Dawgs preserve perfect record with monster second half

The Georgia Bulldogs remained undefeated with a 76-58 win over Northeastern (1-4) on Tuesday night in Athens. However, the Dawgs dealt with probably the most adversity they’ve seen all season during this game’s initial 20 minutes of play.

If you were a Georgia fan, the first half was highly forgettable. Georgia had 5 turnovers before 4 minutes of game had transpired, which allowed the Huskies to jump out to a 9-3 lead by the first media timeout. Northeastern came into Stegeman committed to make this a slow-paced half court game, and for 20 minutes they were successful at doing that and frustrating the heck out of UGA’s offense.

Before the game, I shared this tidbit of information:

Unfortunately, the Dawgs were unable to showcase either of these defensive strengths prior to the break. Northeastern committed just 7 first-half turnovers, and the Huskies connected on an unbelievable 9 of 13 from beyond the arc (69%).

Sophomore point guard Tyson Walker, a Second Team preseason CAA selection, was a major thorn in Georgia’s side to start the game. Sahvir Wheeler struggled to defend Walker, particularly on ball screens. If Sahvir went under the screen, Walker made him pay from the perimeter; when Wheeler attempted to fight through, the Northeastern point guard just blew by and finished at the rim. By halftime, Walker had 14 points and 5 assists, just a bucket shy of his season average, and Northeastern held a 45-32 advantage.

Fortunately for Georgia, their coach is:

Coach Crean win’s this week’s “Halftime Adjustment Award” with his decision to switch Wheeler off Tyson Walker and let Andrew Garcia (and some Tye Fagan) defend him. Garcia’s size presented issues for Walker and essentially took him out of the Northeastern offense. Walker managed just 5 points in the second half, and all of those were basically meaningless as they came when the game was out of reach for the Huskies. I honestly believe that Garcia’s harassment of Walker frustrated the sophomore into his 4th foul with over 12 minutes remaining in the game and his team up by just 5 points. Walker got tangled up with UGA’s Justin Kier on a Northeastern possession and was whistled for a push. Let’s credit that whistle to Mr. Garcia.

Another benefactor of shutting down Walker’s offensive creativity is that it completing eliminated Jahmyl Telfort from the game as well. The freshman was the benefactor of Walker’s penetration in the first half as he torched Georgia with 4 triples and 15 points prior to the intermission. Telfort, however, failed to score again when the teams returned to the court for the final 20 minutes.

Northeastern scored as many points (13) as they committed turnovers (13) in the game’s second half.

Honestly, I could wax eloquently about Andrew Garcia’s play for the entire post. In addition to his defensive effort, the senior led the Dawgs with 15 points and basically saved Georgia’s perfect record.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the boost that Justin Kier gave this team last night, especially when UGA’s starting point guard had to head to the bench. In the midst of an unprecedented 21-0 run, Wheeler picked up his 4th foul with 9:31 left and had to sit with his team leading 53-50. Nearly 7 minutes later, Kier buried a triple to ice the game at 70-55 with under 3 minutes remaining. During this little stretch of game, Kier contributed 5 points, 3 steals and 2 assists, and Georgia saw no drop off in play even with its floor general not on the court. The grad transfer finished the night with 7 points, 6 assists and 5 steals, and in my opinion he looks the most likely out of all the new faces this year to continue this level of play into SEC season.

Other things that were pleasing:

  • Despite spending a majority of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, Toumani Camara still managed to score 13 points and nab 8 boards.
  • PJ Horne might have had his best game thus far as a Dawg: 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. Perhaps even more importantly was that the senior connected on a pair of triples (40%) and maybe, just maybe, could emerge as this squad’s second perimeter threat.
  • Fagan only had 8 points, but the way he got them was fantastic. Recognizing that Walker, who had 4 fouls at the time, was on him, Fagan headed to the block where he played bully-ball around the rim on the Northeastern sophomore. Whoever made that adjustment to Georgia’s offense definitely deserves a burrito from Cali N Tito’s.

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