With a little over 5 minutes remaining in the game and Georgia leading by just 2 points, Yante Maten picked up a ball booted by Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw, took it the length of the floor and finished with a thunderous dunk that electrified the UGA crowd. Belmont could have easily folded at this point, but instead the Bruins fought to stick around, trimming the Dawgs’ advantage back down to four points with 2:13 left. On the next possession, though, J.J. Frazier knocked down a three-pointer from just inside the construction site for the new indoor football practice facility, giving UGA 83-76 lead with under two minutes remaining. Belmont would not get any closer as the Dawgs earned a 93-84 win and the right to play St. Mary’s in the second round of the NIT.
Though Frazier may have delivered the dagger in this one, the story on the night was all about Yante Maten. Maten scored 20 of his career 33 points in the first half, including a 3 for 3 performance from the three-point line. Shockingly, Belmont opted not to double on Maten when he received the ball on the block, and the Bruins paid dearly for this decision as Yante was an astounding 14 for 17 from the floor. In addition to his prolific scoring, he also grabbed 10 rebounds to notch his 10th double-double of the season.
Almost overshadowed by Maten’s phenomenal performance was Charles Mann, who scored a season-high 23 points this evening. Surprisingly, the majority of Mann’s points came from beyond the arc, where he buried 4 of his 6 three-point attempts. I’m not sure what to make of Mann’s newfound outside shot, other than I wish it had showed up a bit earlier in his career.
J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines both struggled from the floor as each of them shot below 40% on the night. However, they finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
This game did not feature much defense as both teams got the ball up the court and into scoring opportunities with relative ease. Belmont shot over 47% from the field as a team, and they were right on their season average from the perimeter at a little bit above 37%. The Bruins had 5 players end the game in double-figures, with senior Craig Bradshaw leading the way with 19 points.
Tonight’s victory marked Georgia’s 20th of the season, making it three-straight years in which the Dawgs have eclipsed that mark. Seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann have been an integral part of this successful run, and hopefully this evening’s game will not be the last time we see these two play inside Stegeman Coliseum. However, should 1-seed Valpo knock off 4-seed FSU tomorrow night, Georgia would not get another home game even if the Dawgs manage to win on the road against St. Mary’s in the second round.
But for now, UGA can be satisfied knowing that its season will continue on to another game.