ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs have been having a blast so far when it comes to playing basketball in the Tom Crean Era. They’ve been lighting up the scoreboard and tearing down scoring records between an exhibition against West Georgia and a home opener against Savannah State.
Now the Bulldogs (1-0) will have to see if that can be a winning formula on the road outside of the region as they travel to icy Philadelphia to face the Temple Owls (2-0) at the Liacouras Center. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN3; Radio: WSB 750-AM, 95.5-FM).
The trip will complete a home-and-home series with the Owls that started last December when Georgia won 84-66 at Stegeman Coliseum. But a year later almost nothing is the same, including the absence of the 2018 SEC player of the year, Yante Maten, who scored 30 points in the last meeting.
“They are very good off the dribble and pretty experienced with their best players,” Crean said. “They’re definitely more physical than us right now. They’re looking for switches and they really, really want to take you one-on-one and beat you on the dribble. And it’ll be a tough place to play. I mean, Temple is Temple.”
Shizz Alston, Jr., a 6-foot-4 guard, is Temple’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, while Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Lewis are scoring at double-digit paces of 16 and 12 points, respectively. The Owls are 2-0 after defeating LaSalle (75-67) and Detroit Mercy (83-67).
The Bulldogs and Owls have split their four previous meetings, with Georgia winning two matchups in Athens and Temple taking a pair of outings at neutral sites. This is the Bulldogs’ first trip to the Temple campus.
Last Friday, the Bulldogs topped Savannah State, 110-76, in the opener before a crowd of 9,018 at Stegeman Coliseum. Teshaun Hightower paced Georgia with a career-high 18 points, while Nicolas Claxton contributed career-most tallies of 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.
That came a few days after lighting up West Georgia 98-59 in an exhibition game. Georgia also edged UAB in a road exhibition back in October.
William “Turtle” Jackson, Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds all started against the Owls last season. They scored 10, 8 and 3 points, respectively.
Tuesday’s game is the second game in a stretch in which the Bulldogs will play six games in 13 days. So Crean should find out a lot about his first Georgia team by the time Christmas rolls around.
So far they’ve been going fast and scoring a lot. But the Bulldogs are also turning it over a lot, 23 times in the opener and 49 times total including the exhibition.
“When a team figures out that the faster you go the simpler you have to make the game, that’s when we’ll start to play better,” Crean said.