For the second time in three years, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Texas Longhorns met in Athens on Saturday for the annual Big 12-SEC challenge. First-year Georgia head coach Tom Crean and his coaching staff came out wearing football-like windbreakers in hopes to avenge the school’s Sugar Bowl loss, and they were able to accomplish just that with a 98-88 win.
Georgia shot a scorching 32-for-48 (66.7%) from the floor and 12-for-17 (70.6%) from three for the game. Every player that played double-digit minutes for the Bulldogs made at least 50 percent of their shot attempts. They played unselfish team basketball and were clicking on all cylinders offensively, as they assisted on 25-of-their-32 made field goals.
A 49-percent shooting mark wasn’t nearly enough for Texas in this one. Courtney Ramey was Texas’ leading scorer for the game with 19 points (5-for-8 from three).
Texas stuck with the starting lineup of Matt Coleman III, Ramey, Kerwin Roach II, Dylan Osetkowski, and Jaxson Hayes for the third straight game.
Georgia entered the game averaging 16.3 turnovers (leads SEC) and they surpassed that total less than halfway through the second half. But that didn’t seem to matter, as the Bulldogs were scoring at will when they weren’t turning the ball over. A 66-percent shooting night outweighed a season-high 26 turnovers for Georgia.
While ESPN was having all kinds of technical difficulty with their broadcast, both teams had no difficulty scoring points from the jump. The teams combined for 92 first-half points — just 34 points less than the combined full game total from the meeting two years ago.
Both teams were assertive and effective on offense from the start of the game. Texas shot 6-for-11 (54.5%) from three, while Georgia shot a scorching 8-for-13 (61.5%) from three.
After the Longhorns jumped out to a 21-13 lead, Georgia went on a 17-2 run and made nine consecutive field goals to go ahead 30-23 midway through the first half.
Two four-point plays on which Coleman fouled the shooter sparked the Bulldogs offense beyond the arc. Coleman was forced to sit out most of the half after picking up those costly fouls. Inconsistency has been the theme of his sophomore season and that remained notable today.
Jericho Sims provided some quality physical minutes against Georgia’s big men early on. He played physical and aggressive on the glass and defensively.
Georgia’s guards shot with confidence and draining DEEP looks against both zone and man defense. Taylor Crump led the way for the Bulldogs, shooting 4-for-5 from three in the first half. Crump finished with 21 points.
Texas trailed 46-42 with less than a minute remaining in the half and closed on a quick 4-0 run after forcing two turnovers and scoring in transition. Things were knotted up at 46 at the break.
A Ramey-to-Hayes alley-oop connection put the Longhorns ahead 48-46 to start the second half. After failing to convert one in the first half, the alley-oop became Texas’ best offense in the second half.
Nicolas Claxton, the SEC’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, was held in check until he hammered home a follow-up and-one dunk to put the Bulldogs ahead 54-48. This dunk seemed to spark Claxton, as he poured in 16 second-half points in a variety of ways.
Georgia picked up right where they left off shooting the ball out of the locker room. They drained seven of their first eight shot attempts out of the break, including three three-pointers.
Lazy defense on both sides of the ball led to an array of back-and-forth baskets. Georgia led 68-60 at the under-12 timeout.
Kerwin Roach broke his second-half scoring drought with a nifty drive against 6’9 big Derek Ogbeide to pull Texas back within six.
Georgia’s leading scorer, Rayshaun Hammonds, left the game with a shoulder injury after getting tangled up with Dylan Osetkowski while battling for a rebound. He finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.
After forcing a turnover from a perfectly executed full-court trap, the Longhorns blew a 4-on-2 scoring chance to cut it to a one-possession game. And this was the closest the deficit was the rest of the way.
Coleman’s day was over after picking up his fifth foul, which fittingly was a touch foul against the 6’11 driving Claxton. Texas trailed 83-75 at the under-4 minute mark.
It was all Georgia from there on out, as the Bulldogs knocked down their free throws and held off any sort of late push from Texas.
Another out-of-conference loss like this will significantly hurt Texas’ chances for an NCAA Tournament berth. The Horns will likely have to finish with a .500 record in Big 12 play to have any chance at the tournament. It won’t get any easier for Shaka Smart and the Horns with the No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks coming to Austin on Tuesday (6:00 p.m. CT ESPN).