Georgia men’s basketball suffered its first loss of the season on Wednesday night as Mississippi State routed the Bulldogs 83-73 in the conference opener.
UGA had three scorers in double digits in the loss. The Bulldogs were led by graduate transfer P.J. Horne with 21 points, who shot an impressive 50 percent from the 3-point line. Sophomore Toumani Camara added another double-double, finishing with 11 points and 11 boards, while junior Tye Fagan added 10 points.
Georgia (7-1) got a reality check as Mississippi State (6-3) dominated from start to finish. The Bulldogs were able to pull within 10 in the final 90 seconds of regulation, although the strong second-half surge wasn’t enough to overcome the first-half misfortunes.
Georgia struggled in the first half as the Bulldogs trailed 41-27 at halftime, but the deficit could have been a lot worse. Mississippi State shot 47 percent (8 of 15) from the three-point line, which proved to be the difference. On the other hand, Georgia shot 20 percent (3 of 15) from beyond the arc and 26 percent (10 of 39) from the field.
“We missed a lot open bunnies,” Fagan said after the game. “We missed a lot of open opportunities. I don’t know if we were taking too many shots, but rather were just missed a lot of easy bunnies.”
Georgia head coach Tom Crean couldn’t agree more.
“If we make our layups in the first half we are leading,” Crean said. “If we make most of our shots in that first half then we’d have been fine…We took too many unbalanced shots and we don’t practice that. Sahvir (Wheeler) took too many and so did Justin (Kier). That’s usually something that those guys don’t do…I can live with missed threes, but I can’t live with unbalanced shots.”
The Maroon Bulldogs came out swinging from the start as they jumped out to a 15-7 early lead in the first six minutes. MSU’s Devion Smith and Iverson Molinar traded several baskets down the stretch as the Bulldogs continued to pour it on. Georgia went on a quick 5-0 run with 6:52 left, but its next field goal came nearly four minutes later. That drought let Mississippi State extend the lead even further.
The start of the second half didn’t bode well for the home Bulldogs, either.
MSU’s offensive intensity carried on as Molinar scored 9 of the first 15 points in the first five minutes. Shortly after, Georgia’s three-point game came alive as the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to cut Mississippi State’s lead to 10. Fagan and Horne traded shots from beyond the arc. Next, Fagan nailed another 3-pointer and followed with a jumper.
UGA was able to cut the lead to single digits with just under eight minutes left, although MSU didn’t settle. Mississippi State got the lead back to 13 and never looked back. Georgia was at a disadvantage because it really couldn’t close the gap. The Maroon Bulldogs were just too much offensively, even though Georgia shot better in the second half.
Mississippi State outrebounded Georgia, although the difference was only one board. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers, which is something that needs to be cleaned up. On a positive note, Georgia shot 63 percent from the field in the second half and 60 percent from the three-point line. That was the improvement that UGA could lean on heading into next week’s matchup.
“If we are consistent enough then we will be able to compete in this league,” Horne said. “We have to practice how we play. It’s 40 minutes a game and we have to be consistent in what we do.”
Crean said despite the loss, it’s not time to panic.
“We were extremely too quiet,” Crean said. “We’ve had some moments like this in games and we’ve been able to overcome them. But you can’t beat good teams in this league if you are not more active defensively. We were in position, but we were not as active because we let our lack of offense in the first half control our defensive effort.”
Here is Crean’s postgame presser: