Bulldogs finish as runner-up at Sunshine Slam
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Georgia Bulldogs were unable to overcome an impressive second half from the UAB Blazers Tuesday night at the Ocean Center, falling in the championship game of the Greenlight Sunshine Slam by an 87-73 score.
Justin Hill led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fourth time this season, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds. Braelen Bridges added a season-best 10 points and seven boards, while Kario Oquendo had 12 points of his own. The production off the bench was again a bright spot for UGA, providing 36 points, highlighted by Bridges and Hill. The Blazers’ Jordan “Jelly” Walker led all scorers with 30 points while shooting 50% from the field.
“We were decent defensively in the first half, but I think in the second half it was more about UAB’s offensive output,” said head coach Mike White. “They got it going. We missed a couple of layups, missed a couple of open ones. They went on a run to build a seven-point lead, and the game was just different from then on.”
The Bulldogs trailed by three points heading into the first media timeout of the contest, 11-8. The Blazers, coming into the night with the fourth-fastest offense in the country in terms of average possession length according to KenPom, got out early in transition and spread the floor to create an early advantage.
Georgia managed to use its defense to take its first lead of the game. After UAB claimed an early 15-8 lead five minutes in, it was outscored from that point heading into the under-eight media timeout by a 21-7 margin, taking a 29-22 lead steered by Bridges’ eight points.
The Blazers made defensive adjustments coming out of the break to slow the Bulldog attack, closing the margin to just 36-33 with two and a half minutes to go in the half. Walker, the 2021-22 C-USA Player of the Year, led the way for UAB’s offense, as the team’s leading scorer was up to 11 points after cashing in a long ball.
The Blazers’ Eric Gaines made three-straight baskets to finally tie the game at 37-all. After a Georgia giveaway, though, UAB earned another two of its 12 points off turnovers in the half and took its first lead, 39-37, in over 11 minutes. The Bulldogs kept pace with the Blazers over the final minutes of the half, and put UGA ahead at the half.
Georgia used a balanced scoring attack, capitalized by a tricky move at the rim by Hill, to take a 42-41 lead heading into the locker room. Nine of the 10 players that checked into the game during the first half scored, with 28 of the Bulldogs’ 42 points coming in the paint.
UAB opened the second half on a 7-0 run and took a 51-44 lead heading into the first media timeout of the half after a three from Walker. The shots would just not fall for Georgia in the second frame.
The Bulldogs were a mere 3-for-15 from the field in the first eight and a half minutes of the half, falling behind 57-50.
The Blazer backcourt tandem of Walker and Gaines led their offensive efforts, scoring from behind the arc, at the rim and from the charity stripe. The Blazers were also able to shoot a clean 50% in the second half through the under-four media timeout, as UGA faced an 80-62 deficit in the closing minutes of the game. Despite switching to a full-court press defensively to pressure UAB, Georgia could not pull out the comeback and dropped its second game of the season, 87-73.
The Bulldogs next game will come at home in Stegeman Coliseum against the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network. UGA is 2-3 all-time versus ETSU, including a 1-1 record in its home building.
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