COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a star for Georgia since his first game last season.
Recently, coach Mark Fox has seen the sophomore develop into an even better player.
Caldwell-Pope scored 22 points to lead Georgia to a 59-52 win over slumping Texas A&M on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between these new Southeastern Conference foes.
"He's really been starting to mature as a player," Fox said. "He's becoming a more efficient scorer. He's a good rebounder. Tonight he defended for us. He played very soundly in all faucets of the game."
Sherrard Brantley had two 3-pointers during a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs to start the second half, giving Georgia its biggest lead.
The Bulldogs had to fight off a late rally by Texas A&M for the victory. The Aggies cut it to three points with a minute left on a lay-up by Kourtney Roberson, but the Bulldogs scored the last four points of the game to secure the win.
"Our defense kind of went south, but we were able to get back focused and hold onto the lead," Caldwell-Pope said.
Georgia (8-11, 2-4 SEC) got back on track after a loss to No. 8 Florida. The Aggies extended their losing streak to a season-long four games.
Elston Turner's 19 points led Texas A&M (12-7, 2-4).
It was Georgia's first win on the road, after dropping its first four away from Athens.
"It was amazing. Winning on the road is a great feeling," Caldwell-Pope said. "We wanted to come in here and accomplish that and we did."
Fox said winning in a tough environment is a good step in the maturation of his young team.
"This group is continuing to learn how to win," he said. "(We're) working on all those experiences that you need to become consistently good."
The Bulldogs were up by 15 after a tip-in by Caldwell-Pope with just under nine minutes remaining. The Aggies used an 8-0 spurt, fueled by five points from Fabyon Harris and helped by stifling man-to-man defense, to cut the lead to 50-43 about three minutes later.
Georgia broke a more than 3 ½ minute scoring drought with a basket before Texas A&M added five quick points, capped by a 3-pointer from Harris to make it 52-48 with four minutes to play.
Caldwell-Pope made 3-pointer before the Aggies added four points to make it 55-52 with about a minute left.
"He likes big moments, and he got a really good screen there, found himself open and made a big basket," Fox said of Caldwell-Pope.
The Aggies believe that was the key play in the game.
"We were coming back and when he hit that three it kind of broke our backs," Harris said.
Texas A&M shot under 34 percent from the field, and made just 12 of 23 free throws.
"When you miss free throws and miss opportunities to score, you put so much pressure on your defense, and Georgia was able to take advantage of it," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
Caldwell-Pope, who has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 17 of their 19 games, was their only player in double figures. He also led the team with nine rebounds and had two steals and a block.
Harris added 13 for Texas A&M, and he and Turner both had three 3-pointers.
Roberson got Texas A&M within a basket with a steal and dunk to start the second half, but Georgia scored eight straight points after that, highlighted by 3-pointers from Vincent Williams and Brantley to extend the lead to 35-25.
Andrew Young then made two free throws for the Aggies. The Bulldogs hot 3-point shooting continued after that with Caldwell-Pope and Brantley making consecutive threes before a lay-up by Caldwell-Pope pushed the advantage to 43-27 five minutes into the half.
Saturday was just the fifth time Georgia had ever played in College Station. It was their first trip to the state of Texas since facing the Longhorns in 1998.
The Bulldogs were up by two points with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half before using an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 27-17. Caldwell-Pope had a 3-pointer in that span, and Charles Mann capped it with a pair of free throws.
Texas A&M responded by scoring six straight points, ending with a steal and dunk by Alex Caruso to cut the lead to 27-23 at halftime.
SOUTH CAROLINA 75,
In Columbia, Brian Richardson tied his career high with 20 points and South Carolina (12-7, 2-4) matched its total SEC wins from a year ago with a victory over Arkansas (12-7, 3-3).
The Gamecocks trailed by 12 less than five minutes into the game, but turned things around with a 40-11 run the rest of the half.
NO. 8 FLORIDA 82,
MISSISSIPPI STATE 47
In Starkville, Miss., Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy each scored 18 points, Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin added 13 and Florida (16-2, 6-0) cruised over Mississippi State (7-11, 2-4).
Florida hit a season-high 14 3-pointers, including four each by Boynton and Murphy. Boynton finished 7 of 11 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
NO. 22 MISSOURI 81,
In Columbia, Mo., Jabari Brown scored 21 points, Alex Oriakhi tied a career high with 18 and Missouri (15-4, 4-2) cruised to a victory over Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4) .
Missouri led 49-20 at halftime thanks to an early 32-2 run spanning 11:47.
NO. 23 MISSISSIPPI 63,
In Auburn, Ala., Marshall Henderson made two free throws with seven seconds left to lift Mississippi (17-2, 6-0) over Auburn (8-11, 2-4).
Ladarius White led the Rebels with 17 points. Henderson added 15. Jarvis Summers had 14.
TENNESSEE 54, ALABAMA 53
In Knoxville, Tenn., after being shut out for nearly the entire first half, Jordan McRae scored 17 points and made a driving basket with just under a minute left as Tennessee 10-8, 2-4) erased a 10-point deficit and defeated Alabama (12-7, 4-2).
LOUISIANA STATE 70
In Lexington, Ky., Alex Poythress scored 20 points, including two free throws with 1 second left, as Kentucky (13-6, 3-2) survived against Louisiana State University (10-7, 1-5) after squandering almost all of a 15-point lead.