Georgia earned a sloppy 63-54 win against Bowling Green on Sunday night at Stegeman Coliseum, but Bulldogs coach Mark Fox was not particularly pleased with barely holding off a team picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference.
Not after Bowling Green outrebounded the Bulldogs 43-28 and had a 16-2 edge on second-chance points in their opening game of the CBE Classic.
“I don’t think we fought hard on the backboards and that sticks out at me,” Fox said. “We did not rebound the ball well. We certainly did some nice things. That’s not one of them.”
Bowling Green trailed by five points, 53-48, when Dee Brown hit a pair of free throws with 2:49 to play, but the Falcons (1-1) never got any closer. The Bulldogs (2-0) went 10-for-14 at the foul line from that point and managed to hold off the Bowling Green comeback bid.
“At the moment of truth, we just dug deep and fought and were able to get the stops that we needed,” senior guard Dustin Ware said. “We were able to get a couple turnovers when we needed and just kept battling. That’s something that we’ve been doing all practice, ever since practice has started. I think we just kind of went back to our habits of just battling and fighting and we were able to claw one out.”
Fox said allowing Bowling Green to rally from a 16-point deficit early in the second half was a sign of the Bulldogs’ immaturity, having lost four key players -- Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes -- from last year’s NCAA tournament team.
“We had some immature plays, but we have an immature team,” Fox said. “We’ve got to continue to try to grow up and grow up fast.”
Ware agreed with that assessment.
“It’s definitely true, definitely because of the youth,” Ware said. “They just have to learn how to battle through a lot of different situations. In a game, you’re going to go through every emotion possible on the planet and you just have to make sure you know how to keep them in check and just keep battling throughout the game.”
One youngster who actually improved as the game developed was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The freshman didn’t score in the first half and played only eight minutes after collecting two early fouls. But he turned it around in the second half, scoring 11 points and finishing with a team-high six rebounds.
“It was real tough. I got a little frustrated because I got two fouls and my game just went away from me,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I just put my head down in the first half, but I came back for the second half pretty strong.”
The Bulldogs play their next game in the CBE Classic at home against South Dakota State on Wednesday. They will then go to Kansas City for two games, starting with California on Nov. 21 and then playing either Notre Dame or Missouri on Nov. 22.
Other notes, quotes, etc.:
* Ware said he will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., Monday for his grandfather Edward Benison’s funeral. He died on Tuesday.
* Fox and a couple of players addressed their concerns over the Bulldogs’ youth in the post and how that creates problems:
Said Fox: “It’s been a major concern since last year. It’s an area where we don’t have a proven rebounder that returns. We have to work at that and we will.”
Said Ware: “It was definitely frustrating, especially coming from a team last year that we were really good in that area. But it’s something that we’re definitely going to address and we’re going to keep getting better at. But we’ve got a lot of young guys and they’ve got a lot to learn, but we’ll be just fine.”
Said junior John Florveus, who had six points and four rebounds: “Rebounding’s always a big concern. The big guys in the middle, we’ve just got to get tougher. We’ll eventually get it, but right now, today was a hard day for us, but we’re fixing to bounce back and get it back up next game. We’ve just got to play harder and get more rebounds, get on the boards and help our team win.”
* The Bulldogs shot 49 percent from the floor (22-for-45). Bowling Green shot 37 percent (23-for-62) and just 46 percent from the line (6-for-13). Georgia had 14 turnovers and 17 takeaways.
“We made a lot of mistakes, which we’re going to continue to make as we grow up,” Fox said. “The key will be for us to learn from those things. I thought we defended pretty well. I thought offensively we ended up with a good percentage.”
* Fox on senior guard Robinson and Ware’s performance:
“I’m not going to sing their praises too much tonight. I love both of them. Dustin played with a little bit of a heavy heart. His grandfather had passed. I don’t think either one of them would get A grades on tape, but they are both winners and they have been very patient with the young guys around them. So are we relying on them to score? Yes, but we’re relying on them to do so much that they’re probably not going to do it all great. They were good tonight, but I think there’s some things that they can improve on.”
* Fox on Caldwell-Pope’s rebounding ability:
“His minutes were down in the first half. Kentavious is a quick athlete and he should be a very good rebounder. He’s a more complete player than people realize and he was able to show it tonight.”
* Dee Brown led Bowling Green with 15 points and Scott Thomas had 11 points and eight rebounds. A’uston Calhoun had a game-high 11 rebounds and three points.