If it were up to Georgia State, the Panthers would probably play the Georgia Bulldogs every season. After Wednesday’s contest, Georgia isn’t going to be itching to face Georgia State again anytime soon.
However, it might not have mattered who Georgia squared off against Wednesday. The Bulldogs looked genuinely disinterested in playing in the Cayman Islands Classic third-place game from essentially the tip.
Behind a very sloppy first half, Georgia trailed by 19 after 20 minutes. During the second half, all Georgia State did was increase its lead, as Georgia eventually lost, 91-67.
With the loss, the Bulldogs fall to 3-3 on the season and will enter their game against Kennesaw State next Tuesday on their first two-game losing streak.
Georgia hasn’t done a good job of taking care of the ball all season, but the Bulldogs’ sloppiness reached new heights Wednesday. Georgia recorded 18 turnovers, including nine in the first 10 minutes, and the Bulldogs failed to defend the 3-point line.
The Bulldogs experienced their worst offensive stretch of the season during those first 10 minutes. Georgia turned it over on five straight possessions, and Georgia State scored off of all five. Before the awful stretch, the Bulldogs actually led, 14-11, but during the turnover spree, the Panthers jumped ahead, 25-14.
Georgia State never looked back after that.
Coach Tom Crean attempted to stop the bleeding after the fourth consecutive turnover by calling a timeout at the 11:59 mark, but coming out of the break, junior guard Tyree Crump inexplicably lost control of his own dribble, and it led to a Georgia State dunk.
Georgia never shrunk the lead back to single digits following that dunk. Even as the Bulldogs did a better job of taking care of the ball in the final 10 minutes of the first half, Georgia State continued to increase its lead because of incredible shooting from the 3-point line.
Senior forward Malik Benlevi led the way with 24 points, scoring all of them off eight 3-pointers. Georgia State shot 75 percent from behind the arc. Benlevi went 8-for-11 from deep range.
But the Panthers received scoring from everywhere. All five of Georgia State’s starters were in double figures and combined to tally 84 points.
With 40 points, Georgia’s starters didn’t even reach half that total. For the second straight game, junior forward Derek Ogbeide led the Bulldogs in scoring. He had 14 points, and sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds had 12.
Any hope of a Georgia comeback in the final 20 minutes was quickly extinguished early in the second half. At the 15:56 mark of the second, the Georgia State lead still sat at 19, and then the Panthers went on a 13-0 run.
Up next for Georgia will be Kennesaw State at 7 pm ET next Tuesday. The Bulldogs will be home for the next four games.
Georgia-Georgia State Game Notes & Thoughts
- Along with ball security, the biggest concern coming out of this blowout was Georgia’s inability to match up with Benlevi, who is essentially a stretch-forward. The Bulldogs didn’t have anyone big and fast enough to cover Benlevi man-to-man. Don’t be surprised if Georgia has trouble guarding big men who can shoot 3-pointers all season.
- As ugly as the game was, perhaps the most discouraging part of the result was Georgia State was playing without senior Devin Mitchell, who hasn’t played all season because of injury. Mitchell finished second for the Panthers in scoring last season. It’s hard picturing Wednesday’s game going any worse, but it very well could have been had Mitchell been playing.
- Georgia was also missing a player. Sophomore forward E’Torrion Wilridge, who took a hard fall in Tuesday’s game against Clemson, didn’t suit up and is being evaluated for a head injury. He is averaging 20.6 minutes per game off the bench this season.
- The victory was the first against an SEC team for the Panthers in almost 15 years. Georgia State won at Auburn, 77-72, on Dec. 22, 2003.
- Off the bench, Georgia guards Teshaun Hightower and Jordan Harris starred in garbage time. They scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Harris shot 5-of-9 with five rebounds, two steals and an assist.
- However, all of these notes and observations should be taken with a grain of salt. The Bulldogs played Wednesday as though they had eaten Thanksgiving dinner right beforehand. They weren’t engaged offensively or defensively, which can happen to college kids on any day, but particularly following a tough loss and the day before a holiday. I would expect Georgia will play with much more purpose in its next game.