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No. 16 Georgia 79, Mississippi 72

February 2, 2002

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ Jarvis Hayes scored 19 points and Steve Thomas added 16 in his return to the starting lineup, leading No. 16 Georgia to a 79-72 victory over Mississippi on Saturday.

The Bulldogs (17-5, 6-3) ended a two-game losing streak and maintained first place in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division.

Ole Miss (17-5, 6-3) had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Thomas, who was suspended for three games while the school investigated a rape allegation, had not been much of a factor since his reinstatement to the team. In two games coming off the bench, he had just 10 points and two rebounds.

Hoping to spark the sophomore out of his slump, coach Jim Harrick put Thomas back in the starting lineup against the Rebels. He responded with 7-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds.

Georgia dominated the boards, 35-19, including 11 rebounds at the offensive end to only three for the Rebels.

Hayes, who has averaged 20 points over his last five games, helped Georgia slowly pull away in the second half. He scored off a feed from Ezra Williams with 16:58 remaining to push the lead into double digits for the first time, 42-32.

Georgia built the margin as high as 16 points before Mississippi closed at the end.

Derrick Allen scored 19 points to lead Ole Miss, while Justin Reed had 17.

Chris Daniels also had 16 points for Georgia.

The first half was tight _ eight lead changes and four ties _ but the Bulldogs began to pull away in the final minute against the SEC’s second-best defensive team.

Hayes scored off an inbounds pass, then came up with a great block of David Sanders’ drive to the basket. Fred Gibson took the ball and drove the length of the court for another basket with seven seconds remaining, giving the Bulldogs a 34-28 lead.

Georgia won despite failing to make a 3-pointer for the first time all season. The Bulldogs were 0-for-6 from long range, marking the second straight year they were held without a 3 by the Rebels.

The game was delayed 11 minutes in the first half when a cheerleader crashed to the floor during a high-flying routine. The student, Laura Lee Nesler, was taken off the court on a backboard but school officials said she was not seriously injured.

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