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Bulldogs Set To Take On Buckeyes In NIT Quarterfinals

Georgia Basketball NIT Game Notes

Game 36: Georgia (19-16) vs. Ohio State (22-13)

Date: Tuesday, March 26

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Venue: Value City Arena (19,049)

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Series History: UGA leads, 1-0

Last Meeting: UGA, 84-80 in OT, on 12/28/77

TV: ESPN (Tom Hart, play-by-play; Cory Alexander, color analyst)

Radio: Georgia Bulldog Network - SiriusXM 380 (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, color analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)


The Starting Five

• Georgia travels to Ohio State on Tuesday to face the Buckeyes in the quarterfinal round of the NIT. The Bulldogs are making their third appearance in the NIT quarterfinals and their first since 1998.

• With Sunday’s 72-66 win over Wake Forest, the Bulldogs are now 28-2 when holding their opponents under 70 points during Mike White’s two seasons at Georgia.

• With last Tuesday’s 78-76 win over Xavier, Georgia upped its records to 9-8 in games that were one-possession contests in the final 5:00 and 7-5 in matchups that were separated by three points or less in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

• Mike White improved to 9-0 in first-round games of the NCAA Tournament and NIT with last Tuesday’s win over Xavier. White is now 15-8 (.652) in the postseason, 6-4 in NCAAs and 9-4 in NITs. 

• Georgia enters the Ohio State matchup ranked No. 20 nationally in bench scoring at 28.6 ppg. The Bulldogs’ bench has outscored the opponents’ reserves in 28 of 35 games en route to compiling a season scoring margin of +367...or +10.5 ppg.



The Opening Tip

The Georgia Bulldogs will trek from Winston-Salem, N.C., to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. 


Georgia enters the contest at 19-16 after Sunday’s 72-66 victory at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were 17-1 at home before the Bulldogs handed Wake just its second home loss. 


Georgia’s two NIT victories continued a common storylines for the Bulldogs this season.


Georgia’s win over Xavier in the opening round was not decided until the final horn. All told, 17 of the Bulldogs’ 35 contests were one-possession games in the final 5:00. Georgia is 9-8 in those. Of those, 12 were still within three points in the final 30 seconds of regulation. The Bulldogs are 7-5 in those. 


With the victory at Wake Forest, the Bulldogs improved to 15-1 this season in which they have held their opponents under 70 points...and 28-2 in Mike White’s two seasons in Athens.


Noah Thomasson is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at 12.9 ppg and also paces Georgia with 25 double-digit and four 20-point performances. With Russel Tchewa missing the Wake Forest game due to an illness, Thomasson is now the only Bulldog to start every game this season.


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 has missed the last six games with an 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 three more Bulldogs contributing between just south of double figures, with RJ Melendez at 9.7 ppg and Silas Demary Jr. and Justin Hill both at 9.6 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 from No. 9 J.J. Frazier

• 2 3FGs from No. 8 Ezra Williams

• 5 3FGs from No. 7 Bernard Davis

• 6 3FGs from No. 6 G.G .Smith

• 8 3FGAs from No. 5 Kenny Gaines

• 11 3FGAs from No. 4 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope



UGA’s NIT History

The Bulldogs are making their 15th appearance in the NIT and now have a 15-14 all-time record in the tournament. 


Georgia earned its 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.


The Bulldogs’ best NIT finishes came in 1982 and 1998 when they advanced to the semifinal round. Georgia lost to Purdue, 61-60, in the 1982 semis. The Bulldogs 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.


Sunday’s win at Wake Forest was Georgia’s first road victory in NIT play since the Bulldogs bested N.C. State, 61-55, on March 17, 1998.



Series History With OSU

Georgia won its only previous meeting with Ohio State, an 84-80 overtime decision on Dec. 28, 1977 in the opening round of the Louisville Classic.


The Bulldogs then went on to top No. 7 Louisville, 73-70, the following night, also in overtime. That victory is one of two top-10 non-conference road wins ever for Georgia.



Mike White Vs. Ohio State

Georgia head coach Mike White is 2-0 against Ohio State, securing a pair of wins during his tenure at Florida.


The Gators defeated the Buckeyes, 74-66, on March 20, 2016 in the second round of the NIT.


Florida topped OSU, 71-68, on Nov. 24, 2021 in the championship game of the Fort Myers Tip-off.



Scouting The Buckeyes

Ohio State upped its record to 22-13 with Saturday’s 81-73 win over Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes compiled a 9-11 record in Big Ten play this season, tying for ninth.


Bruce Thornton leads the Buckeyes on the offensive end, averaging 15.8 ppg. Thornton – whose father, Bruce, and mother, Tiaunna, played football and basketball at Georgia, respectively – also ranks No. 2 nationally in assist-to-turnover at 3.85.


Jamison Battle and Roddy Gayle Jr. also score at a double-digit pace for Ohio State. Battle is averaging 15.1 ppg, while Gayle contributes 13.6 ppg.



Last Time Out

Justin Hill scored a season-high 21 points to lead Georgia to a 72-66 win over Wake Forest in the second round of the NIT on Sunday. The setback was just the Demon Deacons’ second in 19 home outings this season.


Noah Thomasson added 19 points and freshman Dylan James contributed a career-high 14 for the Bulldogs. In his first start of the season, Frank Anselem-Ibe grabbed a team- and season-high eight rebounds, dished out a season-high three assists, matched his season-best effort with two blocks and logged a season-most 28 minutes...doubling his previous season high of 14 MP.


The Bulldogs led 39-24 at halftime and expanded that margin to 49-30 early in the second stanza. Wake methodically chipped away to pull within 57-52 at the 6:41 mark. Georgia was clutch at the line down the stretch, hitting both ends of three one-and-ones – by Anselem-Ibe, Silas Demary Jr. and Blue Cain – and converting 13-of-16 free throws in the second half.


Georgia matched its season high with 14 3-pointers. Ten of those trifectas came in the first half when the Bulldogs were 10-of-17 (.588) on shots from outside the arc and just 4-of-10 (.400) on two-point attempts.


In a very odd and telling specialty stat, Georgia scored 15 points off of eight Wake Forest turnovers, while the Demon Deacons scored just six points on 16 Bulldog giveaways.


“It was about as hard as we have played in a first half, especially on the road, all year,” head coach Mike White said. “These kids continue to compete in an attempt to lengthen their season. They’re playing with one another. They care about one another.”



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 opposed to the ninth hardest in 2022-23.


Georgia’s improvement is validated even more within Ken Pomeroy’s and other popular metric assessments. 


Entering the NIT, six of the most commonly utilized computer models had 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



Mike White Continues Impressive Postseason Record

With Georgia’s win over Xavier, Mike White improved to 9-0 in opening-round games of the NCAA Tournament and NIT. 


Adding in the Wake Forest victory in the NIT’s second round, White is now a combined 15-8 in those postseason tournaments – 6-4 in the NCAAs and 9-4 in the NIT.


While at Florida, White was the only SEC coach to lead his teams to NCAA bids in every tournament between 2017-21...and the Gators were a lock for the canceled edition of “March Madness” in 2020


Florida also was one of only six Division I programs to win a game in each of those four NCAA tourneys from 2017-21 along with Kansas, Gonzaga, Michigan, Villanova and Florida State. Headlining those bids was the Gators’ trip of the 2017 “Elite Eight.”


In the NIT, White was 5-3 at Louisiana Tech – including road wins at Florida State in 2013, Georgia in 2014 and Texas A&M in 2015 – 2-1 at Florida and 2-0 at Georgia.


White’s postseason success dates back to his career as a four-year starter at Ole Miss, where he helped the Rebels to their first back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids in 1997 and 1998 and added a third straight in 1999. White lists dribbling out the clock against Villanova for the first Ole Miss NCAA Tournament win ever during his senior season in 1999 as the most memorable moment of his playing career.



Thomasson Making Moves Among UGA’s 3-Point Leaders

Noah Thomasson has now connected on 75-of-214 3-point attempts this season, tallies that rank among the most ever by a Bulldog during a single season.


With 11 3-pointers in the last four games, Thomasson went from No. 19 to No. 10 among Georgia’s all-time season leaders.


The Houston native’s 214 shots from behind the arc ties with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s freshman year tally for the No. 6 position among all Bulldogs.



Bulldogs’ Bench Providing Productivity

Georgia entered this week ranked No. 20 nationally in benching scoring at 28.6 ppg – 38.2 percent of the Bulldogs’ scoring average of 74.9 ppg.


The Bulldogs’ reserves have outscored their counterparts in 28 of 35 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 cumulative scoring margin of +367 in bench points – an advantage of +10.5 ppg.



Bulldogs Continue Shuffling Starters

Twelve Bulldogs have been used to comprise 12 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.


Following Russel Tchewa’s DNP at Wake Forest, Noah Thomasson is the only Bulldog to start every game. Silas Demary Jr. has started every game other than “Senior Day.”



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 28-2 when holding its opponents under 70 points during White’s tenure...and 7-30 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 NIT victory over Xavier was not decided until the final horn, upping the number of “close games” for Georgia this season to 17.


Of the Bulldogs’ 34 games to date...


• 17 have been a one-possession game in the last five minutes. Georgia is 9-8 in those games.

• 15 have been a one-possession game in the last 90 seconds. Georgia is 7-8 in those games.

• 12 have been a one-possession game in the last 30 seconds. Georgia is 7-5 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 five 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. James has seen his playing time jump significantly of late, averaging 16.8 mpg in the last 13 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 (34) 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 45 of his 97 field goals (46.4 percent) coming from behind the arc.


In addition to his increased playing time, James is averaging 5.2 ppg and 3.4 rpg in Georgia’s last 13 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.


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 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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