of the court," Fox said. "He's going to have some cold streaks, and I think that's because he's only in the first month of his career."
The Bearcats went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal in the first half before Kilpatrick's 3 from the right wing cut Georgia's lead to 15-12.
Dixon followed with a 3 from the left corner, but Caldwell-Pope soon scored his sixth straight point to make it 26-17.
In the second half, Dixon and Kilpatrick combined to hit 6 of 8 3-point attempts in the second half.
"If you get open shots, you've got to take them," Dixon said. "We started creating some open shots and we were able to knock them down when we had some good looks."
Yancy Gates, who entered the game leading Cincinnati with a 14.2 scoring average and a 9.3 rebounding average, finished with five points and eight rebounds. He had scored in double figures in 14 of his last 15 games.
Despite his lack of scoring, though, the 6-9, 260-pound Gates was a force inside on defense. He also got lots of help from 6-10 Cheikh Mbodj and 6-8 Justin Jackson.
"We took them out of their offense," Cronin said. "We give the kids all the credit."