ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s school kids special turned into a showcase for the Bulldogs youngsters.
Freshmen and sophomores were the top scorers as Georgia beat Mercer 58-49 on Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum in front a raucous crowd that included about 4,000 Athens-area elementary school students.
“It definitely sounded different,” Georgia guard Kenny Gaines said of the 11:30 a.m. tipoff. “It was a different feel. When we first went out there, I turned around to Vincent Williams and told him how different it felt with all those little kids out there screaming. It reminded me of my whole childhood. It was fun to get a chance to play in front of little kids and give them a nice little show.”
Sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Georgia (3-7). Freshman Charles Mann had 10 points and seven rebounds while Gaines, another freshman, scored eight to help Georgia break a three-game skid.
Mercer (6-6) was led by Anthony White Jr. with nine points.
“Charles is still young, but he’s really getting comfortable,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Kenny Gaines came in today and had a couple of good baskets. I don’t think today was a day when you relied on one guy. Kentavious was very patient today and had some other guys help him.”
The game was close throughout. Georgia led 26-20 at halftime but Mercer scored seven unanswered points to start the second half and took a 27-26 lead on a 3-pointer by Langston Hall with 17:47 left. Georgia reclaimed the lead on a pair of free throws by Nemanja Djurisic on the next possession and never trailed again.
NO. 7 OHIO STATE 65, WINTHROP 55
In Columbus, Ohio, Deshaun Thomas scored 21 points – missing nine consecutive shots at one point and making five in a row at another – to lead Ohio State (9-1) past Winthrop (4-5).
It was the last tuneup for the Buckeyes before Saturday’s rematch with No. 9 Kansas. The Jayhawks beat them twice last year, once at Allen Fieldhouse and then in the Final Four.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 14 points for the Buckeyes. Thomas added nine rebounds and a career-high four assists.
Derrick Henry scored 12 points to lead Winthrop.
NO. 9 KANSAS 87, RICHMOND 59
In Lawrence, Kan., Jeff Withey had 17 points and 13 rebounds, Ben McLemore added 14 points and Kansas (9-1) used another big first-half run to put away Richmond (9-3).
Travis Releford and Naadir Tharpe each added 11 points for the Jayhawks.
Derrick Williams had 14 points for the Spiders.
NO. 20 MICHIGAN STATE 64, BOWLING GREEN 53
In Bowling Green, Ohio, Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine scored 12 points apiece to lead Michigan State (10-2) over Bowling Green (5-5).
Branden Dawson added 10 points for the Spartans.
Chauncey Orr led Bowling Green with 16 points.