Georgia pulls away from Jacksonville, 98-65
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Georgia pulls away from Jacksonville, 98-65

UGA Basketball
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Powered by sophomore Sahvir Wheeler’s third-consecutive double-double, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Jacksonville, 98-65, Friday evening before 1,638 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (3-0) outscored the Dolphins (3-1) by a 52-29 margin in the second half to take control and seal their third victory of the week.

Wheeler tallied 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting, along with 10 assists, four rebounds, and two steals, making him the first Bulldog to post 20 points and 10 assists since J.J. Frazier against Baylor on Jan. 30, 2016. Fellow sophomore Toumani Camara matched his career high 19 points from Wednesday’s game against North Georgia, finishing 8-for-13 with seven rebounds and four assists.

Four additional Bulldogs posted double-digit scoring performances, led by graduate P.J. Horne with 14 points and two 3-pointers. For the night, Georgia shot 51.4 percent from the field, including a season-high eight makes from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs notched 15 steals on the evening, the most for the program since picking off 20 against USC Upstate on Nov. 14, 2008.

“It was a really good win for us,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We got to the foul line—not as early as we needed to, but to go 14-of-18, we’ll take that. We made eight threes. Another thing we haven’t done here, which is going to be a huge part, is we had six guys in double-figures.”

Both teams took advantage of their transition games in the early going, with Jacksonville using solid play in the paint to take a 9-8 advantage into the first media timeout. Following the opening burst, the Bulldogs took advantage of a Dolphin drought, notching 10 straight points punctuated by a windmill slam from Camara. The scoring run continued for the Bulldogs, who extended their lead to as many as 16 points with just over nine minutes to play in the half.

Jacksonville started to cut into its deficit as the first half wore on, relying again on its speed to narrow the score to 30-22 at the five-minute mark. However, Georgia remained stout in transition, scoring four consecutive fast break buckets to keep the distance intact, including a clutch put-back from Horne on a missed layup. With both teams working into the bonus in the final minutes of the period, foul shooting set the halftime score at 46-36.

Following a scoreless first half, junior Tye Fagan opened the second half with a pair of layups, but strong shooting from the Dolphins kept them within striking distance at 55-47 at the first break. Fagan eventually finished with 10 points, shooting 5-for-5 from the field. With each team reaching the bonus by the 11-minute mark, foul trouble started to become a concern for both squads as their offensive outputs faltered as well.

Nonetheless, solid shooting from the line helped the Bulldogs reassert themselves in the contest. Georgia’s resulting 23-5 scoring run gave the Bulldogs a 27-point lead, highlighted by a thunderous dunk from sophomore Tyron McMillan with seven minutes to play. The Bulldogs continued to attack the Dolphins on the break, combining with well-distributed scoring to make the lead 90-61 at the final media timeout. In the final tally, Georgia outscored Jacksonville, 31-7, in transition points.

As time wore down, a pair of late 3-pointers from sophomore Christian Brown and junior Jonathan Ned closed out the evening and Georgia’s 33-point victory.

“They really did an excellent job,” said Crean.”They really did—because we’re tired. I was worried about that before the game and there was a few moments where it showed, but we stayed together. I hate that term ‘grind.’ I hate using that with a team but that’s kind of what we were doing through some of those possessions and then it broke open for us. They found energy with one another.”

Georgia will remain home next week as it plays host to the Montana Grizzlies on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at Stegeman Coliseum. The non-conference matchup is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Georgia holds a perfect 10-0 record all-time versus Jacksonville, including seven victories in Athens.
• The Bulldogs have now scored 90 or more points 12 times in Tom Crean’s 67 games as their head coach. Georgia scored 90 or more points 12 times in the 393 games prior to Crean’s arrival, a span of 11-plus seasons.
• Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler had his third double-double game this season with 21 points and 10 assists. The last time a Georgia player did that was Nicolas Claxton against Oakland, Georgia Tech, and UMASS, two seasons ago.
• Graduate transfer Justin Kier was perfect in the first half after his first start as a Bulldog; with a 100 percent field goal percentage going 3-3 and 100 percent 3-point percentage 1-1.
• Sophomore Toumani Camara tied his career high points in his second double-digit game of the season and fifth of his career.
• Georgia leads the SEC in assists and Wheeler showed why tonight. No one else in the SEC has had a 10 plus assist game this season, and he now has three this season in as many games.
• Georgia outmatched Jacksonville in the rebound game in all categories. Total rebounds JU: 33/ UGA: 48, defensive rebounds JU: 23/UGA: 32, and offensive rebounds JU: 10/ UGA: 16. Georgia is first in the SEC in defensive rebound percentage and second in offensive rebound percentage.
• The defensive play in tonight’s game was alive with 15 steals for Georgia. This is the most by the Bulldogs under Crean’s tenure as the head coach.
• Sahvir Wheeler had his third double-figure scoring output of the season and 14th of his career.
• P.J. Horne had his second double-digit points performance of the season and the 16th of his career.
• Toumani Camara posted his second double-figure scoring game of the season and 10th of his career.
• Tye Fagan recorded his second double-digit scoring output of the season and fifth of his career.
• Justin Kier notched his first double-figure point contest as a Bulldog and the 52ns of his career.
• Christian Brown scored a career-high 14 points and recorded his second double-figure game as a Bulldog.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GEORGIA HEAD COACH TOM CREAN

Opening Statement…

“To finish this game off with three games in a week and knowing that we had gone the way we had the week before, I was worried about the cumulative effect. We tried to tone our practices down time wise, but you still have to prepare. you still have to play, and I thought our guys tonight overcame that wall in the second half and played outstanding. To get six guys in double figures is huge. That’s how we want to play here. I don’t know if we’re going to get six guys in double figures every night, but the more we can, the more we can get four, five, that’s huge for us because that’s the way we’re built. The keys to the game were going to be to defend the three, and we held them to 4-23 and to win the rebound game, and we beat them by 15. Something that we have not done here ever, we had 67 deflections, which is a monster thing to us. The stat sheet said that Sahvir [Wheeler] had a double-double. He had a triple-double because he had 10 deflections. Toumani had 14 deflections again for the second game in a row. Those are things that are tremendously important to us. 15 steals is great, but the deflections, drawing charges, getting hands on loose balls, tips, those are huge for us because we’re not a big team, and we’re going to walk in with a size disadvantage many nights right now, but we can’t walk in with a hustle disadvantage, and we can’t walk in with an activity disadvantage. There was a lot of really good basketball from a lot of guys. I thought a lot of guys got better inside the game. Sahvir is just scratching the service. He’s passing the ball extremely well. He’s scoring. When that jumper comes and as we get him off the ball more and can get it back to him, it’s only going to get better. To know that we didn’t get the greatest game from Andrew Garcia because of fouls, and to still get six guys in double figures, that’s a good sign for us. We were very concerned for this game. They are a tremendous shooting team. They’re big. They’re well coached. They’re mobile. I’m really proud of the way that we competed in the first half and the way that we took charge in the second half.”

On Sahvir Wheeler’s speed and performance…

“I don’t know the speed, I know he is moving, and he’s got some changing gears. He came in a very good layup maker and there’s no doubt about it. We feel that he and Justin [Kier] should be the best layup makers, and Tye Fagan’s in that poll too, as in the best layup makers that we play against that are in this league. Sometimes we miss because of context, sometimes we miss because we don’t use the board. You know, Justin had one, we don’t finger roll. He should’ve dunked it or used the glass; you know we’d like to have some of those back. But, Sahvir has been taught very well by his father and his coaches before he ever got here. We just try to expand on it and also at the same time be able to score with either hand around the rim. We try to spend a lot of time on layups and we’re going to continue to spend even more because that’s how we have to win
because we are trying to get a lot of cuts.”

GEORGIA SOPHOMORE SAHVIR WHEELER

On his third-straight 10 assist game, and how it is helping the team early on…

“I didn’t know it was three times in a row until after the game, but I think a big part of that is a product of our offense, of Coach Crean constantly preaching pace, making the next play, the open guy gets the ball and trusting your teammates. We’ve all put in the same amount of work over the year and you can see some of the players growing in front of our eyes like Toumani [Camara], Tye Fagan, those guys are playing at a really high level. We had PJ [Horn] making shots today and even Christian Brown, who had a big-time game today. We saw some really good stuff out of him. Those 10 assists, those back-to-back-to-back double double games are all a credit to them. I’m the point guard, and I’m the one who gets it running, but those are the guys who finish the plays, so they deserve as much credit as I do.”

On if he made it a point to get more involved offensively this season…

“I just made it a point to get better, to be in the gym every day during quarantine, and the results are going to show and that’s what it’s been so far. I don’t think I’ve made it a point to be more involved in our offense, but I am making a point to try and make every play, whether that’s making a play for my teammates or myself and just make the right play every possession. As of right now, it’s going well having that balance of scoring and making guys better with my teammates making shots as well.”

On how he is able to make shots at the rim at such high speeds…

“As crazy as it sounds, I don’t really practice layups going as fast as I can go. I practice muscle memory like how it feels when I’m at a certain angle of a layup. I just take all different kinds of layups going in slow motion so that my body knows how to react when a certain situation comes. I wouldn’t say it’s a lot of practice, but I don’t go too fast all the time, I try to slow it down just so I can feel every movement. I feel what it’s like for it to go in so I know what to do and when I miss it, I know what not to do.”

GEORGIA GRADUATE TRANSFER JUSTIN KIER

On how it is playing next to Sahvir Wheeler…

“It’s good, he makes the game really easy as you guys can see. The pace he plays with has allowed me to play faster as well and I’m learning from him. I’m learning from him as an older guy coming in how this program plays. I learn by his speed and I learn by his decision making where I can be and where I can educate our other guys on where they need to be on the floor.”

On what he attributes the team’s recent chemistry to…

“We have been here since the summer and the guys have gelled really well. We’ve played against each other for so long now and now that we’re playing against different people, we’re finally getting it. I don’t think we’re there yet; I think we can get a lot better, but it’s always good to come out 3-0. Our coaching staff has done a great job of getting us prepared for these games and everyone is starting to get a piece of their role. We’re still figuring some stuff out and everybody needs to take it up a notch so we can be even better than we are right now. We have an exciting future for sure.”

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