ATHENS — Charles Mann was having an awful game. In the first half he was yanked for a mental error. In the second half he was yanked after a turnover led to his fourth foul. Georgia’s leading scorer sat on the bench for the final five minutes of regulation, watching his backup lead a comeback.
Mann needed overtime. And so did the rest of his Georgia men’s basketball team, as a potential Arkansas game-winning shot went up in the final seconds. It clanged off the rim, and Mann got his redemption.
Led by Mann, Georgia ran past Arkansas in overtime for a 66-61 win Saturday, getting another win in its surprisingly strong start to SEC play.
The Bulldogs are now 3-1 in the SEC, tied for second with three other teams in the very early standings. This after going 6-6 in non-conference play.
“We just wanna keep going,” said Mann, who scored six of his nine points in overtime. “We want to stay in the upper half of the SEC.”
Once again, Georgia used sterling defense and rebounding to get the win. The Bulldogs had a 56-34 margin on the glass, including 24 offensive rebounds, the most for Georgia since 1997.
And Arkansas, which entered as the SEC’s highest-scoring team, was held to just 52 points in regulation.
One of the game’s biggest moments came with just less than a minute left in overtime. First Donte’ Williams and then Marcus Thornton swatted away close Arkansas shots. The ball finally landed in the hands of Mann, who was fouled and hit two free throws to make it a seven-point game.
Thornton (13 points and 11 rebounds) finished with his first career double-double.
“Marcus made a lot of super second-efforts, and that play was the epitome of the game,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I mean two guys making efforts to block shots. That was a neat play.”
Kenny Gaines led the way for Georgia with 15 points, including a highlight-reel dunk in which he leapt and jammed a ball over 6-foot-6 Arkansas forward Bobby Portis.
“It got kind of quiet in the gym, and I was about to go up, and I just heard Marcus say, ‘Dunk him.’ ” Gaines said. “So I immediately looked for the rim.”
“That actually happens often when you talk about people dunking on people,” Thornton said. “I’ll take a portion of the credit for that one.”
But the dunk was otherwise irrelevant. Arkansas took a 41-34 lead a short time later. It took until later in regulation, when the game was slipping away from Mann and Georgia, for it to turn thanks to Mann’s backup.
Mann had more turnovers (four) than points (three) when he picked up his fourth foul with 5:13 left in regulation. Arkansas was ahead by five.
So J.J. Frazier, a 5-10 freshman, entered. He hit a layup and a free throw and had a defensive rebound in traffic as Georgia went on a 6-0 run to grab the lead.
“He came up huge,” Mann said of Frazier. “His number was called, and he delivered.”
“While Charles was getting a little extra rest,” Gaines said, with a smile.
Frazier stayed on the court the rest of regulation, as Arkansas’ Rashad Madden missed a 3 in the final seconds.
“We had some guys who haven’t been in the limelight who were heroes,” Fox said. “I’ve been really hard on J.J. He’s improved; he’s toughened up.”
But when overtime began Mann, Georgia’s leading scorer this season, returned to the court. On the first possession, he fed Gaines for a 3, giving Georgia a lead it would never relinquish.
“You always want to come out with the first blow, especially coming into overtime,” Gaines said.
Later, Mann picked off an errant Arkansas pass, sprinted downcourt and was fouled hitting a banker. He finished the three-point play, and Georgia led 59-52.
“I just wanted to attack,” Mann said of the play. “I knew he wasn’t set. I didn’t know it went in until I looked up and I saw the score go up (by) two.”
Arkansas didn’t score its first points in overtime until the 2:11 mark, a free throw to make it a six-point game.
Before leaving the floor, the team gathered at the corner closest to the locker room, huddled up.
“Coach was just telling us congratulations,” Gaines said, “And thanking us for playing hard for him.”