The USC Upstate Spartans’ scheme on Tuesday was rather simple: (1) get up as many three-pointers on offense has humanly possible and (2) sit in a packed in zone defense and force the opposition to beat them from the outside.
On Tuesday night, the Spartans, a team that had shot over 30 three’s in its first two games, hoisted up 36 attempts from beyond the arc. To be fair, Upstate started and played with four guards for pretty much the whole game, which is probably also why the undersized Spartans were content to play zone against the Dawgs to try to minimize Georgia’s size advantage in the paint.
Unfortunately, UGA played an undisciplined game offensively, and it almost resulted in a horrific home loss. I suppose the Dawgs got jealous of the outside shots that Upstate was taking, and they just couldn’t resist shooting a few themselves as Mark Fox’s team put up 22 three-pointers in this contest (making only 5 of them). Shooting three’s was exactly what Upstate wanted Georgia to do; it’s why they played zone for most of the night. For whatever reason, UGA seemed reluctant to pound the ball into the paint and punish the smaller Atlantic Sun team, and rather, the Dawgs obliged the Upstate game plan.
Georgia’s futility on the offensive side of the ball almost cost them dearly as the Spartans took their first lead of the game with 13:02 left on a three by Deion Holmes. Upstate would lead for nearly the next 8 minutes until Rayshaun Hammonds seized momentum back for the Dawgs when he knocked down a corner three to put his team on top 60-59. The freshman scored on a fast break on the ensuing possession, which gave UGA a 62-59 advantage with 3:39 remaining. Georgia managed to slowly pull away from that point, and they would end up with the 74-65 home win.
Hammonds had another solid outing as he netted 13 points and nabbed 7 boards. William “Turtle” Jackson also finished in double-figures as he scored a career high 13 points to go along with 4 assists. Turtle has now hit 4 three-pointers through two games, and he’s looking like the team’s most consistent outside threat in the early going.
Georgia’s defense wasn’t the problem in this one as the Dawgs held Upstate to 65 points, which marked its lowest output of the season. UGA limited the Spartans to under 37% from the floor and just 27% from beyond the arc. The Dawgs played primarily man defense with Coach Fox mixing in some 2-3 and matchup zones. For the most part, though, Georgia followed the scouting report and contested the perimeter to make it more difficult for USC Upstate to get clean looks.
UGA jumped on Upstate early as they started the game with a 13-2 run that was capped off by a three-pointer from Yante Maten, who notched his second double-double in as many games as he scored 22 points and grabbed 14 boards. Coach Fox’s offense went moderately stagnant over the next 16 minutes as they settled for too many outside shots, which enabled the Spartans to go into the intermission trailing by a scored of 34-30.
The Dawgs came out of the break and took their first five shots from inside the paint; UGA made 4 of those attempts and found themselves up 42-33 after a Mike Edwards layup with over 17 minutes left in the game. Georgia didn’t stick with this strategy of going inside, though, and Fox’s team made only 1 of their 9 second half three-point attempts.
The Spartans had four players end up in double-figures with Mike Cunningham and Malik Moore leading the way with 16 points apiece.
The Dawgs return to action on Sunday to continue this early season stretch down Murder’s Row as they play host to Texas A&M – Corpus Christi inside The Steg at 1pm.