MBB: Georgia vs. Cincinnati Preview

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MBB: Georgia vs. Cincinnati Preview

Sahvir Wheeler
Sahvir Wheeler

Georgia (5-0) vs. Cincinnati (2-3)

Saturday, December 19, at 8:00 p.m. ET

Stegeman Coliseum (1,638) in Athens, Ga.

Series History: UC leads, 1-0

Last Meeting: UC, 57-51, on Dec. 12, 2011

Watch: SEC Network (Tom Hart, play-by-play; Jimmy Dykes, analyst)

Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; XM: 388; Internet: 978 (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)

The Starting Five

• At 5-0, UGA is off to its best start since the 2001-02 season. With a win over Cincinnati, UGA would record its best beginning since its 1982-83 Final Four team.

• Georgia,  Northwestern and North Alabama are the only three of  328 D-I basketball that entered the weekend with six players averaging double figures.

• UGA has won the opening tip in each game this season and is 14-2 when doing so since the beginning of last season. UGA was 7-14 when losing the tip in 2019-20.

• Sahvir Wheeler’s three double-digit assist outings in the first three games of the season were as many as any SEC player posted in all of 2019-20.

• UGA’s roster features eight newcomers with representative in every class – two freshmen, a sophomore, two juniors and a trio of graduate transfers.

The Opening Tip

Georgia welcomes Cincinnati to Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday evening looking to match the Bulldogs’ best start in 38 years. Georgia is 5-0 to date, equaling its longest undefeated opening since 2001-02. 

A win over the Bearcats would represent the Bulldogs’ best beginning since notching nine straight wins to christen – wait for it – Georgia’s 1982-83 Final Four campaign.

Keeping An Eye On…Entering Tonight’s Game

Andrew Garcia is…

• 159 points from 1,000 for his career

• 63 rebounds for 500 for his career

Series History With Bearcats

Saturday’s game is just the second-ever meeting between the Bulldogs and the Bearcats on the hardwood. Cincinnati won of the other matchup, also at Stegeman Coliseum, a 57-51 decision on December 2, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon scored 22 and 19 points, respectively, to lead Cincinnati, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 16 points paced the Bulldogs offensively.

Georgia opened up a 30-21 lead at halftime, but the Bulldogs shot just 28.6 percent from the field – and connected on 1-of-7 3-point attempts – after the intermission as the Bearcats rallied to victory.

Scouting Cincy

Cincinnati arrives in Athens with a 2-3 record after opening American Athletic Conference play with a 74-71 setback to South Florida on Wednesday night.

Interestingly, the Bearcats entered that game not only with a 2-2 record by with matching 270-270 cumulative point totals as their first four opponents.

The Bearcats are playing just their second road game of the season. Last Saturday, they dropped a 65-56 decision to No. 12 Tennessee at Thompson Boling-Arena in Knoxville.

Keith Williams averages a team-high 14.6 ppg for Cincinnati. The Bearcats are balanced on the offensive end after that, with six players averaging between 6.4-9.4 ppg. Tari Eason is one of three players grabbing five or more boards per game, averaging 5.8 rpg for UC. 

Bulldogs Among Nation’s Most Balanced Teams

Georgia enters the Cincinnati game with no less than a half-dozen Bulldogs averaging double digits in the scoring column.

Through games of Thursday (Dec. 17), Georgia and Northwestern were the only two teams out of 323 “official” NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs with six double-digit scorers. Of note, North Alabama, which is one of five teams reclassifying to D-I this season, also sported six double-figure scoring averages on Friday.

Following the Bulldogs, Wildcats and Lions, there were 18 teams with five scorers averaging 10.0 ppg or more through games of Dec. 16, including Arkansas.

New Faces In New Places

Georgia’s roster features eight first-year Bulldogs, while Cincinnati brings seven new Bearcats to Athens.

Georgia’s octet newcomers features a representative of every class – freshmen K.D. Johnson and Josh Taylor, sophomore Tyron McMillan, juniors Jonathan Ned and Mikal Starks; and graduate transfer seniors Andrew Garcia, P.J. Horne and Justin Kier.

Cincinnati’s septet of first-year players includes five true freshmen and two transfers – one each of the junior and graduate variety.

Bulldogs Doing Work On Boards

Georgia enters the Cincinnati game ranked No. 13 nationally in rebound margin at a whopping +14.0. 

The Bulldogs’ work on the offensive glass has a great deal to do with that. Georgia ranks No. 11 in D-I in rebounding its own misses with 15.4 boards per game.

Wheeler Off To Historic Start

Quick…when was the last time a 5-10 player led the SEC in double-doubles? The answer: That would be today.

Sahvir Wheeler, Emmanuel Miller from Texas A&M and Tolu Smith from Arkansas are tied for the league lead with three double-double efforts. 

Quick…when was the last time an SEC player had three straight point-assist double-doubles? The answer: not in 20 seasons.

With some assistance from Craig Pinkerton on Saturday, Dec. 5, it was determined that no SEC player has recorded a trio of consecutive point-assist double-doubles through the 2000-01 season. In fact, only two league players – Florida’s Chris Chiozza and Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis – have recorded back-to-back point-assist double-doubles in the last five seasons.

Quick…when was the last time a Bulldog recorded double-figure assist tallies in consecutive games? The answer: probably never.

Box scores dating back through the 1969-70 did not find anyone who had done so. There were a couple of close calls, most notably Gino Gianfrancesco in a three-game span covering the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons.

Wheeler’s 12 assists against FAMU equaled the fourth-best single-game assist tally in 116 seasons of Georgia Basketball. It also was the most by a Bulldog in more than two decades…since G.G. Smith also had a dozen assists against Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 1999.

Wheeler Among NCAA Leaders

Through games of Thursday, Sahvir Wheeler led the Southeastern Conference and ranked No. 4 nationally in assists per game at 8.6 apg. 

Wheeler owned a massive gap of 3.8 assists per game over anyone else in the SEC.

Crean Familiar With UC

Tom Crean is 6-7 all-time against Cincinnati, with all of the previous matchups coming during his tenure at Marquette from 1999-08.

“When I was growing up as a coach, every day it started with ‘What’s going on at Cincinnati?’ and ‘What’s going on at Louisville?’” Crean said earlier this week. “My coaching career began with those two programs as a measuring stick. Every day was about how do we compete with Cincinnati. 

“This game brings back tremendous intensity for me,” Crean added. “I can’t do anything about it except to help prepare this team. They’re the ones who’ve got to go out and be at a really, really high level competitively and toughness wise because that’s exactly what Cincinnati is. They know what they’re doing. They’re well coached. They’re older. They’re much bigger than us. We’re going to have a lot to deal with with their physicality and toughness.”

Marquette and Cincinnati were conference rivals throughout Crean’s time in Milwaukee, competing in Conference USA from 1999-05 before both moved to the Big East. They also were relatively regular NCAA participants, combining for 11 bids to “March Madness.”

Cincinnati won the C-USA’s American Division during each of Crean’s first three seasons in Milwaukee before Marquette displaced the Bearcats to win the title in 2003. The schools also met in the championship game of the 2002 C-USA Tournament.

Of Big Plays and “+/-” numbers

Georgia’s 79-75 win over Samford wasn’t decided until the game’s final seconds. 

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game when Jaxon Etter scored on a layup with 1:17 left. Georgia was up 76-73 with 13 ticks on the clock when P.J. Horne’s offensive rebound and putback off of a missed free throw pushed the margin to five.

While those big plays drew attention, the box score revealed that Etter and Horne also were two of Georgia’s most efficient players on the evening. 

Etter played just shy of four minutes but the Bulldogs were “+8” with him on the floor. The sophomore from Woodstock helped Georgia thwart Samford’s first-half momentum. In just 2:30 of action, Etter recorded a +/- of “+6”, the best effort of any Bulldog in the period

Horne’s 34 minutes of PT – his most of the season to date – provided the Bulldogs with a “+13” margin with him in the court. 

Camara’s Production Increases

Toumani Camara’s efforts in the scoring and rebounding columns have increased dramatically from last season. 

The sophomore from Brussels’ scoring average is up 117 percent from a year ago – from 6.6 to 14.3 ppg – while his rebounding count is up 86 percent – from 4.3 to 8.0 rpg.

Camara’s increased offensive production can be traced to the second half of last season. After scoring in double figures once in the Bulldogs’ first 16 games, he did so seven times in the final 16 outings. With three more double-digit tallies this season, Camara has now scored 10 or more points in 10 of his last 20 outings at Georgia.

The Graduates Score 

All three of the Bulldogs’ graduate transfers – P.J. Horne, Andrew Garcia and Justin Kier – recorded double-digit scoring performances in each of Georgia’s last two games.

Horne now has four double-figure outputs this season and 18 for his career. Garcia and Kier both have three outputs of 10 points or more for the Bulldogs, upping their career totals to 43 and 54, respectively.  

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