ATHENS, Ga.—Mississippi State used a 12-1 run late in the second half to lead it to a 72-61 win and deny Georgia a win in its SEC home opener.
Georgia (6-9, 0-2) was led by sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who scored 16 points. Caldwell-Pope has led Georgia in points in all but one game and has reached double-figures in every game this season.
Freshman Charles Mann also contributed 14 points. Junior forward Donte’ Williams led Georgia on the boards with eight rebounds.
"That's a disappointing loss,” said head coach Mark Fox. “I don't think we rebounded very well out of the gate, and then I felt like in the second half, they guarded our shooting guard (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), and we didn't guard theirs. We couldn't get Kentavious a good look at the basket, and their shooter got plenty, so that was the difference in the game. Our defense failed us. We've got to get somebody else that can score the ball when they take Kentavious away. We're having trouble doing that right now, so we have to give Mississippi State credit for really defending us well in the second half.”
In the first half, Caldwell-Pope hit back-to-back threes and Brandon Morris had a steal and score to put Georgia up 28-23 with just over five minutes remaining. Mississippi State (7-7, 1-1) closed the half on a 13-5 run to take a 36-35 halftime lead.
Georgia led by three early in the second half, but was unable to overcome shooting 0-for-8 from three-point range and just 55 percent from the free throw stripe in the second half.
With nine minutes left in the game, sophomore forward Tim Dixon tied the game at 50-50, but Mississippi State went on a 12-1 run to open a commanding 62-51 lead. The hometown Bulldogs cut the lead to as few as seven, but Mississippi State shot 8-of-12 from the free throw line in the final three minutes to secure the win.
Jalen Steele paced Mississippi State with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Georgia will travel to Columbia, Mo. to play Missouri at 8:00 p.m on Wednesday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.