Derek Ogbeide was clearly having a good time yesterday inside Stegeman Coliseum. The UGA big cheesed for the camera after a huge old-fashioned three-point play. When a Tennessee big got called for traveling late in the second half, Ogbeide skipped down the court with his hands up high as he simulated the official signal for traveling with his dancing fingers. The junior from Atlanta had plenty to be excited about as his offense carried the Dawgs down the stretch and enabled Georgia to hold off the #18 Tennessee Volunteers in their 72-63 upset win on Saturday (UGA’s 5th straight W over the Vols).
Ogbeide had 16 points and 11 rebounds, marking his second double-double in a week. It’s no shock that Ogbeide’s improved play has coincided with two enormous conference wins for this UGA basketball program. He’s finally becoming the threat on the opposite block that many hoped he would be all season. With all the attention that Yante Maten garners, it was expected that Ogbeide would benefit offensively on the opposite block, and those hopes are beginning to come to fruition as the junior scored on an array of drop-step buckets, dunks and tip-ins.
The Georgia defense was once again the main attraction, however, as the Dawgs held a Volunteer team that entered this game scoring almost 75 a night in SEC games to just 63. The Vols were making more than 37% of their attempts beyond the arc in league play, yet on Saturday they only connected on 32%. Yante Maten, in addition to his 19 points, shut down Tennessee’s leading scorer Grant Williams. Maten held Williams to just 5 points, which is over 12 below his conference average. Maten’s offense forced Williams into foul trouble, which frustrated the UT big into a 1 of 8 performance from the field.
I realize it sounds simple, but credit Mark Fox’s team for not folding and relinquishing the lead against an aggressive opponent, something that has been an issue for this UGA team this season (see @ Missouri, @ Auburn, Arkansas). With 5:14 remaining, Kyle Alexander tipped in a missed Tennessee shot that cut the Georgia advantage to 54-51. The Vols got into their full-court pressure (that they applied for much of the latter portion of the game), and I began to chew my fingernails as it felt like things were going to potentially unravel. Tyree Crump assuaged my fears, however, when he buried a three-pointer that sent the Dawgs back up by 6 points. Several possessions later, with the Vols only one stop away from having the chance to make it a one-possession game, Crump again hit a timely triple that turned out to be a dagger as it put UGA up 62-54 with just 1:54 left. All 11 of Crump’s points came in the final 5 minutes of this contest.
Two key stats that were in UGA’s favor:
Second chance points: UGA 19, Tennessee 8.
Points in the paint: UGA 29, Tennessee 19.
Not to sound like a broken record, but both Ogbeide and Maten can’t be praised enough for how well they outplayed the Tennessee frontcourt duo of Williams and Admiral Schoefield. In addition to Williams’s struggles, Schoefield had a lackluster outing as well as he shot just 5 of 13 from the floor en route to 11 points. UGA’s two bigs outscored these guys by a tally of 35 to 16, and that was probably the difference in the game.
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) February 18, 2018
What a week for Mark Fox. Georgia wins at Florida and then beats Tennessee back-to-back. Bulldogs are proving to be a tough out in the SEC.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 18, 2018
THE DAWGS PULL OFF THE UPSET! pic.twitter.com/3armbo9v1F
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 18, 2018
Georgia heads to Columbia on Wednesday to look for revenge against a South Carolina team that just snapped a six-game losing streak with an impressive upset win over #10 Auburn.
As both UGA and college basketball fans, we have a tendency to start thinking things like “If my team does this and this and this, then they should be in the NCAA Tournament, right?” My advice: don’t do that. This week was big for Georgia basketball as it injected life into a season that appeared to be spiraling downward, and it might have saved Coach Fox’s job. However, it’s also the first time UGA has won consecutive SEC games since January 3rd and 6th when the Dawgs beat Ole Miss and Alabama. At this point, Georgia’s still not anywhere close to sniffing the NCAA Tournament, and for now, that’s fine. UGA fans should enjoy these last two wins because they both seemed highly improbable after last Saturday’s home loss to Auburn.
Georgia has another opportunity to further distance itself from the cellar of the SEC on Wednesday, and hopefully that’s this team’s only focus.