Bulldogs down Nighthawks, 84-62
ATHENS, Ga. – Led by sophomore Toumani Camara’s career-high 19 points, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated North Georgia, 84-62, Wednesday evening before 1,638 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum.
Camara led all scorers with 19 points, finishing 8-for-18 shooting along with seven rebounds. For the second-consecutive game, fellow sophomore Sahvir Wheeler posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists, while Virginia Tech transfer P.J. Horne pitched in with 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Wheeler is the first Bulldog to post consecutive double-doubles since Anthony Edwards last year against Missouri and Texas A&M.
On the night, the Bulldogs (2-0) dominated in the paint by a 50-18 margin and outrebounded the Nighthawks (0-0), 48-27, who counted the game as an exhibition matchup.
“We were active. The biggest thing we wanted to make a jump from game one to game two was our pace of play,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We wanted the game defensively. We wanted to establish the game rebounding-wise. You can’t come out and establish the game with jump shots.”
Both teams struggled from the floor in the early going, combining to shoot 1-for-12 through the first media timeout. The scoring began to pick up as graduate Andrew Garcia scored five straight points to break the tie, followed up by a burst from Wheeler and sophomore Tyron McMillan to extend the advantage to 15-4. Following a timeout, Camara broke out with eight unanswered points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs continued to take control as the first half wore on, riding an 8-0 run to a 30-12 lead with just over six minutes to play in the half. Along with a 13-for-15 performance from the free throw line, Georgia’s sharp shooting helped build a 46-26 lead as the teams headed to the locker room. The first-half point total was the highest for the Bulldogs since they posted 47 against Arkansas on Feb. 29.
In the second half, Georgia’s transition game continued to excel, including a thunderous dunk from Camara just before the first media break. Bolstered by five consecutive makes, the Bulldogs took a 26-point lead into the under-12 timeout, with Camara clinching his career high on another slam.
With Georgia starting to empty its bench, North Georgia attempted to narrow the margin, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Horne helped build the lead to a game-high 30 points with six minutes remaining. Similar to the victory over Florida A&M, the Bulldogs shot 57.1 percent in the second half following a 58.1 percent performance on Sunday.
As they had throughout the evening, the Bulldogs used their transition game to stifle the Nighthawks, with Wheeler converting on a 3-point play to close out his impressive evening. For the contest, Georgia outscored North Georgia, 22-2, in fast break points. The Nighthawks would close the game with a 9-1 run to slightly shrink the final tally.
“(North Georgia) ran (its) offense extremely well,” said Crean. “They’re very well-coached. They have shooters. They moved the ball, they never panicked. They made us chase them, and I thought our guys did a good job of mixing defenses, but that was a good team and our guys stayed solid with it.”
Georgia will remain home this weekend as it plays host to the Jacksonville Dolphins on Friday, Dec. 4 at Stegeman Coliseum. The non-conference matchup is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.
• The series between Georgia and North Georgia is an “unofficial” one. Tonight’s game marked the second match up between the schools but the first official game according to Georgia’s record books. The previous contest was an exhibition the Bulldogs won 87-53 over the Nighthawks on Nov. 6, 2009.
• Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler had his second career double-double, in as many games, with 17 points and 10 assists. He is the first Georgia player to have a double-double in back-to-back games since Anthony Edwards last season (Jan. 28, at Missouri and Feb. 1 vs. Texas A&M).
• It was an offensive driven night with all 12 players who saw action scoring at least one bucket.
• Sophomore Toumani Camara had a career high in points scored with 19, making him the leading scorer of the night.
• Georgia Junior College transfers had a career high night. Tyron McMillan scored a career high of 6 points and grabbed career most 8 rebounds. Jonathan Ned had a career high of 7 points sand 4 rebounds.
• Both scoring two points, freshman Josh Taylor and sophomore Jaxon Etter had their first career points as Bulldogs.
• Georgia outperformed UNG in rebounds in all three facets. Total rebounds UNG: 27/ UGA: 48, defensive rebounds UNG: 20/ UGA: 34 and offensive rebounds UNG: 7/ UGA: 14.
• It was a decisive win for Georgia. There were no lead changes, a lead that reached 28 points in the beginning of the second half, and a 53 percent field goal percentage.
GEORGIA HEAD COACH TOM CREAN
“When you go from game one to game two, it’s not about who you’re playing. Like I said before, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing North Georgia or North Carolina. The way we walked through and the pace and our energy this afternoon, I thought that we might be playing North Carolina with the pace and our energy that they brought. We felt like we were going to play well, and they had a good practice yesterday. You want to make a jump. You want to make improvements. You have to understand that it’s not about how you score. It’s about how you defend, how you rebound, how you run without the ball, and I thought we did a better job with that. In a regular season, we would have had the two exhibitions, and we would have been on game seven by now. Right now, this is the equivalent of having two exhibition games were you’re really trying to learn about your team. Tonight, I thought we were aggressive, and we definitely got after it. We didn’t play to score. We had 32 deflections at the half and we finished with 62 for the game. We were in bonus at the 13:57 mark in the first half, which was absolutely huge. We had guys moving. We definitely had some turnovers, but on 3 of Sahvir’s [Wheeler] I was clapping for him because we had more rim runs in this game than we might have had in a month last year, and that can’t happen. We have to have that rim game. We have to have a better break, and our kids have to learn how to run and get under the passes from him. I’m proud of the way he’s playing with double figures in two straight games. That’s big time, and that doesn’t happen many times anywhere. I thought Toumani [Camara] really did a nice job tonight coming out with an attack mindset, a rebounding and defensive mindset rather than a scoring or shooting mindset. In return, he gets 19 points. Like some of the guys said, everyone on this team is returning with a much different role than they had last year. Plus, our new guys are in a different role than they might have been in at their places. So, everything is an adjustment period right now, but we’re getting there. That was a well coached team. They ran their offense outstanding. We knew they did. It was really good for us to have to make decisions defensively and make adjustments defensively. We did a lot of positive things, plus 19 on the glass and plus 10 at the foul line. a lot of people played. There were definitely too many turnovers, especially with people trying to make plays. They were unselfish plays. A couple of them, we put our head down like we were trying to score and didn’t know there was someone there to take a charge. We can’t do that, but guys are learning and guys are starting to come together. Every day is a process of coming more together and becoming more consistent and more connected, and that’s where leadership still has to emerge. If we keep doing those things, we’ll get tougher, and that’s what we want to be able to do. We want to get mentally tougher because we’re not big and we’re not old, so we have to find those other ways. Tonight was a better step for us there.
On defensive intensity…
“We had some size, which we’re not going to have most nights. It was more about our activity. we were moving our feet. We were active. We were talking. It was like shell drill defense, the stuff you do every day. Guys were connected. Sometimes we over helped. In the first half, 15 of their 26 points came from the three-point line, but we weren’t giving up points in the paint, which is important. We were changing up defenses. We want to change up defenses because they were taking 23, 25, 26 seconds, the majority of the time off the clock during the game. To get those shot clock violations with guys not breaking down, fouling, giving up a drive, those are really good things. That’s something that we have to build on. We have to be a very collective group defensively, and there were times tonight when we showed that.”
GEORGIA SOPHOMORE SAHVIR WHEELER
On focus against lesser opponents…
“I think it is the same mindset, the same preparation, the same everything as if we are playing the number one team in the country. We deal with every opponent. We game plan to win the game no matter who we are playing against. I think we did a great job of coming out with some energy on the defensive end and I know it took us a little bit to get going scoring wise but once we got going, we were going, and had great energy. We did a way better job defensively then we did last game.”
On fewer fans and the effort to create energy on the bench…
“Definitely, I think having energy on the bench is imperative even if you have a crowd of 10,000 people, because those are the guys you can communicate with. Those are the guys you see on the sidelines. Obviously during this time in a pandemic, having your guys on the bench and having your own energy is a big thing because those are the guys who have your back. And the fact you can hear them loud and clear helps as well. Us creating that energy and us sustaining that energy—ultimately it did help us in this game—and we got to keep that going.”
On the day-to-day nature of the season right now…
“His big thing has been be able to adjust and be able to be really flexible. Try to get better each day. We only have the day that we are in so that is his biggest thing be flexible. We are preparing as if we are going to play every game that’s on our schedule. If it does cancel, we are preparing as if we are going to have another opponent. So, coach Crean has been big on playing on demand and being ready on demand. I’m constantly putting work in, I’m at practice competing at practice. We’re working on our craft outside of practice. So, he’s constantly having us be prepared. I think that is his favorite word right now is preparation and being able to adjust.”
GEORGIA SOPHOMORE TOUMANI CAMARA
On how his connection with Sahvir Wheeler has grown since last year…
“It’s the second year that we’ve played together, so the connection between me and him is growing every day and we have a great connection with everybody. We’re like a family, everybody’s close and we spend a lot of time together. It’s just