This is Decatur Dawg guest blogging through the SEC tournament while Hoop Dawg is wandering the Mexican desert. I will do my best to fill his large shoes during this critical part of the season.
Georgia owned the paint on Senior Night against a big Alabama front line and won an entertaining game 70-63. The Dawgs dominated the glass, posting a huge 48-26 rebounding advantage and scoring almost all of our 70 points inside or from the foul line.
After a nice ceremony for seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann pregame, the Dawgs came out shooting cold, missing 8 of our first 9 shots while the Tide staked a 10-4 lead over the first five minutes of play. Coach Fox presumably directed the ball inside during the first timeout and Yante Maten promptly scored 7 straight points – including a nice three point play off an alert interior pass from Derek Ogbeide – to give the Dawgs an 11-10 lead.
The Dawgs led most of the way from that point but the Tide did make a quick 7-0 run to grab the lead 40-38 with a transition bucket off a block of Kessler’s shot. Georgia was not going to lose this game though, and the Dawgs got the crowd on its feet when JJ Fraiser fed Maten in transition for a monster dunk that put the Dawgs up for good with 7 minutes left. JJ then made 10 of 10 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Maten was Georgia’s player of the game with 19 points and 5 rebounds and converted three old fashioned three point plays along the way. Freshmen Ogbeide and Mike Edwards also played probably their best games as Bulldogs as well, combining for 12 points and 9 rebounds in 37 combined minutes. Ogbeide was particularly effective in the first half with 8 points and 5 rebounds but mysteriously spent a lot of time on the bench in the second half. This was clearly the best game of the season for the Bulldogs’ young front line and showed much promise for the future.
Gaines and Mann had solid, if unspectacular games in what was likely their last game at the Steg. Mann in particular played great defense and contributed 7 rebounds.
Alabama was led by a surprising 25 point night from Shannon Hale off the bench. His ability to shoot from outside seemed to create a bad defensive matchup for Maten in the second half.
WIth this win, Georgia ended the regular season on a three game winning streak and heads to Nashville with strong momentum for the SEC Tournament. Georgia also finished the SEC schedule with a winning record for a third straight season and that makes four straight SEC campaigns of .500 or better — the first such streak in Georgia history and a major accomplishment for Coach Fox.