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Bulldogs set to Face Xavier




Georgia Basketball NIT Game Notes

Game 33: Georgia (17-19, 6-12 SEC) vs. Xavier (16-17, 9-11 Big East)

Date: Tuesday, March 20

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Venue: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523)

Location: Athens, Ga.

Series History: XU leads, 3-1

Last Meeting: XU, 70-56, on 11/25/11

TV: ESPN (Roy Philpott, play-by-play; Richard Hendrix, color analyst)

Radio: Georgia Bulldog Network - SiriusXM TBD (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, color analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)

 

 

The Starting Five

Georgia will open postseason play for the first time in seven seasons on Tuesday when the Bulldogs host Xavier in the opening round of the 2024 NIT at Stegeman Coliseum.

• The Bulldogs and Musketeers are meeting for fifth time and the second occasion in postseason. Xavier defeated Georgia in the opening round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament following the Bulldogs’ improbable run to win the SEC “Tornado” Tournament.

• Georgia is 8-8 in games that were one-possession contests in the final 5:00 and 6-5 in matchups that were separated by three points or less in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

• The Bulldogs are 27-2 (.931) in games when they have held their opponents under 70 points during Mike White’s first two seasons in Athens. Georgia is 6-30 when allowing opponents to reach the 70-point plateau. 

• Georgia is ranked No. 20 nationally in bench scoring at 28.6 ppg. The Bulldogs’ bench has outscored its opponents in 26 of 33 games with a season scoring margin of +318...or +9.6 ppg.

 

 

The Opening Tip

Georgia returns to postseason basketball for the first time in seven years on Tuesday when the Bulldogs host Xavier in the opening round of NIT action at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia enters the contest at 17-16 after reaching the second round of the SEC Tournament last week. 

 

The Bulldogs’ outings in Nashville displayed a common theme of numerous games this season.

 

On Wednesday, Georgia topped Missouri, 64-59; however, the Bulldogs were up just 60-59 with 15 seconds remaining before Justin Hill hit both ends of a one-and-one and Blue Cain added two more free throws.

 

Twenty-five hours later – delayed approximately an hour because the first game of the session featured 36 second-half fouls – Georgia dropped an 85-80 decision to Florida. The Bulldogs had possession down three with 19 seconds left but could not convert and then saw the Gators make 6-of-6 free throws to close out the night.

 

All told, sixteen of Georgia’s 33 games – 48.5 percent – were one-possession contests in the final 5:00. Georgia is 8-8 in those. Eleven outings were still within three points in the final 30 seconds of regulation. The Bulldogs are 6-5 in those. 

 

The 2023-24 campaign also has been a streaky one for Georgia, which recorded winning streaks of 10 games overall, 10 contests at Stegeman Coliseum and three road outings.

 

Graduate transfer Noah Thomasson is Georgia’s leading scorer at 12.8 ppg and also paces the Bulldogs with 23 double-digit and four 20-point performances.

 

Jabri Abdur-Rahim is scoring at a double-figure pace for the Bulldogs as well at 12.2 ppg, largely due to sporting team-high shooting percentages of .356 from 3-point range and .887 at the free throw line. However, Abdur-Rahim missed the last four games due to an ankle injury, the first DNPs of his career at Georgia. Prior to that, Abdur-Rahim had played in 93 straight contests. 

 

A balanced offensive attack features five more players contributing between 7.3-9.8 ppg.

                       

 

Keeping An Eye On…

 

Among UGA’s career leaders...

Jabri Abdur-Rahim is

• 3 3FGs from co No. 13s Ty Wilson and Ray Harrison

• 9 3FGs from No. 12 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

• 2 3FGAs from No. 14 Turtle Jackson

• 9 3FGAs from No. 13 Sundiata Gaines

 

Among UGA’s season leaders...

Noah Thomasson is

• 1 3FG No. 13 Jody Patton

• 4 3FGs from co-No. 11s Anthony Edwards and Levi Stukes

• 8 3FGs from No. 10 D.A. Layne

• 15 3FGAs from No. 8 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

 

                       

UGA’s NIT History

The Bulldogs are making their 15th appearance in the NIT. 

 

Georgia has a 13-14 record in its previous NITs. The Bulldogs earned their first postseason bid of any kind to the 1981 NIT and also participated in 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

 

Georgia’s best NIT finishes came in 1982 and 1998 when UGA advanced to the semifinal round. The Bulldogs lost to Purdue, 61-60, in the 1982 semis. Georgia fell to Penn State, 66-60, in the 1998 semis but bounced back to defeat Fresno State, 95-79, in the third-place consolation contest that year.

 

 

Scouting The Musketeers

Xavier enters Tuesday’s contest at 16-17 overall after going 9-11 in Big East play.

 

Quincy Olivari paces a trio of Musketeers scoring at a double-digit pace, averaging 19.4 ppg. Olivari ranks second among Big East scoring leaders and is featured among the top-20 in seven stats – No. 1 in 3-pointers per game (3.2 3pg), No. 2 in 3-point percentage (.416), No. 7 in free throw percentage (.811), No. 8 in defensive rebounds (5.1 rpg), No. 11 in steals (1.3 spg), No. 20 in rebounding (5.6 rpg), 

 

Desmond Claude is chipping in 12.5 ppg, and Dayvion McKnight adds 12.5 ppg. Abou Ousmane grabs a team-high 6.3 rpg.

 

 

Series History With Xavier

The Musketeers own a 3-1 edge in previous meetings between UGA and XU.

 

In the most recent matchup, No. 12 Xavier topped the Bulldogs 70-56 on Nov. 25, 2011, in Cincinnati. The Musketeers scored the game’s first 10 points and never trailed.

 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 14 points to lead Georgia in what was the fourth game of his collegiate career. 

 

Caldwell-Pope went on to win SEC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore in 2013 before becoming the No. 8 overall pick in the NBA Draft later that spring. KCP has won a pair of NBA Championships with the Lakers in 2020 and the Nuggets in 2023, making him one of just 33 players in NBA history to win multiple NBA titles with separate franchises.

 

Georgia and Xavier also met in the postseason during the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Washington, D.C. The Bulldogs built a 35-26 halftime lead, but the Musketeers outscored Georgia 47-26 in the second stanza en route to a 73-61 victory to end the Bulldogs’ Cinderella run.

 

As the sixth seed from the SEC East, the Bulldogs won four games – one at the Georgia Dome and three at Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum – to capture the SEC Tournament title. The tourney moved from the Dome after it was struck by a tornado shortly before Georgia was set to face Kentucky in the second round. The Bulldogs then defeated the Wildcats and Mississippi State on the same day – March 15 – before besting Arkansas, 66-57, in the title tilt.

 

 

Last Time Out

Florida converted 6-of-6 free throws in the final 15 seconds to preserve an 85-80 win over Georgia in the second round of the SEC Tournament last Thursday.

 

After trailing by nine midway through the first half, the Bulldogs used a 21-5 surge to go up 33-26 with 3:25 left in the period. The Gators went back up on a three-point play at the 13:10 mark. Georgia pulled within 74-73 with 2:46 remaining but failed on two attempts to take the lead thereafter.

 

“I thought it was a high-level game, very competitive,” head coach Mike White said. “Two teams that played really hard. I thought the difference in the game were just a few of our turnovers which led to a lot of fast break points for Florida, 23, to be exact.”

 

 

There is no Denying Bulldogs Are Better

Georgia wrapped up the regular season with the same records as a year ago – at 16-15 overall and 6-12 in the SEC. However, most who have watched the Bulldogs this season would agree they have made considerable improvement. 

 

For any doubters, there is quantifiable data. 

 

Of note, the Bulldogs’ scoring differential in conference games went from -13.0 ppg in 2022-23 to -3.9 ppg this season. Georgia did so after – according to KenPom, not us – the Bulldogs played the fifth toughest SEC schedule this winter...as opposed to the ninth hardest in 2022-23.

 

And while we’re talking about KenPom, Georgia’s improvement is validated even more within Ken Pomeroy’s and other popular metric assessments. Six of the most commonly utilized computer models have the Bulldogs up between 29-82 positions higher nationally from last season – an average of 53.9 spots per metric as outlined below.

 

                22-23   23-24     Diff.

Overall.    16-15    16-15     –

SEC           6-12      6-12      –

Torvik          159      77        +82

KenPom      154      90        +64

BPI              148      85        +63

NET            152      100      +52

SOR            119      96        +33

KPI              121      92        +29

Avg.            142.2   88.3     +53.9

 

 

Bulldogs’ Bench Providing Productivity

Georgia enters the NIT ranked No. 20 nationally in benching scoring at 28.6 ppg – 38.2 percent of the Bulldogs’ scoring average of 74.8 ppg.

 

The Bulldogs’ reserves have outscored their counterparts in 26 of 33 games, including 16 straight from the season opener against Oregon on Nov. 6 to a Jan. 20 trip to No. 8/10 Kentucky. 

 

Georgia sports an impressive +318 scoring margin in bench points – an advantage of +9.6 ppg.

 

 

Georgia’s Magic Number Is On The “Other” End of The Floor

The 13th and final rule Dr. James Naismith listed when creating basketball was “The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winner.” Quite simply, the team that scores the most points wins.

 

For Georgia, the number of points the opposing team scores has been an extremely strong indicator of success during Mike White’s two seasons with the Bulldogs.

 

Georgia is 27-2 when holding its opponents under 70 points during White’s tenure...and 6-30 when opponents reach the 70-point plateau. The losses on that ledger were a 66-67 setback at LSU on Feb. 27 and a 61-55 decision at South Carolina in the 2022-23 regular-season finale.

 

 

Another Nail-Biter For The Bulldogs

Georgia’s SEC Tournament games with Missouri and Florida were not decided until the final 30 seconds, upping the number of “close games” for Georgia this season to 16.

 

Of the Bulldogs’ 33 games to date...

 

• 16 have been a one-possession game in the last five minutes. Georgia is 8-8 in those games.

• 14 have been a one-possession game in the last 90 seconds. Georgia is 6-8 in those games.

• 11 have been a one-possession game in the last 30 seconds. Georgia is 6-5 in those games.

 

 

Bulldogs’ Freshmen Making Their Mark

Georgia’s freshmen have made a impressive impact this season, particularly in SEC play.

 

Blue Cain, Silas Demary Jr. and Dylan James have all got a starting nod in the Bulldogs’ last four games – the first time a trio of freshmen started for Georgia since Anthony Edwards, Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler did so in the 2020 SEC Tournament.

 

Cain and Demary are two of only SEC eight freshman who logged 20.0 mpg in conference outings this season. In addition, James has seen his playing time jump significantly, averaging 15.6 mpg in the last 11 games.

 

Demary, who was named to the league’s All-Freshman team in balloting of league coaches, leads all SEC freshman in games started, both overall (32) and in SEC action (17). The lone game he was not on the floor for the opening tip was against Texas A&M on “Senior Day.” Demary was one of only five freshmen in the SEC who averaged double figures in conference action at 10.5 ppg. 

 

Cain, who made his first career start at LSU on Feb. 27, was one of just 10 SEC freshmen who scored 6.5 ppg or more in league games. He has done much of his damage from 3-point range, with 43 of his 93 field goals (46.2 percent) coming from behind the arc.

 

In addition to his increased playing time, James is averaging 4.5 ppg and 3.2 rpg in Georgia’s last 11 contests, more than double the 2.1 ppg and 1.4 rpg he contributed in seven games played during the Bulldogs’ first 22 outings of the season.

 

 

UGA Students Pack Stegeman...When They’re Here

The Stegeman Coliseum student section overflowed its allotment of 2,065 seats to 127 percent capacity during Georgia’s seven home SEC contests when school was in session. 

 

When more than 2,065 students show up and there are still remaining unsold seats, they are allowed to occupy the empty locations. 

 

Georgia drew 3,026 students for Arkansas; 2,330 for Tennessee; 2,806 for LSU; 3,208 for Alabama; 2,726 for South Carolina; 2,175 for Florida; and 2,156 for Auburn. 

 

The Stegeman student capacity should have been 14,455. In reality, 18,427 students have been at those contests. The attendance average of 2,632 per game is 127 percent of “capacity.”

 

Unfortunately, Georgia’s final two SEC home outings against Texas A&M and Ole Miss were during Spring Break on campus.

 

 

Bulldogs Continue To Shuffle Starting Lineup

Eleven Bulldogs players have been used to comprise 11 different starting fives this season. 

 

Georgia mixed and matched seven players to form three different starting quintets over the first 10 outings. The Bulldogs then settled into the same starting unit for the next 10 contests.

 

Over the last 11 regular-season games, Georgia used eight different sets of starters.

 

Russel Tchewa and Noah Thomasson are the only 33-game starters, while Silas Demary Jr. started every game other than “Senior Day.”

 

 

Some Big Numbers for UGA “Seniors”

Georgia honored seven players on “Senior Day” against Texas A&M, even though the group features a trio of graduate transfers.

 

Those Bulldogs included first-year grad transfers RJ Sunahara, Russel Tchewa and Noah Thomasson; second-season seniors Frank Anselem-Ibe, Justin Hill and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe; and third-year senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim.

 

That septet – we googled it – of Bulldogs has combined to comprise some pretty massive statistics as NCAA basketball players. Those totals, with the D-I statistical leader, are listed below

 

Seven Seniors’ Totals

Stat                        No.      Leader

Games played       767      Tchewa 135

Games started.      431      Tchewa 91

                                          Thomasson 91

Minutes            16,753      Thomasson 3,238

Points                 6,819      Thomasson 1,422

Rebounds          3,016       Tchewa 707

Assists               1,119        Hill 409

Blocks                  367       Anselem-Ibe 54

Steals                  476        Hill 109

 

 

Raising Cain’s Game Proves Beneficial For Bulldogs

Freshman Blue Cain enjoyed the best game of his freshman season in Georgia’s SEC Tournament win over Missouri.

 

Cain scored a career- and game-high 19 points to lead Georgia, one of many season-best statistical tallies in the contest. He also collected personal bests of four steals and two assists and converted on season highs of five 3-pointers and two free throws.

 

Cain scored 14 second-half points against the Tigers, largely due to connected on 4-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc – and one from the SEC logo. 

 

 

Hill Continues Milestone Stretch

Justin Hill has notched a trio of significant statistical markers over the past three weeks.

 

During his 17-point performance against Missouri in the SEC Tournament, Hill surpassed 1,300 points for his career. More significant than reaching the milestone was the setting. Hill’s jumper at the 3:36 mark to top 1,300 points also ignited the Bulldogs’ 12-0 run to end the game.

 

On Feb. 21 at Vanderbilt, Hill delivered the 400th assist of his career. He now has 412 which, entering Thursday, ranked No. 91 on the NCAA’s career leaders ledger of Division I players.

 

On March 2 against Texas A&M, Hill collected the 400th rebound of his career.

 

 

Thomasson Making Moves Among UGA’s 3-Point Leaders

Noah Thomasson has now connected on 68-of-199 3-point attempts this season, tallies that rank among the most by a Bulldog during a single season.

 

With four 3-pointers in SEC Tournament action, Thomasson went from No. 19 to No. 14 among Georgia’s all-time season leaders.

 

The Houston native’s 199 shots from behind the arc is No. 7 among all Bulldogs.

 

 

Tchewa’s Numbers, Efficiency Increase Considerably In SEC play

Russel Tchewa increased his production and efficiency considerably during SEC action. Nine of his 12 double-figure scoring outputs and all six of his double-digit rebound counts came during league play. Those outings produced Tchewa’s team-leading five double-doubles on the year.

 

After averaging 6.1 ppg in 13 non-conference games, Tchewa upped that to 9.3 ppg against SEC foes – an increase of 3.2 ppg.

 

After averaging 6.3 rpg in November and December, he grabbed 7.2 rpg in league outings – an increase of 0.9 rpg.

 

After shooting 49.1 percent from the field in non-conference action, Tchewa converted on 59.4 percent versus conference competition – an increase of 10.3 percent.

 

Tchewa’s playing time also saw a significant jump during 2024. He logged 22.2 minutes of action in non-conference contests but then played 28.1 mpg in the SEC – an increase of 5.9 mpg.

 

 

Individual Scoring In SEC Action Up

Four Bulldogs boosted their point production from non-conference outings to SEC competition, led by Russel Tchewa’s increase of 3.2 ppg as outlined below.

 

SEC Individual Increases

Player                          Non     SEC

Noah Thomasson        12.5     13.4

Silas Demary Jr.            8.5     10.5

Justin Hill                       8.5       9.1

Russel Tchewa              6.1       9.3

 

 

Bulldogs Notch Fourth Road Win

Georgia’s victory at Vanderbilt represented the Bulldogs’ fourth road win of the season. 

 

“Good for you” would probably be the best passive, aggressive, condescending response.

 

It is good for the Bulldogs, considering it took Georgia 37 road games (as in a 4-33 record) over four seasons to win four road games prior to this season. The four road Ws in 2023-24 are the most Georgia has recorded in a season since the 2017-18 campaign.

 

 

A Lot Of Entertaining Outings During The Losing Streak

Georgia’s losing streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 17 featured six competitive and dramatic contests. 

 

The Bulldogs rallied from 21 points down to force overtime at Florida before falling 102-98.

 

Georgia then owned double-digit leads over both No. 24/22 Alabama and South Carolina before the Tide and Gamecocks rallied. The Bulldogs led for a combined 56:55 of those contests – 33:49 against Alabama and 23:06 versus South Carolina. 

 

Georgia trimmed a 13-point deficit to three before Mississippi State surged to victory.

 

The Bulldogs matchup at Arkansas on Feb. 10 featured three ties and five lead changes in the final 3:47 before the Razorbacks secured a three-point decision.

 

Georgia again led for more than half the game – 21:11 to be exact – and built an 11-point, first-half lead over Florida in Athens before the Gators rallied in the second stanza.

 

 

Abdur-Rahim, Melendez Own Top-5 Season FT Percentage Marks

Jabri Abdur-Rahim and RJ Melendez now own two of the five best single-season free throw percentages in Georgia history. A minimum of 50 makes are required for inclusion on the Bulldogs’ all-time single-season free throw percentage leaders’ ledger. 

 

Abdur-Rahim surpassed that standard during the Mount St. Mary’s game on Dec. 20, just the 11th outing of the season. He has now connected on 118-of-133 (.887) free throws, the third-best percentage in school history.

 

Melendez met the 50 makes standard versus No. 24/22 Alabama on Jan. 31. He is currently 59-of-67 at the line this season, an 88.1 percent conversion rate that is No. 5 all-time among Bulldogs.

 

 

Jabri Sets Game Mark, Joins Career Percentage Line Leaders too

In addition to his aforementioned season efforts, Jabri Abdur-Rahim shares Georgia’s best game free throw percentage and is among the best career converters too. Minimums of 9 and 125 made free throws are needed to be featured among UGA’s single-game career free throw percentage leaders, respectively.

 

Abdur-Rahim’s school-record 10-of-10 effort against Mount St. Mary’s tied Georgia’s single-game record, the 15th time a Bulldog converted on nine or more FTs in a single contest.

 

Abdur-Rahim has connected on 238-of-285 FTs while at Georgia, a sizzling 83.5 percent that currently has him at No. 2 all-time among Bulldogs.

 

 

Cain, Demary Make Strong Debuts

Blue Cain and Silas Demary Jr. made key contributions for Georgia in their collegiate debuts against Oregon in the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic.

 

Demary became the first true freshman to get a starting nod for the Bulldogs in an opener since Anthony Edwards in 2019. 

 

With 12 points, Cain became the first true freshman to notch a double-digit scoring output in the season opener since Edwards and Sahvir Wheeler did so in 2019. 

 

 

Designer Genes

We believe that Georgia Basketball’s family tree may be the most athletic in the country. Almost every Bulldog has immediate family who competed at the collegiate or professional levels, including:

 

Jabri Abdur-Rahim – his dad, Shareef, was a 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2002 NBA All-Star and current president of the NBA’s G League; and five of his uncles (Amir, Muhammad, Tahir, Bilal and Malik) played college basketball.

 

Blue Cain – his mom, the former Myriah Lonergan, played basketball at George Washington and is in GWU’s Athletic Hall of Fame; his dad, Chris, played golf at Duke; and his sister, Sophie, is a senior setter on Appalachian State’s volleyball team.

 

Jalen DeLoach – his brother, Kalen, is in his third season as a starting linebacker at Florida State; and his sister, Taylor, was a Big Ten champion in the 400-meter relay at Ohio State.

 

Silas Demary Jr. – his dad, Silas Sr., played at Virginia State and was the 2005 Arena Football League Defensive Player of the Year for the L.A. Avengers.

 

Justin Hill – his dad, Keith, played basketball at Michigan State and New Mexico State, where he helped the Aggies reach the NCAA Tourney; his mom, the former Donna Holt, played basketball at Virginia, where she was 1988 ACC Player of the Year and was named to the ACC’s Silver Anniversary team in 2002; 

 

Dylan James – his brother, Dorian, is a redshirt senior of North Florida’s basketball team; and two additional siblings – brother Darius and sister Charla – played basketball at Lynn University.

 

Markel Jennings – is distant cousins on his dad’s side with NFL players Vernon and Vontae Davis, who both were multiple Pro Bowl selections.

 

Brandon Klatsky – his dad, Brian, played college basketball at DIII Skidmore; and his brother, Alex, is a redshirt senior on Florida’s basketball team.

 

Jaden Newell – his brother, Asa, the No. 8 overall prospect in 247Sports.com Class of 2024 composite rankings, has signed to join him in Athens next season.

 

RJ Sunahara – his dad, Reed, was a two-time All-American in volleyball at UCLA and is the current women’s volleyball coach at West Virginia; his mom, the former Laura Rekstis, played volleyball at Cincinnati; his grandfather, Peter Rekstis, played football at Cincinnati; his uncle, Chet Moeller, played football at Navy and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010. 

 

Noah Thomasson – his dad, Leon, played football at Texas Southern and for the Atlanta Falcons; and he’s distant cousins with Spud Webb on his mom’s size.

 

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