On Tuesday, Georgia bested Alabama 82-76 at Stegeman Coliseum to earn its first conference win of the year, ending an eight game losing streak for the Bulldogs.
“I'm really proud of these guys for a lot of reasons and the staff, because we got better between South Carolina and tonight,” head coach Tom Crean said, “And the energy in the building when we needed him the most was at the highest level. So I'm very, very thankful for that.”
Georgia played strong team basketball, with every player scoring during the game. A big boost came from the bench, with 29 points, outscoring Alabama by 11 in that facet. Georgia struggled to slow down Alabama’s high powered guards in the first half, but was able to hold the Crimson Tide to 35.3% shooting in the second half after 53.6% in the first.
Kario Oquendo opened the scoring with a three from the wing. The game started quickly, with both teams knocking down threes early. The Bulldogs started hot, hitting their first three shots. It wasn’t all great for Georgia, who lost their star forward Braelen Bridges only a couple of minutes into the game, but he would return later in the first half.
After the first media timeout, the game started to become more of a half-court affair. Georgia was able to get contributions from Jabri Abdul-Rahim and Dalen Ridgnal to keep a 16-14 lead with 12 minutes to go in the first half.
Georgia came out of the media timeout on fire. Alabama was able to get buckets from Jahvon Quinerly and Charles Bediako to help stick around. The Bulldogs used fast break offense and sharp shooting from the outside to open up a six-point, 27-21 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the opening period.
Alabama used a 6-0 mini-run to close the game. From there, the teams began to exchange baskets back and forth. With two quick threes, Alabama was able to steal the lead, 33-31 going into the final media timeout of the first half.
In the closing minutes of the half, the Crimson Tide was able to add a little cushion to their lead. Jaden Shackleford, with five threes in the first half, led the way for the Crimson Tide, scoring 16.
Georgia entered the break trailing 42-36. The Bulldogs, who are second in the SEC in free throw percentage(74.1%) struggled from the charity stripe in the first, only converting four of their seven opportunities.
Early in the second half, Georgia came out fast. Seven early second-half points for Braelen Bridges helped begin to close the gap. Finally, Aaron Cook hit a corner three for the Bulldogs to tie the game at 48 a piece.
The game started to become a big stagnant on the offensive side, only eight points being scored between both teams in just under four minutes. Then came the offense, with both teams scoring and forth. Alabama was able to open up an advantage, 62-58, with a big three from Jaden Shackleford and great offensive rebounding.
After Georgia used a mini run to close the gap to one, the teams began to trade buckets. After two free throws from Jabri Abdul-Rahim, the Bulldogs found themselves ahead for the first time since 4:27 left in the first half.
Using second chance points and fast transition offense, Georgia was able to get a four point lead with about two minutes remaining. Suffocating defense from the Bulldogs helped them get the game where they wanted it, the free throw line. Georgia would return to mean, making all but one free throw down the stretch.
Kario Oquendo put the finishing touches on the game and Georgia would go on to close it out and win it 82-76. The crowd played a big part in the game down the stretch.
“When the crowd is loud, like that,” Braelen Bridges said, “I mean, I feel like everybody plays defense harder. Everybody locks into the main lesson today assignment. A lot more when the crowd is hyping us up like that. I feel like it's just everything turns up a notch.”
Georgia now looks forward to a trip to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (10-8, 2-4). The Commodores were able to best the Bulldogs in their first meeting, 73-66.