ATHENS — Mississippi State won the battle of Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum, derailing what had been Georgia’s best start in 18 yards.
The Maroon Bulldogs (6-3, 1-0 SEC) beat UGA 83-73 behind the black-court duo of Iverson Molinar (24 points) and D.J. Stewart Jr. (18 points).
Georgia forward Toumani Camara recorded his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Transfer P.J. Horne scored a season-high 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-10 beyond the 3-point arc.
The rest of the team was a combined 4-of-15 shooting beyond the 3-point arc, however, and poor marksmanship put Georgia (7-1, 0-1) in a hole early.
By halftime, Mississippi State held a 41-27 lead as UGA combined to make just 9 of 38 shots (23.7 percent) through the first 20 minutes.
“We had some careless turnovers and we missed open shots,” said Georgia wing Tye Fagan, who had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. “When we missed those shots, we let our heads drop a little bit.”
Georgia coach Tom Crean, who’s in his third season leading the program, said if the Bulldogs simply made their layups and free throws they could have been leading at the half.
UGA was much more efficient in the second half, hitting 17 of 27 shots (63 percent) from the floor.
State, nevertheless, maintained its double-digit lead throughout the second half until Georgia used a late 9-0 run.
An Andrew Garcia drive to cut the lead to 81-73, but with 1:08 left, it was far too little too late.
It was a particularly rough night for Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who had 6 points on 2-of-10 shooting with 8 assists and 5 turnovers.
“Justin (Kier) and Sahvir were way off balance shooting in the first half,” Crean said. “We’ve got to shoot the ball better.
“We had too many guys looking for their offense rather than playing offense.”
Crean said he’d love to get his team back on the floor on Saturday, but the SEC league office dealt Georgia a bye the first weekend of the season.
UGA returns to action at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at LSU.