The Georgia Bulldogs will renew their rivalry with Clemson in football three times over the next dozen years. But in men’s basketball, the two schools that reside less than 75 miles from each other will meet much, much sooner.
In fact, the Bulldogs and Tigers will square off in the Cayman Islands Classic on Tuesday afternoon with the winner headed to the tournament championship game.
That matchup comes as the result of Georgia winning in the Cayman Islands on Monday afternoon. Sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds scored a career-high 31 points, as the Bulldogs used a strong first half to beat up Illinois State, 80-68.
Hammonds finished shooting 50 percent, going 11-of-22, including 1 for 2 from beyond the arc. He was also nearly perfect at the free-throw line, going 8-of-9.
Hammonds was one of two Georgia players in double figures during the 12-point victory. Fellow sophomore Nicolas Claxton registered a career high in points as well with 22 on 8-of-13 shooting. Claxton also recorded his second double-double of the season with a team-high 11 rebounds Monday.
The two sophomore forwards combined to score 53 of Georgia’s 80 points. Amazingly, Hammonds and Claxton posted 27 of the Bulldogs’ 33 points in the second half.
However, the first 20 minutes featured a much more balanced attack for Georgia that saw the Bulldogs start the game on a 16-2 run.
“Our guys really came out from the beginning and they played quick and they really shot the ball well,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “We knew they were going to make a run and, much like we have in the past, we were able to answer it, stop it and move forward. We are going to need every bit of that and more for Clemson tomorrow.”
On Georgia’s first offensive possession, Hammonds hit a 3-pointer, and the referees called Illinois State senior Milik Yarbrough for a flagrant foul because he tried to buy an offensive foul with a body hook against Bulldogs center Derek Ogbeidge.
The call resulted in Ogbeide shooting two foul shots, both of which he made. In addition to the rare five-point play, the flagrant foul also rewarded the Bulldogs the ball, and Ogbeide hit a jumper to give Georgia seven points after 37 seconds.
The Bulldogs never looked back from that point. Because of the stifling Georgia defense, Illinois State didn’t match what the Bulldogs scored in their first two possessions until almost seven minutes into the contest.
By halftime, the game was essentially finished, as Georgia led by 21.
The final box score indicates an unbalanced offensive attack, but on its way to building that halftime lead, eight different Georgia players scored in the first 20 minutes. The Bulldogs hit 17 field goals, but they passed the ball extremely well, looking for high-quality looks at the basketball. That’s the main reason Georgia shot 54.8 percent in the first half.
Offensive rebounding was key as well. About 12 minutes into the game, Georgia had 12 second-chance points and Illinois State had just 13 points total.
Taking care of the ball was important too. Georgia only turned it over twice in the first nine minutes. The Bulldogs weren’t as careful with the ball in the final 30 minutes, but just after the 10-minute mark of the first half, they already led by 20.
Georgia finished the afternoon with 15 turnovers. The Bulldogs, who improved to 3-1 with the victory Monday, are averaging 17.25 turnovers per game this season. That’s an area coach Tom Crean will likely want to continue to work on moving forward.
Georgia-Illinois State Game Notes & Thoughts
- Coach Crean shrunk his rotation a little bit Monday, but eight Bulldogs players still received at least 10 minutes. Freshman Tye Fagan started for the first time this season and played 36 minutes, finishing with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block.
- Senior forward E’Torrion Wilridge played the most of any Georgia bench player with 22 minutes, but he only attempted two field goals, hitting one.
- The Bulldogs hit two of their first three 3-point attempts, which helped them build a 20-point lead in the first 10 minutes. But after that, Georgia shot 2-of-9 from the 3-point line.
- In the early Cayman Islands Classic game on Monday, Clemson built a 7-point halftime lead and held on to beat Akron, 72-69.
- Clemson sits at 4-0 and is ranked No. 16 in both the AP and Coaches Polls entering Tuesday’s contest.