ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs love the holidays just like everybody else, but they would probably just as soon keep playing through them.
The Bulldogs (6-3) won their third straight game and for the fourth time in the last five with a dominating 71-48 victory over Clemson on Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia got 18 points from Charles Mann and 17 from Kenny Gaines.
The Bulldogs have won their last three by an average of 15.6 points. Clemson falls to 7-5.
“I love playing basketball,” sophomore forward Yante Maten said. “If we had a game tomorrow I’d be excited about it. The more opportunities the better. You can only play this game so long.”
This one was actually close for the first half of the opening half. But after trailing 13-8 at the 15:05 mark, the Bulldogs outscored Clemson 31-9 the rest of the half. Gabe Devoe’s jumper at the halftime buzzer allowed Clemson to cut it to 39-24 at that point.
The Bulldogs quickly scored the first three baskets of the second half, and the rout was on. Georgia led by as many as 26 points in the second half.
“Really good win for our program,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We were so prepared because we have so much respect for Clemson.”
Here are five observations from Tuesday’s well-attended game:
1. Gaines and Mann get busy
It’s early, but Georgia is beginning to exhibit some real scoring diversity. So far, J.J. Frazier and Gaines have each recorded 35-point games and Yante Maten has had more than 20 four times. On Tuesday, it was Gaines’ and Mann’s turn to get in on the scoring act.
In his second game back after sitting out with a knee injury, only foul trouble and a blow-out scenario slowed down Gaines. He had 17 points with 10 minutes still left in the game. Gaines came into the game third on the team with a 15.3 points average.
Mann had his best offensive outing of the season. The 6-5 senior from Alpharetta hadn’t reached 17 points since the first game of the year against Chattanooga and hadn’t recorded more than two field goals in the previous three games. He was 5-of-8 Tuesday.
“Finally I had a game in which I broke through,” said Mann, who came in averaging 9.5 points. “But I have to give credit to my teammates. They kept on pushing me and encouraging me and telling me they were going to get me going. All my credit is to my teammates.”
2. J.J. Frazier cools off
After lighting up Georgia Tech with 35 points in the last outing, Frazier came back to Earth on Tuesday. The sophomore point guard was 6-0f-9 3s and 11-for-12 from the foul line in the Bulldogs’ 75-61 win this past Saturday. But he drew nothing but air on his first 3-point of the night and finished the first half with four points on 1-of-4 shooting.
The little man from Glennville warmed up momentarily early in the second half, scoring twice in the first 1:40 to help increase the Bulldogs widen their lead by dropping his second 3-pointer of the night. But that’s where the scoring would end for Frazier. He finished with nine points, his fewest in a month.
“That’s the importance of having a team,” Fox said. “J.J. doesn’t have to score every night for us to win. Yante doesn’t have to score every night for us to win; Kenny Gaines doesn’t have to score every night for us to win. …. The great thing about our team is we’re starting to develop some balance on offense, and that’s what we need.”
3. Maten’s streak ends
Sophomore forward had scored in double figures in five consecutive games and had scored 20 or more in four of those. Until last night. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore was kept in check by foul trouble and Clemson’s formidable defensive post players and finished with only eight points.
Maten had done some good work. He was actually 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the foul line when he drew his fourth foul and went to the bench midway through the second half. He did not score for the last 14:24 of the game.
“We the lead we didn’t have to ride Yante,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I could have put him back in the game. He didn’t foul out. But we obviously didn’t need to have him. So we saved some wear and tear on him.”
Maten also finished with only three rebounds. He came in leading the team both in scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.1).
4. Early-game dust-up
Gaines and Clemson’s Ty Hudson offered an early indication how hard these teams were going to compete when they were both assessed flagrant-1 fouls midway through the first half.
Gaines had gotten the ball away from Hudson — a freshman from Mableton — during a scramble for the ball with both players on the floor at around the 10:20 mark. After Gaines’ got the ball to a teammate he got up to try to join his team for a fast-break. But Hudson grabbed Gaines’ leg to keep him from getting away. After Hudson got up, Gaines shoved him in the back, which a referee saw.
The officials went to the TV monitor to see a replay and be sure nobody crossed the line. After an exceedingly long review, it was deemed they did not and Georgia retained possession.
The dust-up put the refs on alert. In the second half, Clemson’s Legend Robertin was called for a technical when he shoved Manten.
5. See ya next week
After taking an 11-day break for final exams before last Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs once again will get an extended rest.
Georgia won’t play again until four days after Christmas when it plays host to Robert Morris at Stegeman Coliseum. Then it will be another four days before the Bulldogs open SEC play on the road against Florida on Jan. 2.
“Here, because our final exam covers two weeks and we can’t play in between and we host graduation, there’s always a 10-day break at Georgia,” Fox said. “That is a challenge because we give up a scheduling window in there if not two.”
The 8 p.m. tilt with Florida will offer UGA fans a rare football-basketball doubleheader. The Bulldogs play Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl at noon in Jacksonville, about two hours away.