Bulldogs Open SEC Play with Heartbreaker to Aggies
ATHENS, Ga. – Despite a valiant second-half comeback, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaker, 81-79, to Texas A&M before 5,556 spectators Tuesday evening at Stegeman Coliseum.
Sophomore Kario Oquendo led Georgia (5-9, 0-1 SEC) with 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting, along with a team-high 36 minutes played. Redshirt senior Noah Baumann tallied 19 points and four rebounds, while redshirt senior Braelen Bridges pitched in with 12 points and a team-high seven boards. For the evening, the Bulldogs shot 51.8 percent from the field.
“It's a long game,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We've had too many games where we've been down and we lose our spirit and we get discouraged, get distracted. Tonight they didn't. It's a long game. It's a great learning lesson for them.”
In a defensive battle, Texas A&M (12-2, 1-0 SEC) jumped out to an early 8-5 lead after four minutes of play and extended its lead to six, 13-7, at the first media timeout. The Aggies continued to build on their lead before sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim sparked the Bulldog offense with five quick points to narrow the margin back to six, 24-19, with 7:51 left in the half. With five minutes to go in the half, Georgia drew within three thanks to a 3-pointer by Baumann, but Texas A&M responded quickly, extending its lead to 18, 46-28. The Bulldogs narrowed to margin by six to enter the half down, 46-34.
Texas A&M came out of the locker room and jumped out to a 7-2 run, quickly building the lead to 17. Georgia responded with a 13-0 run to draw within four at 55-51 thanks in part to Aggie turnovers. Both squads battled back-and-forth, before a three by Baumann and a pair of layups by Aaron Cook drew the Bulldogs back within five at the midway mark of the second period.
The teams traded buckets over the next two minutes of play before Oquendo made a spectacular layup to bring the Bulldogs within two, 66-64, with 7:56 remaining. A huge block by Abdur-Rahim and a charge drawn by junior Jaxon Etter helped the Bulldogs keep within one, but a three from A&M’s Quentin Jaxon gave the Aggies life with 5:23 left.
With momentum shifting the Aggies’ way, Oquendo made a darting layup while being fouled and made the free throw to get back within one. A&M responded with five quick points to regain a six-point lead with just over three minutes remaining. A quick layup and pair of free throws by Bridges got the Bulldogs back within two with a minute remaining. Following a made free throw by A&M’s Henry Coleman III, Baumann nailed a straight-away three to tie the game up, 76-76. With five seconds on the clock, Oquendo made yet again a miraculous three-point play on a driving layup to give Georgia its first lead of the game, 79-78. With one tick on the clock left, A&M’s Marcus Williams broke the Bulldogs heart with a corner three, giving the Aggies a two-point victory.
Georgia will travel to Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 8 to take on the Kentucky Wildcats at 6 p.m at Rupp Arena. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network.