Toumani Camara gives Bulldogs another double-double, win

Credit: SEC

Bulldogs score a 63-50 victory over Montana - a team picked by many to win the Big Sky Conference - at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. (SEC)

ATHENS -- Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler couldn’t come up with another double-double, but Toumani Camara could.

Looking for a fourth consecutive points-and-assists double-double -- his three in a row to start the season was a school record -- Wheeler wouldn’t come close on Tuesday night. The 6-foot-8 sophomore Camara took care of that instead, hauling in a career-best 17 rebounds to go with his team-high 15 points in the Bulldogs’ 63-50 victory over Montana at Stegeman Coliseum.

“If Sahvir cannot achieve his part, then we need to pick it up on our side,” said Camara, who also had two blocks and three steals. “It’s a team sport, so we can’t just lay all the work on Sahvir’s shoulders.”

Camara wasn’t alone in picking up the slack. Six-foot-6 forward Andrew Garcia added 13 points and Justin Kier and P.J. Horne had 12 and 11, respectively, as Georgia overcame subpar shooting and poor ball-handling with a 49-30 rebounding advantage and 14-5 edge in second-chance points. Wheeler, the Bulldogs’ dynamic sophomore point guard, finished with nine points and five assists.

Georgia improves to 4-0 while the Grizzlies fall to 0-4. But the visitors’ record shouldn’t taint the value of the Bulldogs’ victory. The 13-point margin was more than the other three losses combined for Montana, a team picked by many to win the Big Sky Conference this year.

The Bulldogs found themselves in a completely different type of game than they’ve played all year. Coming in averaging 89 points and 65 shots a game, Georgia was forced to slow down against a tough Montana team that plays a deliberate style with set plays and zone defense.

“Tonight was the definition of a grinder,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “I don’t know if it had to be as much of a grinder on offense, because I think we missed some shots or didn’t get the ball and got our feelings hurt a little bit. You can’t have that mentality. Your mentality has got to be to keep coming. But what this team did, which is really, really hard, is they kept guarding at a high level.”

Georgia forward Toumani Camara (10) returns to Earth after yet another dunk for the Bulldogs in a 63-50 win over Montana at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Credit: Tony Walsh

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Credit: Tony Walsh

The normally sure-shooting Grizzlies were held to 35% from the floor and had 20 turnovers, 10 of them from Georgia steals. Forward Kyle Owens led the visitors with 17 points.

The Bulldogs exhibited spans of impatience and sloppiness, and Crean sat Wheeler for stretches in both the first and second half. But they were able to make the plays needed to pull away whenever the Grizzlies drew near.

That was best exemplified inside the game’s final three minutes when Montana pulled within nine. On the other end, Camara hauled in Kier’s missed jump shot – one of eight offensive rebounds by the Belgian – and converted it into two more points on another put-back off the glass.

“That was huge,” Garcia said. “We really needed those second-chance points tonight.”

The same things that have plagued the Bulldogs all year held them back Tuesday night. They were abysmal from 3-point range, going 5-for-23 (21.7%) for the game and 3-for-14 (21.4) in the second half. And they committed 18 turnovers, including 10 by guards Wheeler and Kier.

But Montana never held a lead in the game, falling behind 19-4 to start and trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

The Bulldogs got a scare when sophomore Christian Brown, who played nearly eight minutes in the first half, came into the locker room at halftime complaining that he did not feel well. Brown was immediately placed into COVID-19-protocol isolation and tested. UGA reported after the game that Brown was negative.

“It was a judgment call made by our doctor and trainer to say that he’s not available,” Crean said. “… We hope that he’s going to be OK.”

After playing four games in nine days, the Bulldogs are off until Saturday when they play host to Samford (7:30 p.m., SECN+).

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