LSU holds off UGA rally

Sonny Kennedy

The No. 8 seed Georgia Bulldogs could not overcome a lackluster first half of basketball, falling to the No. 9 seed LSU Tigers 68-63 on the second day of action in the SEC tournament. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the team with career-high 32 points, but it was not enough for the Dawgs to prevail at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Dawgs’ first half performance put Mark Fox’s team in a hole it could not overcome. Georgia allowed the same LSU team it beat earlier this season to explode for 39 points while shooting five-for-nine (47 percent) from three-point range. The Bulldogs also displayed undisciplined, sloppy play that resulted in nine turnovers and 11 points for the Tigers, who led by 23 at one point. By the end of the first half, the Tigers were ahead by 20 points with thoughts of advancing to the next round. Little did they know, the Dawgs were not going without a fight.


Despite a horrendous first half, the Bulldogs played inspired basketball, flashing ball security as well as out-rebounding the Tigers 33-13 in the second half. The SEC player of the year, Caldwell-Pope, returned to form with a 25-point second half eruption, the 32nd game this season the sophomore has eclipsed double-digit points.

With 3:29 remaining in the game, freshman Kenny Gaines failed to capitalize on a put-back slam that would have moved the Dawgs to within five. Fortunately for the Dawgs, LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant missed a couple shots, allowing Caldwell-Pope to nail a three-pointer to cut the lead to four with 2:43 left on the clock.

Two more free throws were made by freshman guard Charles Mann with 1:06 to pull the Dawgs to within two, 63-61. Not to be outdone, LSU junior guard Andre Stringer set up his own shot and delivered a clutch three-point bucket well beyond the arc to extend the lead to 66-61 with only 36 seconds on the clock.

LSU had issues making free throws throughout the contest (13-for-28), the biggest reason Georgia was able to climb back into the game. The Bulldogs were able to go on a 12-3 run to pull within three with only 28.5 seconds remaining.

Down 66-63, the final offensive play for Georgia was choked off by the LSU defense, causing Caldwell-Pope to miss on an ill-advised three-point shot with 14 seconds left in the game. LSU scored two more free throws to seal the victory.

LSU will advance to the quarterfinals where the Tigers will play the Florida Gators. The Dawgs finished the season 15-17 overall and 9-9 in the SEC. Georgia played inconsistent all season long but did orchestrate a nice five-game winning streak during conference play.


Georgia’s biggest offseason question is whether star guard KCP will return for his junior season. If he does, the Dawgs have to be considered a top 25 team coming in to the 2013-14 season as Jimmy Dykes on the SEC-TV telecast opined.

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