Despite massive disadvantages in size and prestige, UNC Pembroke proved to Georgia Monday that no opponent can be taken lightly.
Pulling away toward the end to an 81-69 victory, the score doesn’t truly reflect the struggles Georgia basketball felt throughout the first half and midway into the second half of the exhibition.
Georgia led by just one point at halftime and the lead changed 12 times over the course of the game, partially due to the Bulldogs’ 24 turnovers.
“It’s good to get out in front of fans and play,” head coach Mark Fox said. “I think we showed some typical first game jitters. Offensively, I think we never really were settled and turnovers were an issue for us. And then I think we had a difficult time transitioning to how the game is going to be officiated this year because we know it’s an issue and I thought we did a nice job not fouling, but we didn’t pressure the basketball defensively. It’s a good starting point for us.”
As for the individual game’s starting point, sophomore Kenny Gaines exploded out onto the scene early for the Bulldogs, scoring nine of the team’s first 10 points. After the early moments however, his importance waned, finishing with 19 points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
The real star of the night for the Bulldogs was sophomore guard Charles Mann. Scoring 18 points in 24 minutes of play, Mann shared the ball well, his four assists leading the team by double the closest amount.
That being said, assists were seemingly irrelevant for the Bulldogs because of the dominance the team displayed rebounding the basketball. Out-rebounding Pembroke 52 to 23, Georgia scored 40 of its points from the paint, 15 of which were on second chance opportunities created by 12 offensive rebounds.
“It’s a size advantage,” said junior forward Nemanja Djurisic, who finished with seven rebounds. “We had the advantage in the post. They were very aggressive though, just a little bit undersized.”
Gaines, however, disagrees with Djurisic’s summation of the team’s prowess on the glass.
“I think it was half-and-half [between a size advantage and team tenacity,]” Gaines said. “We pride ourselves on being a team of rebounding guards and bigs. So the size, it kind of weighed in our favor, but at the same time I think that’s something we pride ourselves on.”
Regardless of what the team prides itself on early, this team is far from achieving the potential Fox saw when he voted the team 25th in the preseason coach’s poll. Despite the high volume of turnovers and relatively shabby 69 percent free-throw percentage, Fox still maintains that he “believes in [his] team.”
“Until we lose I’ll vote for ‘em every week,” Fox said.
That, in a microcosm, is what Fox and the team wanted to take away from Monday’s performance. Though it did not lose, the team learned a lot that it plans on carrying with it into Friday’s season opener in Athens against Wofford.
“I think that we learned we have a lot to work on,” Gaines said. “We turned the ball over quite a bit. And also from the free-throw line, I’m not sure how many free throws we missed but that would’ve given us a bigger advantage score-wise.”