ATHENS, Ga. – Yante Maten poured in 24 points to power the Georgia Bulldogs past the visiting Mississippi State Bulldogs 79-72 Tuesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
The game was notched at 54-all with six and a half remaining before the hometown Bulldogs exploded for eight unanswered points, the biggest lead for any team at that point. Mississippi State (14-11,5-8) responded with a three-pointer but Georgia (15-11, 6-7) fired back with a Maten layup and an alley-oop from J.J. Frazier to Mike Edwards. The sequence gave Georgia a nine-point lead, 66-57, with a little over three minutes to play. The advantage proved to be enough as the Bulldogs of Athens held onto the victory down the stretch.
“Obviously, offensively — and let’s credit Mississippi State’s defense, they were much more physical than us — I thought we played like a tired team in the first half and only shot 25-percent,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “In the second half, we were certainly much better and shot nearly 65-percent, and that really allowed us to build a lead. We did a little better job in the second half guarding the three-point line, and those things were key for us.”
The 20-point performance marked the 10th such game this season by Maten and the 22nd of his career. In addition, the junior forward snatched team-high nine rebounds and was 12-of-13 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Frazier and redshirt junior Juwan Parker chipped in 17 points and 16 points, respectively, to aid in scoring.
At the half, Georgia trailed the visiting Bulldogs by four points, 32-28, despite getting outshot 43 percent to 25 percent from the field. However, the host Bulldogs drew fouls early and often resulting in a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. Maten and Parker teamed up for the dozen perfect free throws and led Georgia with nine points apiece.
Georgia notched the game at 32-all early in the second half as Maten collected a steal and found Derek Ogbeide for a breakaway lay up. Moments later, Edwards converted a 3-point play with a lay up, foul and free throw to give Georgia its first lead since 8:44 of the first half. Frazier drained a three in the next possession to give the home Bulldogs a five-point advantage, 40-35, at the 14:20 mark.
Mississippi State cut its deficit to at least three points three separate times in the following minutes but each time Georgia matched the visiting Bulldogs’ score. The last instance, Frazier sank a trey to go up six points with 10:21 in regulation. The Bulldogs from Starkville slimmed Georgia’s lead to two points with 8:43 left but again Frazier dropped a high-arcing three to stretch it back to five.
Xavian Stapleton of MSU drained a long distance three that tied the game at 54-all with six and a half minutes in the contest. The subsequent and defining 8-0 Georgia run featured a highly contested Frazier layup that was called goaltending on MSU and a thunderous two-handed slam by Maten.
Georgia flipped the script in terms of shooting in the second half as they shot 66.7-percent from the floor. For the game, the home Bulldogs converted 28-of-32 trips to the free-throw line while the visiting Bulldogs were 7-of-9. Georgia also gained the rebounding edge at 37-30.
The Bulldogs continue their homestand with a game against the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday. The tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.
• Sophomore E’Torrion Wilridge made his first-career start in the game. Wilridge had appeared in 53 games entering tonight, averaging 9.2 minutes and 1.3 points per game. Tonight he logged 29 minutes and scored five points.
• The 32-28 halftime score ended a streak of four consecutive games in which Georgia was in a one-possession game at the break. A Mississippi State buzzer beater allowed the visitors to take a four-point lead. The gap was the largest for Georgia since trailing by nine points to Texas, a game in which the Bulldogs also came back in the second half to win.
• After shooting 25-percent from the field in the first half (7-of-28), Georgia went 16-for-24 (66.7 percent) shooting in the second half as it outscored Mississippi State by 11 points in the second 20 minutes.
• Georgia has now outscored its opponent in the second half in 14 of its 15 wins this season. When winning the second half, UGA is 14-0 on the year.
• Georgia’s record on the year when J.J. Frazier, Yante Maten and Juwan Parker all score 10+ points improved to 7-3.
• Georgia improved its home record to 10-4 on the season and 29-19 all-time against Mississippi State.
• UGA is now 6-4 when Maten scores 20 or more points in a game.
• Frazier passed former teammate Charles Mann for 13th place on the all-time scoring list at UGA. He also passed Charles Strong for 12th and trails James Banks by 11 points for 11th all time.
Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox
On tonight’s game…
“Obviously, offensively — and let’s credit Mississippi State’s defense, they were much more physical than us — I thought we played like a tired team in the first half and only shot 25 percent. In the second half, we were certainly much better and shot nearly 65 percent, and that really allowed us to build a lead. We did a little better job in the second half guarding the three-point line, and those things were key for us.”
On what made the difference in the second half…
“I felt that J.J. [Frazier] was a little worn down tonight, and we didn’t do a good job as a coaching staff of getting him looks at the basket. He was trying to create them all for himself in the first half. I thought we settled for way too many jump-shots in the first half. In the second half, we said, ‘we’re going to get this ball inside and we’re going to establish some things near the basket.’ Derek [Ogbeide] and Yante [Maten] were certainly able to do that for us.”
Georgia Sophomore Forward E’Torrion Wilridge
On how Georgia closed the game…
“We stepped up our defense. They are a great 3-point shooting team, (Lamar) Peters is great shooter, so we just had to guard the 3-point line and go inside.”
Mississippi State Head Coach Ben Howland
On the game….
“I’m a little a little disappointed because we had a great first half. We did great defensively, field-goal percentage, defense-wise, all in the first half. Second half, obviously another story for us in terms of their field goal percentage. Defense is hard with (Yante) Maten inside. We were leading at halftime and we came out and there were a couple bad turnovers. Our first couple possessions in the second half were not great ones. We were tied and had two key turnovers at 54 (tied score) all that led to baskets for Georgia that were key turning points in the game. Seems we get right to that point in the last couple games and can’t close the deal.”