The Georgia men’s basketball team defeated Cincinnati 83-68 Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum to move to 6-0 on the season. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:
Speed vs. size
The contrast between the size of Georgia and Cincinnati’s starting lineups was apparent right before tip-off. Georgia’s Toumani Camara (6-foot-8) stood next to Cincinnati’s Chris Vogt (7-foot-1). Despite the five-inch difference, Camara out jumped Vogt and hit the ball to Andrew Garcia when the ball was thrown up by the official. From then on, Georgia was able to manage the size and physicality of the Bearcats, who also had 6-foot-10 Rapolas Ivanauskas in their starting five.
“I was scared to death because we hadn't played a team like this,” said head coach Tom Crean in a postgame virtual press conference. “We had been through different games, but we certainly knew the competitiveness, the strength, the length, how good they are was going to definitely be a test. I felt good throughout the day because we had a solid week.”
The Bulldogs beat Cincinnati players to the spot when fighting for rebounds and used their speed on the fast break to burst out to a 23-point lead at halftime. Most of the points came in a 20-2 run in the final five and a half minutes. In the first half, Georgia out rebounded Cincinnati 26-18, forced 13 turnovers and scored 16 points off them and scored 32 points in the paint. Georgia’s 49 points were its second-highest point total in a half after scoring 52 in the second half against Jacksonville on Dec. 4.
Cincinnati showed some more life in the final 20 minutes, but Georgia still dictated the pace of play and always kept the game at arm’s length. The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle by one (39-38), forced 24 turnovers and scored 27 points off them, shot 25 free throws and made 21 of them. Cincinnati was held to 39% from the field and shot just 5-for-29 from the behind the arc.
Camara makes his return
After missing out on Georgia’s 79-75 win over Samford one week ago due to a lower-body injury, Camara was back in the starting lineup. He wasted little time announcing himself after a one-handed flush on the fastbreak not even three minutes into the game.
He went on to influence the game on both ends of the court, pulling off a chasedown block, ending Cincinnati possessions with his reliable rebounding, dunking every chance he got and even sinking a 3-pointer. In one instance, Camara ran the floor in transition for a layup then rushed back down on defense and drew a charge.
Even though head coach Tom Crean said Camara only had one day of live practice this past week, the sophomore finished with 19 points (6-for-9 from the field), 10 rebounds, two steals and a block.
“Your better players, the players have got to feel impacted by, inspired by and they've got to feel safe with, like they feel better because they're on the floor,” Crean said in a postgame virtual press conference. “And I think tonight, Toumani showed that. We certainly missed him last week, there's no doubt about that. ... We were fortunate to win [against Samford], but you bring him back and he raises the level of everybody because of how hard he plays.”
Spreading out the scoring, again
Georgia came into the weekend as just one of three Division I programs alongside Northwestern and North Alabama to have six players averaging double figures. Crean always talks about the importance of spreading out the scoring because it’s the Bulldogs’ key to winning games.
Although it was to a lesser extent, Georgia had a balanced box score once again on Saturday. There were four Bulldogs with 10 or more points and Christian Brown had nine points. The four scorers for Georgia were predictable, with Camara, Kier, Fagan and Sahvir Wheeler leading the way. Wheeler shot 4-for-14 from the field with two 3-pointers and had 12 points and seven assists. Fagan chipped in with a hard-earned 17 points and nine rebounds. Alongside Camara, Kier put up 18 points and shot 6-for-11 from the field.
Without Mikal Starks, the backup point guard who has a lower body injury and didn’t practice all week, Kier also took up more ball-handling duties.
"We hope he's back very, very soon, but I've been handling the ball all my life," Kier said in a postgame virtual press conference. "So it wasn't very new to me, when coach told me he wanted me to get on the ball more, I just took that as a challenge. I've handled the ball a lot, so it wasn't very challenging for me to do that, I just stepped into a different role tonight."