Georgia's first four games of this season were encouraging despite producing only one win. Wednesday night's home opener wasn't, even though it ended in the Bulldogs' second victory.
Georgia fought itself at every turn before finally putting away an overmatched Tennessee State team on a putback by Anthony Evans with 12 seconds remaining that made the final score 84-78. The first home game of Jim Harrick's tenure in Athens drew 5,812 to Stegeman Coliseum.
"You've got to be discouraged as a team," sophomore guard D.A. Layne said. "We're glad to get a win. We tried to play hard. We've just got to learn from this. We'd rather learn with a win than a loss."
The Tigers, who started four Georgia natives, contributed to the Bulldogs' struggles with an inspired performance.
"I thought they played hard, maybe a little bit harder than we did," Harrick said. "They played with spirit, with unbelievable desire. They came after us hard. They had something to prove. You've just got to give them the kind of credit they deserve.
"They played outstanding, they are on scholarship, they are coached and they came in here and played us. ... But they didn't win."
Evans put in his typical workhorse performance, leading the Bulldogs (2-3) with 18 points and 14 rebounds despite facing a zone defense designed specifically to make Georgia win the game from the perimeter. The Bulldogs, who shot 46 percent overall but just 20 percent from behind the 3-point line (5 of 25), wouldn't have had to scrap so hard at the end had they been able to hit a respectable number of jumpers.
"We had open shots, so many open shots, we just couldn't knock them down," Layne said. "That's something we have to work on."
Layne was the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer, finishing with 17 points despite shooting 3 of 13 from behind the 3-point line.
"Layne had the kind of game where he should have had 30 tonight," Harrick said.
The Bulldogs, who still are searching for a starting point guard, struggled with turnovers once again. Freshman Moses White started at point for the Bulldogs but only played 14 minutes. The Tigers scored 18 points off Georgia's 15 turnovers.
"That was them playing a little bit better than us," Harrick said. "All year long, we've turned the ball over too many times."
The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and were tied with the Tigers (0-2) as late as the 11:15 mark in the second half. But six straight points from Robb Dryden starting at 10:18 in the second half keyed a 13-3 Georgia run that put the Bulldogs up 73-63 with 7:26 to play.
"I thought for five minutes in the second half we played the kind of basketball that we have been playing all year long," Harrick said. "We defended them and got our running game going a little bit. We learned a lot tonight."
Adrian Jones and Shon Coleman each had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs. Still, the star of the game might have been freshman walk-on Mike Patrick. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard was the first player off Georgia's bench and played 28 minutes. He finished with seven assists, eight rebounds and four points.
Asked whether he was surprised to see so much playing time in a tight game, Patrick said, "very surprised, but you've got to love it."
Tennessee State (0-2) had four players with more than 15 points, led by Jamie Roberts' 24.
"They told us No. 24 (Roberts) could shoot," Layne said. "He was lighting it up and they had more than him. They took pride in their game."