Tom Crean’s Georgia Bulldogs’ squad played in a game of firsts on Wednesday night as they traveled to Baton Rouge to face LSU. This was the first opportunity for Georgia to avenge a loss after picking up its first defeat of the season last Wednesday against Mississippi State. It also provided Georgia with the opportunity to play away from Stegeman Coliseum for the first time this season.
Georgia was narrowly defeated in overtime, losing 94-92 in an offensive shootout to remember. LSU came in as the SEC’s second-highest scoring team, averaging 85.9 points per game, so Georgia’s offensive consistency was one of the biggest storylines to watch heading into this matchup.
“I’m proud of them, don’t get me wrong,” said Crean. “Moral victory is not a phrase that I’d use, but [I’m] proud of their effort, their tenacity, their togetherness, the bench energy in here, in what was a pretty flat crowd at times because it was a close game. I thought our guys did a tremendous job of creating great energy for us, and now we have to find out what our level of resilience is.”
The Bulldogs more than pulled their weight offensively, shooting 48% from the field, and had four players score in double-digits. Justin Kier played his best game in a Georgia uniform so far this season. The George Mason transfer had a team-high 25 points, which included six 3-pointers. Kier also added six rebounds.
Georgia built up a ten point lead with 9:07 remaining after a Kier steal and slam, and it appeared the Bulldogs might be on their way to a big upset win on the road. However, LSU immediately answered with a 13-2 scoring run of its own to go up 71-70 with 7:03 remaining.
Cameron Thomas was the SEC’s leading scorer coming into the game, averaging 24.6 points per game, and led the Tigers again on Wednesday scoring 26 points. Georgia’s defense actually did a sufficient job of containing Thomas from the field, where he shot 5-of-17, and he only made one 3-pointer in eight attempts. Thomas, however, was able to do most of his damage from the free-throw line, where he made 15 of his 16 attempts.
The only free throw Thomas missed, left LSU’s lead at two points and gave Georgia an opportunity to tie or win the game in overtime. Kier drove to his right and just missed a layup off the glass, ending the game. Crean made it clear though that he has plenty of trust in Kier.
“We had a great look to tie the game,” said Crean. “I would say this about Justin Kier, if he’s not the best layup maker I’ve ever recruited, he’s right in that first couple of fingers. We just missed at the end.”
It should be noted that the last time Georgia played a true road game, it was in the same arena during the final game of the 2020 regular season and the Bulldogs lost by 30. The fact that they only lost by two tonight against a really talented LSU squad, shows that this Georgia team should be competitive in the SEC this year on a nightly basis.
The Bulldogs will need to fix some things, including their turnovers. Coach Crean has made it clear he wants his team to play fast, and they certainly do. But the turnovers have at times been costly for Georgia. Tonight the Bulldogs had 22 turnovers, which led to 25 LSU points.
As Crean said, it will now be about how Georgia bounces back as they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. Arkansas is the only team in the SEC that averages more points per game than LSU, so Wednesday’s game should help the Bulldogs get ready for Saturday’s contest.
“They’re a high scoring team and they’re going to put five shooters on the floor,” said Crean, talking about Arkansas. “We’re going to have to be really attentive to what we need to do defensively there.”
Georgia now falls to 7-2 (0-2) and will tip off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Fayetteville. LSU improves to 7-2 (2-1) on the year and will travel to Missouri on Saturday, where they will face the 13th-ranked Tigers.