Bulldogs pull away from Huskies, 76-58
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Bulldogs pull away from Huskies, 76-58

UGA Basketball
Photo: Chamberlain Smith/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Despite facing a 15-point deficit early in the second half, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team finished off an undefeated non-conference slate with a 76-58 victory over the Northeastern Huskies Tuesday evening in front of 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (7-0) outscored the Huskies (1-4), 44-13, in the second half, shooting nearly 56 percent from the field in the period.

Graduate Andrew Garcia finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, while sophomore Toumani Camara pitched in 13 points and eight boards, with 12 of those points coming in the second half. Graduate P.J. Horne posted 11 points, including two 3-pointers, while sophomore Sahvir Wheeler notched 10. Graduate Justin Kier was critical for the Bulldogs with seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals to go along with seven points.

For the game, Georgia shot 50.8 percent from the field, including a season-high 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs were also dominant in the paint, outrebounding the Huskies, 41-30, and outscoring them, 46-14.

“We were incredibly ready to play, I have no doubt about that,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “They were excited to go, but it’s almost like the air went out of our balloon when they made a couple shots and we turned it over. But the bottom line is that the defense really did pick up. We had had 32 deflections in the second half and we outscored them, 44-13. We had some tremendous differences in the plus-minus in the second half. We made strides and we have to understand that’s how we’re going to win.”

Northeastern came out firing to open the night, jumping to a 17-5 lead through the first seven minutes of the game. The Huskies built their early lead by taking advantage of six early Bulldog turnovers, converting them into 10 points on the other end. The Bulldogs responded to the burst with a 9-3 run, led by tough buckets from Garcia and sophomore Christian Brown. As the Huskies worked to maintain their lead, the Bulldogs continued to ride the hot shooting from beyond the arc, with a Horne 3-pointer drawing the score to 28-20 at the under-8 timeout.

After Georgia closed the deficit to six, Northeastern responded with back-to-back 3-pointers in transition, boosting the lead back to 12 with under six minutes to play. Led by sophomore guard Tyson Walker, the Huskies extended their lead to 15 with strong finishing inside and sharp shooting from outside. After six unanswered Bulldog points, the Huskies closed out with their ninth triple of the half, taking a 45-32 lead into the locker room. With his shot at the buzzer, freshman guard Jahmyl Telfort finished the half with 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting, including four 3-pointers.

As the second half opened, the Bulldogs began to narrow the lead, using their transition game to make it a five-point margin with less than 13 minutes remaining. With Walker in foul trouble, the Huskies went scoreless for over 10 minutes. The Bulldogs took advantage with 21 unanswered points, culminating in Camara giving Georgia its first lead with a corner jumper at the 10-minute mark.

Powered by offensive rebounding and 10 second chance points during the run, Georgia extended its lead to 57-50 by the under-8 break. For the night, the Bulldogs outscored the Huskies, 18-5, in second-chance opportunities.

Although Northeastern was finally able to break its drought, Georgia countered with an 8-0 run, capped off by three straight scores from junior Tye Fagan that made the score 65-52 with four minutes to play. Walker would add another 3-pointer to his eventual 19-point tally, but seven straight from the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on their comeback victory.

Georgia will now turn its attention toward the beginning of Southeastern Conference play next week. The Bulldogs will play host to Mississippi State on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at Stegeman Coliseum. The game is set for a 7 p.m. tip and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Georgia improves to 7-0 in the season, the Bulldogs’ best start since 1982-83. Georgia started that season with a 9-0 record and eventually reached the NCAA Final Four.

• Georgia won the only other previous meeting against Northeastern, defeating the Huskies in a decisive 79-66 victory on Dec. 18, 1981 in the opening round of the Cotton States Classic at the Omni.

• Reigning SEC player of the week Toumani Camara recorded a double-figure game, his fifth of the season and 13th of his career.

• Graduate transfer Andrew Garcia racked up a double-digit game, his fourth of the season and 43rd of his career. Garcia also tied his season high in rebounds with five.

• Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler scored in the double-digits for the sixth time this season and 17th in his career.

• Graduate transfer PJ Horne marked in the double-figures for the fifth time this season and the 19th of his career.

• Graduate transfers Justin Kier and PJ Horne both had season high nights as Bulldogs. Kier recorded seven rebounds and five steals. Horne posted seven rebounds and four steals.

• Sophomore Christian Brown produced two steals in tonight’s game, a new season high for the small forward. Brown also tied his season high in steals with one.

• Fellow sophomore Tyron McMillan recorded his first block as a Bulldog.

• Camara generated two blocks in tonight’s game, which is a new season high for the sophomore.

• The Bulldogs won the rebound game in all three facets. Total rebounds NU: 30/ UGA: 41. Defensive rebounds NU: 18/ UGA: 27. Offensive rebounds NU: 12/ UGA: 14.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GEORGIA HEAD COACH TOM CREAN

On Andrew Garcia…

“He showed again that he’s a basketball player. Like I said to the team after the game, ‘We showed ourselves on Saturday night that we can compete, and we can be tough and have really good energy against an experienced, big conference team in Cincinnati, and we can respond to that size differential.’ Tonight, not only did we learn how to get
out of a hole, which we shouldn’t have been in, but most importantly, we learned that we have individual guys that can step up and change the game in an unnatural position, and that’s one of the reasons that we spend so much time having bigger guys guard guards in practice, guards guard bigger guys. I have to do an even better job of that now.
I’ve gotten away from it a little bit. We knew at some point inside of the game that the key to guarding Tyson Walker was going to be to make sure we put some length and size on him, some physicality, and we probably should have done it earlier, but when we did it with Andrew [Garcia], when we did it with Tye [Fagan], we started denying him in the second half, I thought it really turned around the game.”

On the defense…

“In the first half, we didn’t follow our game plan. We lost our energy. We were incredibly ready to play. I have no doubt about that, and they were excited to go. It’s almost like the air went out of our balloon when they made a couple of shots, and we turned it over, and then we became a step too slow defensively, and we overhelped, which was the number one key to the game is to not overhelp because of the way number two [Tyson Walker] finds the shooters, and we did. We just kind of lost our focus because the ball wasn’t going in the basket as much, and we have to outgrow that. The bottom-line is the defense really did pick up. We had 32 deflections in the second half. We held them to 5-30 in the second half. We outscored them 44-13. We had some tremendous differences in plus-minus in the second half. It’s another game where we had three guys in double figures with deflections, so we made strides, and that’s what we have to understand, that we’re going to win. What I liked about tonight is that Sahvir [Wheeler] can guard someone bigger, and he was very comfortable with it, and they didn’t like it, and we could go bigger on a smaller guard, and the guard didn’t like it. One of the reasons that I didn’t really panic at all in the first half is because we were missing layups, we were missing free-throws, and they were really trying to push the pace, and I just wasn’t quite sure that could do that the entire game. We had to make some shots and get our defense going and get three stops in row. We didn’t have three stops in a row at all in the first half, and I think in the second half, we had six or seven.”

On coming back…

“I think it’s huge. You don’t like it when it’s happening, but you certainly appreciate it after. There are a lot of different experiences, and we’ve had a lot of different experiences, whether it’s a pace game, whether we have to come back, whether we have to build on a lead. There’s a ton of room for this team to get better. That is ultimately
the bottom-line, putting 40 minutes together. These experiences are really important because if we go not he road, and we get out head down like that and no one changes momentum for us defensively, rebounding-wise, or talk-wise, we’re going to get cracked, and we have to learn through that. To come back tonight, the way that we came back
with the defense and the rebounding, and the fact that they had 15 points off our turnovers in the first half, and in the second, they only got three. That is as big of a stat as there is in the game for us.”

GEORGIA GRADUATE PJ HORNE

On what was said in the locker room and what changed for the second half…

“We just had to continue to fight. Our energy wasn’t where it needed to be in the first half, so in the second half we brought more energy, and we brought more toughness and will. That’s what turned it around for us.”

On how to attack a double-digit deficit…

“Take it possession by possession in a game where you’re down by double-digits. It’s like looking in the future, you can’t look in the future if you don’t know what to do in the present. For us, we have to be able to get to the next play without looking 10 plays ahead and not focusing on the first nine plays.”

On how this team is able to keep overcoming deficits…

“Looking at our team, we have the guys who want to fight; we can fight. On any night, we can do what is needed to win the game. We never lose sight of that in the second half and get down and quit. We have a team full of winners and you have to know how to win.”

On how eager he is to get to SEC play…

”I’m really eager to get there. We have a strong team and once we get there, we will fight and learn how to go about things in the SEC. Me, personally, it will be my first SEC game so seeing the difference between what’s there and what I’m used to will be a huge accomplishment.”

GEORGIA GRADUATE ANDREW GARCIA

On what led to the victory…

“Coach [Crean] before the game and in preparation always talked about how we have to come on the defensive side first—that is what kind of riles everybody up and how we score. He [Coach Crean] always says the ball is going to find you if you play defense. I feel like that gets everybody’s energy up and excited to play even more. I just try to come out a bring that for us.”

On his mindset coming off the bench…

“It’s all defense. They were getting it going so I know we had to get stops. The more stops we get in a row, that shows the energy is there and that just trickles down. So, I just knew that when I came in the game I was going to have to rebound, get in front of my man and get those stops—get everyone’s’ confidence up to just keep attacking and work
together to get those open baskets and cuts.”

On leading the team in scoring tonight and the offense…

“I will definitely say that everyone on this team from Sahvir [Wheeler] to Tyron McMillan has the ability to dribble the ball, to shoot. That is what we worked on all summer. Our goal was to get everyone’s handles straight, to get everybody confident to shoot the three, to step in. I feel like the work was put in and now it is showing. As the games go on, Coach Crean is going to put these guys in, and we are going to surprise a lot of people with the amount of people we have that can dribble the ball, shoot the three and move like our other guards.”

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