Bulldogs top Minutemen 91-72 in Stegeman sellout
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Bulldogs top Minutemen 91-72 in Stegeman sellout

UGA Basketball
Photo: Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA

ATHENS, Ga.– Four double-digit Bulldogs led the University of Georgia men’s basketball team to a 91-72 victory in front of a capacity crowd of 10,523 in Stegeman Coliseum on Sunday evening.

“The [fans] want to see big house, and that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “We take none of it for granted,”. “It’s very much appreciated, even going to the alumni band. It’s very much appreciated. Everybody matters if we’re going to build this the way that we want to build it. And to be able to say now that we had a sellout crowd on a non-league game two days before our football team plays in the bowl and at Christmas break here right now, that’s phenomenal. That’s absolutely phenomenal.”

The Bulldogs picked up their third-straight victory with sophomore Nicolas Claxton at the helm, leading with 20 points and 11 boards. His sixth double-double of the season was paired with three blocks, contributing to his conference-leading 37 total blocks and 3.1 blocks per game.

For the seventh-consecutive contest this season, freshman Rayshaun Hammonds checked in with double-digit points (18). All but two games for the sophomore have resulted in 10 points or more.

A Claxton dunk within the first 30 seconds of play jumpstarted a 12-2 opening Bulldog run, featuring six points from senior Derek Ogbeide, who finished with 12 points on the night. At the 12:37 mark, junior Tyree Crump sank a 3-pointer before a defensive rebound from junior Jordan Harris resulted in two points and a Minutemen timeout. The Bulldog defense limited UMass, who leads its conference in scoring offense (79.8 ppg), to single-digit points through nearly half of the opening frame (9:09).

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, a Hammonds steal paved the way for a Crump 3-pointer, his second of three on the night. Before the clock diminished, Hammonds found the ball again, this time behind the arc, to reach double-digits and send Georgia into the half at 43-32. Nine Bulldogs registered points in the first half, led by Hammonds with 10.

In the second half, the Bulldogs built their lead to as many as 19 points on two occasions, helped by 13 second-half points from Claxton. Georgia maintained a 13-plus margin through the remaining minutes, putting up a final 91 points, the most of any Minutemen opponent this season besides sixth-ranked Nevada.

For the 10thtime this season, the Bulldogs, who entered the contest ranked second in average rebound margin (+7.6), outrebounded its opponent. Against UMass, Georgia posted a 16-rebound margin with 43 boards to the Minutemen’s 27.

Up next, the Bulldogs open Southeastern Conference play in Knoxville, Tennessee, against the third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, January 5.

Georgia Head Coach Tom Crean

On UMass…

“I think we beat a team that is getting better and better. When you go on the road and win against Providence like they did, that gets everybody’s attention. They are a high-scoring outfit. They’re out there dribbling almost 80 points a game. They can score in the lane. They can score in the three. They can play inside, and I thought for our guys to get the jump, we tried to stress that a fast start is not how many points you are scoring, a fast start is how well you are defending and how well you are rebounding and what we are getting on the other end. Not only, if it goes in or not, but are they the good kind of shots. Our guys got off to a fast start because of the way they defended, and that is what we really have to learn how to do.”

On the sellout…

“The [fans] want to see big house, and that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “We take none of it for granted,”. “It’s very much appreciated, even going to the alumni band. It’s very much appreciated. Everybody matters if we’re going to build this the way that we want to build it. And to be able to say now that we had a sellout crowd on a non-league game two days before our football team plays in the bowl and at Christmas break here right now, that’s phenomenal. That’s absolutely phenomenal.”

#20 Rayshaun Hammonds | Soph. | Forward

On lessons learned from last year’s loss against UMass…

“Don’t come out slow. That was our main focus: don’t come out slow. Just because we just came back from the break, and just play fast, play up-tempo and play how we play.”

On how natural the current system has become…

“It’s very natural to us as a team. We started working on it March 19th when we first got here. We got used to us, and he [Crean] is telling us how to play the game, spacing the floor and things like that. We’re getting better with it. From the beginning of the year to now, we got very good at it.”

On his 3-pointer right before halftime…

“Honestly, I’m not even gonna lie. I kind of like do that shot just for fun when nobody’s in the gym after I get done doing my workout. I knew it was going to come in the game one day. When I passed to (senior forward) Derek Ogbeide, I just ran straight to that spot and I called his name. I just let it go.”

#33 Nicolas Claxton | Soph. | Forward

On time spent since the Georgia Tech game…

“…And our fans played a huge role tonight. Even with us having that break, they brought that energy the whole time, the whole 40 minutes. We appreciate that and we look forward to building on that in the [future].”

On being ready for conference play…

“We’re still building. Everybody’s getting better day by day. It’s been a process and I think, day by day, we’re starting to get a lot better and it’s starting to show out there. Players are gaining confidence and I think we can take it to a whole other level, especially with us kind of getting in stride with conference play starting.”

On how natural the current system has become…

“Honestly, last year–I’ll speak for everybody on the team–everybody had to think a lot more. This year, we just go out there and play a lot more free in the offense. We’re still learning the offense, still learning certain reads but we play a lot more free and a lot more confident this year.”

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