ATHENS — Georgia proved up to the SEC-Big 12 challenge, scoring a 98-88 win over Texas before a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (10-9) snapped a four-game losing streak, attacking Coach Shaka Smart’s press throughout the nationally-televised (ESPN2) action.
“Extremely proud of the way these guys responded,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said before traveling back to Michigan for his mother’s funeral on Sunday. “We’ve shown flashes, but we’ve had lulls getting to that consistency.
“The bottom line is they’re getting better.”
Tyree for 3
Bulldogs’ guard Tyree Crump scored a game-high 21-points, draining a career-high six 3-pointers in this uptempo affair. Teshaun Hightower added 18 points, a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
Georgia, a 4 1/2-point underdog, scorched the nets from the floor and 3-point range.
The Bulldogs were 32-of-48 shooting (66.7 percent), the fourth-best field goal percentage in the program’s 114-year history. Georgia also made 12 of 17 (70.6 percent) from 3-point range, the third-best school mark since the addition of the 3-point line.
“When teams are making shots like that and they’re on a roll, you’ve got to find a way to make them miss,” Smart said. “He’s doing a really good job getting those guys to understand what they need to do to be a good offensive team.
“They shot the lights out, but part of the reason is because they started with an aggressiveness with their cutting.”
Georgia paid the price for the pace against the Longhorns (11-9), committing a season-high 26 turnovers.
“We want to attack that press, and we want the tempo to be fast,” Crean said, “we just don’t want it to be reckless.”
All-SEC candidate Nicolas Claxton finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists 3 steals and a blocked shot, bringing the crowd of 10,374 to its feet with thunderous dunks.
The 6-foot-11 Claxton entered the game averaging 12.5 points, also leading the SEC with 9.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
“This game was huge for us, building our confidence,” Claxton said. “We’ve been going extremely hard every day. I feel like today was one of our most complete games offensively.”
Texas has lost five of its last six after opening the season 5-0 with a victory over then-No. 6 North Carolina.
The teams were tied 46-46 at the half, Georgia shooting 59.3 percent from the floor but turning the ball over 12 times to Texas’ 6.
The Bulldogs opened the second half hitting 5 of 7 shots, taking a 59-52 lead on Rayshaun Hammonds’ (14 points, 9 rebounds) jumper.
The Longhorns failed to get closer than four points for the remainder of the game
The Bulldogs had trailed 21-13 at the 12-minute mark of the first half when Crump drained a 3-pointer to ignite a pivotal 17-2 run, putting Georgia up 30-23.
Moments later, William “Turtle” Jackson drained back-to-back treys, giving the Bulldogs their largest lead of the half, 38-31. Jackson’s 3-pointers were the sixth and seventh makes in a row by Georgia, the team’s season best and an unlikely string considering the UGA entered the game 267th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (.324).
It was a timely win for Crean; Anthony Edwards, a 5-star 2019 prospect out of Atlanta Holy Spirt, was expected on campus for an unofficial visit.
The Bulldogs played without starting guard Jordan Harris, who suffered an apparent concussion at LSU last Wednesday and remains day-to-day.
Georgia returns to action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Arkansas (11-7, 2-4 SEC) before returning home for another sellout against South Carolina (10-9, 5-1) at 1 p.m. on Feb. 2.