The University of Georgia Men’s Basketball team defeated the Western Carolina University Catamounts 85-79 on Monday night in Stegman Coliseum.
Kario Oquendo led all scorers with 21 points to compliment his 7 rebounds, while Aaron Cook recorded his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 assists. Travion McCray led the way for the Catamounts with 20 points and 8 rebounds.
Monday’s win was very much a team effort for Georgia, as four Bulldogs scored in double figures while Jaxon Etter and Jabri Abdur-Rahim each added 9 points. Dalen Ridgnal contributed tremendously during his 12 minutes off the bench, grabbing 9 rebounds and scoring 10 points to augment his previous season total of 11. Ridgnal led all first half scorers with 8 points at the intermission. In a post-game press conference, Aaron Cook implied that the offensive collaboration has always been the key for Georgia’s success, commenting that “that’s when we’re going to be at our best… It’s really hard to lose a game when you have that many guys scoring that many points.”
Georgia came out hot to start the game as Aaron Cook drilled a 3-Pointer on the team’s first trip down the floor while a dunk from Braelen Bridges on the following possession gave the Dawgs a quick 5-0 lead. After a 3-Pointer from Joe Petrakis, another 5-0 Georgia scoring spurt put the Bulldogs up 10-3 just 3:39 into the game. The lead would grow to as much as 11 points following a deep wing 3-Pointer from Dalen Ridgnal, who shot with confidence all night; The Dawgs led 22-11 with 8:56 to play in the half. Western Carolina slowly chipped away at the lead for the remainder of the half and eventually trimmed the deficit to just 2 points following a bucket from Marvin Price which sent the two teams to the locker room with a score of 35-33 in favor of Georgia.
The second half began in much the same way as the first as Noah Baumann opened up the scoring with a made 3-Pointer to put the Dawgs back up by 5. Georgia would maintain their advantage until a 5-0 scoring run from Western Carolina including a layup from Nick Robinson and 3-Pointer from Joe Petrakis tied the game at 44 with 16:23 remaining in the game. As the momentum seemed to be shifting in WCU’s favor, Georgia flipped it right back as Aaron Cook stole an inbounds pass from underneath the UGA basket and glided the length of the court for a reverse finish to put the Dawgs back up by 2 and spark a 6-0 Bulldog scoring run. Georgia led 50-44 with 14:29 left on the clock, but the extended margin would not last for long as Western Carolina’s largest scoring run of the night would give the Catamounts their first lead at a score of 53-52 with 12:01 to go. Neither team led by more than four points as the squads traded baskets for the next 6 minutes of action. An and-1 finish down low from Kario Oquendo began the largest scoring run of the contest for either team as the Dawgs put up 9 unanswered points over 2:20 to give Georgia a comfortable 8-point lead with 4:25 left in the game. The Catamounts were able to pull within 4 points with 1:17 left following a 3-Pointer from Trevion McCray, but Oquendo responded with a clutch 3-Pointer of his own with only 50 seconds on the clock to put the Dawgs up by 7 and essentially ice the game. Georgia was able to hang on and secure the 85-79 victory.
The Catamounts came into Monday’s game ranked 4th in the nation in 3-Point rate and certainly did not fail to live up to that reputation as they launched an ample 46 3-Point attempts. The Dawgs implemented a “small ball” lineup intermittently throughout the game to maximize available speed in order to run Western Carolina off the 3-Point line, which seemed to work quite effectively as they held their opponent to a mere 26% from long range.
The win on Monday improves Georgia’s record to 5-6 on the year as they prepare to face East Tennessee State University on Wednesday night at home in what will be their final matchup before the start of SEC play.