Tom Crean: I Think UGA Seniors Responded

March 5, 2019

Georgia Basketball Game Notes
Georgia (11-18, 2-14 SEC) vs. Missouri (13-15, 4-12 in SEC)
Wednesday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Stegeman Coliseum (10,523) in Athens, Ga.
Watch: SEC Network (Roy Philpott, play-by-play; Daymeon Fishback, analyst)
Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; Sirius: 99; XM: 192; Internet: 963. (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Tony Schiavone, producer)

The Starting 5…
• UGA broke its all-time total attendance record last Wednesday. The new mark is 141,520...with the crowd for the Mizzou game yet to be added.
• Nicolas Claxton was extremely efficient en route to his career-high 25 points at Florida, making 9-of-12 FGs, 2-of-2 3FGs and 5-of-5 FTs.
• Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump are currently tied at No. 15 and among UGA’s career 3-point leaders, seven away from No. 14.
• Of the Bulldogs’ six seniors, three are slated to graduate in May and three are scheduled to earn diplomas after the summer semester.
• 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 hosts Missouri on Wednesday in the Bulldogs’ home finale for the 2018-19 season. 

Prior to tipoff, Georgia’s six seniors – Mike Edwards, Christian Harrison, Turtle Jackson, Derek Ogbeide, Connor O’Neill and E’Torrion Wilridge – will be honored in ceremonies slated to begin with 15:00 remaining on the game’s countdown clock (at 6:11 p.m.)

The Bulldogs are coming off last Saturday’s thrilling 61-55 win at Florida. Nicolas Claxton poured in a career-high 25 points to lead Georgia to its second-straight win in Gainesville.

That victory was even more satisfying considering Georgia had lost its last four outings – all to projected NCAA Tournament teams – by a combined nine points. The outcomes of UGA’s three games prior to the Florida matchup – against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Auburn – weren’t decided until last-second shot attempts. More info on each outing can be found on Page 3 of these Game Notes.

The March 4 edition of ESPN’s Bracketology included all of the Bulldogs’ last five foes, with LSU as a No. 4, Mississippi State as a No. 6, Auburn as a No. 7, Florida as a No. 9 and Ole Miss as a No. 10.

Series History With The Tigers
Georgia owns a 7-5 lead in its all-time series with Missouri, including a 4-1 record in Athens. 

After the Tigers won the first four meetings, the Bulldogs captured the next six. UGA and MU split two matchups a year ago.
Up Next: A Rematch With S. Carolina

Georgia will wrap up its 2018-19 regular-season schedule on Saturday with a trip to Columbia – the “other one” for you Mizzou folks – to face South Carolina on Saturday. 

Earlier this season, the Gamecocks defeated the Bulldogs 86-80 on Feb. 2 in Athens.

See You in Nashville...Maybe
There’s a decent chance Georgia and Missouri will play each other again next Wednesday evening in the opening round of the SEC Tournament at in Nashville.

The Tigers and Bulldogs currently occupy the No. 12 and No. 13 seeds, respectively, in the league’s “Road to Nashville” tracking. If those hold, UGA and MU would face off at 7:00 p.m. ET next week.

Bulldogs Set Attendance Mark
Georgia broke its all-time home total attendance record at last Wednesday night’s game against Auburn. 
The Bulldogs’ crowd against the Tigers upped their total fan count this season to 141,520. That topped the previous mark of 139,570 as outlined below.
UGA Basketball Total Attendance
Season Games
2018-19 16
2015-16 19
2003-04 16
2006-07 18
2010-11 16

The Dogs Are Drawing
Fans have made their way to Stegeman Coliseum at a record pace this season, including seven sellouts. The Bulldogs are averaging 8,845 fans during the 2018-19 campaign, which would be the third-highest average in school history as outlined below.

UGA Average Attendance
Season Games
2002-03 13
2001-02 13
2018-19 16
1990-91 12
1981-82 14

Hammonds Listed as “Day-to-Day” 
Rayshaun Hammonds, Georgia’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis due to a right foot injury.

Hammonds missed last Wednesday’s game with Auburn but returned to play five minutes at Florida on Saturday night.

Hammonds injured his right foot during the Ole Miss game on Saturday, Feb. 23 but didn’t experience any significant discomfort until two days later. 

His DNP against Auburn snapped a streak of 31 straight starts dating back to last season’s regular-season finale at Tennessee.

Hammonds was averaging 12.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg, with a team-high 20 double-digit scoring performances, when the injury occurred. His abbreviated outing in Gainesville dropped those to 12.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg.

Bulldogs Set For Senior Night
Georgia will wrap up its 2018-19 home slate on Wednesday when the Bulldogs host Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum. The contest will serve as “Senior Night,” with Georgia’s six seniors honored in pregame ceremonies.

Georgia is now 11-18 overall and 2-14 in the league. The Bulldogs are coming off a 61-55 win at Florida last Saturday and looking to continue to build on the positive momentum over their last five contests. Prior to the win over the Gators, Georgia dropped a quartet of decisions – all against teams currently included in ESPN’s bracketology – by a combined nine points.

Georgia pushed No. 19/21 LSU to the brink on Feb. 16 before falling, 83-79. The Bulldogs led by as many as five points midway through the second half before the Tigers rallied to improve to 11-1 in the SEC.

On Feb. 20, Georgia rallied from a 17-point, second-half deficit to tie Mississippi State before a heart-breaking ending. Tyree Crump’s 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds remaining knotted the score at 67-67, but Quinndary Weatherspoon’s free throw with .5 of a second left provided State with the victory.

The Bulldogs dropped a second-straight one-point decision at Ole Miss on Feb. 23. Georgia rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to force four ties and six lead changes in the second stanza. The outcome wasn’t decided until the Bulldogs’ potential game-winner was off the mark at the buzzer.

Last Wednesday, Georgia erased a 14-point, first-half Auburn lead. The second half featured two ties and eight lead changes. The Tigers pulled out the victory on Chuma Okeke’s 3-pointer from NBA range as the shot clock expired on Auburn’s final possession of the night.

The Bulldogs finally broke through to defeat the Gators last Saturday at Exactech Arena. Georgia outscored Florida 10-5 over the final 2:54 to secure the victory.

Multi-dimensional Nicolas Claxton has been a “do-it-all” contributor for the Bulldogs. He currently leads Georgia in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. Claxton also is second on the team in assists (trailing Turtle Jackson by just a single dime). 

Rayshaun Hammonds, the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer and rebounder, is “day-to-day” due to a right foot injury.

Missouri sports records of 13-15 overall and 4-14 in the SEC. The Tigers are also coming off a Saturday victory, defeating South Carolina at home.

Jordan Geist leads Missouri on the offensive end with a 13.9 ppg scoring average, while Jeremiah Tilmon is chipping in 10.5 ppg and a team-best 5.8 rpg.

Series History With Mizzou
Georgia sports a 7-5 advantage in the all-time series with Missouri, including a 4-1 mark at Stegeman Coliseum.

A year ago, the Bulldogs and Tigers split two matchups. Missouri won the regular-season meeting in Columbia, and Georgia avenged that setback in the SEC Tournament.

Yante Maten scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and freshman Teshaun Hightower matched his season high with 13 points to lead Georgia in a 62-60 win over Missouri in the SEC Tourney’s second round.

That contest featured a series of runs.

Missouri opened the day by scoring the game’s first 10 points, before Georgia responded with a 19-2 surge to gain control.

The Bulldogs led 33-24 at the half and extended that margin to a dozen points on a Turtle Jackson 3-pointer to open the second stanza scoring...before the Tigers rallied to knot the score at 39-39 with 14:11 remaining.

A Jackson layup followed by consecutive 3-pointers from Tyree Crump and Nicolas Claxton quickly put Georgia back up by eight just 1:48 later.

Missouri chipped away and pulled within 59-57 on a pair of free throws with 3:57 remaining and then closed the gap to 61-60 with 60 seconds left.

Georgia forced three misses the rest of the way and grabbed a pair of key rebounds to secure the victory.

In Mizzou‘s last trip to Athens on Jan. 7, 2017, Maten scored 17 points and Georgia posted 51 second-half points en route to defeating Missouri, 71-66.

After trailing 26-20 at the half, Georgia opened the second stanza with an 11-2 run that gave the Bulldogs a lead they maintained for most of the rest of the game. 

Missouri led briefly 52-51 and 54-53, before Georgia went on a 12-0 surge to make it 65-54. Five different Bulldogs contributed points during that stretch as Georgia took a lead with 7:04 remaining it would not surrender the rest of the way.

Missouri put up 36 3-pointers in the game, tying what was then the third-most ever by a Georgia foe.

Last Time Out...
Nicolas Claxton exploded for a career-high 25 points to lead Georgia in a 61-55 victory over Florida last Saturday in Gainesville.

Georgia led for virtually the entire first half before the Gators grabbed a 28-27 advantage at the intermission. 

Florida opened the second half with a trio of buckets before the Bulldogs got on track. Tye Fagan’s 3-pointer from the left corner put the Bulldogs up 41-39 with 11:38 left. Georgia never trailed again and closed out the contest on a 10-5 run.


Georgia Basketball Pregame Quotes
Georgia vs. Missouri
Quotes from Tuesday, March 6, 2019
Head Coach Tom Crean
On the win vs. Florida...
"That felt great for a lot of reasons. Number one, first and foremost, is for these players. Certainly our coaches, our families, the fans, and the campus, but most importantly our players because of the work they put into it. We were so close. Everyone saw it, and to be able to pull it off in a very tough environment against a very good team on the road in a close game was a huge thing. There was a little bit of relief, but I think a lot more joy, and I think that's most important."
Any reason for the success?...
"We played as close to a forty minute game as you can play. Of course we had some mistakes, there are no perfect games. We had turnovers and things of that nature, but we responded. We made some timely plays. Our defense was good and our deflections were higher for us. We moved the ball extremely well. We played through Nic a lot and Nic moved around very well. It was harder because we had Ray for a bit, but then we didn't have him, so we had to make those adjustments. It was a true team win."
On the seniors...
"They've handled the transition extremely well. There's time for reflection down the road, but not now. When I think about the first meeting, the spring, the summer, and the work with them, there's a lot of those moments. There's the collective part of it, but then there's the moments you have with those guys individually. You watch them grow through something. You see their confidence grow in them, and those are the fun things. I think they've done an excellent job. I think they've represented the program and the university well. They put a lot into this, and it's not easy. There's no way to quantify it. When there's a change, and when we're all knew to each other, it's not easy. Those guys have bought in and worked extremely hard from week one."
On the Stone Cutter’s Creed...
"I've seen it before, but not in a long time. It really made sense. I read it to them after the game and thought it made sense the way the game played out. It fit the moment. It fit the time period. It was timely, and I thought it was good."
On Rayshaun Hammonds’ Status...
"Not so good, but we'll wait and see. He get stepped on in the game inadvertently. That didn't help. We've been having him in a day-to-day situation, but then he got stepped on in the game, and he wasn't comfortable with going back in."
On coaching the seniors...
"I didn't sell it as a rebuild process. There's no way to know that. When I came in, it was a new process. You got to bring energy and excitement to it. What you're trying to do is get to know them and try to establish what you want the program to be like on and off the court for you. It's never about coming in and talking about culture, but to me, it's much more about standards. What are the standards that we want to have for how we want to play and how we want to do things inside the program? At the end of the day it's Georgia, but no two coaching staffs are the same. No two coaches are the same, so it's about that. I wouldn't call it a rebuild, but they have to change how they looked at some things basketball wise, skilling development wise, and stretching their games, and adhere to the fundamentals of that. That's been most important to me, and I think they responded."
On Missouri...
"They play so hard on both ends of the floor. It's not every once in awhile or occasionally, it's all the time. Defensively, offensively, rebounding, they go inside, and they can shoot. They play freshmen a lot this year, and they've really responded especially with Mark Smith being out who's a very good player. Jeremiah Tilmon and Kevin Puryear do an excellent job. We have to be on top of our game in so many areas. We've got top of our energy and we have to be efficient. They make it really hard to score. This is not a situation where you can come down and get it without moving the ball. We have to play inside-out and get out on the break, but we can't rush. They can also turn you over. They're very aggressive, and we have to come in expecting that. We've got to be aggressive and exceed whatever their energy is and however hard they play.
Senior Forward E’Torrion Wilridge
On Crean talking about hitting the rock so many times and if that is the message the last couple of weeks…
“That perfectly describes what we have been going through as a group and a team. That win was the 101st crack at the rock and it broke for us so it was a really good win for us.” 
On being a senior and what the last home game is going to be for you… 
“Hopefully I don’t get too emotional tomorrow night but it has definitely been fun, playing in Stegeman, playing for some of the best fans in the conference and in the country. It is definitely going to be bittersweet and this will definitely be something I miss.” 
On if you feel like your class of seniors have set a foundation for Coach Crean and what he is trying to do here… 
“I think so. Even though we only got to play for him for one season I feel like we definitely helped set the bar higher and set something they can continue to build on and keep getting better and better.” 
Senior Forward Derek Ogbeide
On the win over Florida and what it meant to a team that has been going through so much… 
“It meant a lot. That is the kind of breakthrough you hope to see especially after going through so much. It was only right and we were ready for it.” 
On the thought process in the last two minutes of the Florida game after being so close in so many other games and letting them slip away… 
“We finally saw the opportunity and we were ready this time. Other variables account for other things but we controlled everything we could control in that possible moment. We did what we could to get the win and I am happy we did that.” 
On how challenging it is to be a senior during a rebuilding year… 
“It is the kind of thing that you can’t focus on because it will affect you in all kinds of ways. You kind of just have to put that fact to the side and focus on the important things and that is what you have to do with whatever is going on. In that very essence of doing what you have to do in whatever position you are in regardless of what people say or how things come out.” 
On what Coach Fox meant to you over your career… 
“Coach Fox was a really, really incredible coach, especially for me. Having spent most of my college career with him, he instilled, not just in me but in a lot of other guys, a lot of values and characteristics that we can hope to carry with us the rest of our lives, the types of things that resonate with us as we grow older. We are still so grateful for Coach Fox.” 
On Crean talking about hitting the stone for the 101st time… 
“That is basically how it went down and that is how our storyline was portrayed. It is continually hitting the stone and trying your best to crack it, but still remembering to note that it wasn’t that last hit that solely shattered the stone but it was all the previous hits that you had over time. All of that together gets the result.” 
On if it has been hard at times to see the big picture… 
“At first, it is always hard to see the big picture, in any situation. It is extremely hard when things aren’t even showing signs of improvement and you keep getting the same end result. It can make someone pull their hair out, you know. But staying with it obviously has its benefits.” 
On having the elephant off your back and its impact going forward… 
“It instills the mindset that we are building and really locks us in even more, giving us more security in who we are and what we can do. The coaches definitely have total confidence in us as well.” 
On what it will be like saying goodbye to this program and the seniors you’ve spent the last four years with… 
“It is incredible because you think about how much of my time, and the seniors along with me, we have invested into this program. All the things we have done, accomplished, reaped, hopes and dreams we had and the ones we probably wish we had more or had back, but all in all the experience itself is one that will never be forgotten and one I will never take for granted. I am happy I got to experience and I wouldn’t change a thing, positive or negative. All of that has gone into making me the man I am today and it makes me happy to say that.” 
On if you wish you had more time here… 
“That is a hard question because it is a lot of mixed emotions with the situation I am in, being my senior year. Coach Crean is obviously someone I wish I could have in my life for so much longer but these four years and the development I have come across is something I put the time and effort in to get to where I am.” 
On what you think the greatest accomplishment has been for this group of seniors… 
“It has been a lot of things. I guess, from the outside looking in, one could say our greatest accomplishment would be beating Georgia Tech four years in a row because who wouldn’t want to beat Georgia Tech four years in a row? It really makes our class proud because it is something that hasn’t been done in a very long time and it speaks volumes to the program and to my class of seniors, always holding it down when it came time to hold it down.” 


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