Ware's Hot Hand Saves Dawgs
ATLANTA – The shot seemed to hang in the air for seconds.
When it landed, it may have signaled the official swing of the pendulum for the two biggest men’s basketball programs in Georgia
Georgia celebrated, right after Dustin Ware’s big shot, and a few moments later after it hung on for a 73-72 victory. Its victory was a big lift for a team hoping for a breakthrough season.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, was left to ponder a lost lead, a confusing final sequence, and the ignominy of the loss:
It was the first time in 10 years Georgia had knocked off its arch-rival on its home court. The home team had won the last nine matchups, and 13 of the 14 since it moved to home sites in 1996.
“This one means so much to us,” Georgia star Trey Thompkins said. “It’s a blessing to walk out of here with a win.”
It was also a blessing to have Ware, who had all of his season-high 21 points on 3-pointers. Two of them came in a critical sequence when Georgia took its first lead, but the biggest came with 11.6 seconds left to give Georgia a 73-70 lead.
Georgia Tech’s Glen Rice Jr. followed Ware’s shot with a layup. Then Georgia’s Gerald Robinson missed two free throws, and after a loose ball the Yellow Jackets had an inbounds with 2.3 seconds left.
But the heave downcourt was easily picked off by Georgia’s Travis Leslie, who dribbled out the final seconds.
It was yet another close affair for Georgia (6-2), which entered with three wins by two points, and another by three.
“You can practice special situations every day. But there’s not the consequence of losing,” head coach Mark Fox said. “The fact that we’ve been in a lot of close games, that’s a good experience for us … Late in the game, we didn’t panic.”
Ware’s outburst appeared to be coming for days: He said he was hot in practice and in Monday night’s shootaround at the Coliseum. Fox said he told his coaches that Ware would have a hot-shooting game.
“It just felt good yesterday. It felt good today,” Ware said. “I just came in and tried to keep it going.”
On that final 3, Robinson rolled off a screen and neared the baseline. He said later the plan was for him to just take what was there: He was ready to go down low to Thompkins, but when he saw Ware open he fired it out.
“I knew it was going in,” Thompkins said. “I placed myself there for the rebound just in case, but I knew it was going in.”
Georgia trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, but was never quite out of it. That was despite Leslie, its second-leading scorer, playing just three minutes in the half because of foul trouble.
When the second half began, Georgia began inching back. Then five straight made 3-pointers swung momentum: Sherrard Brantley hit the first two, followed by Thompkins and then two more by Ware. That made it 65-60, but Georgia Tech followed with 10 straight points.
But Georgia rallied again.
“We’ve got a long way to go. I’m not gonna crown us champions of the South,” Fox said. “But we’re growing and starting to mature and learn how to win away from home.”