ATHENS, Ga. — Nursing a weak two-point lead entering halftime, Mark Fox could tell his team was feeling tired. Though the group had started games slow in the past, this first half was especially sluggish: just 25 points, with starters Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton all held scoreless.
And so he did what had worked just hours earlier.
“Really at the half, I said ‘this is exactly like shoot-around today. The first half of shoot-around wasn’t very good, I had to get mad at you, then the second half of shoot-around was pretty stinking good,’” said the fifth-year head coach. “You need to change like you did this afternoon.”
Wouldn’t you know it: the Georgia basketball team did just that.
The Bulldogs (12-10) improved to 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference with their 62-50 home victory over Texas A&M on Saturday night, making it consecutive wins after entering the week on a three-game losing streak. And though the team certainly played better across the board in the second half, perhaps no player embodied that increase in energy more than Gaines, the sophomore shooting guard who scored all 14 of his points in the last 20 minutes of play.
“Kenny, I don’t think he was concentrating, dialed-in mentally. He made some plays early that I just said ‘what is he doing?’ Give him credit for slowing down, taking a deep breath and maturing and making some really big baskets for us,” Fox said.
Gaines, who sunk both of his 3-point attempts and also grabbed seven rebounds, was in just his third game back after missing a pair of contests due to a thigh injury. Also playing his second game in three days, he said fatigue was a factor both for him and the team.
“Definitely. Kind of wanted to make sure we kept our bodies fresh, knowing we were a little bit tired,” Gaines said. “I think he understood what we were going through body-wise.”
Donte Williams turned out to be another standout down the game’s final stretch. In addition to contributing nine points and 10 rebounds in the win, he added three blocks and made his presence felt much more in the paint during the second half.
“I was pretty happy,” Williams said of his performance. “At first I gave up a lot of baskets on defense. As the game continued to go on, I just felt like I had to step up for my team.”
In the end, Georgia was able to post up and sink enough of its shots to outlast a Texas A&M team that has now lost six of its last seven games. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, keep themselves inside the upper echelon of the SEC standings as they prepare for a road game against Mississippi State on Wednesday.
“It’s great, especially good to get home wins. Always got to win the ones at home,” Gaines said. “We were .500, now we’re two above 500. We feel like we got some momentum going into next week’s game.”