ATHENS — Bolstered by a 15-0 scoring run to close the first half, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats, 83-68, Saturday evening in front of 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum. With the win, the Bulldogs (6-0) reached their best start to a season since the 1982-83 Final Four season.
Sophomore Toumani Camara led a balanced Georgia attack in scoring with a career-high 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, hitting that points mark for the third time this season. Camara also picked up his second double-double of the season with a team-leading 10 rebounds.
Graduate Justin Kier tied his season high with 18 points, while fellow transfer Tye Fagan pitched in 17 points and nine boards. Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler rounded out the double-figures scorers with 12 points, seven assists, and three steals. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 49.2 percent from the field and tallied an 84 percent clip at the foul line.
“I’m just proud of the way we competed,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We knew (Cincinnati was) going to come after it. Our guys responded. We had a great walkthrough. I was certainly concerned going into it because of exam week and we’ve been a little up-and-down this week. But they competed at a high level.”
Both teams played at a quick pace in the early moments with the back-and-forth scoring producing an 11-11 tie through the first six minutes of play. Georgia then pulled ahead with a 10-3 run, powered by seven points from sophomore Christian Brown, but Cincinnati (2-4, 0-1 AAC) responded with three quick buckets to narrow the margin.
Once again, the Bulldogs rallied with another scoring spree, using their transition game to take a 15-point lead into the under-4 timeout. The run was punctuated by a Camara dunk, the final of five consecutive fast break scores. After the break, the Georgia onslaught continued as a Camara 3-pointer and Fagan layup brought the score to 49-26 at the half, a season-high for first half points. The Bulldogs closed the half on a 15-0 run, holding the Bearcats scoreless for the final four-and-a-half minutes of the period.
Facing a 23-point deficit, Cincinnati opened the second half with an offensive rejuvenation, posting a 13-2 run that narrowed Georgia’s lead to 12 at the first media break. The Bulldogs countered the rally with consecutive baskets from Wheeler and a 3-pointer from Kier, helping to maintain their double-digit lead.
The Bearcats attempted again to cut into the margin, but the Bulldogs’ ability to score at the rim, namely layups from Kier and graduate P.J. Horne, helped protect the lead. Following the final media timeout, the Bulldogs continued to increase the lead at the foul line, hitting a game high of 25 points with 2:32 remaining. In the final minutes, Cincinnati finished the game on a 14-4 run, but it proved too late as Georgia clinched a comfortable victory.
Georgia remains home next week as it plays host to the Northeastern Huskies on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at Stegeman Coliseum.