Georgia falls to No. 24 Alabama at home, 85-76
ATHENS, Ga. – Despite leading for almost 34 minutes, the Georgia men’s basketball team fell to No. 24 Alabama, 85-76, before an energetic 10,523 spectators inside Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday evening.
The Bulldogs (14-7, 4-4 SEC) were led in scoring by both RJ Melendez and Noah Thomasson who each had 15 points. Melendez earned his third career double-double after contributing 10 rebounds and three steals. Russel Tchewa came one rebound shy of his fourth double-double of the season, posting 10 points and nine boards, while Silas Demary Jr. also reached 10 points. Georgia outrebounded Alabama (15-6, 7-1 SEC) by a 39-26 margin, marking its largest positive differential this season.
Georgia opened the game on a 17-2 run over the first eight minutes, capped off by 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Melendez and Blue Cain, forcing an Alabama timeout. The Bulldogs held the Crimson Tide, the nation’s top-ranked scoring offense, to just 3-of-13 from the field over the first 10 minutes of the game. Georgia led 41-27 at the half, holding Alabama to its lowest point total in any half this season. Despite six turnovers to start the second frame, the Bulldogs maintained a double-digit lead at the under-12 media timeout. The Crimson Tide tied the game with just over five and a half minutes to go after back-to-back 3-pointers while holding Georgia without a field goal for over five minutes. Alabama took its first lead of the night with just over four minutes remaining off another long ball, 69-66. They went on to fend off Georgia’s comeback bid, handing the Bulldogs just their second home loss this season.
Georgia’s next contest will come on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. ET against South Carolina inside Stegeman Coliseum. The game, which will be televised on the SEC Network, will mark the second meeting between the teams this season. The Bulldogs previously topped the Gamecocks on Jan. 16 in Columbia by a 74-69 margin.
Five Fast Facts
• Georgia held Alabama, the top-ranked scoring offense in Division-I, to just 27 first-half points, marking the Crimson Tide’s lowest scoring output in any half this season.
• RJ Melendez recorded his second double-double of the season after a 15-point, 10-rebound effort after only recording one in his previous two collegiate seasons.
• The Bulldogs held the Crimson Tide to just 26 rebounds in the game, well below their season average of 39.8 boards per game.
• Russel Tchewa brought in nine rebounds on Wednesday night, which was the fourth-straight game that the big man has recorded at least nine in the statistic.
• Alabama was held to just eight made 3-pointers by Georgia on the night, which is tied for the third-fewest in a game this season.
Head Coach Mike White: “We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got to hydrate. We’ve got to sleep. Four or five of these guys have got to get rest. It’ll be more of a mental approach tomorrow, and then Friday we’ll get after it a little bit, but it’ll be abbreviated. Here we go again with a 1:00 p.m. tip on Saturday. We’re going to need every ounce of energy we can get to guard those guys and to generate some offense.”
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- The starting lineup was freshman Silas Demary Jr., junior RJ Melendez, senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim and graduates Noah Thomasson and Russel Tchewa.
- The Bulldogs only allowed the Crimson Tide to score 27 points in the first half, its lowest point-total in a half this season.
- Georgia held Alabama to 18.2 percent on three-pointers in the first half.
- The Bulldogs were perfect from the free-throw line in the first frame of the matchup.
- The Bulldogs led the Crimson Tide throughout the entire first half.
- Georgia outrebounded Alabama 27-7 in the first half.
- Four Bulldogs scored double figures (Noah Thomasson, RJ Melendez, Silas Demary Jr. and Russel Tchewa).
- Georgia held the Crimson Tide to 26 rebounds, 14 under its season average.
- The team went 15-for-18 from the charity stripe.
- RJ Melendez recorded his second double-double of the season and third of his career, tallying 15 points and 10 rebounds on the night.
- Noah Thomasson scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
- Justin Hill surpassed 1,200 points scored in his career.
- Tchewa has grabbed at least nine rebounds in four straight games.
- Noah Thomasson picked up his first block of the season.
GEORGIA HEAD COACH MIKE WHITE
On what made the difference tonight…
“I thought Sears and Nelson hit timely shots. Their ability to turn us over – 19 turnovers at home – was just not putting yourself in a good enough position. Transition defense setting – our half-court defense in the second half was ineffective. We just did a poor job all-around off of free throws, off of makes, off of misses. Our urgency level wasn’t the same as it was in the first 20 against a team that is as good in the first few seconds as anyone in the country, and they capitalized. A couple free throw line block outs haunted us, but a couple Seara threes in the right corner and the top key late were huge shots. And I thought he played great defensively, as well, as all those guys were particularly in the second half. As well as we played defensively in the first half, we just weren’t as sharp in the second 20, and you can’t beat a good team with that type of effort defensively.”
On any similarities between tonight’s result and the Tennessee result…
“Potentially. As you’re building, you have to learn how to win. Those two games had some similarities in that you’re playing with a lead in front of an electric environment, and there is a lot of emotion in the building. And then all of the sudden, they hit some – you hate saying they hit tough shots because you take away something from the opposition, but Sears did step up and hit a couple daggers, and we didn’t respond well enough. Especially with the empty possessions offensively that we had, it took the air out of the building a little bit. The environment in the building was obviously more of a factor in the first half because of the way we were playing, and it can’t be all about defending at a really high level when you’re making jump shots. It’s something that we will continue to preach with this current team and moving forward with this program. Credit Bama for their defensive resolve through their empty offensive possessions, particularly in the first 25 minutes of the game. They continued to defend and defend at a much high level, in fact, playing without the lead. We’ve done that. We’ve done that a couple times here this season, but we have to be better, obviously, like you brought up, playing with a lead at home.”
On turnovers and ball-handling…
“Odd. It was a really physical game both ways. It was, probably more so than any game this year, guys hitting the floor – both teams. In the first seven, eight, ten minutes of the second half, there must have been eight times when both teams had eight guys diving on the floor. So, credit both teams’ intensity level. Taht said, we had a lot of balls in the paint for us right in front of our bench in the second half that whether it was an unclean pass or unclean catch or a Bama defender getting a finger or hand on it, led to some turnovers. Which led to some transition points for those guys. We also had some near misses at the rim in the second half. One or two of those go, maybe you can extend the lead, but I felt like we played a little bit tight offensively down the stretch. Again, a lot of that had to do with their ball pressure and the fact that they continue to chip into our lead – and eventually take the lead.”
On frustration losing two in a row…
“These guys will keep fighting. I’m not worried about that at all. This was a top net opportunity. It’s not like we gave up a lead to a mid-major opponent or an inferior opponent. I think our guys feel good about the way that they played for 20-25 minutes and the way we continue to fight down the stretch. In addition, we play with a lot of heart considering what’s been going on around this facility in the last few days. Silas just played 19 minutes, and he literally hadn’t broken a sweat since we were in Gainesville. That’s a lot of toughness. That’s a lot of heart. Justin Hill, Jabri Abdul-Rahim and Noah Thomasson are the same way. A lot of these guys have been banged up with illness, and they swing away. Our guys played really hard, but we have to play better.
On preparation going into the South Carolina game…
“We got to get healthy. We’ve got to hydrate. We’ve got to sleep. Four or five of these guys have got to get rest. It’ll be more of a mental approach tomorrow, and then Friday we’ll get after it a little bit, but it’ll be abbreviated. Here we go again 1:00 tip on Saturday. We’re going to need every ounce of energy we can get to guard those guys and to generate some offense.”
On Sunahara’s absence…
“The decision was to bring him off the bench and try RJ Melendez coming off his best game. I thought RJ played well again tonight. It was just one of those decisions where we rode the guys. We played nine instead of 10. We decided on Dylan right there in the pregame. Sunny will come back and be ready to go at practice tomorrow, and he’ll be effective and lead. But who knows who will play on Saturday.”
#3 | NOAH THOMASSON | GR. | G
On dropping another big lead against a top-25 team…
“Every loss is heartbreaking but obviously the way we did it tonight was tough. You can see how well we played in the first half. We just have to play a complete 40-minute game in order for us to get these types of wins. Credit to them though, they’re a really good team. We knew they were going to make a run and they did. Unfortunately, the shots were too big for us to respond.”
On tough shooting second half from the three-point line despite positive shooting in the first half…
“We were getting in the paint and then finding open guys and we were knocking down our shots. In the 2nd half Alabama did a good job of trying to eliminate threes as much as possible and forced us to play inside the arc.”
On the key to moving on and focusing on South Carolina…
“We have to dwell on it for the night and then flush it in the morning. Tomorrow we’ve got to get back to the drawing board. We’ve got to play the way we did in the first half tonight, get physical, defend, rebound, and knock down shots. We just have to play a complete 40-minute game.”
On the 19 turnovers against Alabama…
“We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and not having turnovers. I think that was the difference in the game tonight, nineteen turnovers to their nine turnovers. They were physical and they got up in us and it bothered us a little bit. We just have to be tougher with the basketball and make plays.”
#4 | SILAS DEMARY JR. | FR. | G
On struggling down the stretch…
“We didn’t execute well. We want to be better executing down the stretch. I felt like at times we shot ourselves in the foot. I feel like we are going to get better, get back to the drawing board and fix those things.”
On playing South Carolina on Saturday…
“We don’t want to put an asterisk on the next game we play. We’ve played them before, they’re a good team. We just want to go into the game confident, play our game. It’s just a game on our schedule. We have to focus on it because it’s the next one.”
On the strengths of the defense this game…
“I feel like us having multiple efforts was working. We made them bounce on the swing swings, guys getting out there contested running them off the line, next guy stepping up to cut them off and the next guy hitting the rotation on defense. I felt like we were very connected on the defensive end. At times, we are going to get burned. They are going to score or make a good pass, but I felt like most of the time we were there for each other. We had our brother’s back.”