ATHENS — Georgia had the ball and a chance to tie the game with under 30 seconds left, but No. 19 LSU held strong Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers (21-4, 11-1 SEC) pulled out a hard-fought 83-79 win over UGA (10-15, 1-11) in a contested affair that featured seven lead changes.
“The key to us winning was we didn’t turn the ball over in the second half,” said LSU coach Will Wade, whose team had eight turnovers in the first half but none in the second half. “Georgia played tremendously and we were fortunate to pull it out.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and we knew they would hang around.”
No doubt, the game was tied up as late as the 7:03 mark, 68-68, on a pair of Jordan Harris free throws.
Nicolas Claxton led Georgia with 17 points and six rebounds, including a conventional three-point play with 5:29 left that pulled UGA within 72-71.
The Bulldogs weren’t done.
A pair of Derek Ogbeide free throws with 53.6 seconds left kept Georgia within striking distance, cutting the LSU lead to 82-79.
Ogbeide followed up with rim defense on Tigers’ post Naz Reid, leading to a missed shot that gave Georgia the ball with a chance to tie.
Tom Crean called timeout with 29.5 seconds left and 24 showing on the shot clock to set up a play
Claxton’s drive, however, came up empty and LSU closed out the game for its 14th win in its past 15 contests.
“That (drive) was the play that was drawn up, Derek set me a rub screen and I was supposed to drive it, I just came up short,” Claxton said. “We played them tough the whole game. It could be a moral victory, but we don’t want moral victories.
“It shows we can play with anybody.”
The Bulldogs have dropped six straight dating back to their win over Texas on Jan. 26. The loss to the Tigers was Georgia’s 10th straight against SEC competition.
LSU held a 41-37 lead at the half on the strength of 61-percent shooting through the first 20 minutes.
Georgia, however, didn’t trail until the 10:15 mark of the first half when Tremont Waters drained a 3-pointer for three of his team-high 20 points, 16 coming in the first half.
The Bulldogs led by as many as six in the opening moments, a Tyree Crump 3-pointer giving Georgia a 20-14 lead before LSU rallied.
Waters’ 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run that gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead.
Moments later, LSU went on a 10-0 run to go up 31-22, triggering a Crean timeout at the 5:16 mark.
The Bulldogs came out of that break battling, and Claxton scored six points in the final five minutes as UGA closed to 41-37 at intermission.
The Bulldogs return to action at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Mississippi State (17-7, 5-6) in Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia basketball boxscore