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The Red Storm (7-1) led by five at halftime but built their margin steadily during the opening stretch of the second period. Just 90 seconds into the second half, Dale Coker rebounded a missed free throw and converted a bucket to put St. John’s ahead 33-25, its largest lead to that juncture in the game.
From there, the Johnnies’ lead reached 12 over the ensuing five minutes. A 3-pointer by Dwight Hardy at the 13:20 mark produced a 48-36 lead. The margin reached its largest of 14 points twice, the final time at 61-47 on a short jumper by Coker with 5:20 left.
“I thought we played well in the first half, well enough to lead, but our free throw shooting cost us a chance to lead,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Then our defense let us down in the second half. We just didn’t get timely stops when we needed them. But this was a great experience for this team and for our program.”
The Bulldogs (4-4) made one final push in the game’s waning minutes. Two foul shots by Trey Thompkins, who led all scorers with 19 points, brought his team within 63-56 with 53 seconds left. St. John’s, however, sealed the win by making all four of its foul shots thereafter.
Georgia returns to competition Saturday, Dec. 19 when it plays Illinois at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. Tipoff time is at 7:00 p.m.