Monday October 23rd, 2017 4:03AM

Dogs drop a second to open season; fall in OT

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- The plan that Southern Mississippi coach Donnie Tyndall drew up on the chalkboard before Thursday night's game worked out even better than he hoped.

Southern Miss (2-0) won its second straight overtime game of the season, beating Georgia 62-60.

"We thought the keys for us were to try to at least be even on the backboards, and we actually outrebound that big, strong physical front line by nine," said Tyndall.

"The other thing was to try to limit (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope, their All-SEC guard, to a tough night. He's a heck of a player, but we held him to 5-for-21 shooting and did a great job on him."

Southern Miss' zone defense gave Georgia fits all night, but Bulldogs' coach Mark Fox was more concerned about how his team played when there was no defense.

Georgia missed five of its last six free throws in regulation, spoiling its comeback.

"We can't leave 10 points at the free-throw line," Fox said. The Bulldogs hit 11 of 21 for the game.

"If we shoot 65 percent, which is not good, we win," Fox added. "And the second-half rebounding was poor."

Georgia (1-2) had an opportunity to win in overtime. Tied at 60, the Bulldogs called a timeout with a minute to play to set up their strategy against the Southern Miss zone that had proved difficult to penetrate.

The Golden Eagles again kept the Bulldogs passing on the perimeter, and with the shot clock winding down, Vincent Williams lost possession. Michael Craig's steal led to a decisive breakaway layup by Dwayne Davis with 31 seconds to play.

"We made some mistakes, like that last pick six," said Georgia forward Nemanja Djurisic, using a football metaphor. "That was a hard hit for us."

Jerrold Brooks led the Golden Eagles with 17 points, and Davis added 14. Southern Miss won its season opener in overtime as well, beating Western Kentucky 67-64.

Caldwell-Pope led Georgia with 17 points, and Djurisic added 12.

"We knew that this would be a tough game from start to finish," Brooks said. "Georgia had a much bigger team than we did, but we had the speed. Defense was the key, and it wins games. Winning in overtime lets us know that we can fight and win in some ugly and tough games."

Georgia scored the first basket of the game on a 3-pointer by Williams, but the Golden Eagles scored the next 15 points, capped by Neil Watson's breakaway layup. Southern Miss held the lead until the last 82 seconds.

With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Georgia trailed 55-50 when the shot-clock buzzer sounded erroneously, stopping play. On the inbound play, Djurisic hit his second 3-pointer. At 1:49, he tied the game at 55 with a short jumper. Those were the last points of regulation.

In overtime, Marcus Thornton's follow-up at 4:38 gave Georgia a 57-55 lead, its first since the first minutes of the game.

The teams traded 3s before Southern Miss' Davis hit a pair of free throws with 2:01 left. Georgia was on the verge of a shot-clock violation when Craig stole the ball near midcourt and fed Davis for the game winner.

During the Golden Eagles' 15-0 run at the beginning of the game, the clock froze at 12:36. Play continued, and the clock was restarted without stopping play. But when play stopped at 12:11, officials consulted with the timer, and reset the clock to 12:36 before resuming play.

In the first half, Southern Miss' zone sealed off the inside. Georgia played nearly 16 minutes before freshman reserve Brandon Morris scored the Bulldogs' first two-point field goal on a follow-up with 4:22 remaining. That cut the Golden Eagles' lead to 26-17.

"The zone is all they play," said Fox, "and they are good at it. We ran a lot of different things at it."

Georgia cut the halftime deficit to 31-27 when Sherrard Brantley hit a 40-foot buzzer beater.

The Bulldogs had an opportunity to cut the gap to one point early in the second half when Djurisic went to the line to convert a three-point play. He missed his free throw, leaving the score 31-29. Southern Miss reeled off seven straight points to go up 38-31 on Rashard McGill's back-door layup with 17:08 to go.

The Bulldogs missed consecutive 3-point shots by Djurisic and Caldwell-Pope to tie the game at 45 inside of nine minutes, before Michael Craig converted a loose ball into a layup that put the Eagles ahead 47-42 with 8:02 to go in regulation.

Djurisic hit two free throws with 6:48 showing to cut the Golden Eagles' lead to 47-46, and after Brooks nailed a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock, Djurisic answered with another 3 of his own. Brooks merely came back with another 3-pointer, putting Southern Miss ahead 53-49.

Georgia faces No. 1 Indiana Nov. 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the championship rounds of the Progressive Legends Classic.

"We have a lot of opportunities in front of us," said Fox. "We have not played well out of the gate. But all of our freshmen players were better players today and they will continue to improve."
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