Five things we learned in the season opener for the Georgia men’s basketball team, which fell at home, 92-90 to Chattanooga.
FIRST GAME, FIRST LOSS
There was no easing into the season. Georgia not only went overtime but it lost to Chattanooga, an experienced mid-major that looked every bit the team that was picked to win the Southern Conference.
The Bulldogs could blame things: Free throw shooting and 3-point defense.
In a foul-plagued game, the Bulldogs left too many points off the board, making just 28-of-45 free throws. It didn’t help that Kenny Gaines, one of the team’s best shooters, only had two attempts before fouling out with more than five minutes left.
Chattanooga, meantime, poured in 12 shots from beyond the arc, including two in the opening minutes of overtime to jump out to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
FRAZIER THE SPARK
After basically being a non-factor in the first half, J.J. Frazier came to the rescue for Georgia. At least in regulation, and he tried hard to lead an improbable comeback in overtime.
Frazier had 11 points and five assists in the second half to spark a comeback. Then he scored nine points in overtime, inccluding two 3s in the final minute. But Frazier also coughed up the ball when Georgia had the ball down 3 in the final minute.
Georgia was trailing by 10 in the second half when Frazier made a steal that turned into an open layup, beginning a comeback run. He capped it by hitting a driving layup to give Georgia its first lead of the game, 53-52. A short time later he had a four-point play: A 3 while being fouled as the shot clock ended. Soon Georgia had a six-point lead.
Frazier also nailed a 3 with 45.7 seconds left off a loose ball rebound and assist from Charles Mann. That gave Georgia a 73-72 lead.
But Chattanooga’s Casey Jones answered, rolling in a layup with 24 seconds left while being fouled. He missed the free throw, keeping it at a one-point game.
That set up Mann’s chance, as he was fouled driving the basket with 12.8 seconds left. He made 1-of-2, setting up Chattanooga’s final shot of regulation, which missed.
FOULS GALORE, AGAIN
As college basketball tries to become more interesting, a point of emphasis is to call more fouls and hoping it leads to cleaner play. This game was an example that it may take awhile. There were 63 fouls called.
When overtime began each team had one player who had fouled out, while Chattanooga had four with four fouls and Georgia had two.
Georgia’s two best players, Mann and Gaines, weren’t on the floor for the final few minutes of the game. It was left to freshman Turtle Jackson to try a desperation heave from halfcourt at the buzzer, which missed.
A SNEAKY TOUGH SCHEDULE
There are hazards that come with trying to build a good RPI and schedule strength. Georgia found that out Friday, and could over the next couple months.
Chattanooga eturns four starters from a team that won 22 games last year, and was picked to win its conference, the Southern.
Georgia’s second game may be even harder. Murray State, a perennial NCAA tournament entrant, was picked to win the West Division of the Ohio Valley. And Georgia’s third game is against High Point, which was picked to win the Big South.
It’s like that for most of the nonconference season for the Bulldogs, as Mark Fox scheduled with an eye on the computer numbers the NCAA selection committee will use. But it also increases the opportunity for the Bulldogs to suffer a loss at home that would seem a bad look.
BRIGHT SPOTS FOR GEORGIA
Sophomore forward-center Yante Maten who got off to a good start in a season in which he’ll be heavily depended on. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds, finishing well around the basket.
Freshman forward E’Torrion Wilridge added eight points, playing extensive minutes after Gaines fouled out. But Wilridge only made 2-of-6 free throw attempts.
Georgia played without freshman forward Derek Ogbeide (shoulder) and junior small forward Juwan Parker (Achilles). Their status for next week’s game is uncertain.