ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia coach Tubby Smith was concerned heading into Saturday's game with Appalachian State for a pair of reasons. First, the Bulldogs were in the middle of final exams. Second, his team was coming off a heart-breaking loss to Georgia Tech.
But the Bulldogs put Smith's mind at ease early, building a 30-point halftime lead and coasting to an 85-67 victory over the Mountaineers before a crowd of 6,158 at Stegeman Coliseum.
"It was a combination of that tough loss and our schedule being thrown off by final exams," Smith said after the game. "Three players missed Friday's practice with exams. I was not sure how they would respond, especially with a young team. They're still learning."
Starting guard Ray Harrison, who finished with 10 points (one of six Bulldogs in double figures), said it was important for the Dogs to start strong, especially defensively.
"After we lost a game, we didn't want to lose another one, to a team that we're supposed to beat," Harrison said.
The Bulldogs built its huge first-half lead on the strength of seven 3-pointers with two apiece coming from Ray Harrison, Adrian Jones and John Nordin. Georgia finished the game with 12 treys, a new team record.
"We're a good shooting team," Smith said, "much better from the outside. We recruit people who can shoot."
After building the big lead, the Bulldogs appeared ready to call it a game at intermission. The Mountaineers outscored the Bulldogs 48-36 in the second half to keep the game at least mildly interesting.
"We didn't play with same intensity," Smith said, "and Appalachian played with a lot more.
"We still haven't gotten the killer instinct. We had a chance to put Appalachian State away, and we didn't. It takes mental toughening. It is a psychological barrier. Young players look up at the scoreboard, take a sigh of relief - that is when an opponent gets back in the game."
Appalachian State's Junior Braswell led all scorers with 22, and teammate Kareem Livingston added 20.