The Georgia men’s basketball team started three home games on Sunday, November 27, with a 62-47 win over East Tennessee State. The Bulldogs avenged last year’s 86-84 loss to the Bucs with a smothering second-half defense.
Georgia has had some troubles in the second half of this year, but the team’s performance against ECU gives reason to believe the Bulldogs may have turned a corner. After a hard-fought first half that saw the Bulldogs lead by just four, Georgia came out on a 12-0 run in the second half and never really let ETSU back into the game from that point on.
“I thought we reacted defensively to our half-time talk,” said coach Mike White. “We were pretty sharp defensively there in the second half – probably our best second half so that’s a positive.”
Senior guard Kario Oquendo led the Bulldogs with 16 points — 11 of them in four minutes of the first half when he unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers and a hard layup after an offensive rebound.
Georgia also enjoyed another big boost from his bench – the second unit had 27 points compared to just two from ETSU. After a quiet first half, junior guard Justin Hill caught fire in the second half, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and adding three rebounds and four assists.
“Man, that was every game,” White said of Georgia’s strong bench performance. “Who knows who will start for us on any given night and who will produce from the bank? Jaxon Etter is always ready to roll, Justin Hill has arguably been our best player in the last two games, Braelen Bridges is a great goalscorer from low post and Frank Anselem is a great presence defensively. We just have a bunch of guys who complement each other pretty well if we play right.”
While Georgia struggled to stop ETSU in the paint, with 28 of their 47 points inside, the Bulldogs put on another great defensive performance on the perimeter, allowing ETSU to shoot just 2 of 16 from three-point range. Despite very strong performances from forward Jalen Haynes and guard Jordan King, who finished with 21 and 14 points respectively, ETSU couldn’t overcome the team’s shooting problems and that was what ultimately made the difference in the game.
Another positive for the Bulldogs was the return of senior forward Jailyn Ingram, who was making his first action on the pitch since tearing his cruciate ligament last December. Ingram, who was productive for Georgia last year before his injury, was up four minutes plus nine.
“It was great to have him back,” said Kario Oquendo, Ingram’s roommate. “I think when he came into play it really gave our team the energy and started our run in the second half. He worked hard every day. I’ve never seen a player go through a journey like that, so it’s pretty cool to see him going through it.”
This game started with three games for the Bulldogs where they will play three home games in six days. Georgia is back on court against Hampton on November 30th and then rounds out the home game against Florida A&M on December 2nd.