UGA Basketball

Georgia avoids upset from USC-Upstate

Georgia forward Yante Maten drives against USC-Upstate.
Georgia forward Yante Maten drives against USC-Upstate. Georgia Sports Communications

Georgia avoided what would have been a major early season upset to its 2017-18 season.

Georgia was forced to fend off a test from pesky Atlantic Sun opponent South Carolina-Upstate. While the Bulldogs faced a stiff challenge, they were able to come away with a 74-65 victory. With less than two minutes to go, forward Yante Maten put in a hook shot to give Georgia a 6-point lead.

Georgia, which held a 34-30 lead at the break, trailed by as many as five points in the second half.

The Bulldogs (2-0) were plagued by 15 turnovers in the game. The Spartans (1-2) relied on the 3-pointer but ended the game 26 percent from behind the arc.

Three who mattered

Maten: With the Spartans leading by five with 11:21 to play, Maten turned his level of play up. Maten didn’t have the point-a-minute scoring that he did in exhibitions against Michigan State and Valdosta State, as well as the season opener against Bryant. But he did finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes.

Georgia forward Rayshaun Hammonds: Hammonds scored seven of Georgia’s eight consecutive points that helped his team re-gain the lead in the second half. Hammonds’ 3-pointer from the left wing put Georgia up 60-59 in a crucial moment. He finished with 13 points.

South Carolina-Upstate guard Malik Moore: Moore has proved to be a pretty good player already this season. Two games ago, he scored 23 points on Minnesota. This time, he put up 16 against the Bulldogs.

Turning point

This turned into a close game from start to finish. Maten’s hook shot gave Georgia just enough distance to feel comfortable late.

Observations

Putting in a scare: The Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-2 lead to start the game, asserting its will on the interior in the opening minutes. But the USC-Upstate backcourt helped claw back into the game. Each time Georgia had a chance to go on a run and put some distance between the teams, the Spartans would answer. On two occasions early in the second half, Georgia threatened to pull away. The second came with less than 16 minutes to go. Down by seven, the Spartans went on a quick 5-0 run to cut Georgia’s lead to 44-42. With less than 13 minutes to go, the Spartans took a 46-45 lead and lengthened it to five. It wasn’t until late in the game that Georgia was able to secure its win.

Perimeter woes: Georgia did not have as much success shooting the 3-pointer as it did in the opener against Bryant. While Jackson hit a couple of 3s early on, the rest of the team struggled from behind the arc. In the first half alone, Georgia attempted 13 3-pointers and only made four. Jackson added a long 2-pointer on a shot where his foot was on the 3-point line. In total, the Bulldogs finished the game with 23 percent from the 3-point line. But what stood out about this was the fact the Bulldogs held a size advantage down low but elected to keep shooting from the perimeter.

Adjusting the rotation: Forward Mike Edwards ended up finishing the game for the Bulldogs down the stretch and played 23 minutes. Against Bryant, the Bulldogs went with Maten and Derek Ogbeide down low for the most part, with Edwards and Nicolas Claxton rotating in. With the way USC-Upstate shot from the perimeter, Fox elected to switch the rotation up on the fly. Edwards ended up getting as much time as he did due to his mobility and ability to close on perimeter shooters. Edwards finished the game with three points, seven rebounds and a steal.

Worth mentioning

Sticking with the 3: It was revealed above that Georgia shot 23 percent from behind the arc for the game. In the second half, that number was only 11 percent on 1-of-9 shooting. Head coach Mark Fox said after the game that his team was settling for the 3 instead of running the offense.

Free throws: Georgia shot 71 percent from the free-throw line on 17-of-24 shooting. Maten contributed in a major way in this department, hitting all nine of his attempts. The rest of the Bulldogs, however, didn't do as hot as they combined for 8-of-13 at the line, which is good for 62 percent.

Harris out again: Georgia guard Jordan Harris did not play for the second consecutive game. Harris has been held out since Georgia’s second exhibition against Valdosta State due to a coach’s decision.

They said it

Fox on the closer-than-expected game: "We came and competed well. We need games like that to grow, and my hat is off to their team on their effort. That game is very good for us, and I think it is a good experience for us."

Maten on rallying to win: "We started strong and we kind of dipped and I told everyone on the bench that we have to watch our energy level. Everybody on this team is good and everyone on this team is capable of starting on another team. We just have to collectively come together and make sure we're playing good defense and sound offense by not turning the ball over.

Hammonds on his 3-pointer that gave Georgia the lead late: "That's an everyday shot in practice. We work on that every day in practice. Once I caught it, I felt real comfortable shooting it. When I released it, it felt good going in."

What’s next?

Georgia will host another home game Sunday at 1 p.m. against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

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