The Bulldogs closed the calendar year with nine victories (against three losses), eclipsing their win total from the entire 2004-05 campaign. The Catamounts dropped to 7-8 on the year.
Channing Toney paced the Bulldogs on 6-of-12 shooting. Mike Mercer added 17 points and a team-high four rebounds for Georgia, while Levi Stukes pumped in 15 by connecting on five 3-pointers. As a team, the Bulldogs were 14-of-25 from behind the arc.
Western Carolina got 20 points and 12 rebounds from Corey Muirhead and 13 points from David Berghoefer.
“We did a couple of things well that were important to this game,” Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. “We knew we had to do a great job of defending the 3-point line (WCU was 2-for-9), so we did a good job there. We also knew we could not get back-cut to death like they can do to teams that like to be aggressive. They had very little success back-cutting, even though they tried it over and over again. We were disrupting enough to force them to turn the ball over 25 times and we had 16 steals, which is a tremendous number.”
Georgia held a 39-30 lead at the break on the strength of Toney’s 11 points and Stukes’ nine. The Bulldogs bolted to an 18-point lead at 37-19 with six minutes remaining in the half, but the Catamounts reeled off an 11-2 run, seven points coming from Muirhead, to close the half trailing by single digits.
But the Bulldogs pushed the lead back into double digits quickly in the second half and led that way the rest of the game. Georgia’s largest lead of the game was 26 points, the last coming at 76-50 on Toney’s lay-up with 6:32 to go.
“Georgia has excellent quickness,” WCU coach Larry Hunter said. “They came out from the start and applied a lot of pressure to our guards. They did a good job of denying the ball to our wing players. I thought we were a little lifeless out there. We did not play with the same emotion and enthusiasm that we displayed earlier this season.
The Bulldogs will return to action on Monday as they entertain Howard, the alma mater of Felton and assistant coach Mike Jones, at 2 p.m. Georgia then will open SEC play the following Saturday as Florida visits Athens for a noon tip-off.