ATHENS, GEORGIA (TICKER) —Ezra Williams brought Georgia back three steps at a time.
Williams scored 17 points and sank three straight 3-pointers in the final 2:34 as 17th-ranked Georgia squandered a double-digit lead before rallying for a 67-63 Southeastern Conference victory over No. 22 Mississippi State.
Georgia (13-5, 5-2 SEC East) led by 11 points at halftime, but allowed a 23-9 spurt by Mississippi State to start the second half and soon trailed by five points with 3:50 remaining.
Williams had missed 10 of his first 12 shots and then found the hot hand, sinking three long-range shots in a 1:40 span to give Georgia a 63-59 lead with 54 seconds left.
“Ezra just did what he does to everybody,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “He’s gone off in every game. I thought we did a tremendous job guarding him. It was just the timely shots he made.”
Georgia held on by hitting four free throws down the stretch and won despite shooting just 40 percent.
“On a night we couldn’t throw one in the ocean, to win this way is very, very gratifying,” Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. “I haven’t seen a team of mine shoot like that in a long, long time.”
Chris Daniels added 16 points and Steve Thomas 13 for Georgia, which bounced back after allowing a season-high 94 points in Wednesday’s loss to Vanderbilt.
“We had enough shots to start an infirmary,” Harrick added. “We couldn’t make any of them, but we hung on to win and we’re very, very fortunate.”
Jarvis Hayes, who averages 17.9 points per game, managed just five points on 2-of-12 shooting. Hayes has been slowed by a hip flexor injury in his last four games.
Mario Austin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Mississippi State (13-5, 3-4 West), including the 1,000th point of his career. Timmy Bowers added 13 points and Branden Vincent added eight and 10 rebounds.
Daniels scored 11 points in the first half to help Georgia build a 40-29 lead at intermission. He added five points in an 11-2 spurt that gave Georgia a 20-11 lead with nine minutes left in the half.
Three free throws by Bowers later cut the lead to 30-25 before Georgia closed the half with a 10-6 run that included three jumpers by Thomas.
“It’s never easy on the road against a great team like Georgia,” Stansbury said. “You’ve got to take advantage of every situation and every opportunity.”
The Bulldogs shot 24 percent (5-of-21) from beyond the arc and committed 17 turnovers. Austin became the 25th player in Mississippi State to reach 1,000 career points when he scored on a layup with 14:12 left in the first half.
Mississippi State gained confidence after intermission, opening the second half with a 23-9 spurt to take a 52-49 lead. The Bulldogs closed the spurt with an 8-0 run that included layups by Vincent and Bowers.
Georgia was held without a field goal for almost five minutes before Williams tied it at 52-52 on a 3-pointer with 7:53 left.
After an exchange of baskets, a dunk by Vincent and a 3-pointer by Winsome Frazier gave Mississippi State a 59-54 lead.
Despite Williams’ heroics, Georgia was just 5-of-24 from 3-point range overall.