The Tom Crean era in Georgia men’s basketball started with the third most points in a season opener in school history as the Bulldogs beat Savannah State, 110-76, Friday night at Stegeman Coliseum.
It marked the 18thtime in Georgia history that the Bulldogs eclipsed the 100-point mark and just the sixth time in the 21st-century. The only other season openers that accumulated more points were in 1917 and 1967.
“I got to learn to be positive especially when you score that amount of points,” said Georgia men’s head coach Tom Crean. “We got to figure out how to come out in the second half with the same level of intensity.”
Georgia’s 59 first half points set the precedents for the high-scoring affair as it was the most points in a half since the 2007 home opener.
Leading the Bulldogs (2-0) was sophomore Teshaun Hightower with 18 career-high points comprised of a career-high of three 3-pointers. Sophomore Nicolas Claxton nabbed his first career double-double with a career-high in points and rebounds notching 15 and 13 respectively. He also recorded career-highs in assists (2) and blocks (5). Senior Derek Ogbeide (15), junior Tyree Crump (14) and freshman Amanze Ngumezi (10) also had double-digit points. Crump scored all but two points from 3-pointers.
To start the game a pair of back-to-back dunks from Claxton ignited the Bulldog lead, 4-0, which was maintained for the rest of the night. A free throw by freshman Rayshaun Hammonds at the 16-minute mark elevated the Bulldog lead to double digits contributing to 14 unanswered points. Savannah State fought back knocking in a three to bring them into the game at 15:49.
The Tigers (0-2) edged their way to a five-point deficit but were unable to catch Georgia. A trio of threes from Crump reestablished and kept the Bulldog double-digit lead. A three from Hightower gave Georgia its first 20-point lead of the night at 41-20. For the last six minutes of the half the Bulldogs held onto the 20-plus point lead.
A fast break by Ogebide brought the largest margin of the half to 29, making the score 59-31 with less than a minute to go. Savannah State sank a three with four seconds left bringing the score to 59-34 to round out the half.
Despite the 22-point lead, the Tigers drained three three’s in the first two minutes of the half. They then added another trio of threes with a tip-in at the 14:23 mark to bring the deficit to nine. A three from senior Turtle Jackson and a basket from freshman Tye Fagan brought back the 10-plus point surplus that was preserved for the remainder of the game.
Georgia fought back to regain the 20-point advantage from a senior E’Torrion Wilridge 3-pointer at 8:23. Hammonds tipped in the ball to break 100 at 2:57, as well as ink a 30-plus point lead. A deep 3-pointer by freshman Ignas Sargiunas coupled with a jam by senior Christian Harrison made it a 37-point advantage securing the 110-76 Georgia victory.
Tonight’s home opener recorded the most in attendance with 9,018 since Stegeman’s capacity was reduced to 10,523 seats (1994-95). This is the third largest home opener, behind Georgia Tech on 12/5/81, since the coliseum downsized from 11,200 seats via bleachers in 1994.