For nearly 12 minutes, the Bryant Bulldogs had the look of a team that did not fly all the way from Rhode Island just to lay down for Mark Fox’s team. With 8:25 left before the break, Bryant trailed 22-13 after leading scorer Adam Grant (24 points) connected on a three. That was the closest the other Bulldogs would get for the remainder of the evening, though, as Georgia went on an 18-4 run to finish out the first twenty minutes of play that enabled them to take a 40-17 lead at the half.
This run was fueled by 8 points from junior guard William “Turtle” Jackson, who poked his head out and notched all 11 of his points before the intermission (9 of which came from beyond the arc).
Georgia’s man defense suffocated Bryant on Friday as they held the Bulldogs to just 17% from the field for the first half (they finished the night slightly above 25%). UGA used its superior length to make Bryant uncomfortable, which led to a lot of hurried shots form the outside by the Bulldogs. Bryant attempted an astounding 31 shots from the three-point line, yet they connected on just 8 of them. However, it was hard to blame the smaller Bulldogs for looking for points from the perimeter as the Dawgs swatted 10 of their shots on the night, with Yante Maten and Nicolas Claxton leading the way with 4 and 3 blocks, respectively (one of Claxton’s rejections was so forceful it shot up into the 4th row of the lower level).
While the Dawgs primarily played half court defense for the majority of the night, Fox did provide a glimpse of a full-court press that could (and should) be employed more down the road: Mike Edwards defended the ball and then trapped on the side where the ball was inbounded. The result: one steal and a deflected pass. With Edwards’s size and athleticism, this spot on the press could be a nice little defensive niche for him.
Offensively, I loved the sets where Maten received the ball at the high post. He would give it to the guard on his side of the court, screen on the ball and then work into a little two man game as he rolled off the pick. Maten had a solid first outing as he notched a double-double and scored a team-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Georgia consistently pounded the ball inside to Maten where he took advantage of the helpless Bryant defenders.
Probably the biggest bright spot of the night for Coach Fox was the play of freshman Rayshaun Hammonds, who netted 17 points and snagged 7 boards. He looked good doing it, too. Hammonds scored effortlessly close to the basket, and he had several nice buckets from the wing in which he took his defender off the dribble; and he made a three-pointer. Hammonds could potentially be a key contributor to replacing J.J. Frazier’s points from a year ago.
While UGA fans and players obviously shouldn’t read too much into a win over an opponent that ESPN ranked 298th in the country before the season, it was nice to see Georgia throttle a team that was clearly less talented. I’ve definitely taken in more than a few early season games in which it took nearly 30 minutes for the Dawgs to put away an inferior mid-major team. Tonight, that was not the case. Georgia shut this team down early and walked away with a 79-54 victory, which makes the Dawgs a perfect 1-0 on the year.