ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Mark Sears said the key to No. 24 Alabama's second-half recovery on offense was strong play on defense.

Sears scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:09 remaining, and the Crimson Tide recovered from a slow start to beat Georgia 85-76 on Wednesday night.

Alabama (15-6, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) overcame poor shooting on 3-pointers and free throws to retain its hold on first place in the SEC. The Crimson Tide outscored the Bulldogs 58-35 in the second half after trailing 41-27 at halftime.

“We had to get stops,” Sears said. “When we were able to get stops we got easy transition baskets.”

Georgia (14-7, 4-4) led by 16 points in the first half but couldn’t stop the Crimson Tide’s second-half comeback led by Sears, Rylan Griffen and Grant Nelson.

Griffen’s 3-pointer produced the game’s first tie at 64-all. Sears’ 3 gave Alabama the lead for good at 69-66. Sears made two free throws to extend the lead to five points.

“It’s a big win,” said Alabama coach Nate Oats. “If you’re going to try to win the conference you’ve got to win games like this on the road.”

Nelson, who scored 20 points, sank two 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes to help the Crimson Tide protect the lead.

RJ Melendez and Noah Thomasson each scored 15 points for the Bulldogs, who were held without a 3-pointer in the second half after making seven in the first half.

Georgia suffered its second home loss of the month to a top-five team after losing a double-digit lead. The Bulldogs led No. 5 Tennessee by 11 points before losing 85-79 on Jan. 13.

Georgia had some players slowed by a virus this week while point guard Justin Hill was returning from a sprained ankle suffered in overtime of a 102-98 loss at Florida on Saturday. Hill scored five points in 22 minutes.

“We've just got to get healthy,” said Georgia coach Mike White, who said he would approach Thursday's practice “with more of a mental approach.”

Alabama, which leads the SEC with its average of 89.7 points per game, started slow and was held to 27 first-half points.

Sears, tied for second in the league with his average of 20 points per game, was held to four points in the first half while missing four of six shots from the field.

While Alabama missed eight of its first nine shots from the field, Georgia used a 13-0 run to lead 17-2. Melendez and Blue Cain made back-to-back 3-pointers to cap the run. Georgia's big lead was 16 points at 37-21.

The Crimson Tide recovered its shooting touch, making four straight shots from the field in one stretch, but still trailed 41-27 at halftime.


Oats said senior forward Nick Pringle, who was not with the team, is suspended.

“He’s got to decide if he wants to be part of the program,” Oats said of Pringle, adding “nothing bad off the court” led to the suspension. Pringle averages 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds and started the first eight games as one of three returning players from last season.


Alabama: The Crimson Tide struggled to overcome its poor 3-point shooting. Alabama made only 2 of 11 long-range shots in the first half and 8 of 23 for the game. Strong second-half shooting by Sears, Nelson and Griffen helped the Crimson Tide return to their high-scoring norm. Griffen scored 12 points.

Georgia: The Bulldogs could not enough to overcome a season-high 19 turnovers, including 11 in the first half. The Bulldogs' previous high was 18 turnovers in their 68-66 home win over Louisiana State on Jan. 24.


Alabama: Hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.

Georgia: After playing the SEC's first-place team, second-place South Carolina visits Athens on Saturday.


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