The competition wasn’t quite up to snuff, and the game didn’t count, but the Georgia men’s basketball team did what it needed to do to get the 2016-17 season off to a winning start, nearly tripling up its opponent in the process.
Georgia defeated Fort Valley State in an exhibition Thursday night in front of a sparsely populated Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs gave the few in attendance a show, though, defending well and scoring buckets in droves on the way to a 94-38 win over the Fort Valley, Ga., team. They never trailed in the resounding victory.
“It’s a good first outing for us,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said after the game. “A lot to learn. A lot to improve. But it’s a good starting spot for us.”
Player of the game
Unsurprisingly, for a player who averaged more than 16 points per game last season, Yante Maten led the way for Georgia scorers with 19 points in only 20 minutes of action, 13 of which came in the first half. And Maten was finding all kinds of ways to score, hitting a 3-pointer, layups, jumpers and multiple dunks. You only have to watch the Bulldogs for a minute to figure out this team runs through Maten.
Stat line of the game
Of the 14 players who saw the court for Georgia, 12 of them scored. Part of this is because of the talent gap, another part is because of Fox’s desire to give as many guys as possible game time before the season begins. But it also speaks to a newfound depth for the Bulldogs. Based on what we saw Thursday night and what Fox has said this preseason, it isn’t hard to imagine the bench going more than five-deep.
This one was over soon after it began. As mentioned before, Georgia never trailed in this contest. That was thanks to the work of Maten, who scored the opening bucket with a jumper in the first minute. He followed up that field goal with a layup, a free throw, another jumper and a 3-pointer for eight more points, giving the Bulldogs a 10-2 lead less than three minutes into the game.
“I saw a lot of openings and they started playing zone. And I like to be in the middle in the zone, because I like to get the ball and make a decision with it,” Maten said. “I just try to read a couple of steps ahead of everyone else.”
Georgia opens the season proper with a trip to the newly renovated Little John Coliseum to face the Clemson Tigers on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports South.
Clemson’s player to watch entering this season is senior swingman Jaron Blossomgame. Blossomgame declared for the NBA Draft last spring but never signed with an agent and ultimately returned to Clemson. He was named to the All-ACC team last season and was third in the conference in scoring at 18.7 points per game.
“Clemson has some terrific players who return,” Fox said. “They are a very sound basketball team. They’ll play better defense than we’ve seen to this point. We’re gonna have to figure out a way to stop some guys who are projected first-round draft picks.”
What Mark Fox said
On protecting an early lead:
“We stayed stable, and the game didn’t fall apart. We kept playing the right way. Because we have depth, we’re able to put fresh guys in. They’ve gotta play the right way or they’re coming out. I was really pleased with the fact that we played the game the right way at both ends.”
“Yante is a terrific player. We scored 51 in the first half and obviously he was the biggest player on the court tonight. So, he’s gonna be able to make plays. I thought J.J. [Frazier] was very passive in the first half, just trying to get everyone involved. We’re gonna need a lot of guys to chip and Yante is certainly gonna be consistent for us.”
On freshman Tyree Crump, who scored 14 points, including four 3-pointers:
“One of his greats strengths is he’s a terrific shooter. So, we weren’t surprised by it. I think he’s an outstanding shooter and learning a lot about playing at this level. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight.”