Georgia passed its first test without Yante Maten.
Needing as many wins as possible to close the season but playing without their star forward, the Bulldogs were able to secure a 60-55 win Thursday over Alabama. With only one day of rest, the second test comes quite soon against an LSU team that comes to town Saturday.
There were plenty of positives Georgia showed without Maten, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a significant knee sprain. For the first 30 minutes or so, Georgia ran its halfcourt sets with guard J.J. Frazier off the ball in an effort to create more scoring opportunities.
Frazier was able to get to the rim and hit the jump shot as he finished with 28 points. While Juwan Parker got his usual looks and scored nine points, Georgia got contributions from Derek Ogbeide (seven points), Turtle Jackson (nine points) and Tyree Crump (six points). For Jackson and Crump, those numbers were far better than their season averages entering the game, which were 3.6 and 2.5 points per game, respectively.
“If you look at it, Turtle had two or three baskets, Derek had two or three baskets,” head coach Mark Fox said. “Yante not being there, with the way they guarded J.J., opened it up for a lot of other people. Juwan got some things done. We obviously played small and spaced the floor, did something we normally don’t do. But late, J.J., he was able to get it and get off of a ball screen, and get in open space.”
The Bulldogs also had one of their better defensive games without Maten in the lineup. Georgia held Alabama to 55 points and 33.3 percent shooting from the field. Part of that had to do with focusing on the Alabama big men down low, which led to the Crimson Tide shooting 23 3-point attempts and only making four.
This marked the sixth time this season Georgia has kept a team from scoring 60 points in a game. To no one’s surprise, the Bulldogs are now 6-0 when achieving such a feat.
But in doing so, Georgia still nearly squandered a 14-point lead. Alabama got within a point but never took a lead in the game.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Frazier said. “They have a really good team and they have a really good coach. At home, you’re going to make runs. You have to minimize them as much as possible.”
Georgia missed Maten the most when it came to rebounding. Alabama outrebounded Georgia 42-30, with 17 of those coming on the offensive end. LSU starts two players listed at 6-foot-10 in Duop Reath and Aaron Epps, which could be a matchup issue for the Bulldogs.
Georgia has recently beaten Tennessee with Maten missing much of the game due to foul trouble and took Kentucky to the wire after he sprained his knee in that game’s first two minutes. The Bulldogs then picked up a road win at Alabama without one of the SEC’s best big men.
The performances have given Georgia assurance that it can still perform at a winning level while Maten recovers to get back on the court.
“Yan don’t make every play, Yan don’t make every rebound. That’s why we’re a team,” Frazier said. “We’re a confident team. We practice when he’s not on the floor. That’s why we’re good without him.”
But still, Georgia would like its star player back on the floor.
“We did pretty good, but you obviously want Yante back,” Frazier said. “We’re going to hold it down as much as we can without him.”