ATHENS — Bolstered by nine 3-pointers, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team bested Ole Miss, 71-61, Saturday evening before 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.
With the victory, Georgia (10-6, 3-6 SEC) ended a two-game losing streak and earned a season sweep of Ole Miss (8-8, 3-6 SEC), having previously defeating the Rebels, 78-74, two weeks ago in Oxford.
Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler and junior Tye Fagan led the Bulldogs in scoring with 13 points apiece, with Wheeler tallying a team-high five assists. Graduate Andrew Garcia pitched in with 11 points, while sophomore Toumani Camara notched 10 points and led the team in boards with eight. For the night, Georgia shot 55.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent on 3-pointers.
“I think the fact that they shot 36 percent and 15 percent from the field, that might be the story of the game as far as how our defense played. I hope nobody misses that,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “That’s impressive because that’s hard to come by. The last time we defended the field that well was Kentucky. Bottom line, we did make some threes, we had good ball movement, we had 16 assists. For what we didn’t get in second-chance points and what we left on the table at the free throw line, we needed those threes.”
The contest opened with a torrid scoring pace as both teams quickly racked up baskets, including a corner 3-pointer from graduate Justin Kier. Georgia continued to find success inside with a series of layups, maintaining a six-point cushion midway through the half while benefitting from an Ole Miss scoring drought. The Rebels responded with a 7-0 run that narrowed the margin down to two with under six minutes to play in the period.
With the score tightening, Wheeler helped keep the Bulldogs in front with the fourth triple of the half, but the Rebels continued their comeback, eventually retaking the lead at 32-31 with 1:56 remaining in the half. Graduate P.J. Horne and Camara answered with consecutive 3-pointers, sending the Bulldogs to the locker room with a 37-34 halftime lead.
Georgia’s success from beyond the arc continued in the opening minutes of the second half, with Fagan and Wheeler each dropping a triple. The Bulldogs soon made their way into the bonus and opened up an eight-point advantage, but Ole Miss again closed the gap with five unanswered points.
Later, with the Rebels now within three, Kier responded with a critical jumper to beat the shot clock, spurring a 6-0 run that put Georgia up nine at the under-8 timeout. The burst continued with a Horne 3-pointer, building a game-high 12-point lead for the Bulldogs with six minutes to play. Ole Miss attempted to make one final surge, coming within seven at one point, but a jumper from Fagan at the 2:58 mark clinched the contest for Georgia.
Georgia returns to the road for its second matchup of the season against Auburn (10-8, 4-5 SEC) on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at Auburn Arena. The meeting with the Tigers is set for a 7 p.m. tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.