ATHENS — When Georgia played its last game at Stegeman Coliseum, a poor second half left the Bulldogs with their first home loss in decades to a state rival.
Coach Mark Fox said he was determined it wouldn't happen again.
Georgia broke open a close game with a strong start to the second half and Gerald Robinson had 10 of his 20 points in the final 6 minutes as the Bulldogs beat Mercer 72-58 on Tuesday night.
Georgia (6-5) struggled with poor shooting early in the game and, trying to avoid its first loss to the Bears in 52 years, trailed most of the first half before opening the second half with a 16-3 run.
The win came less than two weeks after the Bulldogs fell apart in the second half in their first home loss to Georgia Tech in 35 years, losing 68-56 after leading in the first half.
"I still am beside myself about that game," Fox said.
"After that experience, we've worked to make sure that doesn't happen again. Not to say it won't ... but we've made progress."
Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who did not score in the first half, had a steal and jam to cap the 16-3 run for a 46-33 lead following a halftime tie.
Mercer (7-5) was held to only eight points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
"They had guys who were hitting shots and we just had one of those nights," said Mercer coach Bob Hoffman. "They beat us, but we didn't play well. We couldn't get shots and then we got in foul trouble early in the second half. We could just never get going."
Mercer made only 11 of 29 shots (37.9 percent) in the second half.
Langston Hall led the Bears with 16 points, including 11 in the first half.
Georgia has won two in a row after four straight losses.
"We've turned things around a bit," Robinson said. "We've played hard, played with intensity for the entire game, not just playing 20 minutes."
Connor Nolte and Vincent Williams each had 11 points for the Bulldogs. Caldwell-Pope had 8, all in the second half.
Nolte, a senior who began his career at Furman, made each of his three 3-point attempts to match his career scoring high.
Georgia led 57-38 before Mercer scored eight straight points, capped by back-to-back baskets by Bud Thomas. Robinson had four straight baskets for the Bulldogs to help hold off the comeback bid.
"It was mainly just finishing," Robinson said when asked about his late points. "I got to the rim in the first half and just missed shots."
Mercer, coming off an overtime loss at Seton Hall on Sunday, suffered its 15th straight loss in the series. The Bears' last win over Georgia came in 1959.
Mercer led most of the first half, taking a big lead of 16-8 on a basket by Daniel Coursey.
After Coursey's basket, a miss by Djurisic left Georgia only 3 of 14 from the field. Dustin Ware's 3-pointer, followed by a three-point play by Robinson, helped Georgia regroup in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Nolte's 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in the half pulled Georgia even at the break at 30-30.
"I think we came out confident in the second half, and that was really important," Nolte said.
Georgia took a 41-34 advantage in rebounds and a 12-9 edge in second-chance points.
"We played hard tonight, but we didn't rebound well enough," Hall said. "Georgia got too many second-chance points. That's on the guards, too, not just the big guys. We just have to learn from this and get better."
Georgia's Nemanja Djurisic, John Florveus and Donte Williams were a combined 2 for 15 from the field.
Caldwell-Pope was called for his second foul about 5 minutes into the game and sat out most of the first half.
Georgia's first-half shooting woes against the Bears were not a new development. The Bulldogs began the game ranked 307th of 338 Division I teams in field-goal shooting (38.9 percent) and 306th with their average of 59.8 points per game.
Robinson said he is "very confident" the Bulldogs, still adjusting to losing two NBA draft picks — Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie — from last season's NCAA Tournament team, will improve on offense.
"It's a process and everybody has to go through it," Robinson said. "As long as we continue to improve, we'll be fine."
Georgia leads the series 52-23. The teams did not meet for 11 years before the Bulldogs' 56-53 win in Macon last year.