ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia coach Mark Fox beamed even after watching his team’s worst shooting performance of the season.
The Bulldogs’ defense and rebounding made up for all the missed shots.
Kenny Gaines scored 15 points, Marcus Thornton had 11 points and 13 rebounds and Georgia beat Arkansas 66-61 in overtime on Saturday to continue its strong start in Southeastern Conference games.
Georgia made only 18 of 58 shots from the field for a season-low 31 percent but outrebounded Arkansas 56-34 and held the Razorbacks 23 points below their SEC-leading average of 84.7 points per game.
“That’s a hard-fought SEC game,” Fox said. “We beat a really good Arkansas team. We should feel like we accomplished something today.”
Gaines opened the overtime period with a 3-pointer and Charles Mann scored the next four points for the Bulldogs (9-7, 3-1 SEC). Mann, who made only 2 of 10 shots, scored six of his nine points in the extra period.
“I was being more aggressive and just keeping my head up,” Mann said. “... I just wanted to keep my head up and make something happen.”
It was the third straight overtime game for Arkansas (12-5, 1-3 SEC). The Razorbacks previously lost to No. 7 Florida but beat No. 13 Kentucky in overtime.
Fouls were a problem for the Razorbacks, who were outscored 28-12 at the free-throw line.
“Georgia did a good job when it got to the free-throw line,” said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. “We were in a good position. It comes back to free throws.”
The Razorbacks had an opportunity to win the game in regulation. Anderson called timeout with 21.8 seconds remaining but Rashad Madden missed a 3-pointer and the Razorbacks couldn’t get off another shot before the end of regulation.
“We were right there,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you just have to find a way. We had the last shot, and we wanted to attack the basket. We had an opportunity. ... Give Georgia credit. They found a way.”
Coty Clarke had 13 points for Arkansas, which led by seven points at 41-34 in the second half. Madden and Fred Gulley each had 12 points. Clarke and Gulley fouled out.
Arkansas has lost five straight SEC road games.
The Bulldogs improved to 8-0 when holding opponents under 70 points.
“We’ve gotten increasingly better on defense the last two weeks, three weeks,” Thornton said. “We knew it would be pivotal.”
Thornton, a junior who has had three knee surgeries, recorded his first career double-double.
It was Georgia’s first double-double of the season.
“I tell you, we had some guys who haven’t been in the limelight who were heroes today,” Fox said, referring to Thornton and freshmen J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker. Frazier and Parker combined for seven points, all on free throws.
“I thought J.J. gave us a big lift today,” Fox said.
Despite trailing 29-28 at halftime, the Bulldogs were encouraged by the low-scoring pace.
“I think we felt pretty good with that,” Thornton said. “We shot 29 percent in the half, and we knew we had to be better than that.”
Georgia, which struggled in its nonconference schedule, losing to Georgia Tech, Davidson, Temple and Nebraska, has evolved as a physical team which relies on its defense.
“I like that (physical) style of play,” Thornton said. “I don’t know if you could have said that a month or so ago, so it’s good that we’re definitely starting to get that and impose that on people.”
Mann made one of two free throws to open the second half but went to the bench with three fouls early in the half. Mann’s replacement, Frazier (5-10, 150), struggled in his matchup against Gulley, who hit two 3-pointers and scored on a drive in a span of eight straight points for Arkansas that gave the Razorbacks a 41-34 lead.
Georgia answered with a 6-0 run and finally took a 49-48 lead on a Brandon Morris layup with 3:16 remaining.
After Frazier made one of two free throws, Alandise Harris drove past Thornton for a layup for Arkansas, tying the game at 50-all. Georgia pulled ahead with two free throws by Brandon Morris before Madden answered with two free throws for Arkansas.