Han Vance on Georgia basketball: Hoop Hounds stayed undefeated in Stegeman Coliseum with an easy 84-51 win over Kennesaw State University (of Georgia) Tuesday night, before a too sparse live audience. This was a game Georgia had to have to get the ship sailing in the right direction, again.
Georgia is 3-0 in the series history with the Owls, the only other meetings coming in ’07-’08.
After a nice 3-1 start to the Tom Crean era culminated with an opening win over Illinois State on Grand Cayman at the Cayman Islands Classic, Georgia got thumped by 15 by top 20 Clemson of the ACC in a game where the Bulldog offense was stymied. After, Crean stated that “it was such a winnable game” but the young team never really scared UGA’s nearest geographic rival university.
Following that with a losers’ bracket bad beatdown at the hands of Atlanta’s Georgia State University dampened merits of the trip and left Georgia at .500. Early season subpar records rarely false signifiers, at least the team knew where they had to improve before league play – almost everywhere.
Dogs opened this home game with a narrow 11-10 lead, inserting instant offense Tyree Crump off a deep Georgia bench that has far from a settled guard rotation but consistently tries to feature three bigs as top players: sophomores Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton and senior Derek Ogbeide, each double-digit scorers. Here, Crump quickly connected on a signature deep three.
At 14-10, it was a football score for the two in-state college football powers, who play at different levels in the Peach State’s marquee collegiate sport. The tangible excitement for the SEC championship game in Atlanta and the FCS playoffs on the minds of many of the fans of the sporting programs of both institutions, the schools have a total of one football loss each this season.
Kennesaw State came in at just 1-6 in hoops, though, and have struggled since moving up in classification near the end of the stellar Tony Ingle coaching era. They won the Division II national championship in 2004, with a nasty 3/4 court press trap that was a thing of beauty to behold. My UGA alumnus brother Johnny Vance got his Master’s at KSU, and we used to attend the games there with our first wives and older kids, as they came close to taking two other national titles and seemed to never lose at home.
After an opening win over tiny Oglethorpe (of Atlanta) this season, the Owls followed with six straight defeats. Atlantic Sun leading scorer Tyler Hooker, out of South Carolina, opened the game in Athens 0-6 before back-to-back baskets.
The Owls were so physically outmatched, and the Dogs surged up 22-11. Jordan Harris looked good off the Georgia bench in the first half, as many players got in on the action in building a 15-point lead with under 5:00 in the opening stanza.
At the break, it was 39- 20, and Crump was the leading scorer with nine on 3-of-5 shooting. Though Kennesaw sandwiched an impressive 9-1 run between the close and start of the two periods of play, Georgia quickly reestablished physical dominance as the second half clock continued to tick.
Everybody got some playing time in the second half, and the Georgia bench played well. But key starter Nicolas Claxton was easily the game MVP, as he contributed another all-around stat sheet game. He was the leading scorer with 16 points and added 15 boards.
The 4-3 team now gets a needed break, to practice, before another off-brand opponent home game. Texas Southern visits Athens on Monday, December 3rd at 7:00 p.m.