ATHENS — On Friday afternoon when media members met with a few of the Georgia basketball players, freshman Nicolas Claxton made the comment that when the Bulldogs faced Alabama the next day, points would be hard to come by for both teams. His reasoning was that both had high-powered defenses.
When the game came around Saturday, half of Claxton’s statement proved true. Georgia featured a shut-down defense, and points were hard to come by for Alabama. But during Georgia’s 65-46 win over the Tide, the Bulldogs didn’t seem to have problems scoring.
From the opening minutes, Georgia took control, going on a 6-0 run to build a 9-2 lead. By the time there were 5 minutes left in the first half, the Bulldogs had gone on two runs of 7-0 or more.
Alabama had no answer for Georgia’s offense, which shot 50 percent from the 3-point line during the opening 20 minutes. Throughout the first half, Alabama’s defense attempted to slow Georgia’s offense with man-to-man and zone looks. The Tide also tried half-court and full-court presses to no avail.
When the buzzer sounded to end the first half, Georgia led 44-24.
While the first half was heavy offensively, the second half was the opposite, as the defenses dominated — neither team scored during a 3-minute stretch with Georgia holding a 50-34 lead.
Both teams regained their scoring legs, and Georgia held its well-established lead in cruising to the victory.
With the win, Georgia moves to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
Three who mattered
Yante Maten: From the first Georgia shot of the game, it was easy to see it was going to be Maten’s day. Throughout the first half, Maten made a living at the top of the key, drilling shot after shot. Before halftime, Maten was 6 of 10 from the field and 4 of 5 from beyond the 3-point line. Maten finished with another double-double with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Rayshaun Hammonds: Like Maten, Hammonds found the sweet spot behind the 3-point line, hitting consecutive 3s in the waning minutes of the first half to help establish Georgia’s 20-point lead. Hammonds finished as Georgia’s second-leading scorer with 13 points.
Collin Sexton: For the first 9 minutes, Sexton was the only Alabama player to find success on offense. At the 11-minute mark, Sexton had 7 points as Georgia led 15-7. Alabama seemed to be better at moving the ball when Sexton was in the game. By halftime, Sexton had 15 of Alabama’s 24 points, and he finished with 23.
Is it OK to say Georgia’s first possession? After Alabama failed to score on its opening possession with a missed jumper from Sexton, Georgia went down the floor and found Maten one-on-one at the top of the key. Maten pulled up behind the arc, and a packed Stegeman Coliseum roared to life as Georgia took a lead that it never relinquished. It was only a few seconds into the game but it set the tone for the day.
Bouncing back on boards: After a lackluster night on the boards on Wednesday when Ole Miss outrebounded the Bulldogs, coach Mark Fox was disappointed in Georgia’s rebounding throughout the past week. The message must have been heard because Georgia came back stronger on the boards Saturday. Georgia outrebounded Alabama 26-13 in the first half and finished with a 49-31 advantage.
They said it
Maten on Georgia’s hot start: “I think we were taking a lot of 3s, but we were making them in the first half. I think that is because it was good shot selection. It wasn’t out of play or out of someone’s character to shoot and make those 3-point shots.”
Hammonds on how preparations impacted the opening minutes: “We have been having great practices so having those good practices allows you to come into a game feeling really good about yourself. Once we started to finish, we didn’t want to let the lead start chopping down.”
Alabama coach Avery Johnson on Maten’s success: “At the top of the key, [Maten] is one of the best big guys in the league shooting 3s. That’s his spot.”
Fox on Maten spreading out Georgia’s offense: “We know that Yante is such a good player that most people are going to game plan to try and slow him down. What the other guys have been able to do is to play off of Yante, which has created some other opportunities. Yante was so good [Saturday] that I’m not sure anything could have slowed him down. He was really determined to play well.”
Fox on making sure to beat Alabama before the football national championship game Monday: “I damn sure didn’t want the monkey around my neck that we lost to Alabama.”
Georgia travels to Missouri on Wednesday night.