ATHENS — Tom Crean is best known as a coach and teacher of basketball, but the philosophy he’s planting in his Georgia players is just as important as he looks to rebuild the program.
One of Crean’s lessons was on display on Tuesday when his Bulldogs held off a late Oakland rally for an 81-69 win at Stegeman Coliseum on a night his team was running out of energy after to emotionally challenging practices.
“Something I’ve always carried with me since I’ve heard it, from pastor Charles Stanley from Atlanta (First Baptist Church) … he said ‘disappointment is inevitable, but discouragement is a choice,” Crean said Tuesday night. “I was at Marquette when I first saw that, but I’ve always tried to apply that in my own life and with my team.”
Georgia was a disappointed team after blowing an 18-point lead and losing to No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday, and Crean knew it.
The former Marquette and Indiana coach also knew how to get his team over the defeat and ready to compete again.
“The team was down the other night with that loss, they knew they had opportunities, and they’ve went at it the last two days, because we had to get it out of our system and get over it,” Crean said. “We got better … and the bottom line is we found a way tonight.
“The game is always giving you something, and tonight it was the lane and the free-throw line.”
Georgia (6-4) was 19-of-26 shooting at the line and out-scored Oakland 28-18 in the paint and 18-7 on second-chance points.
Nicolas Claxton recorded his fourth double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Rayshawn Hammonds had his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
But it was guards William “Turtle” Jackson and Teshaun Hightower meeting with the media, both players explaining how the discipline and mindset Crean has brought made the difference.
“We really just focused on what (Crean) was saying,” said Hightower, who ran the point much of the game and scored 16 points. “We just have to stick to the game plan and talk on defense.”
Jackson, who hit four 3-pointers as UGA raced to a 27-10 lead, said it came down to following Gran’s plan.
“We felt we brought a lot of energy, and we listened to Coach Crean and executed,” Jackson said, asked the difference between Saturday night’s meltdown and Tuesday night’s victory.
The Bulldogs return to action at noon on Saturday at Georgia Tech (TV: ESPNU).
Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean