ATHENS – It’s a rare thing to say this time of the year that good things are happening for the Georgia men’s basketball program. And three weeks ago, that couldn’t be said.
That has changed, in a big way. Georgia routed Seton Hall on Sunday, 65-47, giving the Bulldogs their second straight win over a strong opponent.
It also came in front of a good crowd at Stegeman Coliseum, which isn’t accustomed to good atmospheres until well into SEC play – if then.
“I’ve been here five years. I’ve never, in December, over Christmas break, seen a crowd like that before,” Georgia senior Marcus Thornton said. “I mean that was the best crowd we’ve had all year. And we’re glad we’re able to give them a pretty good performance.”
It was close to a perfect one, at a good time. Seton Hall’s RPI entering the game was 23, per CBSsports.com. Seton Hall’s (9-2) only other loss this season came at Wichita State. Its wins include George Washington, Rutgers, South Florida, Nevada and Mercer.
In past years, Georgia has lacked any quality wins on its non-conference resume’. Now it has two in a row.
Two weeks ago Georgia beat Colorado, and the win seemed to imbue the Bulldogs with some confidence, which carried into the Seton Hall game.
“We’ve got some confidence about ourselves, which was critical coming after our slip-ups in New York,” Thornton said, alluding to losses to Gonzaga and Minnesota. “So that got ourselves settled, and we got some confidence, and were able to play well.”
In fact Georgia (6-3) never trailed, jumping out to leads of 12-2 and 22-7, and leading by 21 late in the first half. The second half had no drama, with Kenny Gaines providing the punctuation mark with a two-handed reverse slam.
“I wanted to give the crowd a little something special,” Gaines said. “I didn’t want to be doing basic, typical dunks. I tried to throw a little flavor in there.”
Georgia did a lot of things well, starting with its defensive rebounding. That was a carryover from the win over Colorado, with the Bulldogs not giving a cold-shooting opponent a second chance.
“Our defensive rebounding won us the game,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said.
Seton Hall, which entered the day 10th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage, was 3-for-20 beyond the arc, and shot 29 percent overall.
Georgia won the hustle points, dominating in rebounding, steals and blocks. The Bulldogs also had the benefit of two weeks off to prepare for Seton Hall, while the Pirates were playing their third road game, and fourth total, in 12 days.
J.J. Frazier, a 5-foot-10 point guard, had a team-high 11 rebounds, along with six points and seven assists.
Gaines scored a team-high 15 points after spraining his shoulder in the Colorado game. He feared the worst after the injury, which he suffered diving a loose ball. But he was obviously fine by Saturday.
Fox said he was “grumpy” with the players over the break, especially the closer Sunday’s game got. His wife pointed out his grumpiness on the car ride to church that morning.
“I wasn’t going to let us have a letdown,” Fox said. “I think we felt like we have a good team now, but we have a good team if we play the right way. And tonight we played the right way because we beat a very good team.”
Next up for Georgia is Mercer, on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bears offer another test for Georgia, which was ranked No. 59 in the RPI entering Sunday, and will surely be rising.
“It’s been awhile since we had really good wins, resume’ wins,” Frazier said. “We wanted to keep it going.”