Basketball can be a very humbling game. About 24 hours after Georgia sophomores Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton combined to score 53 points against Illinois State, the entire Bulldogs tallied just 49 versus Clemson.
Georgia played well enough defensively to stay within striking distance, but Clemson still won the Cayman Islands Classic semifinal matchup relatively easy, 64-49, on Tuesday afternoon.
Next up, the Bulldogs will face the loser of Creighton-Georgia State in the tournament’s third-place game. That consolation game will tip at 5 pm ET on Wednesday.
Georgia coach Tom Crean continued to have a big rotation Tuesday, as 11 different players played versus Clemson, but the story in this one was Georgia’s lack of scoring.
Hammonds and Claxton went ice cold after dominating Illinois State on Monday. The two forwards combined for just 10 points and shot 26.7 percent. In particular, Claxton really struggled, shooting 1-of-9.
But they were hardly the only Bulldogs that couldn’t find their shooting stroke. Georgia shot 38.0 percent in the loss, which is, by far, the team’s worst shooting percentage in a game this season.
The Bulldogs shot 50.4 percent in their first four games, but it might as well have been a different team out there against Clemson. The Tigers played a slow pace that seemed to put the Bulldogs to sleep, and the crisp passing Georgia had Monday simply wasn’t there.
Georgia didn’t have a player reach double figures in scoring until there was under four minutes remaining in regulation. Junior forward Derek Ogbeide finished with 11 points and was the only Bulldogs starter with more than seven points.
Junior guard Tyree Crump led all Bulldogs bench players with nine points, shooting 3-of-7. The rest of the Georgia bench combined to tally 10 points.
In addition to its poor shooting afternoon, Georgia again struggled with turnovers. Crean’s squad coughed up 17 turnovers, which was just about what the team was averaging coming into Tuesday.
The good news is Clemson didn’t play much better offensively and a big reason why was the Georgia defense. The Tigers shot just 39.7 percent and turned it over 14 times.
Despite the poor shooting afternoon, Claxton didn’t let that effect his defense. He posted a game-high five blocks and also recorded a steal.
However, Georgia poorly rebounded Tuesday, which was ultimately the difference in the game. The Tigers won the rebounding battle, 44-31, and out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 12-3, on the offensive glass.
Clemson senior guard Marcquise Reed scored a game-high 24 points. Tigers forwards Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas posted 13 and 12 points, respectively, as well.
Georgia will have a chance to end its trip to the Cayman Islands on a high note Wednesday evening. The Bulldogs will finish the tournament playing the loser of the Creighton-Georgia State matchup, which will tip at 7:30 pm ET on Tuesday.
Georgia-Clemson Game Notes & Thoughts
- It will be interesting to see if Fagan continues to start Wednesday. Crean has gone with the same starting lineup, which includes Fagan at the shooting guard position instead of sophomore guard Teshaun Hightower, the last two games, and it’s produced mixed results. While Fagan has showed some playmaking ability as a freshman, he’s also turned it over five times in each of the last two games. Hightower also hasn’t been able to find a rhythm off the bench. He’s gone 1-for-9 with six points in the Cayman Islands.
- Georgia continues to struggle behind the arc. The Bulldogs went 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from beyond the 3-point line against Clemson. That drops their 3-point shooting percentage to 31.5 percent this season.
- One positive from deep range has been Crump, who went 2-of-5 from the 3-point line Tuesday. Crean could consider starting Crump at shooting guard instead of Fagan or Hightower, but Crump appears to be very comfortable coming off the bench. He’s probably going to be Georgia’s sixth-man this season.