ATHENS — Nicolas Claxton’s All-SEC campaign continued Saturday night against No. 19 LSU, the sophomore leading Georgia in scoring and assists.
The Bulldogs played the Tigers tight in a hard-fought 83-79 defeat before the sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd, and Claxton had everything to do with it.
“We had no answer for Claxton,” said LSU coach Will Wade, whose team has won 14 of its past 15 games. “He played great.”
Indeed, Georgia out-scored the Tigers by nine points when Claxton was on the floor.
Problem was, the six minutes the 6-foot-11 forward didn’t play, LSU outscored the Bulldogs by 13.
Wade credited Georgia coach Tom Crean with creating match-up problems throughout the game with personnel substitutions.
LSU struggled to get a handle on how to defend Claxton.
“When he’s hitting those mid-range turnarounds, it’s very tough to guard him,” Wade said. “We put Skylar (Mays) on him, one of our guards, and they posted him, and we put our big guys on him, and they took him on the perimeter and he was driving and he was spinning.
“We just didn’t have very good coverage on him. They exploited the mismatch.”
Claxton converted a conventional three-point play despite being triple-teamed with 5:30 left, pulling Georgia within 71-70.
But Claxton couldn’t get his shot to fall with the game on the line in the final seconds.
Claxton’s layup was uncharacteristically off-target after Crean called time out to set up the play with the Bulldogs down 82-79 and 29.5 seconds left.
“I was supposed to drive and make the layup,” Claxton said. “So, we executed the play right, I just came up short on the layup.”
Claxton is one of only four players in the Division I ranks who leads his team in all five major categories: points (12.8 per game), rebounds (9.0 per game), assists (53), blocks (64) and steals (31).
Claxton, the SEC’s overall leader in rebounding and blocked shots, just wants to get back in the win column.
“I would say it’s progress, us just playing our hardest for the whole 40 minutes, not coming out in the second half and being in a drought,” Claxton said. “At the end of the day, we did not want a moral victory. We wanted to come out and get the win.”
Georgia dropped to 10-15 and 1-11 in SEC with the loss. The Bulldogs play host to Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Georgia basketball players
LSU coach Will Wade
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