Melendez scores career-high 18 as Georgia tops Mercer
ATHENS, Ga. – RJ Melendez scored 14 points in the first half and finished with a new career-best in scoring with 18 as the Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Mercer, 80-69, on Friday night before 5,694 spectators inside Stegeman Coliseum.
Melendez’s 18 led all scorers as five Bulldogs (5-3) reached double-digit points on the night. Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Silas Demary Jr. each had 13 points, with Demary Jr. adding seven rebounds, while Russel Tchewa came just shy of a double-double with 10 points and eight boards. Justin Hill had 11 points and four rebounds, marking the third-straight game he has reached double figures, all while coming off the bench. In total, Georgia won the battle on the glass against Mercer (2-5) by a 39-29 margin, including a 33-19 edge on the defensive end.
Georgia came out in the first half with its offense firing on all cylinders, sinking 68.4 percent of its first-half field goals and carrying a 44-31 lead into the locker room. Melendez came one shy of breaking his season-high in points in the first half alone with his 14 points and pair of 3-pointers. The Bulldogs continued to keep the Bears at bay throughout the beginning of the second frame, opening on a 10-2 run thanks in large part to the team’s success at the free throw line. Mercer subsequently responded with a 12-3 run of its own but was unable to get the lead down any closer than nine points as Georgia tied its season high in points scored.
Georgia will return to action on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET for its rivalry game against Georgia Tech. The game, which will be the second of a six-game homestand, will be televised on the SEC Network. This will be the 199th matchup between the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets all time, with Georgia winning five of the previous seven games against its in-state adversary.
Five Fast Facts
• RJ Melendez finished with a career-high in points with 18, with 14 coming in the first half alone.
• Georgia won the battle of the glass for the second time this season, out-rebounding Mercer by a 39-29 margin, including a 33-19 edge in defensive rebounding.
• Justin Hill reached double-digits in scoring for the third-straight game and fourth time this season, coming off the bench in each contest in the 2023-24 campaign.
• The Bulldogs outscored the Bears in bench points by a 38-32 margin. Georgia has now outscored opponents in bench points in all but one game this season.
• Russel Tchewa hit double-figures in points for just the second time this season with 10 points and eight rebounds. He also tied his personal best of one block for the 31st time in his career.
Head Coach Mike White: “That was a good win for us. I have a lot of respect for the Mercer program and Greg Gary and his staff. How they executed and prepared was really good. They kept fighting, of course, and executing. On defense they’re deliberate. The way they executed and shared the ball led to so many different types of actions we had to guard. There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to clean up moving forward. I think that team is going to compete at a high level in their conference, as they do every year. This was a game we were fortunate enough to win down the stretch. We did enough and shot really well. There were too many turnovers in the second half and too many rhythm threes from those guys, but I thought they executed very well.”
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