Poor shooting dooms Bulldogs in fifth straight home loss

Georgia coach Mike White said, “We’ve got to have more fight than that." AJC file photo

Credit: Nell Carroll

Credit: Nell Carroll

Georgia coach Mike White said, “We’ve got to have more fight than that." AJC file photo

ATHENS – In beating Georgia 70-56 Saturday night at Stegeman Coliseum, Texas A&M did very little in the way of proving it was the better basketball team. The Aggies did, however, prove they wanted to win more.

While the Bulldogs were settling for 3-point shots at every opportunity, Texas A&M was scrapping for offensive rebounds, diving for loose balls and seemingly winning every 50-50 situation that arose. Georgia finished an abysmal 10-for-41 from 3-point range.

Remarkably, Georgia still had a chance to win. Trailing by only four with 6:18 to play, it was outscored 10-0 the rest of the way.

“We’ve got to have more fight than that,” Georgia coach Mike White said. “We’ll keep preaching it and see what we can do down the stretch with this team. Thank goodness for another opportunity.”

The Bulldogs (15-14, 5-11 SEC) are running out of those fast. They’ll face Ole Miss (20-9, 7-9) in the final home game of the season Tuesday night, then play the regular-season finale on the road against No. 11 Auburn (22-7, 11-5).

Georgia will have to win both to avoid playing for the third straight year in what’s known as the play-in round of the SEC Tournament March 13 in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M (16-13, 7-9) snaps a five-game losing streak on a night Wade Taylor IV, who came in averaging 18.5 points, finished with four, and none in the first 34 minutes of play.

Of attempting a season-high 41 3-point shots, the Bulldogs said that was the game plan coming in. But after making 6-of-12 in the first nine minutes, they missed 25 of their last 29 from beyond the arc the rest of the game.

Georgia was out-rebounded 50-37 in the game and 27-13 in the second half and went to the foul line only six times (making four). Seven-foot, 275-pound center Russel Tchewa was just 1-for-3 and finished with as many fouls (four) and turnovers (four) as points.

“That was the plan,” Georgia senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim said of all the long jump shots. “In practice, studying their defense, we felt like we’d have the opportunity to get some open looks. Our mindset was to be aggressive and let them go. A lot of them didn’t fall tonight.”

Georgia came into the contest fifth in the SEC in made 3-pointerss with eight per game. But their best long-range shooters all were off the mark. Abdur-Rahim was 3-for-10 and Noah Thomasson was 1-for-8. Freshman Blue Cain was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 11 points, but he was 1-of-7 from 3.

The Aggies got 20 points from and 10 rebounds from forward Tyrese Radford. But a lot of their other production came from non-traditional sources. Andersson Garcia came off the bench to score 11 and pull down 10 rebounds. Seventeen of their 50 rebounds were on the offensive end. Accordingly, A&M outscored Georgia 27-11 on second-chance points.

It was that rebounding disparity – which Georgia led 24-23 at halftime – that really chapped White.

“We didn’t have 14 keys to the game,” he said. They’re the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country. It’s pretty simple: Go block a guy out if you want to win. We didn’t.”

There was a lot going on Saturday in addition to the basketball competition. Georgia’s seven seniors were recognized in a pregame ceremony, former basketball players and coaches were honored at halftime and the Bulldogs’ baseball team was putting the finishing touches on a 3-1 win over archrival Georgia Tech next door at Foley Field right before tipoff. That made for a late-arriving home crowd.

Perhaps distracted by it all, the Bulldogs fell behind 6-0 out of the gate. At that point, all they could do was shoot 3-pointers. They made 6-of-12 in the first nine minutes but went cold the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t like we weren’t getting good looks; they just wouldn’t fall today,” said Thomasson, Georgia’s leading scorer at 13 per game. “I never would’ve guessed it, me, Jabri and Blue would all struggle from the 3-point line. But it happens sometimes and that’s just the way it goes.”