ATHENS — Georgia basketball fans probably thought they were in for a laid-back and stress-free night with Sam Houston State. The Bulldogs knew that wouldn’t be the case — and it wasn’t.
The BearKats, who had already played Clemson to within 15 points to open the Caymans Classic Tournament — and were much closer than that during the game — led Georgia 55-50 with seven minutes to go. But Georgia used a 11-0 run over the next 3:18 to seize control of what previously had been a disjointed effort. The Bulldogs (2-1) pushed it home from there to finish with a 75-64 victory.
Sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds led the Bulldogs with 15 points and 7 rebounds, Nicolas Claxton added 13 and 8 and Tyree Crump finished with 10. Georgia shot 42.9 percent from the field and made 29-of-38 foul shots, but were only 4-of-22 on 3-pointers (18.2 percent).
RJ Smith had 14 points for Sam Houston State, which made 13 of its 33 3-point shots.
Claxton started the Bulldogs’ run with a wide driving layup up the right side of the lane that drew a foul. The sophomore forward missed the free throw, but freshman Amanze Ngumeni gathered the rebound and got the ball back to Georgia’s perimeter. At the end of the shot-clock, the ball ended up back in Claxton’s hands. The 6-foot-10 simply did the same thing and converted again.
Tyree Crump gave the Bulldogs their first lead since early in the half on free throws. E’Torrion Wilridge made a lay-up, Claxton rebounded a miss and hit Rayshaun Hammonds on an outlet for a dunk, and then Hammonds blocked a shot and turned it into a three-point play on the other end to give the Bulldogs a relatively sudden 64-57 lead with 2:22 to play. That left Stegeman Coliseum, surprisingly well-filled with 7,195 spectators considering it was the first day of UGA’s fall break — rocking and the crowd on its feet.
The scrappy Bearkats — that’s their real mascot named — kept Georgia’s lead there for the next couple of minutes. But then the place was lit up again on a Tye Fagan breakaway dunk, and the Bulldogs were able to close out the game from the foul line.
Friday’s game was actually the first for Georgia in the Caymans Classic tournament. The Bearkats played No. 19 Clemson on Wednesday and lost 74-59