Bulldogs tame Tigers, 65-63
ATHENS – The University of Georgia basketball team defeated the LSU Tigers by a close 65-63 margin on Tuesday night before 6,991 spectators in Stegeman Coliseum.
Braelen Bridges paced the Bulldogs with 13 points. Jabri Abdur-Rahim added 11 points, and Justin Hill tallied 10 with two steals. Jusaun Holt contributed a team-leading three steals, and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe grabbed six boards for the Bulldogs.
“Everyone in the league is very, very difficult, so we will settle for this win of course,” Georgia head coach Mike White said. “LSU was terrific. I thought we played really hard down the stretch. Thought we had times there in the first half, for whatever reason, after the first couple minutes where I thought we were really sharp. We struggled to convert, our offensive aggression and confidence level really wavered for the next 37 or 38 for whatever reason, so we have got to figure that out. LSU did a good job of being really heavy in the gaps, on our drives, making us kick. We drew some fouls of course but we didn’t do any good converting in the foul line, sometimes that will affect the way you execute offensively. We didn’t do a great job of interior passing, we didn’t do a very good job on offensive glass, there were a lot of misses and just not great effort there. The last fifteen minutes or so of the game, I thought defensively, we were pretty sharp, pretty locked in, pretty connected and found a way to get some stops. Justin Hill finished with a huge individual play overall.”
An Oquendo layup followed by a steal and basket from Holt opened the game before the teams fell into a back-and-forth rhythm. An LSU (12-15, 1-13 SEC) turnover followed by a black by Anselem spurred a 5-0 run for the Bulldogs. Both teams used baskets from behind the arc to keep the score within four points. Back-to-back triples and a Tiger layup gave LSU a 16-12 advantage with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Tigers extended their lead to eight points until Georgia (16-10, 7-7 SEC) used a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to four points. The Bulldogs used baskets from the perimeter to keep LSU at bay, but a pair of Tiger baskets from inside gave them a 28-21 lead with under five minutes left in the half. Five points from Hill concluded the first half as Georgia trailed, 28-26, going into the second half.
Three points from Bridges cut the Tigers’ lead to one point to start the second half. Two consecutive layups from the Bulldogs knotted the score at 35 and fueled an 8-0 run to build a 39-35 lead. Both teams took to outside shooting as the score was tied at 39 and again at 44.
A three-pointer from Abdur-Rahim gave Georgia a three-point lead, 50-47, off a 7-1 scoring run with under 10 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs continued to build upon their lead, highlighted by an open-paint layup from Hill and a dunk from Anselem, 59-54. LSU added five points to the board and cut Georgia’s lead to one, 62-61, with just over two minutes left In the game.
A turnaround jumper from LSU in the paint gave the Tigers a 63-62 lead with 11 second remaining. The Bulldogs moved the ball down the court and used a layup from Hill to regain a one-point lead with under five seconds in the game. A steal from Hill and a made free throw gave Georgia its final 65-63 advantage.
Georgia hits the road this weekend to face No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 and will be aired on SEC Network.
• Series History – Today’s game marked the 117rd meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers – Georgia leads LSU 69-48. The Bulldogs also improve to 29-23 over the Tigers in Stegeman Coliseum.
• Double Digit Dawgs – Three Bulldogs notched double-digits points on the evening. Braelen Bridges posted his 11th double-digit performances of the season (60th career), while Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Justin Hill both tallied their ninth. This marked Hill’s 45 career double-digit outing and Abdur-Rahim’s 17th.
• Bridges’ Breakout – In the first nine SEC games, Braelen Bridges was shooting at a 43-percent clip (18/42), while in the last four games, Bridges has boosted his field goal percentage to 79 percent (22-of-28).
• Home Court Advantage – With tonight’s win, Georgia improves to 13-2 at home this season. The 13 victories match the fourth-most in Stegeman Coliseum in the 60 years that the Bulldogs have played in the arena.
• To the Wire – Tonight’s contest featured 10 lead changes with the Bulldogs grasping the final lead off a Hill drive in the final seconds. Each side led for at least 17 minutes. This season the Bulldogs are 4-3 in games decided by five or less points. Georgia was 1-5 in such games last year.
• Halftime Hurdles – At the half, the Bulldogs had a field goal percentage of 29.6 percent. Georgia improved in the second half to 60.9 percent, the team’s highest second-half field goal percentage this season.
• Turnover Torment – The Bulldogs forced 19 LSU turnovers in tonight’s contest, the most all season for the Bulldogs. Georgia forced 18 twice in earlier contests against Florida A&M and South Carolina.
• More Than the Score – The Bulldogs’ offense outscored LSU in the paint, 32-24. Georgia’s bench also outscored the Tigers 24-19, bringing the Bulldogs’ season bench point margin to +184 (612-428).
• Nearing Milestones – Jailyn Ingram is four points away from reaching the 1,500-point milestone, while Justin Hill is 59 points away from the 1,000-point mark.
GEORGIA HEAD COACH MIKE WHITE
“Everyone in the league is very, very difficult, so we will settle for this win of course. LSU was terrific. I thought we played really hard down the stretch. Thought we had times there in the first half, for whatever reason, after the first couple minutes where I thought we were really sharp. We struggled to convert, our offensive aggression and confidence level really wavered for the next 37 or 38 for whatever reason, so we have got to figure that out. LSU did a good job of being really heavy in the gaps, on our drives, making us kick. We drew some fouls of course but we didn’t do any good converting in the foul line, sometimes that will affect the way you execute offensively. We didn’t do a great job of interior passing, we didn’t do a very good job on offensive glass, there were a lot of misses and just not great effort there. The last fifteen minutes or so of the game, I thought defensively, we were pretty sharp, pretty locked in, pretty connected and found a way to get some stops. Justin Hill finished with a huge individual play overall.
On calling the final play instead of taking a timeout…
“We have been in the first eight, the first third of the clock with eight to 10 seconds. For a majority of the game, we weren’t great, but we had a few possessions with pitch aheads, rim runs and early dunk-ins with the guards getting to the rim. We want to explore that first. We got leveled. I told our guys that I would use our last one. Justin (Hill) made a huge play.”
On the frustration of the first half …
“Sometimes you let it out a little bit. You only have a few bullets every season. These are tricky because again, LSU had a lot to do with our deficiencies. But our attention to detail tonight was nowhere near where it was on Saturday and that’s not acceptable. I’m saying after a win. I’m just being honest with you as I was with our team. It’s something that we’ve got to continue to address. LSU’s a great program and McMahon’s won a million games, and they’ve got good players. We were really, really fortunate to hit a last-second shot, you know, to get over the hump. I’m fine with not having success if your approach is great. You know, it started at shootaround today. I just didn’t think we were great and it is something that we’re going to pride ourselves on here at Georgia regardless of whether we win or lose. But our approach and attention to detail and level of execution. We made some plays obviously, but then we also have five or six times out there where a play was called and we just, I don’t know what we are doing. One or two or three guys are doing the wrong thing. Alabama will have our attention, you know, but every practice and every game has got to be, what is your stand, how good do you want to be? It was just frustrating in certain areas tonight in those regards, but proud of the fight down the stretch, the connectivity again. Defensively, the play Justin made. I thought Jus was terrific. Jusaun Holt, played really, really hard. I thought Braelen Bridges was great again. That’s probably as hard as he’s played in back-to-back games all year. I wish, he’s 4-5, and I said on radio, he should have had more than five attempts. In a game like this where they weren’t doubling, because I don’t know if he’ll get five attempts Saturday against one of the best defenses in the country of course. But when he’s open, we can’t have our mind made up that maybe it’s my turn to shoot it or let’s experiment with something here. Braelen Bridges is shooting a high percentage lately when he has the ball. The few opportunities that he got man he was 4-5 and 5-5, he should’ve touched it more.”
On still having something to play…
“It’s motivation for me, for sure and I am sure some, or most, or all of our guys, but I don’t have those individual, ‘how badly do you want to play the full season, how badly do you want to win the next one.’ We are an in the moment type of program, one game at a time, trying to grow. I hope that we made a huge jump tonight, did some things, but some things we need to continue to get better at of course. We had a second big picture conversation maybe a week ago, I am not sure it all runs together, it’s such a long season, about, ‘hey, we got a chance to get to 16 maybe, then you get a chance to maybe get to 17, where you are guaranteed a winning record, you get the chance to maybe win another one or two and play some post season.’ It can get really interesting if you are off a few in a row, you’ll be in the bubble conversation, you just never know. I’d hate to not have the conversations, that said, we are not good enough today to be an NCAA tournament team, but we have some opportunities in front of us and we have the SEC Tournament ahead.”
JUNIOR GUARD JABRI ABDUR-RAHIM
On the closing seconds of tonight’s game…
“My initial thoughts were of Justin Hill. He made a big-time play. We knew we had to go get downhill, and he made the finish. He was really super clutch for us on both ends. It’s a great win.”
On Coach White’s halftime message…
“He really got on us. We came out flat with no energy, and he really challenged us to be better in the second half. I thought we responded really well. We had our lapses, definitely, but at times we responded really well. That’s what ultimately got us the win.”
On how the effort needed from the team at Alabama this weekend…
“A really good one. They’re a really good team with a lot of good players. We know what it is. We are going to get ready, and we can play how we should play – really hard with a lot of energy. We know that’s what’s going to have to happen if we want to get it done down there.”
On momentum from this game…
“It definitely helps us. We needed that – especially going into the next one. We feel really good about ourselves. We’ve had two big wins in Kentucky and LSU now, so we are going to try and carry that momentum in Alabama.”
JUNIOR GUARD JUSTIN HILL
On his game-winning drive and finish…
“Coach told us to get it out quick if they scored, so that’s what we did. I went, and I saw the opening so I took it.”
On what went through his mind with a chance to score the winning basket…
“Go to the rim. If two come up to me, somebody’s open so I’ll kick it. But, nobody came, the big held, we did a good job of walling up, and I made it.”
On his mindset in big shot opportunities…
“Just being aggressive and having confidence. Just know that you are a good option yourself, so if you shoot it, it has a chance and possibility of going in.”
On improving field goal percentage in the second half…
“Just keep going and not getting to caught up in the message. Keep shooting open shots that will fall eventually.”