Georgia Outlasts Western Carolina, 85-79
ATHENS, Ga. – Holding off a game effort from Western Carolina, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team topped the Catamounts, 85-79, before 7,271 spectators Monday evening at Stegeman Coliseum.
Sophomore Kario Oquendo led Georgia (5-6) with 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting, with senior Braelen Bridges pitching in with 17 points. Senior Noah Baumann led the Bulldogs with a career-high 11 rebounds, while graduate Aaron Cook also set a new career best with 12 assists to go with 13 points. For the night, the Bulldogs shot 44.6 percent from the field, including a 47.1 percent clip in the second half.
“For us, we adjusted,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We had a really good finish to the game with the scoring. They were mixing defenses, and our guys were really active and playing through it. I’m proud we got this one under our belt now because I didn’t like our confidence at all on Saturday night. I thought our confidence came alive in this game.”
Georgia started fast, running out to a 10-3 lead in the opening three minutes before a short drought helped Western Carolina (6-6) narrow the margin to four. However, the Bulldogs found success from beyond the arc, returning to a double-digit lead thanks to consecutive triples from Ridgnal. As the half wore on, the Catamounts continued to cut into the Bulldog lead, making it a three-point game with 3:40 play after running off an 8-2 run.
In need of a timely bucket, Georgia found one with a 3-pointer from sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim coming out of the final media timeout. Western Carolina again countered with scores on three of its final four possessions, sending the teams to the locker room with Georgia leading 35-33.
Baumann opened the second half with a 3-pointer as the Bulldogs’ lead hovered around five in the early going, but the Catamounts finally fought back to tie the game at 44 on a triple from redshirt junior forward Joe Petrakis. Six straight Georgia points soon restored the lead, but a 7-0 Western Carolina run sent them ahead for the first time all evening, punctuated by a three from junior forward Marvin Price. After both teams went back and forth trading the lead, Oquendo put the Bulldogs back in front, 61-59, with a thunderous fast break dunk.
Up two with five minutes to play, Bridges drove strong to the basket, earning an old-fashioned three-point play and putting Georgia back up by five. The scoring run would eventually become a 12-3 sequence as Baumann and Oquendo connected from outside. Western Carolina continued to fight back, bringing the margin back down to four with 1:17 remaining, but a wide-open Oquendo answered with a three to seal the contest.
Georgia closes its pre-Christmas run with a matchup against East Tennessee State on Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+.