The Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) used a 21-6 second-half run to take a 52-44 lead over South Dakota State, helping to push the Dawgs past the Jackrabbits to a 72-61 victory on Wednesday night in Stegeman Coliseum.
The two teams actually went into the break locked up at 29-apiece after an atrocious display of offense. Georgia knocked down just 34% of its field goal attempts in the first half, going 3 for 15 from beyond the arc. Despite heading into the game with a supreme height advantage inside, the Dawgs opted to live outside the perimeter on offense for the game’s first twenty minutes.
South Dakota State pulled down 11 offensive rebounds before the intermission, which led to 13 first-half second-chance points. Georgia was able to out-rebound the Jackrabbits after the break however, giving the Dawgs a slight 41-40 rebounding advantage for the game (not a good sign considering the size of this SDSU team).
In the second half, Georgia began to pound the ball inside, wearing down the smaller Jackrabbit squad and enabling UGA to overcome a 38-31 SDSU lead. The Bulldogs scored 22 of their 43 points after the break in the paint, as well as canning 10 of 12 free throws. After Georgia went up 52-44 following their big run, the Dawgs never looked back and were able to secure the win.
Credit the Dawgs defensively for being able to limit SDSU guard Nate Wolters to just 15 points on 6 of 16 shooting. Wolters, a Summit League Player of the Year candidate, came into the game averaging a robust 26 points per game. Gerald Robinson was able to frustrate Wolters most of the night however, while contributing 15 points himself on the other end for Coach Mark Fox’s Dawgs.
The player of the game for Georgia was sophomore Donte Williams, who finished the game with a career-high 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds (all of the offensive variety) and 4 blocks. On several occasions, the Dawgs fed the ball into Williams after timeouts, which is evidence that the young man is beginning to establish himself as this team’s main option in the paint.
In his post-game interview, Coach Fox praise the hard work of his big man, stating that, “”Donte Williams has just quietly continued to get better and better and better.”
Georgia ended the game with four players scoring in double-figures (a first for this young season) – Williams (17), GR2 (15), KCP (14) and Nemanja Djurisic (14). For the second game this season, Djurisic came off the bench to give Coach Fox some quality minutes, netting 12 of his 14 points in the second half (to go along with 5 rebounds).
Sophomore Marcus Thornton, who battled with foul trouble for a majority of the game, led the Dawgs with 10 boards and also chipped in 7 points – including his first three-pointer of the season.
The only player on this Georgia team that has me slightly concerned at this point is reserve guard Sherrard Brantley. In just 14 minutes of play tonight, Brantley managed to go just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc, putting him at just over 21% on three-point attempts this season. Last season, Brantlely knocked down only slightly more than 30% of this perimeter shots, leaving me to wonder how much longer Coach Fox can give this guy the “green light”? When a player is consistently missing from the outside, those misses begin to resemble turnovers, something that this Georgia team can ill-afford.
After the game, Coach Fox sounded confused by his team’s sluggish start on offense, declaring, “We’re a work in progress offensively.”
Whatever progress that the Bulldogs have made over the past three games is going to be severely tested next Monday in Kansas City when the Dawgs take on the #22 Cal Bears.