As Georgia’s public address announcer made the “one-minute remaining” announcement, fans inside Stegeman Coliseum rose to their feet to applaud the Bulldogs for putting together their best conference performance of the season. Georgia defeated Ole Miss for the second time this year, winning 71-61. It also marked Georgia’s first SEC win by double-digits.
Sophomore guard Sahvir Wheeler got back to playing with the fluidity and comfort level that he showed in non-conference play. Wheeler led the Bulldogs with a team-high 13 points and also a game-high five assists. Wheeler also made it to the free-throw line 11 times, where he unusually only made three of his attempts.
Georgia shot the ball well in Saturday’s contest, connecting on 55% of its shots from the field. Perhaps the most important statistic though, was Georgia shooting 9-of-18 (50%) from 3-point range. This led the Bulldogs to some extra confidence that they have not played with in a while.
“When we shoot the ball pretty well, a lot of things open up for us as far as our driving,” said Wheeler. “When you make a three and you see the bench go crazy, you get a certain jolt of energy. You get a little more motivated to get that stop on the other end. That builds our team energy.”
Indeed it did build the team energy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia held Ole Miss to just 36% shooting from the field and only allowed Ole Miss to make two of its 13 3-point attempts (15%). Ole Miss guard Devontae Shuler, the team’s leading scorer, was held to just 11 points on 14 shots. Shuler scored 24 points the first time these two teams matched up.
Based on the shooting numbers, it would appear that Georgia won the game in blowout fashion. However, Ole Miss absolutely dominated the rebounding category, beating Georgia 40-30, which kept the game close. Ole Miss also had 23 offensive rebounds, compared to Georgia’s mere 10.
Although the Bulldogs still won the game, it will be hard for that to continue if they don’t become more physical inside. Turnovers also continued to be a problem for Georgia, as there were 21 on Saturday night that led to 17 Ole Miss points.
“We’re gonna get beat in size, but we cannot get beat in contact,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean. “We’ve got to make sure we are using our quickness and speed to offensive rebound the ball. I think the rebounding part of that is so important.”
Georgia is now halfway through its SEC slate of games and currently sits at 10-6 (3-6). The Bulldogs will next face an Auburn team that has played much better as of late, with the resurgence of freshman sensation Sharife Cooper. That game will tip-off at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 at Auburn Arena.
The Bulldogs will still have an uphill battle to climb back into relevance in the SEC, but performances like the one on Saturday night should help this team with forming an identity for the rest of the season.
“Great things are in the future for us,” said Georgia forward Toumani Camara. “As long as everybody plays hard and everybody plays their role, I believe we can beat anyone in this league.”