ATHENS — In a grinding effort, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated the Montana Grizzlies, 63-50, Tuesday evening at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (4-0) overcame a below-average shooting performance to top the Grizzlies (0-4), dominating in the paint and on the boards.
Sophomore Toumani Camara led Georgia with his first career double-double, posting 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting and a career-high 17 rebounds and three steals. Camara was the third Bulldog with a double-double this season and tallied the most rebounds since Trey Thompkins grabbed 17 against Alabama on Feb. 20, 2010.
Graduate Andrew Garcia pitched in 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, while fellow transfers Justin Kier and P.J. Horne also notched double-digits in scoring, with each downing a pair of 3-pointers. Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler racked up nine points and led the team with five assists.
For the night, the Bulldogs shot only 39.7 percent from the field but outrebounded the Grizzlies, 49-30. Georgia also outscored Montana in transition by a 24-3 margin.
“We were fortunate,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We really were because we had guys that showed up like they were 3-0, rather than trying to get on a one-game winning streak. It’s a whole different mindset.”
Georgia came out firing in the opening moments, quickly building a 9-0 lead and forcing an early Montana timeout after a Horne 3-pointer. The Bulldogs continued to set a torrid pace, hitting on nine of their first 11 shots to build a 19-5 lead near the 14-minute mark of the first half.
Using sharp outside shooting, Montana began to come back, posting a 15-4 run that brought the deficit to three points with five minutes to play. Sophomore forward Kyle Owens paced the Grizzlies with 10 first-half points, en route to a game-high 17 points.
Back-to-back baskets from Kier, coupled with a Grizzlies scoring drought, helped Georgia restore its lead to 32-24 at the break, although the Bulldogs nearly went scoreless in the final three minutes themselves.
After Montana narrowed the lead to five to open the second half, Georgia’s offense returned to life with a quick 9-2 run that returned the lead to double-digits. The Bulldogs’ advantage hovered around 10 points as both teams struggled to score, but consecutive layups from Garcia and Wheeler extended the margin heading into the under-12 timeout.
Once again, the Grizzlies worked their way back into the contest, but a 3-pointer from Kier and a jumper from Camara maintained a comfortable distance for the Bulldogs. Scoring struggles returned for both teams with a two-minute drought finally broken up by a Camara layup at the 3:59 mark. Holding a nine-point lead with under two to play, Horne connected on his second 3-pointer of the night to clinch the Georgia victory.
“We need to play better and we will,” said Crean. “The lineups will change as we go, and some guys will flourish and some guys will take a little bit longer to figure it out. We have to be good together, and when we are, then we’ll be fine.”
Georgia will remain home this weekend as it plays host to the Samford Bulldogs on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Stegeman Coliseum. The non-conference matchup is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network+.