The narrative remains the same for Georgia in its non-conference games at Stegeman Coliseum.
Fast start, yet unable to put the opponent away.
The Bulldogs’ first-half lead got as large as 12, but the turnover bug returned and allowed Winthrop to crawl back into contention. The Eagles started anemic from the field, but that wasn’t destined to last with a team that has averaged 90.4 points per game entering play.
Winthrop’s offensive attack came to life as a few miniruns allowed it to enter the half at only a two-point deficit and then take the lead at multiple instances during the second half.
Georgia (7-1) did just enough in the game’s closing moments to squeak past its mid-major foe and beat Winthrop 87-82.
Three who mattered
Georgia forward Yante Maten: After only needing to score 13 points in a balanced offensive attack against Marquette, Georgia showed that it needed its star to take over. Maten answered the call. The senior forward produced from all over the floor and was the leading force in the Bulldogs avoiding an upset. Maten recorded a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Georgia forward Mike Edwards: Edwards has been slotted behind Nicolas Claxton in the Bulldogs’ front court rotation, but he may have earned himself more minutes after being a productive reserve. Claxton got two fouls in his first minute of play, which meant nearly a full load for Edwards. He posted his best performance of the season with 11 points and five rebounds, and sent the home crowd to a roar with a dunk.
Winthrop forward Xavier Cooks: The Eagles’ leading scorer lived up to the billing against an SEC front court. Cooks collected a season-high 31 points and gave Winthrop plenty of opportunities to pull a surprising victory. But Cooks’ late-game action was limited with four fouls.
Similarly to his game-winning effort against St. Mary’s, Turtle Jackson drove into the lane with less than a minute remaining to give Georgia a 4-point lead that became too large for Winthrop.
Back to sloppiness: Georgia head coach Mark Fox said that his team’s turnover woes are due to a “mentality” and that intensified practice reps helped lessen the mistakes in previous games. The Bulldogs may be in for more of the same this week as 16 turnovers gave Winthrop 22 second-chance points.
More post touches for Maten: Georgia found a missing asset to its offense — finding Maten where he works best, in the post. In previous games, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer had been double- or triple-teamed, preventing easy looks at the basket. Georgia made sure to get Maten involved Tuesday, with the star forward hitting nine of his 17 field-goal attempts.
Winthrop hot from field: The Eagles’ field-goal percentage was at 14 percent early in the game, but that held far from true. Winthrop shot 51 percent from the field and 8-of-17 from the 3-point line, but Georgia answered with a 53 percent mark of its own.
Eagles tight on Tyree: After finding traction from the 3-point line, Tyree Crump became a defensive target for Winthrop. Nearly on every touch, the Bulldogs’ guard was met by an Eagles’ defender and didn’t have too many opportunities to release a shot. It limited Georgia’s perimeter options as Crump didn’t take a shot, but Maten and Jackson filled the void with six combined 3-pointers.
Fox plays deep into bench: Georgia is still trying to get its feel for a rotation as a significant deal of lineup shuffling continued to occur. Fox gave minutes to 12 players — all of whom saw action in the first half. Early foul trouble by rotating freshman Claxton may have attributed to the frequent substitution, but seven players logged double-digit minutes for Georgia.
Hightower provides boost: Teshaun Hightower continues to make the most of an increased workload. The freshman guard gives Georgia the consistent threat of driving into the lane. Hightower collected seven points in 12 minutes.
They said it
Fox on defensive effort: “The level of play wasn’t where it needed to be, and we gave the lead right up. The lesson for those guys to learn is that no matter who you’re playing, you have to saddle up. We gave them confidence to really play. If we dressed our coaches out today, I think we could’ve played more-consistent defense.”
Edwards on playing significant minutes: “I just had the right mentality and wanted to come out and beat this team. I was always prepared to get in and I knew I had to step up.”
Maten on double-double showing: “I didn’t play well defensively. Offensively, I tried to get open before the ball was near me, and post up before it was on my side of the court. When the ball did get there, I was able to score.”
Georgia hits the road once more after an 11-day finals break to play U-Mass on Dec. 16.