When the SEC announced the Georgia Bulldogs would have another home game on March 6 against the league-leading Alabama Crimson Tide, everyone knew it would be a difficult task. And by everyone, that includes the athletic department which decided to double the number of student tickets and move their sections closer to the court.
The energy was certainly there from the start of the contest, but it was not enough to propel Georgia to victory. The Bulldogs lost 89-79 in their final game at Stegeman Coliseum this season. The increased student energy gave Georgia a running start out of the gate, something that has often been lacking for the Bulldogs this season.
“I always want to give a big thanks to the students and everyone who came to the game,” said Georgia guard Sahvir Wheeler. “It was much appreciated, we felt your energy, and we kind of fed off that energy. Hopefully, sometime soon in the near future, we can have everyone at the Steg again.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 29-15 lead midway through the first half, led by two separate 9-0 scoring runs. Georgia was also impressive on the defensive end early against the Crimson Tide who came in averaging the third-most points per game in the SEC. A late scoring run for Alabama cut their deficit to six at the half, setting the momentum for the second half.
The Crimson Tide came out on a 15-2 run immediately in the second half, and Georgia never took the lead again. The Bulldogs did not just roll over though and showed plenty of fight despite going down by as many as 10 points.
K.D. Johnson was a consistent spark plug for the Bulldogs off of the bench. Johnson scored 11 of his 16 total points in the second half. Johnson was aggressive with his cuts and finished through contact multiple times at the rim. Sahvir Wheeler was the Bulldogs’ player of the game though, adding another double-double. Wheeler scored a team-high 18 points and tallied ten assists.
However, that was not enough to overcome a spectacular offensive performance for Alabama in the second half. The Crimson Tide offense that Georgia saw in the first matchup between these two teams finally awoke. Alabama shot 63% from the field in the second half, including 8-of-10 from behind the 3-point line. Jahvon Quinerly led Alabama with 18 points and John Petty Jr. also scored 15 points.
“One reason they’re so good is they make you pay for your mistakes,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean. “But, there were many many times we were doing exactly what we prepared for.”
That shooting display made up for what was relatively a sloppy performance throughout. Both teams mightily struggled with keeping control of the ball. Alabama turned the ball over 22 times, and Georgia was not much better, committing 20 turnovers. The Bulldogs also missed ten free throws, which could have come in handy when Georgia cut the deficit to three points with just over a minute left. Lastly, Georgia was outrebounded by Alabama 45-32.
Georgia will now be tasked with getting ready for the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The Bulldogs have now finished the regular season at 14-11 (7-11), which included a 12-5 record at home. Georgia will be the 10th seed in the SEC tournament and will face the seventh seed (TBD) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. If the ‘Dawgs want to make a miraculous run, it will start there.
“I feel great, we had a good game against a team that won the league,” said Johnson. “I feel good about the SEC Tournament.”