The University of Georgia Men’s Basketball team defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs 58-50 on Wednesday night in Stegeman Coliseum to improve to 10-0 on their home floor this season.
Wednesday’s affair was about as ugly as it gets in the SEC, with both teams struggling horrendously on the offensive end. To put in perspective just how bad of a showing the squads put forth on offense, Georgia shot 5-25 from the floor and turned the ball over 10 times in the first half but entered the locker room at halftime with a 1-point lead. Nonetheless, an ugly win is still a win and a major accomplishment for the Dawgs who were able to best a 12-3 Mississippi State team who appears to be “one of the best defensive teams in the country”, as stated by Mike White in a postgame press conference.
As has been the case in the previous two games, Terry Roberts led the Dawgs in scoring with 16 points on 4-11 shooting while adding 3 assists and 3 rebounds. The contest marked many milestones for Georgia’s Braelen Bridges, who recorded his 1000th career point and 500th career rebound in his 100th game; the Bulldog big man also finished with a double-double in scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Shakeel Moore carried Mississippi State’s offense with 15 points, including 3 timely 3-Pointers in 8 tries.
Two typically reliable offensive weapons, one on each squad, were held in check in the low-scoring matchup, as each Bulldog team was forced to look for alternatives to replace the usual production of Kario Oquendo and Tolu Smith. Oquendo finished 0-3 from the floor with 2 turnovers and 2 fouls while posting a team-worst -14 in his somewhat limited 17 minutes of action. Smith struggled mightily as well, as the leading scorer for Mississippi State entering the game mustered only 1 made field goal and going 3-11 from the free throw line after missing his first 7 attempts. The outing was certainly an aberration for the two players who each rank in the top 14 in scoring in the SEC, and their numbers were a microcosm of the struggles the team experienced.
Each team shot 30% from the field for the game, as Mississippi State hit 18 of 61 tries while Georgia went only 14-47. Doubling their opponent’s total in the category, Georgia coughed the ball up 18 times against the stingy Mississippi State defense which ranked among the nation’s leaders in forced turnovers. An equal shooting percentage and a turnover margin of such significance might typically lead one to expect a blowout in favor of the team with fewer turnovers. That is, of course, before they factor in the power of the free throw line. The game’s great equalizer ultimately propelled the Dawgs to victory, as Georgia shot an impressive 81% (25-31), including conversions on each of their final 12 attempts, all in the last 3:45 of play. Mississippi State, on the other hand, shot an abysmal 32% (7-22) from the foul line, which killed their momentum time and again throughout the game. Shockingly, the figure actually marked a vast improvement from their 2-16 start that effectively kept Georgia in the game despite their offensive woes.
In addition to their substantial advantage in free throw shooting, a primary factor in Georgia’s victory came by way of the spark provided by Justin Hill off the bench. Held scoreless in the first half, Hill dropped 12 points in the second, including 8 straight, to help give his squad the lead after sinking a difficult runner across the lane with 6:44 to play. The game’s only double-digit scorer in the second half, Hill’s impact in igniting a dormant Georgia offense can’t be overstated.
Coach Mike White said after the game that his is a “unique team in that it seems like it’s a different 3 or 4 guys” that step up for the Dawgs on any given night. Such “parody”, as White put it, throughout the roster makes Georgia tough to plan for and even harder to play against, as roles have been seen to fluctuate on a game-by-game basis to favor the strength of what has somewhat surprisingly emerged as one of the conference’s deepest teams.
The Dawg’s 12th win improves their record to 2-1 in the conference and 12-4 overall as they prepare to travel to Oxford on Saturday to face an Ole Miss squad that currently sits in last place in the SEC at 1:00.