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December 19, 2006There is never a convenient time to lose a point guard, but Sundiata Gaines' spained ankle could not have come at a more inopportune point of the season for Georgia.
Levi Stukes scored 27 points and Mike Mercer came within two rebounds of a triple double as Georgia (8-1) shook off a sluggish start in beating Jacksonville 93-77 on Tuesday.
But the Bulldogs at times looked disjointed without Gaines, who was Southeastern Conference player of the week after leading Georgia to 96-83 win over nationally ranked Gonzaga on Saturday. Gaines sprained his right ankle with 10:06 to go in the first half and did not return.
"It's day-to-day," said Gaines after the game. "It will probably be a game-time decision whether I can play at Georgia Tech Friday."
"Our training staff will earn its keep over the next few days," said Georgia coach Dennis Felton. After Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs visit undefeated Clemson Dec. 28 and then host No. 4 Wisconsin Dec. 31.
"I'm concerned," admitted Stukes. "Yata has been our No. 1 point guard since my sophomore year."
Mercer took over as point guard and wound up with 21 points and 11 assists and a team-high eight rebounds. He also had six turnovers.
"Those six turnovers ... that is a negative there," said Mercer.
Terrance Woodbury came off the bench to score 15 for Georgia.
Lehmon Colbert scored 18 points to lead Jacksonville (4-7), which has lost 23 straight road games. Tyrone Curnell scored 15.
Georgia scored the first five points of the game, but over the next four minutes, the Dolphins mounted a 14-2 run to go up 14-5 on Curnell's layup. Jacksonville's Corey Claitt hit a layup midway through the first half to make it 26-14 for the Dolphins' biggest lead as Gaines went down.
"That was not Georgia defense there," Mercer said. "We were lacking the intensity and effort. We were flat from the Gonzaga game. We came in lacking a little something."
"We were conceited about the last game," agreed Woodbury. "Jacksonville has a great team."
"I thought that we played hard against a very good team who should be ranked in the top 25," said Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren. "We were able to get on them early, but Georgia did a good job of staying poised. Their size and athleticism took over down the stretch."
Curnell's power layup with 6:03 to go gave Jacksonville a 33-23 lead, but Georgia closed out the half with a 25-2 run to lead 48-35 at intermission as Mercer's drives and Stukes' 3-pointers rallied the Bulldogs.
Stukes hit seven of nine 3-point shots to improve his season accuracy to 63 percent on 27 of 43 shots.
"Levi has really improved," Felton said. "He has always been a good shooter, but we have done some things with his footwork to improve his consistency."
Georgia bolted to a 63-39 lead after Takais Brown made a reverse layup on an inbounds play with 16 minutes to go. But the Dolphins went on an 11-0 run over the next four minutes.
They continued to whittle away, and Derek Duggins' two free throws brought Jacksonville as close as 73-64 with 9:18 to play.
Georgia then went on a 10-1 run, highlighted by Mercer's stuff tip, to go up 83-65 with six minutes to play.
"There was a lot more not good than good," Felton summarized. "We did not play with our usual character and purpose we have had. This was one of those games you fear as a coach, where you allow a team to be more intense than you."