COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 22 points, including a key 3-pointer late, as Georgia fended off a desperate rally by Texas A&M to defeat the Aggies 59-52 in an SEC basketball game here Saturday.
Georgia (8-11, 2-4) posted its first road win of the season in beating the Aggies (12-7, 2-4), who dropped their fourth straight conference game after winning at Kentucky early in the league schedule.
Caldwell-Pope led all scorers and was the only Georgia player in double figures. Yet nine Bulldogs in all scored, a fact that was not lost on head coach Mark Fox.
"It's great to win on the road, but especially in league play, and I was really proud of our guys and the way they kept their composure," Fox said. "I thought we played extremely well offensively in the second half and got big contributions from a lot of people. Tonight was an important step in the growth of our young team."
The Bulldogs spent much of the first half shooting free throws to grab a 27-23 advantage at intermission. They made just nine of 22 field-goal attempts in the first period, yet took control by making 13 of 16 free throws, more than in seven entire games this season.
A tip-in by reserve Tim Dixon with 12:48 left in the first half gave Georgia the lead for good at 7-6. Caldwell-Pope scored consecutive baskets to, followed by two foul shots by Charles Mann, to give the Bulldogs their first sizable lead at 14-6.
After Texas A&M rallied within two, Caldwell-Pope and Mann again restored safety to the Georgia lead. They sank a 3-pointer and two free throws, respectively, the latter with 2:49 left before halftime, to give the Bulldogs a double-digit margin at 27-17.
The Aggies scored first in the second period before Georgia erupted with a 16-2 run. Twelve of the 16 points came from 3-point range, including two from Sherrard Brantley and one each from Caldwell-Pope and Vincent Williams.Freshman Kenny Gaines gave Georgia its largest lead of the night at 48-31 on a press-breaking layup with 10:20 left.
The margin remained comfortably wide for the Bulldogs until the final seven minutes. Texas A&M cut its deficit back into single digits at 50-41 on a 3-pointer by Fabyon Harris at the 7:04 mark. He followed a Caldwell-Pope miss with another jumper with 5:58 left.
Things got really interesting when A&M turned up its full-court pressure in the waning minutes. Harris intercepted a Brantley pass in rear court and sank a 3-pointer that pulled the Aggies within 52-48 with 3:59 left.
After the teams traded empty trips, Georgia turned to its offensive leader to right its struggling offense. Caldwell-Pope connected from 21 feet with 2:10 left, giving the Bulldogs a 55-48 lead.
Still, victory was not secured until a tip-in by Donte' Williams - his only bucket of the game - with 26 seconds left, putting Georgia ahead 57-52.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of character and composure late in the game," Fox said. "We turned it over a couple of times and that allowed Texas A&M back in the game. But we responded with some really big plays near the end. It was just a great win for our guys."
Georgia resumes its SEC schedule at home Wednesday night against Auburn in a 7:00 p.m. tipoff.