In the opening minutes of its game Tuesday with USC Upstate, Georgia jumped out to an 8-point lead and it appeared as if the Bulldogs were off to the races.
But the visiting Spartans weren’t so quick to pack it in and provided Georgia with a genuine challenge in just its second game of the season.
After trailing for a considerable part of the second half, Georgia got hot in the final minutes and defeated USC Upstate 74-65 in a game that wasn’t terribly inspiring for Bulldogs fans, although coach Mark Fox felt it was a decent night at the office for his club.
“We came and competed well,” said Fox. “We need games like that to grow and my hat is off to their team for their effort. That game is very good for us, and I think a good experience for us.”
The Bulldogs (2-0) will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 1 p.m. Sunday. Here are three things to know from Tuesday’s victory:
Hammonds, Maten to the rescue
For eight long minutes in the second half, USC Upstate held a slim lead, although the Spartans got up by as many as five on two occasions. But with 6:21 remaining, freshman Rayshaun Hammonds hit a jumper to pull his team to within three points at 58-55, then tallied a 3-pointer at the five-minute mark, followed by a layup with 3:39 remaining and a big steal 20 seconds later.
Then Yante Maten took over, recording a 3-point play at 2:30 to put Georgia up by four points at 65-61 and then nailing a jumper at 1:31 to make it 67-61, an advantage USC Upstate could not come back from.
Hammonds said he was ready to do his part, including putting up a 3, to make sure the Bulldogs went home with a victory.
“It was a big shot for the team and that’s every day in practice, so when I hit it I felt really comfortable,” said Hammonds, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. “I just wanted to get the win.”
Maten again led Georgia with 22 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes of play. In his impressive career with the Bulldogs, it was Maten’s 64th double-digit point outing, his 24th 20-plus-point performance and his 18th double-double.
The opposite of patience
With a height advantage, the Bulldogs were money in the paint, scoring on 9 of 11 attempts in the lane in the first half and 10 of 13 shots in the second half.
So why did Georgia throw up nearly two dozen 3-pointers?
A lack of patience, said Fox, and a lack of understanding what it takes to log floor opportunities.
“We were so impatient,” said Fox, whose team made but 5 of 22 3-point attempts. “We’ve got a few guys who are trying to shoot the ball so they’ll get more playing time. That’s not how you get more playing time…You don’t score your way onto the court. You have to make the right play. We were very impatient and settled for the 3 a lot.”
“We probably were a little trigger happy but it was some of the reads,” said Maten, who was 1 of 2 from behind the arc and connected on 6 of 14 field goals. “We probably could have passed the ball a couple more times and kept our eye on the shot clock, but give credit to their defense.”
To their credit, the Bulldogs displayed slightly more restraint in the second half, attempting only nine treys, making one.
Another career night for Turtle
Former Athens Christian School standout Turtle Jackson tallied a career-high 13 points, scoring 10 first-half points and then connecting on a trio of free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds. He topped his previous career best of 11 points, which came last Friday in Georgia’s 79-54 victory over Bryant.
Jackson hit 2 of 5 3-point attempts and finished the evening shooting 50 percent (4 of 8) from the field. He also made 3 of 4 free throws and had a career-high four assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes of play.
“The main goal is to win, so I went out there, played my role and tried to win,” said Jackson.
“Turtle did real good for us,” said Hammonds. “He was never stressing. He kept his composure and played the game the right way.”