Tuesday December 1st, 2015 4:18AM

Morris propels Georgia past Lipscomb

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox went to the extremes at point guard Saturday with starter Charles Mann nursing a sore knee.

Starting at the position for the first time and scoring a career-high 17 points was 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Brandon Morris.

Playing almost as many minutes in one game as he had seen in his career was 6-1 walk-on Taylor Echols.

Combined they directed Georgia (4-4) to an 84-75 win over Lipscomb Saturday.

Mann, averaging a team-high 14.3 points a game, did not practice during the team's 12-day break for exams. Backup freshman point J.J. Frazier did not play Saturday due to a coach's decision. That left Morris and Echols.

Fox said that the staff has worked with Morris to play the point, and Echols had been a standout in practice recently.

"Even back last summer we always teach our players a second position, and Brandon's was the point," said Fox. "He did not put us in a lot of mismatches because of his length."

"Taylor has practiced really well all year," said Fox. "He waited for his turn, and tonight he took advantage of it."

Lipscomb (4-6) played a zone most of the game, and Echols was more effective against that defense.

"We were better with Taylor in there against the zone," said Fox. "Brandon does not have a lot of experience at the point against a zone."

Georgia (4-4) got 15 points from Namanja Djurisic and 14 from Danté Williams.

Martin Smith led Lipscomb (4-6) with 23 points. Khion Sankey and J.C. Hampton added 13 apiece.

Morris said he played point guard some in youth basketball.

"My uncle used to have me dribble tennis balls," he said. "I used to play a lot of street ball, and you have to have a good handle to play street ball."

Echols had played 37 minutes in his Georgia career before Saturday. He tallied nine points, four assists and two steals against the Bison.

Coming out of Eagles Landing Christian School in McDonough, Ga., Echols was not recruited. He wanted to try out at Georgia as a freshman, but Fox did not have an open tryout.

Last year as a sophomore he made the team, but played only four minutes.

"You could tell he has a knack to shoot the ball," said Fox. "Tonight I wish he would have taken a few more. I guess he has gained 15 to 20 pounds since he tried out. He has worked hard to change his body physically."

Echols said he was 157 pounds when he first walked on. He ranges between 175 and 177 now.

"I was disappointed I never got any scholarship offers out of high school," he said. "Coming here I knew basketball was something I wanted to try."

Echols hopes to see more minutes, but he has no illusions of replacing Mann.

"He is a heck of player, and there a lot of things he can do that I can't," said Echols. "But some nights they might need me to get in and do some things differently."

Lipscomb took the early lead and extended it by as much as six points, the last time at 13:45 after a basket by Sankey made it 16-10.

Georgia rallied with a quick 9-0 run over a 60-second span, going up 19-16 on Juwan Parker's 3-pointer midway through the first half. However, it was a 12-2 run later in the half that really sparked the Bulldogs.

Georgia led 23-22 after Lipscomb's Sankey converted a three-point play, but Kenny Gaines hit a 3-pointer and threw down an alley-oop dunk in transition during a four-minute stretch as Georgia built a 35-24 lead.

Another alley-oop dunk by Williams accounted for the 40-27 halftime margin.

A 9-0 burst by Georgia put the Bulldogs up 54-35, sparked by Morris with an under-and-up layup and two free throws to cap off the run.

Lipscomb countered by putting together a 16-3 rally, fueled by four 3-pointers. Smith hit three from beyond the arc during the rally and knocked down four free throws, cutting their deficit to four with 7:53 to play.

"We just didn't defend well with the lead," complained Fox, "which is a real sign of immaturity. But it's a good win, and we beat a real hard-nosed crew."

The Bison couldn't pull any closer, making only one field goal over the next four minutes as Georgia went up 71-62 on Morris's driving layup with 4:05 remaining.

Morris scored nine of his points in the last 3:15 as he helped hold off the Bison.

"I'm really proud of their resilience and willingness to stick with it and get ourselves back in it," said Lipscomb Coach Casey Alexander. "We were in there down five, 10 seconds on the shot clock with 3:20 to go at that media timeout, and they scored on that possession and never looked back."

"This just shows that we can play with anybody, even after going down by double digits," said Smith. "This is a huge confidence boost moving forward."
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