Georgia loses to No. 8 Alabama, 89-79, in regular-season finale
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Georgia loses to No. 8 Alabama, 89-79, in regular-season finale

Georgia-Alabama
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Georgia men’s basketball team closed out the regular season with an 89-79 loss to No. 8 Alabama on Saturday afternoon at a sold-out, socially-distanced Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 1,638.

Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler led Georgia in scoring, tallying his seventh double-double of his career with 18 points and 10 assists. Freshman K.D. Johnson had his 11th double-figure game of his collegiate career with 16. For the 12th time this season, sophomore Toumani Camara had 13 points, the 27th double-digit output in his last 40 games dating back to last season.

“We self-inflicted a few things with our missed free-throws, with our not guarding the ball as well,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “We didn’t get the guard rebounds that we needed to get in a game like this. We competed heavily. We followed the game plan. We got better this week. We were bringing that to life. That 15-2 run hurt us, obviously, in the second half, but it never felt like we wouldn’t come back from it either. The margin for error, with our lack of size and sometimes our lack of shooting, is always going to be tough, and it’s always going to get lower when you’re playing against a team like that. There were many times that we were doing exactly what we had prepared for, could do, and wanted to do.”

With strong defensive efforts from both teams, the first two minutes of the contest remained scoreless. Alabama’s John Petty Jr. put up the first points of the game. Junior Tye Fagan and Camara broke the dry spell with back-to-back layups. Graduate P.J. Horne drained a three to hand the Bulldogs their first advantage. A jam from Johnson followed, putting Georgia up 9-5.

The Bulldogs heated up the half with points from sophomore Jaxon Etter and Camara, opening up a 9-0 run and 14-point Georgia lead. The Crimson Tide narrowed the score slightly before the Bulldogs stretched their lead back to double-digits. Alabama responded, scoring the last six points of the half, sending Georgia to the locker room with a 36-30 lead.

Alabama started back with nine unanswered points, taking back its first lead since the 15-minute mark of the first half. Johnson connected a pair of critical 3-pointers closing the Alabama advantage to three.

While the Crimson Tide was able to climb to a 10-point lead, the Bulldogs were able to stay within striking distance as multiple players tallied double-digit performances. Leading into the final minute of the contest, a key 5-0 Bulldog run Crimson Tide lead narrowed to three. Georgia attempted one last comeback effort in the final seconds, but Alabama sealed the game with a 7-0 run.

“I appreciate the fans, the students the way they came,” Crean added. “I wanted it for these students too, with the year that everyone has had. It hits close to home in so many areas with the Georgia students being so limited in being able to come in. I was really appreciative of Josh Brooks doing this and President Morehead supporting it, and the work John Bateman did. I appreciate all of that. It was a tremendous atmosphere, but we just have to continue to control the things that we can control.”

Up next, Georgia travels to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. to start play at the 2021 SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs will be the No. 10 seed, slated to play on Thursday, at 7 p.m. ET against the No. 7 seed Missouri, on SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Big game and bright lights. The last time Georgia played a basketball game on CBS was when the Bulldogs defeated No. 9 Memphis last season on Jan. 4 (65-62).

• Eight different Bulldogs this season have united for a combined 97 double-digit scoring outputs, three different Dogs scored in the double-figures in tonight’s match-up on the hardwood.

• Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler ended his regular season play in Stegeman Coliseum strong with 18 points and 10 assists. Wheeler bagged his seventh career double-double and secured a double-digit scoring output for the 21st time this season and the 32nd in his career.

• With his seventh point-assist double-double, Wheeler equaled the most such performances in a single season by an SEC player in the 2000s. Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis also had seven point-assist double-doubles in the 2015-16 season.

• Wheeler now amasses to 180 assists this season which is not only Georgia’s single-season record but that tally ranks No. 2 nationally during the 2020-21 season.

• Freshman K.D. Johnson posted a double-figure scoring output for the 11th time in his collegiate career with 16 points in tonight’s match-up.

• Sophomore Toumani Camara picked up a double-digit game for the 20th time this season and 28th of his career with a total of 13 points.

• Sophomore Jaxon Etter tied his career high assists with three.

• Georgia’s high octane offense was on full display on the court winning the majority of points as a result of fast breaks. UGA: 16 / UA: 7.

• Coming into this weekend Georgia ranked No. 3 in assists for SEC teams averaging 14.8. The Bulldogs delivered 18 assists against the Crimson Tide.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GEORGIA HEAD COACH TOM CREAN

On overall thoughts on the game…

“There were a lot of different things inside of the game, but under a minute, it was 82-79, and they hit a tough three, a challenge three to put it up. We self-inflicted a few things with our missed free-throws, with our not guarding the ball as well, we didn’t get the guard rebounds that we needed to get in a game like this. We competed heavily. We followed the game plan. We got better this week. We were bringing that to life. That 15-2 run hurt us, obviously, in the second half, but it never felt like we wouldn’t come back from it either. The margin for error, with our lack of size and sometimes our lack of shooting, is always going to be tough, and it’s always going to get lower when you’re playing against a team like that. I reason that they’re so good, is that they make you pay for your mistakes. Not every team makes you pay for your mistakes, but they make you pay if you make a mistake. There were many times that we were doing exactly what we had prepared for, could do, wanted to do. With all that being said, it’s right there 82-79, and they hit a tough shot. If that shot comes off, we’re going the other way, and it’s another story. I’m disappointed for these guys because the week of work that they put in, and it wasn’t just the week of work for this game, it’s a week of work to get ready for next week as well. I really wanted them to have a big win like this, but we just didn’t get it. I appreciate the fans, the students, the way they came. I wanted it for these students too with the year that everyone has had. It hits close to home in so many areas with the Georgia students being so limited in being able to come in. I was really appreciative of Josh Brooks doing this and President [Jere] Morehead supporting it, and the work John Bateman did. I appreciate all of that. It was a tremendous atmosphere, but we just have to continue to control the things that we can control. We shoot free-throws every day. We shot them for probably 20 minutes this morning. There’s no question that we can make free-throws. We have made free-throws, but in a game like this you need every one of them that you can get, and we just didn’t get them.”

On Alabama’s depth…

“They have tremendous depth. I think that’s the real separator in this league this year. When you look at the upper echelon of teams, that there’s very little drop-off when you go to the bench. Keon Ellis would be starting for quite a few teams in this league. I’ve said this so many times, Nate [Oats] has done a fantastic job of taking the players that he inherited, making them better, and recruiting around it. I said this to our staff. He has Herbert Jones, and nobody else does. That’s what it would almost be like if you imagine Nicolas Claxton being in his senior year, improving the way he did in his first year, controlling the game. Herbert Jones can control the game defensively, and he can control it with his driving. He’s a very unique player. We had that with Nicolas [Claxton] a couple of years ago, so I know that the impact of having a guy who can just change the game in so many ways. Their ability to shoot the ball, and they really don’t bring anybody in off the bench that can’t shoot the ball. You have to honor those guys, with the exception of a couple of the bigger kids. You have to honor those guys and be where they are, and if you can’t control the dribble, that puts you at a real disadvantage.”

On what changed in the second half of the game…

“A little bit of controlling the dribble not as well as we needed to—that was the thing. We zoned a little bit, and we lost them a couple of times and the got a three in the corner which we were okay with. When you are in a one-three-one zone, that is the one shot that is going to be the hardest to contest; but you can live with that. But, there were some other things where they were getting a little too much penetration. For the most part, we stayed with our man and we challenged the shots, but when the ball is coming down the pike there and you have to overhelp–you must kick it out. They’re a unique team because he [Nate Oats] doesn’t have—with the exception of one or two guys, and it is very rare that it’s one or two guys on that team, where guys can’t make threes consistently. I know that feeling. We had it like that at Indiana [University]. It is a really, really great feeling when the whole court is spaced and there is really not a lot that the defense can do about it—when the ball is moving like that. They have that right now. That is why controlling the dribble is so important.”

GEORGIA SOPHOMORE SAHVIR WHEELER

On how he felt the team played today…

“It was a good game. We had good spurts and good sequences in the game. We forced them to 22 turnovers, but we also had 20. At the end of the day, it came down to one possession, it was 82-79 with a minute left and he hit a tough shot. So, we did some things that put ourselves in that situation where we were up, and we weren’t able to sustain that lead. But also, they went up nine or 11 and we brought it back, so it was a back-and-forth game and a tough loss. We have to work on some stuff.”

On how he feels the team is looking heading into the SEC Tournament…

“It’s disappointing a little bit. We can take some good things; we played some good basketball at spurts, but I think it’s tough. We were trying to win this game to go into the SEC Tournament with a win, but this is one of the best leagues in the country, so you always have to focus on the next game, you have to break down film to see what you did wrong, learn from it, and come to practice the next day with the mindset to get better and focus on the next day and the next game.”

On the impact of the increased student attendance today…

“I was going to shout them out at the end, but I always want to give a big thanks to the students and everyone who came to the game. It was much appreciated, we felt your energy and fed off it. It’s always great to have Dawg Nation, knowing that they’re going to have your back. We definitely felt it and hopefully, sometime soon in the near future we can have everyone back at the Stegeman Coliseum again.

GEORGIA FRESHMAN K.D. JOHNSON

On the positives from the game…

“We were down quite a bit, probably about six or eight, at the one- or two-minute mark, but we kept fighting and got it down to about three or four. For us to keep fighting, playing together the whole time is one thing that we need to improve on a little bit. That’s probably what would’ve gotten us the win in the end. But with a few mistakes, it came down to this, and Alabama executed at the end.”

On the future of this team…

“I feel really great about our future – the guys coming back, those of us playing together this year. I didn’t get to play the [first] half of the season, so being able to play the second half, I think we’ve been able to get a little closer later on in the season. So, I think we will have a great season next year.”

On the beginning of the SEC tournament next week…

“I feel great! We had a good game, and that’s the team that won the league [regular season], so losing by four or five [ten] was much better than the game we played against them last time. So, closing that deficit, closing out the game, with the first half that we had, I think if we played like that the whole game, then I feel really good about the SEC tournament.”

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