Mark Fox could not have been more disgusted than he was after Georgia’s last home game -- a 68-56 loss to Georgia Tech, the third consecutive game the Bulldogs lost after leading at halftime.
Fox was angry in particular about the Bulldogs’ second-half defense -- noting Tuesday that “I’m still beside myself about that game” after a 72-58 win against visiting Mercer at Stegeman Coliseum.
But Georgia’s coach is slowly beginning to sing a different tune, as the Bulldogs (6-5) have performed well after halftime in two consecutive wins -- against Mercer and last Saturday at USC.
“After that experience [against Georgia Tech], we’ve worked to make sure that that won’t happen again -- not that it won’t, but we needed to grow up after that night and we’ve shown progress. We have,” Fox said. “Our defense in the second half has been our weakness. Tonight to start the second half it was very good, so that’s a compliment to our players.”
Just as the lapses started on the defensive end, that’s where much of the improvement occurred, said senior Connor Nolte.
“Defensively in a couple of those games we felt like, looking at the tape, we could have played better defensively,” said Nolte, who matched a career high with 11 points against Mercer. “ … If we didn’t make a shot on offense, we wanted to really get better at stopping them on the defensive end.”
Mercer (7-5) scored just eight points in the first 8:45 of the second half -- including a scoreless stretch of more than five minutes -- as Georgia pushed to a 46-36 lead midway through the half.
That came when Georgia played defense away from the home bench -- an area of weakness that Fox has harped on for weeks. After intermission, Mercer shot 38 percent from the floor (11-for-29) and was just 1-for-2 from the foul line. Georgia went to the line 20 times, hitting 15.
Georgia senior Gerald Robinson scored a game-high 20 points, the second time in three games he hit the 20-point plateau. He also had 20 points against Georgia Tech, and 17 points against USC.
“I just settled down a little bit more,” Robinson said of his recent scoring punch. “I needed to relax and just let the game to come to me -- try to help everybody else score and finding my shots in the same rhythm.”
Langston Hall was the only Bear in double figures, with 11 of his 16 points in the first half Tuesday.
The Bears led by as many as eight points in the opening half before Georgia rallied to tie the score at 30 on a Nolte 3-pointer just before halftime.
Up next for Georgia is Furman, which visits at 7 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs will then have only two non-conference games left in 2011, before Alabama visits on Jan. 7 to open SEC play.