In the latest rendition of one of the greatest rivalries in college sports, UGA fell to Georgia Tech on the hardwood in Stegman Coliseum on Friday night with a final score of 88-78.
Friday night’s contest involved a dazzling performance from Georgia Tech’s senior point guard Michael Devoe who exploded for 37 points on an efficient 14/18 shooting, adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Aaron Cook and Jaylin Ingram carried the load for Georgia offensively, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. Cook led the team in assists while Ingram led in rebounds, both players contributing 6 in each category.
The game was much closer than the double-digit margin of victory might indicate, as the game was tied at 73 with under three and a half minutes to play before a Devoe layup sparked an 8-1 Georgia Tech scoring run spanning 2:18. Georgia Tech’s superior experience in this rivalry made a tremendous difference down the stretch as Devoe and senior guard Jordan Usher were able to calmly score at will in crunch time while playing in a hostile environment.
The energy and intensity were palpable for both teams from the opening tip while the energized crowd created the most exciting atmosphere that Stegman Coliseum has seen thus far in the young season. Georgia led for over 13 minutes of what was a tightly contested first half. Back-to-back 3-Pointers from Noah Baumann and Aaron Cook gave the Dawgs their biggest lead of the evening at six points with 13:55 remaining after a neck-and-neck first six minutes of action. The teams would continue to trade baskets for the next 12 minutes before a personal 8-0 scoring run from Devoe in response to a 3-Pointer from Cook would lead to the 11th lead change of the half and ultimately contribute to a 5-point half time Georgia Tech advantage at a score of 41-36. Interestingly, both teams shot more efficiently from the field and from 3-Point range than they did from the free-throw line in the first half. Georgia converted on 50% of their field goal attempts while making only 6 of their 15 free throws.
Coach Tom Crean elected to adjust his lineup for the start of the second half by sending out Jaxon Etter and Christian Wright in place of Kario Oquendo and Noah Baumann. After providing tremendous defensive value in the first half, as seen through the three charges drawn by Etter, the two fresh faces provided an instant spark for the Georgia offense, scoring the team’s first 6 points with an and-1 layup from Wright and 3-Pointer from Etter. The Yellow Jacket lead would toggle between 3 and 7 points for the next 6 minutes before 3-Pointers from Deivon Smith and Michael Devoe would give the team their largest lead of the night at 10 points with 13:30 remaining in the game. After battling for the next 8:18, Ingram converted a nice move down low to give the Dawgs their first lead of the second half at a score of 71-69 with 5:12 remaining. Following a dunk from Smith which tied the game, another Ingram bucket would give the lead back to Georgia with 4:34 to play before Devoe and Usher took the game over, scoring the next 15 Yellow Jacket points and securing the victory.
Although it might not have made the entire difference in the outcome, Georgia’s woes from the charity stripe certainly hurt the team as they finished with only 12 makes out of 24 attempts while Georgia Tech, conversely, ultimately shot over 70% from the line, going 7/8 in the second half.
In a post-game press conference, Aaron Cook shouldered the responsibility of the loss as the leader of the team, continuing to demonstrate his poise and humility at the helm for the Bulldogs. He added that he was “very proud of this team and how they fought,” acknowledging that the squad was quickly developing a no-quit identity as a group that will fight until the very end. Head Coach Tom Crean expanded on this development, commenting that his bunch is a “night and day different team” than the group he took to Charlotte to play their first exhibition game only a few weeks ago.
All things considered, Georgia’s inexperienced roster handled the high stakes of an intense rivalry quite well on Friday night as they continue to noticeably improve each game. The team will now prepare to face Virginia after a short break on Monday night in New Jersey in the first of two tournament games as a part of the Legends Classic.