Starks, Texas A&M hold on for tough win over Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Tyler Davis got just the ending he wanted, even if it was a little close for comfort.
“It just gets us prepared for what’s to come,” Davis said. “We’ve got one more game and then we have the SEC Tournament, so we just have to lock in and focus on what’s ahead.”
T.J. Starks scored 15 points and hit the go-ahead basket with 58 seconds remaining to help Texas A&M eke out a 61-60 victory over Georgia on Wednesday night.
Davis added 13 points and Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg each scored 11 for the Aggies (19-11, 8-9 Southeastern Conference). Texas A&M has won two straight, both on the road, heading into its regular-season finale on Saturday at home against Alabama.
Yante Maten finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds for Georgia (16-13, 7-10). The Bulldogs led by four with 2:28 remaining but missed their last five shots from the field and did not score again.
It was an ugly ending and poor game management for Georgia. Starks missed a free throw with 12 seconds remaining and Maten grabbed the rebound, relaying the ball to Teshaun Hightower. For some reason, the Bulldogs did not call timeout as Hightower passed to a heavily guarded Juwan Parker on the right side.
Parker launched a wild 3-point attempt that sailed far from the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Hightower, with 11 points, was the only other Georgia player to finish in double figures. He and Tyree Crump helped the Bulldogs get back in the game by hitting some 3s, but Hightower’s turnover with 1:09 remaining led to Starks’ basket.
“We made a young mistake against the press on the turnover, and I elected not to a call a timeout late,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Very difficult loss, but I was proud of how our team competed in the second half.”
Georgia had won three of four to keep its scant NCAA Tournament hopes alive, but it will need to upset Tennessee again on Saturday and make a long run in the league tournament next week. Otherwise, the Bulldogs will be looking, at best, for an NIT bid for the fourth time in the last five years.
Texas A&M won last Saturday at Vanderbilt to snap a three-game skid and is looking like the team that was ranked as high as No. 5 in December. They dropped out of the poll and have been ranked just once since Jan. 1, but the Aggies are in position to avoid having to play five straight days to win the SEC Tournament next week, improving their chance of a second NCAA bid in seven years under coach Billy Kennedy.
“That’s what this time of year is all about,” Kennedy said. “There is a lot of pressure on the games and both teams are fighting, trying to win. It was a physical battle, and we did a great job of out-rebounding a good Georgia team (by three).
Texas A&M: The Aggies did a solid job despite having their best big men, Davis and Robert Williams, in foul trouble in the second half. Williams, a projected NBA lottery pick, fouled out with 2:28 remaining and finished with just three points. He scored only five against Vanderbilt, and will have to get his game back to full strength if Texas A&M can get into the NCAA field. Davis, who played the final five minutes with four fouls, kept pounding at Maten inside all night and finished the game with seven rebounds.
Georgia: Unable to create and maintain passing lanes against A&M’s zone defense, the Bulldogs’ offense was sluggish most of the night. That comes as no surprise. Georgia ranks last in the SEC in scoring with an average of 69.2 points. They shot just 32.8 percent one game after scoring a season-high 93 points.
Texas A&M: Host Alabama on Saturday. The Aggies are 5-3 at home in the SEC, 12-3 overall. They’ll be looking to avenge a 22-point loss to the Crimson Tide on Dec. 30.
Georgia: Visit No. 16 Tennessee on Saturday. The Bulldogs are 2-6 on the road in the SEC, 4-8 overall. They upset Tennessee on Feb. 17, but the Volunteers have won three straight since.