On a cold Georgia night, the Bulldogs men’s basketball team probably wished they were back in the Cayman Islands. Who could blame them? The low was about 45 degrees warmer in Georgetown than in Athens on Tuesday night.
But on the court Tuesday, the Bulldogs broke their thaw, snapping a two-game losing streak, which started in the Cayman Islands last week. Behind a strong performance from Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump off the bench, Georgia routed Kennesaw State, 84-51.
With the victory, Georgia improved to 4-3 this season. The Bulldogs will have almost another week off until their next game, as they will next host Texas Southern on Monday, Dec. 3.
Coming into the season, it was no secret Georgia’s strength was in the frontcourt with forwards Rayshaun Hammonds, Nicolas Claxton and Derek Ogbeide. In the backcourt, coach Tom Crean has been searching for the right combination, mixing and matching a number of different guards.
On Tuesday, the right combination proved to be Crump and Harris, who together scored 19 points, 16 of which came in the first half.
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All 16 of those first-half points came during a 28-11 Georgia run over an 11-minute period. Four 3-pointers from Crump and Harris helped fuel that run, which saw the Bulldogs jump ahead by 20 points.
The two junior guards didn’t play as much in the second half, but Harris still finished with 10 points, giving him two straight games with double digits in scoring. Harris tallied 12 points in the blowout loss to Georgia State last week, but Monday was still easily his best game, as most of his points and minutes versus the Panthers came with that game out of hand.
Crump ended the night with 9 points, the second-most among Georgia’s bench, which combined to score 40 of the team’s 84 points. Crump scored his nine points with three 3-pointers.
Guards Ignas Sargiunas and Tye Fagan also played well off the bench, recording 7 and 4 points, respectively.
The bench was particularly active, but the entire Bulldogs roster played with much more energy than they did against Georgia State last Wednesday. Harris and Sargiunas posted 3 of Georgia’s 8 steals, all of which seemed to lead to offensive breakouts for the Bulldogs.
Early in the first half, they were missing easy baskets, but those buckets started falling for Georgia closer to halftime. The Bulldogs hit 11-of-20 shots to end the first half.
As good as Harris and Crump were offensively, Claxton was once again Georgia’s best player. He went 6-of-11 on his way to a team-high 16 points and season-high 15 rebounds. It was his third double-double of the season.
In addition to turning steals into transition opportunities, the Bulldogs defense registered 7 blocks. They held Kennesaw State’s best player, Tyler Hooker, who entered the night as the Atlantic Sun Conference’s leading scorer, to 11 points and a 26.3 shooting percentage. He shot just 25 percent in the first half and scored only 4 points in the final 20 minutes.
Freshman forward Ugo Obineke led Kennesaw State with 12 points. Owls junior forward Bryson Lockley shot 2-of-8 but he did record a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Next up for Georgia is Texas Southern. The Tigers are just 2-4 this season, but they did beat Baylor and Oregon on the road.
Georgia-Kennesaw State Game Notes & Thoughts
- After playing their first six games in 13 days, the Bulldogs will get some considerable time off in late November and early December. Including Tuesday, Georgia will play its next three games in a 19-day span, and its next five contests over a 34-day span before beginning SEC play on Jan. 5.
- In retrospect, maybe the lack of rest can explain why Georgia played so poorly in its final game against Georgia State in the Cayman Islands Classic. The Bulldogs had no energy in that game, but playing every other day for a two-week period would cause a team to be physically and mentally drained. That’s something to keep in mind for Georgia’s next game because Texas Southern will play Thursday and Saturday before visiting Athens on Monday.
- In the three games where Claxton has recorded a double-double, the Bulldogs are 3-0. Claxton is averaging 12.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
- Sophomore guard Teshaun Hightower was back in the starting lineup Monday. He played well defensively and rebounded well, recording 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a block, but he went just 3-of-9 with 6 points. With Crump and Harris scoring more lately, it will be interesting to see if coach Tom Crean makes another change at the starting shooting guard spot next week.
- With the victory, Georgia improved to 3-0 all-time against Kennesaw State. The Bulldogs last beat the Owls on New Year’s Eve in 2008. Apparently, these two like meeting on holidays, as the other previous meeting took place on Valentine’s Day in 2007.
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