Kenny Gaines must not of liked the idea of starting out 0-2 this season.
The senior from Atlanta torched Murray State for a career-high 35 points, simply willing his Bulldogs to their first win of the season.
With 4:11 left in the game, the Racers jumped ahead 50-48 following a pair of free throws from point guard Bryce Jones, erasing a Georgia lead that had been as high as 8 points just 5 minutes earlier.
Unfortunately for Murray, though, their comeback would end there as Kenny Gaines rattled off three-pointers on the next three possessions for UGA, and after his free throw with 1:35 remaining Georgia held a 58-52 lead that they would not relinquish, ultimately winning this one 63-52.
The other major highlight of the night other than Gaines was the Dawgs’ defense, which looked much improved since the debacle against Chattanooga last Friday. Georgia consistently closed out strong on the Racers, holding them to just 30% from the floor and only 17% from beyond the arc. UGA also did a great job of limiting the Racers to just one shot – Murray managed only 10 offensive rebounds because Georgia hauled down over 75% of the Racer misses, which led to just 3 second-chance points for MSU.
While Murray shot the ball poorly, Georgia shot it worse, connecting on under 30% from the field. Kenny Gaines made 10 of his 18 field goal attempts, but the rest of the Dawgs hit under 18% of theirs. J.J. Frazier was 1 of 11 and Charles Mann 0 for 7.
Yante Maten grabbed 10 rebounds, but he looked lost on offense, missing a plethora of hook shots that led to a 2 for 8 shooting performance. Hopefully Maten has more in his arsenal than the hook, or UGA is going to struggle to find offense in the paint because right now the Dawgs do not have any sort of productivity coming from that area of the floor.
Freshman Mike Edwards scored just 2 points because he missed a couple of easy put backs, but he was very active on the glass, snagging 8 rebounds in 26 minutes (3 of them offensive). As the season progresses, Edwards may play his way into the starting five with his athleticism.
The only other tidbit of interest from this one was Coach Mark Fox’s decision to sit senior Charles Mann for the game’s final 5 minutes. Even when UGA had taken control of the game thanks to Gaines, Mann remained on the bench. Mann’s free throw shooting continues to be a problem (1 of 2 last night), so it’s possible that Fox saw him as a liability down the stretch once the Dawgs had the lead. To Mann’s credit, he was the loudest cheerleader on the UGA bench up until the final horn.
This win gets Georgia to an even 1-1, with a chance to get above .500 right before turkey day as they host High Point on Wednesday here in Athens.