NASHVILLE — Georgia is hoping to start a long, fruitful run in the SEC tournament, rather than possibly see its season end abruptly. Click here for regular updates from Bridgestone Arena as sixth-seeded Georgia takes on No. 11 seed Mississippi State.
Georgia does indeed survive, after some tense minutes. The Bulldogs win, 79-69, and advance to a quarterfinal match-up with South Carolina. Check back in tomorrow, same time, same place.
- Georgia 75, Mississippi State 69: UGA may, may have withstood the run. It has gotten some critical stops, and a basket by J.J. Frazier pushed the lead back out to six. Low post defense has been key, with Yante Maten altering shots with his defense and Kenny Paul Geno has had some big rebounds down the stretch.
- Georgia 72, Mississippi State 68: We’re at the under-4 timeout, and this is a lot more tense than it figured to be midway through the second half. Georgia is still discombobulated on offense, with Frazier suddenly quiet, Gaines not being heard from in ages, and Maten not getting the ball in the low block. The press has Georgia flummoxed, and it’s being beat on the glass as well. Having said all that, it still has the lead and the ball. Something to watch: Georgia only has one timeout left. That could be critical, considering the press.
- Georgia 70, Mississippi State 66: Charles Mann finally ends the scoreless drought, which lasted just over four minutes, with a running leaner that was also the team’s first field goal in just over six minutes.
- Georgia 68, Mississippi State 64: Serious danger now for UGA, which has missed its last seven shots. Mississippi State is pressing and hitting 3s. UGA needs to run a good offensive set and get an easy basket, probably from Maten, to calm things down.
- Georgia 68, Mississippi State 60: Two straight 3s and it’s back to single digits. This happened with J.J. Frazier out of the game. After the second 3 Mark Fox beckoned to Frazier, who took his warm-ups off. As stated earlier, there’s a lot of time left in this one, and it’s being played at a very quick pace, so Georgia needs to be careful.
- Georgia 65, Mississippi State 52: This game has entered a bit of a lull, at least as far as runs, and that benefits Georgia for now. There’s still a lot of time left, though, so it would behoove UGA to keep MSU at arm’s length. By the way, it’s also been a long time since Kenny Gaines scored. Perhaps he’s due for an eruption that puts this game away?
- Georgia 57, Mississippi State 41: Let’s give Charles Mann some credit for his free throw shooting. It’s been pretty consistently good lately, and he’s 5-for-5 at this juncture. What’s also pretty amazing is that he’s taken it strong to the hoop twice now since he picked up his third foul, and each time drew the blocking call.
- Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines both have three fouls. It’s a good thing Georgia has a cushion to deal with it. It would also be a good idea to expand that cushion to buy time for their seniors.
- Georgia 48, Mississippi State 37: Yante Maten to the rescue again. Mississippi State had it down to a five-point game, and Gavin Ware spotted up for a 3 from the top of the key. But when it missed Maten rebounded, and on the other end he converted a three-point play. That was followed by a careless MSU turnover and a Frazier 3 in traffic.
- It feels like Georgia absorbed Mississippi State’s best shot early, recovered and took control. But MSU also looks good enough that another run or two is coming. Georgia improved its rebounding as the half went on. That needs to stay the case. Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann (who sat the final 7:20 with foul trouble) let J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten take over, so there’s still room for UGA to get more points if Frazier cools off. The key would still seem to be Georgia’s defense and rebounding. The points should come – it seems unbelievable to say that about Georgia, but it’s figured something out on offense. It just can’t let MSU shoot its way back into this one.
- Georgia 42, Mississippi State 34: Georgia has the lead at halftime for the fourth straight game – it won the previous three – and reached the 40-point mark in the first half for only the third time this season. J.J. Frazier has led the way with 14 points, not waiting until the second half in this game. Yante Maten has also played great, scoring nine points despite being constantly double-teamed – he has most of his points on jump shots. Maten has been under control, also grabbing a team-high four rebounds.
- Georgia 40, Mississippi State 29: There was just a stretch where Georgia made 9 of 11 field goal attempts, and one of those misses was rebounded by UGA, leading to a Yaten Maten 3 that made it an 11-point lead.
- Georgia 31, Mississippi State 24: All of a sudden Georgia is in control. Quite a run there to turn this around, scoring on four straight possessions. J.J. Frazier started it by sinking a 3 and just hit another, forcing Ben Howland to call timeout. In between Yante Maten and Mike Edwards hit shots.
- Yante Maten is being doubled every time he catches it. That leaves someone open, and it looks like he’s starting to see the pass-out better.
- Mississippi State 24, Georgia 21: Part of this is just MSU playing very well. It only committed one turnover in the first 10 minutes, and started 9-for-18 from the field. But Georgia also needs to force the issue a bit better on defense, and get into more of a rhythm on offense. Rebounding is a big difference too, as Georgia is being beaten on the glass 15-11. It also doesn’t help that Charles Mann, playing pretty well with five points and three rebounds, just picked up his second foul with 7:13 left in the half.
- Georgia 15, Mississippi State 15: Well, you can’t say Kenny Gaines is tentative. He took seven of Georgia’s first 13 shots, even after missing his first four attempts. He’s made two 3s in the past few minutes and is up to eight points. Meanwhile J.J. Frazier is off to another slow start. He’s been a prolific second-half scorer lately, so that’s no big deal.
- Mississippi State 8, Georgia 6: After getting off to fast starts the past three games, this time Georgia looks rusty. It’s started 1-for-7 from the field – including 0-for-4 from Kenny Gaines. Still, it’s Georgia’s defense and rebounding that is more worrisome, as it allowed MSU two offensive rebounds in a sequence that led to an early basket.
- Not a huge amount of fans here for either team. Georgia may have a few more. But there is more Kentucky blue (as usual at the SEC tournament) and even Tennessee orange, as those folks are happy enough that they’ve stuck around.
- Georgia, not surprisingly, keeps the same starting lineup: J.J. Frazier, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Derek Ogbeide and Yante Maten. That’s been the lineup eight straight games now, dating to the last time Georgia faced Mississippi State. Ogbeide has solved the revolving door that was the fifth starting spot, averaging 5.2 rebounds this season and improving his scoring as well.
- The fact Georgia won so convincingly in Starkville – the Bulldogs led by as many as 22, and won by nine – doesn’t mean this will be a cakewalk. There’s already been a bigger upset on this floor today, with Tennessee upending Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State has won four of six games since then. Of course Georgia comes in hot too. The question, as I asked in the preview story for this game, is whether the Bulldogs have learned their lesson about not taking lightly an opponent it has already beaten easily.
- Mississippi State has enough firepower to be dangerous: Malik Newman, the highly-touted freshman, is actually coming off the bench. He has 60 3-pointers this seasaon. Lately the hot hand for MSU hasa been another freshman, guard Quindary Weatherspoon, who’s now averaging 12.2 points per game. Plus there are seniors Gavin Ware (15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Craig Sword (12.8 ppg) and junior I.J. Ready (9.1 ppg, .6 assists per game.) When Georgia won in Starkville, the home team just couldn’t hit anything (only making 21-of-68 field goal attempts) and Georgia dominated the boards, as it has often this year. If the shots go down this time for Mississippi State, this could be a very tough out for Georgia.
- I was talking to someone in the hallway about an hour before tip-off when I heard a man walk up to a security official and ask: “Do you know where the Mississippi State locker room is?” It was Ben Howland, the first-year Mississippi State coach. This place is obviously new to him, while a minute earlier I saw Mark Fox walking easily to his team’s locker room.
- The meaning of this game? It could be pretty wide-ranging: I’m not convinced Georgia has an NIT bid sealed up, so a loss here could mean the season is over. (Though we won’t know for sure until Sunday night.) But a win probably does seal up at least the NIT bid, and obviously keeps those NCAA hopes alive. The more I look at the possibilities, I think it’s possible for Georgia to get an at-large bid if it makes it all the way to Sunday. But the first step has to come in this game, and as I’ve said, there are some mental trap elements for the Bulldogs.