Georgia hunkered down in the final seconds at Ohio State, holding on for a 79-77 win when the Buckeyes missed a last-second field goal attempt.

Yes, “just like football,” some Bulldogs fans noted, recalling how Georgia beat Ohio State (42-41) in the 2022 CFP Peach Bowl semifinal when the Buckeyes missed a last-second field goal attempt.

Except Georgia basketball has been nothing like Georgia football in terms of its tradition, success, facilities, funding or fan support.

Did you know UGA has won only one regular-season SEC title, and two SEC tournaments in the last 100 years?

So, no, not like football.

Pay attention

Georgia’s lack of basketball success in the past is part of why this NIT run is so relevant, even as some Bulldogs’ blue blood football fans turn up their nose and stay focused solely on spring football.

No, the NIT isn’t the “Big Tournament,” and there aren’t office brackets printed out or many random sports fans watching.

Georgia fans haven’t seen their team in the NCAA tournament since 2015, and most of the student body wasn’t alive the last time the Bulldogs won an NCAA tournament game in 2002.

But these Bulldogs are worth paying attention to, having taken down big-name basketball programs from the Big East, the ACC and the Big Ten, which is impressive by any measure.

The next game is next Tuesday night in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis against the winner of tonight’s game between Seton Hall and UNLV -- two more basketball schools.

Georgia has simply not been a basketball school, to the point that some Bulldogs’ fans come right out and say they aren’t watching.

For those people who aren’t paying attention this year, you’ve missed a helluva show, and you could be missing a turning point in program history.

“This is a big deal for us, in terms of rebuilding this program,” Second-year Georgia head coach Mike White said after the game on Tuesday night.

“I love the character our guys are showing, playing with gratitude. To get to 20 wins is really big, of course.”

The way the Bulldogs did it against the Buckeyes was just as impressive, hitting five of their final six shots while forcing the Buckeyes to miss their last four.

Stretch run

Georgia led by as many as 13 points in the second half before Ohio State would come roaring back, going on a 17-0 run to take a 70-64 lead with 4:50 left.

That’s when Georgia freshman Blue Cain stepped up and drained 3 of his career-high 17 points to end the Buckeyes run and re-ignite his team.

Cain, a 6-5 freshman from Knoxville who needs an offseason in the weight room, also fought for 8 rebounds and hit both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation with 25 seconds left in the midst of a raucous Ohio State crowd to provide what proved to be the winning margin.

“Blue, that’s about as well as he’s played,” White said. “He was really good. He’s learned how hard you need to play to win in the SEC, ACC or Big Ten. To grab the 8 rebounds, he wasn’t doing that in November, he’s become tougher and tougher.”

Two possession earlier, emerging freshman forward Dylan James had drained a 3-pointer as Georgia reclaimed a 75-74 lead after Ohio State’s furious charge.

Come together

The Georgia basketball future did indeed appear to be on display with the clutch freshmen plays, but only because of a group of upperclassmen who have come together.

“We really like each other, matter of fact, we love each other,” said Noah Thomasson, a talented but sometimes streaky-shooting transfer from Niagara who lit up Ohio State for 21 points.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said the charismatic Thomasson. “Last year they won 16 games, and now we’re up to 20. Next year, when I”m not here, I want to see them keep making more strides.”

Frank Anselem-Ibe, who has had a mostly quiet two-years at Georgia after transferring in from Syracuse, came through with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) with 7-foot starting post Russel Tchewa limited to just five minutes on account of illness.

“Frank was flying around, and altering and blocking shots,” White said. “Six offensive rebounds … our guys were feeding off that. He rings the bell when his name is called.”

No doubt, Georgia outscored Ohio State by 16 points the 28 minutes Anselem-Ibe was on the court.


Anselem-Ibe explained why the Bulldogs’ didn’t get rattled by the Buckeyes’ 17-0 run, even as television sets were certainly getting shut off around the state of Georgia with the Bulldogs falling behind by six points with just under five minutes left.

“The word the coaches use is ‘respond,’ " Anselem-Ibe said, noting that Georgia has been down in several games this season and not quit.

“Basketball is a game of runs; you don’t quit, you just execute and play defense.”

And so these Bulldogs did it again, knocking off Ohio State on the road as an 8.5-point underdog in the same building the Buckeyes went 15-3 this season, including a win over Big Ten champ Purdue.

This, after taking down Wake Forest on the road as a 9-point underdog on Sunday — handing the Demon Deacons only their second home loss — and beating Xavier in the opening game, giving the Musketeers the only first-round NIT loss in school history after nine straight wins.

“Unique team, to stay the least,” White said. “We’re playing our best basketball.”