The Texas Longhorns travel to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The Longhorns are 11-8 (3-4) and they face a Georgia team that is going through a rebuild under Tom Crean.
The last meeting between these teams was in 2017 when the Bulldogs scrapped out a 59-57 win over the Longhorns.
Now, both teams are in need of a win before the remainder of their conference slates.
Update on the status of Nicolas Claxton and Jordan Harris
“Nic was fine today. We’re still waiting on Jordan to see how that goes, but Nic responded well.” – Tom Crean
According to Crean, Nicolas Claxton will be good to go for Saturday’s game. However, there is the possibility that Jordan Harris may be diagnosed with a concussion and will not be available. Both Claxton and Harris had a hard collision late in the second half of the LSU game.
Player to Watch
Jaxson Hayes (Texas)
The Longhorns have a special player in Jaxson Hayes. Listed at 6-11, the freshman forward has an impressive 7-4 wingspan. He leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage and blocks per game. Hayes is shooting 75.5 percent from the field and is averaging 2.7 blocks per outing.
Hayes is one of the Longhorns key contributors; averaging 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Although his size stands out, Hayes has great hands for a big man which bodes well for him being successful around the rim. His touch and feel for the game is what separates him from other post players.
Crean spoke on the challenge of guarding Hayes and emphasized that the Bulldogs have to disrupt him by making him move around. “We’ve got to make him move. [He’s] very, very comfortable playing the way that he wants to play.”
With Hayes being listed at the same size and weight as Nicolas Claxton, that could be a potential matchup to watch in this game.
Key to Victory for Georgia
Force Texas to settle for outside shots
The Longhorns’ strength lies in their frontcourt with Hayes and Dylan Osetkowski. Claxton and Derek Ogbeide will hang their hands full facing this large duo. Although Texas’ guards, Kerwin Roach and Matt Coleman have the ability to knock shots from beyond the arc, they are not the most consistent in that department.
The Bulldogs have to win their one-on-one matchups with Hayes and Ostekowski. Those two players will be instrumental in Texas’s success against the Bulldogs. Even if Hayes and Ostekowski are guarded well inside by UGA’s frontcourt, it will free up the Longhorns to get open looks from the three-point line. Texas’ inside-outside offensive play this season has been the reason why they have recorded big wins over UNC and Oklahoma.
The Bulldogs need to stop Hayes and Ostekowski and force the Texas guards to beat them.
The Bulldogs played a solid second half offensively at LSU and I expect that momentum to carry over into this game.
Rayshaun Hammonds and Harris made their impact by moving without the ball and freed themselves up for looks around the basket.
I expect Hammonds to build off of his second half performance against LSU.
Although the Longhorns have an experienced backcourt with Roach, I expect the Bulldogs’ home atmosphere to be the difference maker in this game.
Georgia is going to have their hands full in the frontcourt but Claxton and Ogbeide will make enough plays on both ends of the floor to get the Bulldogs back to their winning ways.
Having two teams that are similar with long length, athleticism, and streaky outside shooters, it is possible that this will not be a high scoring game.
I’m going to roll with the Bulldogs in a close one behind Turtle Jackson’s big day.
Season Predictions Record (straight up): 5-1
Prediction: Georgia 66, Texas 62