Georgia tops Eastern Kentucky 99-82 in exhibition
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Georgia tops Eastern Kentucky 99-82 in exhibition

UGA Basketball
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS, Ga. — The University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Eastern Kentucky, 99-82, in an exhibition game benefitting the American Red Cross at Stegeman Coliseum on Monday evening.

RJ Melendez led the team in scoring with 21 points and added nine rebounds, while Russell Tchewa notched a double-double and controlling the glass for the Bulldogs, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds. As a team, Georgia shot 54.8 percent from the field, and six Bulldogs reached double figures. In addition to Melendez and Tchewa, Noah Thomasson added 15 points and Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Blue Cain and Silas Demary Jr. all chipped in 12.

“I thought we did some good things and we’ve got a lot to work on,” head coach Mike White said. “That’s why we play these games. Really impressed with A.W. [Hamilton] and Eastern Kentucky’s program. Very pleased with their tenacity defensively, and progression and tempo offensively. It was a really fast paced game. Score could’ve indicated that a little bit more but two teams that I thought really got after it from a tempo standpoint.”

Georgia opened the game with a 6-0 lead 73 seconds into the contest and lead throughout the entire opening half. The Bulldogs kept the Colonels at bay, ending the half on a 13-3 run and carrying a 21-point lead headed into the locker room. From there, Georgia controlled the second half and was ahead by as many as 24 points, cruising to a 99-82 win.

The Bulldogs will tipoff their season against the Oregon Ducks on Monday, Nov. 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The contest, which will be nationally televised by TruTV, will mark the second time the teams have met since 1975. Georgia’s home opener is slated for Friday, Nov. 10 when the Bulldogs host Wake Forest at Stegeman Coliseum at 7:00 p.m.

Head Coach Mike White

Opening statement…

“I thought we did some good things, and we’ve got a lot to work on. That’s why we play these games. Really impressed with A.W [Hamilton] and Eastern Kentucky’s program. Very pleased with their tenacity defensively, and progression and tempo offensively. It was a really fast paced game. Score could’ve indicated that a little bit more but two teams that I thought really got after it from a tempo standpoint.”

On what the main goal to accomplish was in the exhibition…

“We explored some different rotations and different combinations. Obviously, you’d like to have a couple guys healthy in Sunny [RJ Sunahara] and JJ [Jalen DeLoach], got to get those guys back. You wanted to get through playing in front of your crowd for the first time and find some success regardless of the final score. Some individual and some team success. Just test yourself for the first time in front of people.”

On RJ Sunahara and Jalen DeLoach injury updates…

“JJ [Jalen DeLoach] has been out with a leg issue for a few days now. Sunny [RJ Sunahara] had some type of leg or knee [injury], I was told there early game. We’ll have to get it looked at.”

On any concern with RJ Sunahara’s injury…

“Always concerned. You just don’t know. Optimistic, hopeful, in good hands with Turbo [Associate Athletic Trainer Lance Schuemann]. We’ll see and hopefully know something tonight or tomorrow. Who knows.”

On if there is anything to read into the first starting five on the season…

“We’ve got a lot of parity. Keep saying healthy competition and willing to experiment moving forward. Just went with a gut feeling on that one. Went with it yesterday in practice, did it tonight and who knows what it’ll look like next Monday.”

On Silas Demary Jr.’s performance as a starter…

“I thought against a team that presses you for literally 40 minutes, that’s what we were told, that’s what we watched on film and that’s what they did. They are fun to compete against and fun to watch. Again, I think that they’ll have a lot of success this year and have a real chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. Silas showed a lot of poise but not surprisingly. He’s mature for his age for sure.”

On RJ Melendez’s performances through practice and tonight’s exhibition…

“Yeah, he’s more than secretly pretty good. He’s a good player. He can fill up the stat sheet, and I like the level of confidence he played with for a guy who hasn’t logged those type of minutes in his college career. Good to see him take advantage, and who knows moving forward. He’s got competition in his spot, but I thought he played pretty well tonight.”

On Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Justin Hill’s role as leaders on the team…

“Both guys I consider potential starters. We have a few of those guys. And again, who knows moving forward? Both of those guys from a cultural standpoint have been really good, regardless. And Jabri, I want to say, is coming off a season that he didn’t start at all if I’m not mistaken. Looking back in retrospect that stat maybe should’ve been different. He’s a guy that I expect to have a good year for us.”

On if this team can maintain tonight’s offensive production all season…

“Not in the SEC. It would be hard to do that Monday night. That being said, our tempo was pretty good, and I think this team is going to be a little bit better with continuity type stuff where we are free-flowing and hopefully playing a little bit better in the open floor. I like the way this group shares it. That wasn’t on full display tonight the way that EKU defends you. Really extended – it was really hard to move the ball. They forced you to put your head down and drive a little bit more than we would like to against more of a conventional defense. We’ll see some of that in our league, too. We have to cut more, get on the offensive glass more, and convert from the foul line a little bit better.”

On Russel Tchewa’s aggressive play in the second half…

“We’re going to need a little but more of that moving forward. Struggled to change ends in the second half as much as he did in the first half. Got to continue to play through non-touches and almost offensive rebounds and stuff like that. Overall, for his first time wearing red and black, we were pleased.”

On the freshmen’s impact in tonight’s exhibition…

“Slow and steady. Like Silas [Demary], those three, I want to say maybe a week or two ago we sat upstairs and talked about of the four freshmen, Mari [Jordan] is kind of the motor man. Ultra-competitive and high-level energy. And those other three for freshmen are a little bit unique in their pace for freshmen. The game is a little bit slow for them compared to other freshmen that we’ve coached.”

On taking shots fast on the shot clock…

“I want them to take it if we get a great shot. It just happened to be that way tonight because the tempo was off the charts. A lot of that had to do with the way that EKU approaches their defensive philosophy. They pressed every single possession, and we want to attack the press, whether we’re playing late clock or we’re shooting it at four seconds. If it’s our shot, we talk about it every day, or an A shot, let’s let it fly. I thought there were a couple times there that we had some my-turn shots early second half. That was uncharacteristic for a good team. We can’t do that and have to learn from that. I thought late in the game we actually had some that we should have shot, Blue [Cain] had one, Jabri [Abdrur-Rahim] had one, and those turned into really good ball movement. We ended up not getting as good of movement as we had a little bit earlier on the clock so we will continue to learn when and where we shoot and from what personnel.”

On what they need to clean up before the next game…

“Attention to detail defensively and overall rebounding the ball. That’s going to be a big factor for us moving forward, both offensively and defensively, we could have been better there. Next Monday we’ll play a team that’s got much greater size and length and we will for the rest of the year. Our non-conference schedule is pretty tough, we play several high majors, and then we get in the SEC and they’ll be as good of a rebounding league as there is in the country. I credit EKU for being pretty good on the glass, that’s why they’re a winning program. Those guys were a little bit undersized, but they were every bit as physical as us and tough on the glass. We’ve got to be better than that against high major opponents.”

On RJ Sunahara’s rebounding…

“Pretty good. He had good activity, good motor, he’s got a good nose for the ball, and good hands. I thought Silas had a couple good rebounds in traffic too and showed some toughness. We’ve got to do that collectively from all positions a little bit better.”

#15 RJ Melendez | Guard | Junior

On what they wanted to accomplish coming into this game…

“We just wanted to emphasize our culture, get better as a team, and work on those little details for our upcoming game against Oregon. We wanted to make sure to stay focused and think about how we could get better as a team. This exhibition game was to see how we can prepare ourselves to be more together as a team.”

On his near double-double…

“I mean I almost had it. I had that one last rebound. I was trying to get it but I’m not going to force it. I’m just trying to win as a team so that’s what I’m focusing on: to play as hard as I can and help the team win. Stats don’t matter, it’s just if we have a winning record, that’s all I want.”

On being productive in a fast-paced game…

“To make sure we play our pace, and not to let their press rush us. Just making sure that we were composed the whole game, be able to control the press, be able to get to half court and run some plays that we wanted and get the looks that we wanted, not just playing at their pace but to let them play at our pace.”

On being comfortable with his position on the team…

“I definitely feel super comfortable. Coach White puts me in the best position he can as well as all the other players. It’s not always going to be my night. I’m playing as hard as I can. If it’s not my night on offense, I’m going to make sure I play defense and where I’m going no one is going to score on me. As a leader, as an upperclassman, teaching the freshman that for us to be a winning culture it takes a lot of playing hard and sticking together through the highs and lows.”

On feeling good for his first night out in front of Georgia fans…

“Everything felt good. Being able to come back to the court again after having a lower role at Illinois because of some injuries, but I feel healthy, I feel great, I feel great with the team, and I feel happy playing so I feel like it will be a good year.”

#4 Silas Demary Jr. | Guard | Freshman

On getting to start in front of fans…

“This experience was so surreal. Being able to start and knowing the coaches trust me as a freshman to just play my game and be a freshman. Not many freshmen start coming into the SEC, so it’s just a blessing.”

On his thoughts on his play tonight…

“I thought I had a solid game. I got people going, I got some stops. I have some errors to clean up. I just want to be better for next week”

On his teammates performance tonight…

“I’ve just been in there about them shooting. Dylan [James], he’s come a long way since the summer. He was a little not confident but now he’s confident in his shot. Blue has always been confident, and I love playing when’s he on my team. If I can draw his guy open, I know if I swing it to him, he’s going to hit that shot. Playing with those two guys having two big time games as freshman, I feel like we all lean on each other and just get better every day.”

On what they learned about themselves…

“We learned how to play off each other. We learned what each other’s strengths are.”

On the newcomers starting tonight…

“It doesn’t matter if you start or not, just always be ready when your name gets called.”

Keep up with all the latest news and information on the Bulldogs by following UGA Men’s Basketball on social media on Facebook, Instagram and X @UGABasketball, and the web at GeorgiaDogs.com.

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