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Tom Crean, UGA Start SEC Season on the Road at No. 3 Vols

January 4, 2019

Georgia Basketball Game Notes
Georgia (8-4) vs. No. 3 Tennessee (11-1)
Saturday, January 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) in Knoxville, Tenn.
Watch: SEC Network (Mike Morgan, play-by-play; Dane Bradshaw, analyst)
Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network Flagship: WSB AM 750 Atlanta; XM: 383; Internet: 974. (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Tony Schiavone, producer)


The Starting 5…
• Georgia has already sold out 7 games this season, the most sellouts for the Bulldogs since they had 8 during the 2002-03 season.
• Nicolas Claxton is the only SEC player to lead his team in points, boards, assists, blocks & steals in a game this season...and he’s done it twice.
• Derek Ogbeide enters the Tennessee game two rebounds shy of catching No. 11 Trey Thompkins among UGA’s career leaders.
• UGA’s bench has outscored it counterparts in 11 games, with nine of those being by +10 or more. UGA’s  bench has a +191 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 christens the 2019 and SEC portions of its schedule with a bang on Saturday, traveling to Knoxville to face No. 3 Tennessee, the defending SEC co-Champions. 

In fact, the Bulldogs will venture to the league’s defending co-Champs during the first two weekend’s of SEC play. Georgia will take on Auburn next Saturday on The Plains.

Series History With The Vols
Tennessee owns a 94-61 advantage in the all-time series between the Bulldogs and Volunteers, including a 57-16 edge in Knoxville.

UGA and UT split two meetings last season, with each team winning on its home floor. Tennessee’s win in Knoxville in the regular-season finale snapped a five-game winning streak in the series by Georgia.

Up Next: Vandy Visits Stegeman
Georgia will return to the friendly – and increasingly crowded – confines of Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night to host Vanderbilt at 6:30 p.m. Georgia is 6-1 at home this season and averaging 8,004 fans.

Welcome To The League, Coach
Tom Crean’s initiation into the SEC might be considered hazing by some.

Georgia begins league play with six consecutive outings against teams currently ranked in the top-50 of the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings.

Through games of Jan. 2, Tennessee was No. 5 in the NET rankings. Following Saturday’s game, Georgia will face, in succession, No. 43 Vanderbilt, No. 19 Auburn, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 33 Florida and No. 27 LSU.

Dogs’ Sellout Count Climbs To 7
The Tom Crean regime established some attendance records before the season even began by selling out three games. In early December, that count ascended to six sellouts. The Bulldogs then wrapped up 2018 with a capacity crowd against UMass on Dec. 30.

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

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

Dates with LSU, South Carolina and Ole Miss also sold out in December. The last time the Bulldogs had seven sellouts was in 2002-03 when they hosted eight capacity crowds.

It should be noted that the 2,000 free seats reserved for UGA’s student body must be filled at those games for capacity crowds of 10,523 to be in attendance at the Bulldogs’ half-dozen “sellouts.”

The Dogs Are Drawing
Georgia averaged 8,004 fans for its seven non-conference outings, the second-highest figure in the 2000s.

That’s the most since the Bulldogs averaged crowds of 8,792 during the 2002-03 non-conference campaign. That season featured only five non-league dates, with three of those being on weekends and a fourth against No. 2 Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.

A Historic Opener
Georgia christened both the 2018-19 campaign and the Tom Crean era on Nov. 9 with an impressive evening on and off the court.

The Bulldogs secured a 110-76 victory over Savannah State, 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.

A crowd of 9,018 fans flocked to Stegeman Coliseum for the opener. That represented the most fans for a home opener since the Stegeman’s capacity became 10,523 in 1994. 

The was UGA’s largest crowd for a home opener since a then-capacity crowd of 11,200 saw Georgia top Georgia Tech, 62-61, in 1981 during Dominique Wilkins’ sophomore year.

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

Also on the scoring front, UGA’s 59 first-half points were its most in a half since scoring 60 in the second period against Jacksonville State 11 years earlier...on Nov. 9, 2007. 

Bulldogs Begin With Busy Stretch
Georgia played six games in the first 13 days of the 2018-19 campaign. 

The season began with the Nov. 9 opener against Savannah State, a trip to Temple on Nov. 13 and a matchup with Sam Houston State on Nov. 16. The Bulldogs then played three games  in as many days on Nov. 19-21 in the Cayman Islands Classic.

Georgia Opens SEC Play Vs. Vols
Georgia treks to Knoxville on Saturday to face No. 3 Tennessee in the SEC opener for both teams.

The Bulldogs are 8-4 to date and have won five of their last six outings. The lone setback during that stretch was a two-point loss to No. 20 Arizona State.

Sophomores Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton lead Georgia. 

Hammonds averages a team-high 15.0 ppg and is one of only two players (along with Tennessee’s Grant Williams) ranked among the SEC’s top-10 leaders in scoring (No. 10), rebounding (No. 9), field goal percentage (No. 3) and free throw percentage (No. 5).

Claxton, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, is contributing 13.3 ppg and leads the league in rebounding and blocks by wide margins of 0.9 rpg and 0.6 bpg. Nationally, he is  No. 15 in boards and No. 8 in blocks.

Tennessee is 11-1 overall and 8-0 at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols’ lone setback was to then-No. 2 Kansas.

Williams and Admiral Schofield provide Tennessee with one of the nation’s top 1-2 scoring punches, averaging 20.1 ppg and 18.2 ppg, respectively. Individually, they rank 1-2 in the SEC.

Series History With The Vols
Tennessee owns a 94-61 lead in the all-time series between UGA and UT, including at 57-16 edge in Knoxville. 

The Bulldogs and Vols split a pair of meetings last season, which each winning on its home floor. Tennessee’s victory in the regular-season finale snapped Georgia’s five-game winning streak in the series, the Bulldogs’ longest string of success since winning six consecutive matchups between 1993-95.

In the final regular-season outing last March 3, Tennessee rallied in the waning moments to surge past Georgia en route to a 66-61 victory at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Bulldogs led by four points with 3:10 remaining following a Yante Maten 3-pointer but could not hold off the Vols.

All told, Georgia led for 31:14 of game, including an 11-point margin twice late in the first half.

Tennessee closed the gap to one at 45-44 with 13:44 remaining, but did not take the lead until a Lamonté Turner 3-pointer that made it 55-53 with 6:23 remaining.

That was the first three ties and three lead changes the rest of the way. The Vols took the lead for good with 1:01 left.

Two weeks earlier in Athens, Maten’s game-high 19 points led five Bulldogs in double digits as Georgia upset No. 18 Tennessee, 73-62, at a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum.

Maten started hot, scoring 11 points in the opening 10:59. That staked Georgia to a 13-8 lead it never relinquished the rest of the way. The margin grew to 21-12 before Tennessee closed the gap to two points at halftime. 

The Bulldogs quickly regained control quickly after the intermission, pushing their lead back to double figures at 38-28 in less than three minutes.

The Vols made is a one-possession game twice thereafter, but Georgia answered each time. After Tennessee pulled within 54-51 at the 5:14 mark, Tyree Crump nailed a 3-pointer to open a 9-3 run that made it 63-54 with 94 seconds remaining.

Last Time Out...
Nicolas Claxton’s third-straight double-double led Georgia to a 81-72 victory over Massachusetts before a sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum on Dec. 30.

Claxton scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Rayshaun Hammonds added 18 points, Tyree Crump chipped in 14 and Derek Ogbeide contributed 12.

The Bulldogs raced to a 12-2 lead less than five minutes into the game and never trailed. Georgia led 43-32 at the intermission following a last-second 3-pointer from Hammonds.

The Bulldogs led by double figures for all but 46 seconds of the second half, with the 19-point margin of victory also representing Georgia’s largest lead of the day.

Georgia Basketball Pregame Quotes
Georgia vs. Tennessee
Friday, January 4, 2019
Head Coach Tom Crean
On playing Tennessee for the SEC Opener…
“We have to play them at some point, so it’s fine. They are playing really well and they are an outstanding team. They are very good at every facet of the game and are extremely well coached, so it will be a tough challenge.”
On readiness of the matchup…
“I have no idea. We can’t mirror in practice what we are going to see in them. They have a physicality and a toughness that we will have to deal with. Obviously, we are playing there and it is a tough environment I’m certain. They play with a tremendous amount of toughness and physicality and grit, and we are going to have to match that or we won’t have a chance.”
On Tennessee having an edge because of a more veteran team…
“I don’t know. It is what it is. They are a really good team. I don’t know, because I haven’t played them yet, we haven’t coached against them. We just have to go in there and be ready to compete.”
On tough slate to open SEC play…
“I’m not looking at it like that, I’m just ready for this one.”
On Grant Williams similarity to Nicolas Claxton as far as versatility…
“You can’t guard him with one guy. We are going to have to guard him as a team. Most importantly, their whole team is good. They don’t have many weak points so it isn’t about individual matchups. It is about our team defense against their offense.”
On previous home crowds importance going forward…
“It’s extremely important. It makes all the difference in the world for us. We are getting better, we are improving, and we love it. That is how you build a program and have stability. When you have those crowds, everyone can feel it and everyone can be a part of it and the energy of it and the ownership of it. The recruits see it and it is great for the team on the floor.”
On football being over if more attention goes to basketball…
“I think Georgia fans focus on what is playing. I don’t feel any different. We didn’t have any games when football was playing, so it isn’t much of a difference there. Does that mean more fans will pay attention? I don’t know. I think the fans have been great. I think Georgia fans across the board are great.”
On relishing games against top teams…
“We just want to win the game. We just have to compete. They [Tennessee] don’t take possessions off. They compete at a very high level. They have been at it for awhile and they have been building their program for awhile and they have a lot of traction in it right now. We are just getting started, but we have to go in there and matchup in the sense of competition, intensity, and being on the glass. We can’t go in there and give them live ball turnovers, because that will be a disaster for us.”
On Nicolas Claxton improving…
“He is getting better, but he has to get better and he has to continue to get better. He is improving, but that is the whole trick, you keep getting better throughout the season. We don’t have anybody on this team that can sit back and take a deep breath and can think that they’ve reached any type of success rate. We are not even close to that. It is all about the improvement and creating challenges. The biggest difference for him [Claxton] is now the mindset of most coaches in the league are aware of him and the players are aware of each other, so now he and the whole team is going to have to deal with a new level of preparation, because there aren’t some of the guys that are in there that were there in the past. Like Yante Maten, J.J. Fraizer, those type of people. They aren’t there. It increases what they will have to deal with and the attention they will get.”
On Nicolas Claxton… 
“We aren’t going to pack on a ton of weight [on him] in the next couple weeks. We just have to play harder and longer. That is the biggest problem I’ve had with this team behind closed doors. We just have to learn to play harder longer. Working hard we do, that isn’t the issue. It is like talent versus skill. A lot of people have talent, but do you have skill. Skill comes out when you are under pressure, well it is the same thing when playing hard. We work hard everyday, we sweat, we get after it, but the bottom line is you have to play harder longer and you have to be in a tremendous mindset of competition in the way that you can be. That remains to be seen for us. We are improving there, but now we are into this gauntlet [SEC season] and we have to see how we are going to continue to build through that.”
#33 Nicolas Claxton | Sophomore | Forward | Greenville, S.C.
On how ready this team is to do what Coach Crean is asking you all to accomplish, playing harder and longer, entering SEC play… 
“I think we are most definitely ready. The past few days and really just the whole season we have been preparing and we have played some good teams. I feel like everything we have been through so far throughout the season, even the losses, have brought us together and we are ready to go into Tennessee and get the job done.” 
For you personally, what did you take from your freshman season that you are able to apply now and use to your advantage? 
“I would say, for me personally, just the different atmospheres is something. I really enjoy. Last year was the first time I was guarding the post a lot. I am naturally able to guard guards better, so me being able to guard the post now allows me to guard a lot of different positions.” 
On teams playing and defending you differently now… 
“Most teams try to out physical me and throw a lot of different guys at me, but I am getting used to it. Coach Crean and the staff do a really good job of putting me in a lot of different positions on the court.” 
On if you think you are surprising some people when they aren’t able to knock you off the ball… 
“I actually feed off of physicality which is something that most people don’t know about me.” 
On the gauntlet on your schedule starting tomorrow… 
“We have kind of looked at the schedule but for right now, we are just looking to Tennessee tomorrow. We just want to go to Knoxville and be ready for that game.” 
On what you want to prove against Tennessee tomorrow… 
“We are going to a hostile environment, of course, but we played them last year in their last SEC game. We want to prove that we can win. We don’t want to just play them close, we want to win.” 
On why you think the team has struggled playing physical for long periods of time so far this season and how do you improve on that… 
“I think it is a mental thing, mostly. Most of the time we start off strong in the first half and then kind of have a dip coming out in the second half. Most of is just mental I wouldn’t say it is a physical thing. We just have to be able to keep our foot on the gas and keep going.” 
On what you want to show the fan base throughout SEC play on the progress this team has made…
“I think we just want to take everybody by surprise. Our fan base has really picked it up from last year and I can already see that change and I am sure during SEC play it will go to a whole other level. We just want to show we can play with anybody and that we aren’t scared of anybody. We want to show that this is a totally different program now.” 
On being preseason #13 of 14 teams in the SEC and if it serves as motivation… 
“Definitely. We know we are a better team than that. You know, we lost Yante and Juwan last year which are two pretty big pieces but this year with the new system, Coach Crean and the rest of the coaching staff, we are a much better team and we are going to show the world that.” 
On the increasing crowd as non-conference play progressed… 
“We love our fans. They have really taken it to another level. We really feed off of that. I think the last game was a sell out and everyone, coaches, players, staff, feeds off of that. Going into conference play we look forward to the fans taking it to another level and we will take our play to another level as well.” 
No. 34 Derek Ogbeide | Senior | Forward | Lagos, Nigeriga
On requirements of keeping the intensity longer… 
“Yeah, it’s about that time. It’s started for everybody, quite literally. We have to have the right kind of focus and the right mental attachment to go longer and go harder. Practice it, then implement it. We try to do everything the same speed as always. I am comfortable with the speed we go and to go that same speed again.” 
On the feel of how the team is playing right now… 
“It does sort of start to get real and we are starting to click better as a team better and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together we have been trying to put together for so long and in the right place and so it is coming along. We are getting better and we are improving. Everybody is getting smarter.” 
On opponents starting to play Nicolas Claxton different than before… 
“Yeah. They have to respect his game now. He has a new kind of game now. It’s different. It’s combined with his old style of play and it needs to be respected… He has, like all players, he has his advantages and his advantages comes to his length a lot of times, and you know with having length that size you may downsize stress sometimes, but Nic is about as strong as anyone else on the team.” 
On the team and their play coming together… 
“Definitely. Absolutely. It really just starts off, just really game by game and starts off in the next game and then from what we have practiced, and you know practice how you play and since we practice that way when game time comes it’s game time, and then you know we went out there and did it and it clicked and came together and now we improve from there.” 
On a one game at a time mentality…
“We stick to focus. Yeah, we stick to the focus of one game at a time and as always we pay the amount of respect and the amount of attention to who we have up next. We follow up and handle what we have to handle following. For now, Tennessee. 
On confidence of getting a win against Tennessee…
“Absolutely. That’s the intention. We are going up there to win. That is simply the intention with every game we play, firstly. That’s how it has been and that’s how Coach preaches that it’s going to be.” 
On importance of playing harder-longer in conference play…
“It starts with buildup, you know from non-conference. We build and build, and we are still building and continuing to build, but you know there is a certain threshold that the mentality, the mindset that you’ve been building on it’s here now. It’s coming. We have been saying, ‘It’s coming. It’s coming.’ Now it’s actually here, and now there’s nothing else to do other than go out and do it.” 
On any advantages to fewer expectations because of it being a building year…
“You can say that, but our mindset is simply going out there and playing our game and winning ball games. Winning games that we want to go win. Without game-planning with the way we do things. Going out there and winning and putting ourselves in the best position to win every single game that we possibly can.”

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