ATHENS — Despite facing a 15-point deficit early in the second half, the Georgia finished off an undefeated non-conference slate with a 76-58 victory over Northeasternon Tuesday in front of 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs (7-0) outscored the Huskies (1-4), 44-13, in the second half, shooting nearly 56 percent from the field in the period.
Graduate Andrew Garcia finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, while sophomore Toumani Camara pitched in 13 points and eight boards, with 12 of those points coming in the second half. Graduate P.J. Horne posted 11 points, including two 3-pointers, while sophomore Sahvir Wheeler notched 10. Graduate Justin Kier was critical for the Bulldogs with seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals to go along with seven points.
For the game, Georgia shot 50.8 percent from the field, including a season-high 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs were also dominant in the paint, outrebounding the Huskies, 41-30, and outscoring them, 46-14.
“We were incredibly ready to play, I have no doubt about that,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “They were excited to go, but it’s almost like the air went out of our balloon when they made a couple shots and we turned it over. But the bottom line is that the defense really did pick up. We had had 32 deflections in the second half and we outscored them, 44-13. We had some tremendous differences in the plus-minus in the second half. We made strides and we have to understand that’s how we’re going to win.”
Northeastern came out firing to open the night, jumping to a 17-5 lead through the first seven minutes of the game. The Huskies built their early lead by taking advantage of six early Bulldog turnovers, converting them into 10 points on the other end. The Bulldogs responded to the burst with a 9-3 run, led by tough buckets from Garcia and sophomore Christian Brown. As the Huskies worked to maintain their lead, the Bulldogs continued to ride the hot shooting from beyond the arc, with a Horne 3-pointer drawing the score to 28-20 at the under-8 timeout.
After Georgia closed the deficit to six, Northeastern responded with back-to-back 3-pointers in transition, boosting the lead back to 12 with under six minutes to play. Led by sophomore guard Tyson Walker, the Huskies extended their lead to 15 with strong finishing inside and sharp shooting from outside. After six unanswered Bulldog points, the Huskies closed out with their ninth triple of the half, taking a 45-32 lead into the locker room. With his shot at the buzzer, freshman guard Jahmyl Telfort finished the half with 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
As the second half opened, the Bulldogs began to narrow the lead, using their transition game to make it a five-point margin with less than 13 minutes remaining. With Walker in foul trouble, the Huskies went scoreless for over 10 minutes. The Bulldogs took advantage with 21 unanswered points, culminating in Camara giving Georgia its first lead with a corner jumper at the 10-minute mark.
Powered by offensive rebounding and 10 second chance points during the run, Georgia extended its lead to 57-50 by the under-8 break. For the night, the Bulldogs outscored the Huskies, 18-5, in second-chance opportunities.
Although Northeastern was finally able to break its drought, Georgia countered with an 8-0 run, capped off by three straight scores from junior Tye Fagan that made the score 65-52 with four minutes to play. Walker would add another 3-pointer to his eventual 19-point tally, but seven straight from the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on their comeback victory.
Georgia will now turn its attention toward the beginning of Southeastern Conference play next week. The Bulldogs will play host to Mississippi State on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at Stegeman Coliseum. The game is set for a 7 p.m. tip.