MBB: Dawgs Topple #18 Memphis in Thriller

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MBB: Dawgs Topple #18 Memphis in Thriller

The UGA Men’s Basketball team upset the #18 Memphis Tigers in a thriller on Wednesday night in Athens with a final score of 82-79.

The atmosphere inside Stegman Coliseum was electrifying down the stretch as Georgia fans who packed the building hoping to bear witness to the program’s biggest victory in recent memory had their wishes granted. In a post-game press conference, head coach Tom Crean attributed much of the team’s success to the Georgia faithful, saying that “in that last eight minutes, they helped carry us,” while adding how thankful he was for the support received from the energized crowd.





It was a dazzling performance on Wednesday night for Kario Oquendo, who put up a season-high 24 points to lead all scorers on 9 of 13 shooting. In the absence of starting point guard Aaron Cook who was sidelined with an illness, Christian Wright stepped up for the Dawgs in a big way, notching 17 points and handling the aggressive defensive pressure from Memphis with commendable poise during his 38 minutes of action. Landers Nolley II led the Tigers in scoring with 17 points while adding 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

From the opening tip, Memphis, who led the nation in forced turnovers entering the game, applied full-court pressure following made baskets with a mixture of 1-2-2 and man presses in attempt to rattle the Georgia ball-handlers and generate easy scoring opportunities after steals. Georgia, however, was unphased by the Memphis defense and used the Tigers’ aggressiveness against them, making smart passes through the gaps in the press and quickly converting on open scoring chances against a then out-of-position defense. After struggling considerably in the turnover department in Sunday’s loss to Wofford, the Bulldogs turned the ball over just twice in the second half on Wednesday due, in large part, to the confident play of freshman Christian Wright, who used his speed to blow past the unset Memphis pressure for a coast-to-coast layup after a made basket on multiple occasions while recording only one turnover. He played a substantial role in managing the momentum of the game in favor of Georgia and demonstrated tremendous composure in only his eighth college basketball game.





The first six and a half minutes of the first half were tightly contested, as the score remained a one possession game until a 5-point Georgia scoring run with buckets from Oquendo and Jaylin Ingram gave the Dawgs a 12-8 lead with 13:21 on the clock. Following a jumper from Landers Nolley II, consecutive fast break scores from Oquendo, including an emphatic dunk while defended by freshman phenom Emoni Bates, would give Georgia the largest lead of the night for either team at a score of 23-16 with 8:40 remaining in the half. After trading baskets for the next 4 minutes, a 13-2 Memphis scoring run highlighted by dunks from Bates and fellow freshman sensation Jalen Duren would put the Tigers up by 4 points with 1:30 to play in the half. An impressive spinning finish through contact from Jabri Abdur-Rahim with 17 seconds remaining would result in a 34-32 halftime advantage for Memphis.

Oquendo continued his hot start into the second half, scoring the first 6 Bulldog points to contend with a layup from Duren and 3-Pointers from Nolley II and Lester Quinones and provide a score of 42-38 with 15:32 left in the contest. Shortly after the exchange of and-1 finishes between Christian Wright and DeAndre Williams, Oquendo splashed a 3-Pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 45 with 13:11 remaining. An ensuing layup from Earl Timberlake would give the Tigers a lead they would maintain for the next nine and a half minutes of action. Foul trouble for Memphis would prove a primary storyline in the second half, as Georgia found themselves in the bonus with 10:04 left in the game, an advantage on which they would capitalize while scoring 9 of their next 13 points from the charity stripe. After back-to-back mid-range jump shots from Bates and Nolley II, Memphis held their largest lead of the evening with 4:13 to go at a score of 74-69. Pushing the tempo on consecutive possessions, Wright and Oquendo converted on layups to bring the Dawgs within 1 with 3:36 remaining. After a split at the foul line for Quinones, a pair of clutch free throws from Jaxon Etter tied the game at 75 with under 3 minutes to play. Quinones would then take another trip to the free throw line, in which he would make both and give the Tigers a 2-point lead with 2:38 left in the game. Down by two, Jabri Abdur-Rahim then sunk the biggest shot of his young college career with a deep, contested 3-Pointer off the dribble to put the Dawgs up by 1. On the ensuing possession, a forceful steal from Oquendo near half court led to an emphatic fast-break slam, sending the crowd into a frenzy and increasing the Georgia lead to 3 points with 1:34 remaining. Georgia maintained its 3-point lead until the last possession of the game in which Bates came up short on a last-second heave in attempt to send the game to overtime.

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Wednesday night’s win over Memphis was the 400th in the career of head coach Tom Crean, who was congratulated on the jumbotron after the final buzzer sounded. The veteran coach implemented a beautiful game plan which served to neutralize Memphis’ pair of star freshmen, for whom several NBA scouts were in attendance, as well as empower his young team to play confidently and take advantage of opportunities with which they were presented.

The win brings Georgia to a 3-5 record on the season as the team prepares to host Jacksonville on Tuesday, December 7th in Stegman Coliseum.





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