This was one Georgia needed, partly to move on from the debacle earlier in the week, and mostly to keep its faint NCAA hopes alive. And the Bulldogs did both.
Behind the season-best performances from two players — Yante Maten and Charles Mann — Georgia rolled at Mississippi State on Saturday night, 66-57.
Georgia (14-9 overall, 7-5 in the SEC) led wire-to-wire and led by as many as 22. Mississippi State (10-14, 3-9) then went on a 12-0 run to make it interesting again. Maten ended the run with a hook shot, then Mann hit a 3.
Here are five observations:
1. THE MATEN-MANN SHOW
Sometimes a two-man team is enough. Incredibly, Maten and Mann combined for 37 of Georgia’s 43 points, at which point their team led by 20 points.
In the end, Maten (25 points) set a new career-high, while Mann (21) set his season high.
Maten, the sophomore forward, had 15 points in the first half, then six points in the first 90 seconds of the second half.
Mann, the senior guard, had 11 points in the first half, then a 3 early in the second half to make it 41-23. Not normally known for his outside shooting, Mann ended the game with two of Georgia’s three 3-pointers.
2. BACK ON TRACK?
For Georgia, this was mainly about avoiding its first loss to a sub-par team. Mississippi State entered the day ranked 171st in the RPI. So while Georgia still has plenty of work to do over its final six regular season games, it enters that stretch with a chance to play its way back in the picture.
This win does help Georgia in one regard: It now has two road victories, another metric the committee will look at. It gets a chance for a third next Saturday at Vanderbilt — but first gets a chance at a quality win on Tuesday at home against Florida.
3. GEORGIA DOMINATES THE PAINT
Freshman Derek Ogbeide, re-inserted into the starting lineup, hauled in a season-high 13 rebounds to lead his team’s strong performance on the glass.
Georgia won the rebounding margin, 45-35, including 27-14 in the first half, on the strength of nine offensive rebounds.
Georgia also lived offensively close to the basket, getting 22 of its 32 first-half points in the paint, and six more at the free throw line.
4. NO GAINES, NO PROBLEM
The inside play made up for lack of production elsewhere. Georgia didn’t make a 3-pointer at all in the first half. Kenny Gaines was held scoreless for the game for the firsts time this season, and J.J. Frazier — a year after scoring 37 on the same court — was held to eight.
The play that summed-up the first half: Frazier missed a 3 from the top of the key, but Ogbeide got the offensive rebound, dribbled and banked it in to make it 18-11.
Mann’s key 3-pointer in the second half was set up by Frazier’s diving for a loose ball. That highlighted that Georgia — four days after being embarrassed at Kentucky — was ready for this one.
Four different Georgia players had at least seven rebounds. And while the visitors did turn it over 19 times, they also shot well from the free throw line, going 13-for-17.
Georgia did have some sloppy moments late in the game, but it didn’t end up mattering.