Han Vance on Georgia basketball: Round 2 from Grand Cayman as the Hoop Hounds faced a ranked team for the first time this season. Clemson Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs had each advanced with big wins in the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday, establishing a rivalry meeting on Tuesday. Georgia went 1:30 p.m. game action on consecutive days and had a 3-1 record, the only loss a close game on the road in Philly against a talented Temple team.
A strong (#16) Clemson were 4-0 and posed easily the biggest challenge of the positive vibes Tom Crean era at UGA so far. Now the record stands at 3-2, nothing to write home about. The program is obviously yet to find consistency and confidence and has lost versus the two tough teams it played.
But, I’ve seen some positive sparks.
Georgia got off to a slow start offensively Tuesday, then freshman Tye Fagan, who got the start at two guard opposite Turtle Jackson and the three key UGA big men, hit a bomb to give a boost. Teshaun Hightower, who came off the bench, hit another three. It was 20-14 when Tyree Crump drained a straight ahead three, a sheer football score at under 10:00. Georgia doing it from outside. At 20-16, the Hoop Hounds were right there nipping at the heels of the Orange-clad Tigers. Then, another Crump splash from downtown quieted a little cats’ run. It was just 32-25.
The lead surged to a half-high 13, then it was shaved 34-26 as Clemson held for a final first-half shot but couldn’t convert. A full half of back-and-forth play showed why Clemson is a ranked team, they have the size and skill of an ACC program who has had a coach in place nearly a decade, and scored first, quickly built a lead and played from ahead. Georgia showed some scrap in hanging around, though, and had a better outside touch early than in many recent efforts, before it went cold nearer the half.
Second-half adjustments by Crean had to include getting Rayshaun Hammonds involved much more in the offense, but it did not seem to work from the start. Hammonds opening the stanza with a key turnover, an albatross emblem of a tough night where he was not making enough opportunities for himself. Story of the game was Clemson’s bigs minimizing Georgia’s sophomore weapons.
Hammonds had gone absolutely nuts with 31 in his first game of the tournament, a comfortable Georgia win over the Illinois State Redbirds featuring a great opening half of play. Here, Hammonds played unsure, made mistakes, didn’t find good shots. The “Slim Reaper” had been at it again, too, on Monday, filling the score sheet with stats (22 points, 11 boards, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal), Nicolas Claxton had importantly added a complementary second scorer of 20+ for the team. He too was flat, save his defensive highlights, where he continues to be a sheerly dominant shot-blocking force.
Playing versus the nearest proximate major college to the University of Georgia, it was funny to be meeting them in the islands. Not so funny was the outcome, facing a team from what is nationally considered the best conference in basketball this season and withstanding a beating.
Dogs fell 64-49. Clemson’s defense and rebounding were too much for Georgia.
Look for Tom Crean and company to bounce back and stay above .500 on Wednesday. Georgia plays the Georgia State Panthers at 5:00 p.m., unless State pulls a Tuesday night upset of the Creighton Bluejays (of Nebraska). The Georgia game is in the losers’ bracket after the tough loss, posing an easier opportunity for the Dogs to get a BPI-boosting win over any quality program. Georgia has often shied away from playing State regularly in basketball because losses to the Panthers, which I have witnessed first-hand – to an inner-city Atlanta basketball school – have hurt Georgia in in-state recruiting.
To watch these games on Facebook Live: On your computer or mobile device, go to georgiadogs.com website and the basketball team, then schedule, then click the movie camera icon under the particular event’s listing, which will lead you to the Facebook Live feed. May take a few minutes to load the broadcast, and it should be refreshed periodically for clarity, best to have two tabs of it open.