DULUTH — Mark Fox didn't need a pregame speech to motivate Georgia.
The first-year Bulldogs coach knew his players were already irritated before tip-off as Illinois fans represented about 60 percent of the half-empty Gwinnett Arena.
"I hope it did (fire them up)," Fox said. "I do appreciate the Georgia fans that came because they really helped us there late in the game.
Trey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.
The Illini (8-3) never led in the second half until Demetri McCamey's three-point play with 35.6 seconds remaining made it 67-66.
But McCamey credited the Bulldogs with staying committed to their defensive game plan.
"They had a fast-break defense going, jumping in the passing lanes and getting out (on the dribble)," McCamey said. "We haven't faced that in a long time. Teams like Utah and Bradley that got out and went over screens and stuff like that."
Fox, who coached the last four years at Nevada, was delighted to get a signature victory of sorts for a Georgia program that grew stagnant under his predecessor, Dennis Felton, and former interim coach Pete Herrmann.
"Before the game, I talked to them about the fact that it may seem like a road game in how you have to play together and play the game the right way," Fox said. "I didn't even cover the things I had on the board. We came out and played as a unit, and we played for Georgia. I was really proud of that."
Illinois had won four straight.
Georgia (5-4), which stopped a two-game slide, committed 27 turnovers last year during a 34-point loss to Illinois in Chicago. The Bulldogs improved to 1-5 against the Illini.
"They took it to another level," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "They played like a team that got beat really badly by us last year."
McCamey scored 21 for Illinois, but he missed a runner with 6.6 seconds left and failed to hit the rim on a 25-foot 3-point attempt from the right side as time expired.
Mike Davis had 12 points and six rebounds for the Illini, who play Missouri on Wednesday in St. Louis.
Travis Leslie's jumper with 4:55 remaining matched Georgia's biggest lead at nine, but he missed the ensuing free throw to keep the score at 64-55.
The lead changed 10 times in the first half, but the Bulldogs were creating space inside that eventually helped them out-rebound Illinois 37-29.
Leslie finished with 17 points after going 7 for 11 from the field.
Mike Tisdale fouled out for the first time this season for Illinois. The junior center missed his last two shots, a contested dunk that would've cut the lead to five with 5:37 remaining and a long jumper that could've brought the Illini with one point at the 2:30 mark.
Thompkins, who didn't start because he missed some practice last week to recover from having dental surgery, drew Tisdale's last foul with 22.2 left.
He hit those free throws before McCamey hit him with 6.6 seconds remaining and he converted two more attempts.
"It's just a matter of being poised and taking your time and shooting the same shot every time," Thompkins said. "Yeah, the fans are going to scream, but it's part of the game. You've got to make shots like that."