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Crean's Dawgs Try to Get Back on Track at No. 25 LSU

January 23, 2019

Georgia (9-8, 1-4 SEC) vs. No. 25/NR LSU (14-3, 4-0)
Wednesay, January 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Maravich Assembly Center (13,125) in Baton Rouge, La.
Watch: SEC Network (Roy Philpott, play-by-play; Mark Wise, analyst)
Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; Sirius: 113; XM: 191; Internet: 962. (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Tony Schiavone, producer)

The Starting 5
Georgia is averaging 8,605 fans over its 10 home dates, the Bulldogs' highest tally since averaging 8,619 fans during the 2003-04 season.
Nicolas Claxton leads the SEC and ranks No. 5 nationally in blocked shots at 3.1 bpg. That's more than 153 D-I teams average as a whole.
Derek Ogbeide joined UGA's top-10 career rebounding leaders during the Vanderbilt game. He's now 21 from the No. 9 mark.
UGA's bench has outscored it counterparts in 12 games, with nine of those being by +10 or more. UGA's bench has a +159 scoring margin.
UGA's coaching staff sports a combined 80 seasons of D-I experience (Crean-28, Scott-27, Dollar-23, Abdur-Rahim-12) with 38 postseason bids

The Opening Tip
Georgia returns to the road on Wednesday evening when the Bulldogs venture to Baton Rouge to face SEC-leading LSU.

Series History With The Tigers
LSU enters Wednesday's matchup with a 64-47 advantage in the all-time series between the Bulldogs and the Tigers, including a 35-15 mark in Baton Rouge.

A year ago, Georgia swept both ends of a home-and-home series, securing a 61-60 win in Baton Rouge in January and then posting a 93-82 victory in Athens in February.

Up Next: Texas Comes To Challenge
The Bulldogs will return to Stegeman Coliseum this weekend to host Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The game has been a sellout since October 26, with 2,000 student tickets all that remains available.

Welcome To The League, Coach
Tom Crean's initiation into the SEC would probably be considered hazing by some.

Georgia began league play with six consecutive outings against teams that entered SEC competition ranked in the top-50 of the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings.

In the Jan. 5 edition of the NET, the Bulldogs' first half-dozen SEC foes were ranked, in succession, as No. 7 Tennessee, No. 45 Vanderbilt, No. 18 Auburn, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 33 Florida and No. 27 LSU.

Most of those NET rankings have held relatively true through the first couple of weeks of SEC action. 

Entering this week, those six teams were listed in the NET as No. 4 Tennessee, No. 91 Vanderbilt, No. 23 Auburn, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 35 Florida and No. 14 LSU.

The average of Georgia's SEC opponents through this week's midweeks outings is considerably tougher than any other league team. The Bulldogs' opponents in that stretch averaged a NET ranking of 29.2. The next closest average was 39.7 for Alabama.

For good measure, Georgia's next outing also will be against a top-50 NET foe. The Bulldogs host Texas, which was No. 49 in the Jan. 5 NET and was No. 44 on Monday, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.

Dogs' Sellout Count Climbs To 7
The Tom Crean regime has established impressive attendance records with seven sellouts already on the books. 

On Oct. 24, Georgia announced sellouts for the Florida and Kentucky games, the earliest sellout(s) in the Bulldogs' history. 

Two days later, the Texas contest also sold out. Prior to this year, Georgia never had more than one preseason sellout.

In early December, dates with LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss also sold out.

The Bulldogs then wrapped up 2018 with a capacity crowd against UMass on Dec. 30.

The last time the Bulldogs had seven sellouts was in 2002-03 when they hosted nine capacity crowds.

It should be noted that the 2,000 free seats reserved for UGA's student body must be filled at the games that are already "sellouts" to have capacity crowds of 10,523 at Stegeman Coliseum

A Historic Opener
Georgia christened both the 2018-19 campaign and the Tom Crean era with an impressive evening on and off the court.

The Bulldogs secured a 110-76 victory over Savannah State on Nov. 9, Georgia's most points in the 2000s. 

The last time the Bulldogs scored more than 110 points was in a 113-74 victory over Grambling on Nov. 27, 1999, at the Great Alaska Shootout.

A crowd of 9,018 fans flocked to the Savannah State game, the biggest turnout for a home opener since Stegeman's capacity became 10,523 in 1994. 

To find a larger crowd for the Bulldogs' home opener you have to go back 37 seasons...all the way to Dominique Wilkins' sophomore year in Athens. That season, a capacity crowd of 11,200 was on hand as Georgia topped arch rival Georgia Tech, 62-61, on Dec. 5, 1981.

"First things first, I want to say thank you to everybody who was here for this," Crean said. "This is largest crowd on an opening night since they redid Stegeman Coliseum, and it was fun. It was fun to see the enthusiasm that people have had turn into bodies and live energy and loud fans tonight. That was tremendous. I want to say that first and foremost."

Georgia Visits LSU In Baton Rouge
The Georgia Bulldogs will travel to the Bayou on Wednesday to face league-leading LSU at the Maravich Assembly Center.

The Bulldogs arrive in Baton Rouge with a 9-8 overall record and a 1-4 mark in SEC play.

Georgia has faced far and away the toughest league schedule to date. The average NCAA NET ranking of the Bulldogs' first six SEC opponents is 29.2...the next closest average is Alabama at 39.7.

Sophomores Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton lead the Bulldogs. 

Hammonds averages a team-high 12.9 ppg. Among SEC statistical leaders, he is No. 5 in free throw percentage (.839) and No. 12 in rebounds (6.5 rpg).

Claxton has been a "do-it-all" contributor for the Bulldogs. He is scoring 12.4 ppg and leads the league in both rebounding (9.6 rpg) and blocks (3.1 bpg). Claxton also paces Georgia in assists (35) and steals (22).

Tyree Crump comes off the bench to provide another double-digit scorer at 10.1 ppg.

LSU is 14-3 overall and 4-0 in the SEC. The Tigers are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak.

Tremont Waters tops a quartet of double-figure scorers for LSU at 13.5 ppg. He also leads the SEC in steals at 2.9 spg.

In addition, Naz Reid is adding 13.1 ppg, Skylar Mays is contributing 12.9 ppg and Ja'vonte Smart is chipping in 10.4 ppg.

Series History With The Tigers
LSU owns a 64-47 lead all-time in matchups between the Bulldogs and the Tigers, including a 35-15 advantage in Baton Rouge.

Last season, Georgia swept both ends of a home-and-home series, winning a thriller in Baton Rouge and then producing a season-high offensive output in the rematch at Stegeman Coliseum.

Last Feb. 24 in Athens, Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide notched double-doubles, and Rayshaun Hammonds added a career-high 21 points to lead Georgia in an 93-82 win over LSU before a sellout crowd at Stegeman.

The Bulldogs put their most first- and second-half points of 2017-18, scoring 45 and 48 in each respective period.

Georgia methodically expanded an early lead to a 45-34 at halftime, finishing the period on a spectacular buzzer-beating tap-in by Ogbeide. The Bulldogs pushed the margin to 56-34 less than three minutes into the second half and maintained a double-digit edge for all but one second the rest of the way.

Maten's afternoon carried historic implications. With 27 points, he ascended from No. 4 to No. 2 among Georgia's career scoring leaders. Maten passed Vern Fleming, with 1,777 points in 125 games, and Alec Kessler, with 1,788 points in 123 games.

In the Bulldogs' trip to Baton Rouge on Jan. 16 a year ago, Maten also was the hero. His bucket with 5.7 seconds remaining lifted Georgia to a 61-60 victory at LSU.

The Bulldogs rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit. Georgia opened the second stanza on a 14-3 run to grab a 38-37 lead with 14:24 remaining.

The back-and-forth second half featured five ties and 13 lead changes, including three in the final minute. Georgia took a 59-58 lead on a Juwan Parker 3-pointer with 57 seconds left, but LSU responded with a Duop Reath baseline jumper at the 41-second mark to go back on top. 

Parker's offensive rebound with 23 seconds left set up Maten's game-winner.

Tremont Waters missed a long 3-pointer with two seconds on the clock, and time expired before either team secured the rebound.

Last Time Out...
Florida withstood a furious second-half rally from Georgia en route to a 62-52 victory at Stegeman Coliseum last Saturday.

The Gators built a 33-23 halftime lead, largely due to connecting on 7-of-13 shots from 3-point range during the period.

Georgia opened the second half with an 8-0 surge and then eventually tied the game at 40-40 on a Teshaun Hightower 3-pointer at the 15:40 mark.

The Bulldogs' momentum continued as Georgia built a 48-43 advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining. The Gators regained control by scoring the next dozen points and not allowing the Bulldogs closer than five points the rest of the way.


They said it...

Head Coach Tom Crean

On what he'd tell fans who are getting frustrated with Georgia's start in SEC play...
"Well, I think you've got to keep the big picture in mind, We're looking to get better. We're looking to change the style of play, working to create fundamentals. I know at times it doesn't look very fundamentally sound with our defense, but I think you're seeing flashes of what we can become. No one is sitting back acceptant of any of it, right? We've got to keep getting better and better, but the bottom line is we've got to deal with it on a daily basis and try to get the guys to understand the level of consistency that goes into this, and no greater example than the other day [against Florida]. The first half, we're not very good; second half, we're playing extremely well, and we've had too many situations like that where our consistency has been our main enemy. It'll come, I have no doubt in that. It's like you said in the beginning- it's the first year of our program. We just hit the 10-month mark the other day. It's not an excuse, it's fact. The bottom line is we've got a bunch of guys who are working really, really hard to get better, and they are getting better. There are things that are maybe different than what was expected of them in the past, and at the same time, there's no security blanket player out there. In the last couple of years at Georgia, there's been that security player; obviously, with the Player of the Year in Yante [Maten]. That's not an excuse; that's a fact. So, bottom line, we need to keep developing it, and the last thing I want anyone in our program to lose is confidence, so we certainly don't want any fans losing confidence. I mean, if people want to see the program continue to develop, grow and move forward, we've got to keep having this energy in the building. We've got to keep having it for us, and we've got to keep having it for the future, so that the recruits and people like that see what's capable here. I don't have anything to judge it by, but I tell you what; when people come here and see it, or a recruit sees it, or a parent sees it or comments on it, it's a big deal. It's really, really important." 

On what his thoughts are on Rick Barnes' rebuilding of Tennessee's program/on what he takes away from that
"[It's his fourth year]. It takes time to rebuild a program. I mean, it just does. I'm focused on the day-to-day, without question, but you've got to have a vision for the future. I think that's exactly what the fans have got to have, too. You want to win in the present, and you want to do well, but you've also got to be Abel to look at it and say, 'Okay, we're making some changes.' There's some changes going on in the program, and change is hard. Change is painful, and you've got to work through it. But I think just [Tennessee's] stability, the way they've recruited. The biggest thing that stands out to me about them is their togetherness, their camaraderie. Obviously, they have skill, they have talent, they have physicality, they have toughness; but, they've got a really, really strong togetherness, and that doesn't happen overnight. That doesn't happen over months. It takes time to build that."

On if the way LSU is scoring in SEC play accentuates what Crean has been telling his players about cuts
"Tremont Waters is about as good a short-range, long-range passer, probably in college basketball. I mean, he can really score that's obvious but it's his passing that really beats you. He has got a unique and uncanny ability to find people close to him and long distances from him, and the velocity of the passes he throws you've got to be active. You cannot be in an over-help situation and, at the same time, they're one of the best offensive rebounding teams, as far as consistently going, right? Their numbers are really good. They're No. 13 and gaining in the league, but it's the consistency in which they go with and the way they basically are blocking you out when the shot goes up. So, there's no question that they've got a ton of talent. They've recruited extremely well, and [head coach Will Wade] doing a really great job with them. They defend well, and Tremont brings a whole other dimension to their team."

On seeing Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds becoming 'security blanket' players
"They're not there yet. They're sophomores, and I think there's an inconsistency with that. Now, are they talented and getting better and working hard and absolutely trying? No question about it. But we can't have too high of an expectation for guys in college that have never done it either. Their improvement level from one year to the next is really high, and we don't have great decision-making at any position right now. At the same time, we can't come down and try to really slow the game down. We'll score even less than what we're scoring now, so we've got to make sure that we just keep developing their confidence, getting them to play with energy, not feeling pressure that they have to do certain things that are out of their control and continue to grow and blossom because of that."

On Claxton and Hammonds taking on more of a leadership role
"I think so, but it's got to be more consistent. It's got to be more consistent. This is not a program right now that has one guy that we're going to rely on day in and day out to be the emotional leader and compass of this team, the one that's going to challenge and inspire. We don't have that, so we've got to have it collectively. We're working towards it, but that's not a role that people are naturally falling into yet, but over a period of time if you continue to develop and work at it, those things come, and our biggest thing is we've just got to absolutely stay together when things start to go wrong and get it back or when they're going right, stay with it. What happens sometimes is when you have a team, and I've said this all along, it's just the way that it is, it's been pretty clear who the man was or who the people were that were the go-to's the last couple years, but we really don't have that, so when you don't have that, you've got a lot of people that are trying to become that and they don't realize how easy it is if you just keep moving the ball and moving without the ball. We showed that so many different people scored in the second half on Saturday because the ball was absolutely moving at a crisp rate, but more importantly, the bodies were moving at a fast and crisp rate. That's basketball. That's the way we want to play. Right now, we've love to be able to get slot three's off drive and kick, just throw it right there. It's one of the reasons that my teams in Indiana were the leaders over nine years in 3-point percentage. We could knock that shot down. If you wanted to lay off us right there, we could kick that and knock it off. You couldn't always lay off it because you had to bring help because we had so many downhill players, guys that could create other shots or create shots for others and create shots for themselves. That's not our strength. That's not our strength right now, so we've got to have even more cutting time and time again because the last thing we want to lose is confidence to shoot the ball. That's not going to help anybody if we can't feel like we're going to make those three's because we don't have the downhill, get-your-own-shot player that you can ride and say, 'go get us something.' Most teams in this league don't have one or two, they've got three or four more that when things break down, they can go get that shot, and because they're such good teams, Tennessee's a great example. Numerous guys at Tennessee can go make a basket. Numerous guys at Tennessee can break off and isolate and go get something, but because they work so well together they don't need to do that as much. That's the difference, and we've got to continue to build that. That's just a fact. We have to work through that. We have to work around it at times, but we have to work through it on a daily basis and help them to continue to get better with their skills. The one thing that's probably a little different for this staff than my previous staffs is they just haven't been with me. We're never going to get away from getting guys better individually on a daily basis. We're never going to get away from developing the off hand. We're never going to get away from shooting. We're never going to get away from driving and making decisions. We're never going to get away from footwork, spacing, guarding the ball. We're going to continue to build skills on a daily basis. You don't want to have them out there all day long, so you give something on that, but we've got to develop skills because the only thing that gives you true confidence and true energy at the end of the day is your own improvement. When you're improving, and you've got a team full of guys that are improving, and then you start to win, it takes off. Right now, we're in the midst of a lot of improvement and trying to get that understood."

On whether Derek Ogbeide is dealing with a hip injury: 
"It affected him Friday, it affected him a little bit Saturday. He didn't practice on Friday, and that hurt us a little bit when the game started, not in his opinion but in mine. He was out of sync a little bit. But he was better, we didn't practice Sunday, we practiced yesterday and he was better he's been doing a good job with the rehab and hopefully he'll continue to improve."

On Nicolas Claxton as a special 6'11" player with ball handling abilities and if he is where he needs to be
"It's coming. Consistency, being able to finish, quicker decisions with the ball. You know, when you have bigger guys like we have that we're trying to have handle the ball that are playing away from the rim, when they don't cut as well it shows up a lot more than when they're around the post. So, I don't know what it looked like last year. But, when you've got them away from the basket if they're not making hard cuts, if they're not making quick cuts, if they're not separating from the defense better, you know that shows up and they don't look as quick. Well that's the way we're trying to play. We're trying to get guys that are skilled and developed as basketball players and that makes our team that much better. So being able to move better without the ball, being able to make quicker decisions with the ball like I said, the finishing is better, continuing to work on his shooting. But defensively and what he can create, his vision, those type of things, absolutely unique. And as he's learning on a daily basis, too much is given much is required right, the Bible? When you've got that type of talent you're going to pull it out of him every day. There is not, I will never go to bed at night by regretting that I didn't try to pull out enough of a guy on a team, especially when they've got talent like that. And I think that's one of the reasons we've had the relationships and success we've had over a period of with time not only teams but with players because they don't have any idea of how good they can be. As long as they trust that you're going to push them in that direction, alright even when they don't like it, you keep doing it. Because you have a responsibility not only to each and every person on your team, but to each and every person's talent and potential on your team and that's what we're continuing to build. This is not just 'we'll we're just going to develop pros.' No, we want to develop pros and great players and win a lot of games, win championships. A lot of times they go hand in hand. But, you've got to get them to understand the work capacity that they have to have. The level of energy and endurance that they've got to have, and the ability to impact the game on both ends for longer periods of time that they've got to have. And, if you don't do that you're cheating them and that's not going to happen here."

On how much time in practice is spent working on individual drills
"Oh, we're going to focus, I mean we're getting ready for games there's no question about that. We're practicing and every game's got special things that we put into it and we do our team things. But, every day. I wouldn't put a percentage on it because it's a part of every day. The shooting, driving, the weak hand or off hand development, the spacing. This is one of the things that I have to keep in perspective, this again goes back to Anthony's question at the beginning because it's making me think this. We've been working on spacing since I got here the first week I was here in March. You know March 19th now, we've been working on really understanding the 3-point line in the NBA, the spacing in the corners. I can pick out dozens of times in games that we don't get to those spots, and we work on it every day. Every day. And it's a huge part of every day when you're on the offensive end because of our spacing. It takes time for guys to learn what you really, really want. It takes time, it takes time to build habits, it takes time to break habits. It's not that my style is better, it's not about that. It's about 'this is how we're going to play,' right? And so to get them to understand that has taken a lot of time. Well along the way, we're understand them and the defenses of this league. We've got to make the defenses of this league respect our offense more by getting more movement. So, if we ever get away from spacing, cutting, shooting, driving we're just playing into the hands of the defense that much more no matter what we do game plan wise. But we're trying to get a great mix without wearing them out, this is the time of year, it's really a few weeks before that you really got to be sure that they're keeping their energy. It's not only a long season, it's a long year because of what you get to do with them in the summer time, in the fall and things like that. I think most coaches, I know I have, you have to adjust a lot earlier to that. Well, that's easier said than done because we still got a lot to learn, not to mention getting ready for games we've got a lot of learning to do about what we're trying to do."

Sophomore Forward Nicolas Claxton 
On rebuilding season and keeping fans loyal 
"I understand where the frustration would come from, but my message to the fans would be just to stick with us and, you know, we are going to get rolling. Just stay with us because you know we have a lot more games left and keep the support strong and like the way it has been." 

On tough competition and slow start 
"Yeah. Definitely, you know, especially when you have been in a lot of the games, late in the game, or you know you are so close, but sometimes it seems that we are so close but so far. You know, as far as the players go we have to stick together, stay confident and stay together as one." 

On low-scoring games and issues on offense 
"Spacing. That is something that Coach Crean has really been harping on. Make sure we have a lot of spacing, like against Florida in the second half when we came out and had a big run. What was big was just the spacing and ball movement and making sure we continue to play our pace throughout the game." 

On leadership of Rayshaun Hammonds and himself this year compared to last 
"Yeah, it is totally different. I remember Florida, they weren't even guarding me, and this year it was a total 360. I know everywhere I turned around I had two players guarding me. So, it is different, but we are starting to adjust to it." 

On leadership role in practice and games 
"I have been really vocal this year. Last year I stepped up a little bit with it, but this year that is something that my teammates and coaches have wanted me to do so I make sure I have been a great leader on and off the court." 

On offensive struggles and overextending himself 
"Yeah, you are just making sure you are letting the game come to you and not going out there, like you said, trying to force anything. Just make sure you are not forcing shots or trying to create plays that are not there." 

On Tennessee and No. 1 ranking in the nation 
"I mean it takes time. It takes a lot of time and hard work and perseverance, just making sure you are listening to your coach. Coach [Rick] Barnes is doing a phenomenal job with them up there at Tennessee, and they are No. 1 and that is a huge achievement." 

On improvement of handling the ball the year and being a point guard type 
"Yeah, honestly, I thought I would be handling the ball a little bit last year, but you know that didn't work out. With the new coaching staff, Coach Crean, and him coming in and just having that confidence with me having the ball in my hands. It was a really good experience." 

On confidence growth after playing big teams 
"My confidence has really sky-rocketed from the beginning of the season to now. I look to build on what I have done and do anything I can do help the team win." 

On natural leadership 
"Honestly, yeah, it is kind of natural. I am not that quiet guy. I mean, I am pretty talkative around my teammates and stuff like that, I am a really confident person and player so it is good for me to be in that leadership role." 

On being a younger leader compared to older guys 
"Yeah, it is a lot of mutual respect you know throughout the team. So that is something that is good." 

On frame of mind going to strong LSU team 
"Yeah, they are a solid team. They can really score the ball and they have a good front court. They have Tremont Waters, their point guard. We have been scouting and seeing certain ways we can try and slow them down and make sure they we score points." 

On future of working with Coach Crean and his system of basketball 
"I am looking forward on building on everything, you know, it has really been a process and we have been through a lot so far this season. I am looking forward to just trying to get wins and focus on it day-by-day." 

On the rest of SEC schedule this season 
"It is something that I looked at later on in non-conference play and it's been a little rough. We have taken some tough losses, but all we can do is stay with it, stay confident and keep believing in ourselves."

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