ATHENS, Ga. — In a battle of bordering Bulldogs, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team rebounded with a 76-60 victory over South Carolina State Tuesday evening before 6,021 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum.
Graduate Aaron Cook led Georgia (2-1) with 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting to go with a team-high seven assists and three steals. Sophomore Kario Oquendo tallied a career-high 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while redshirt senior Braelen Bridges pitched in with 15 points and a third-consecutive game with eight rebounds. For the evening, the Bulldogs shot 45.9 percent from the field, including a 31.8 percent clip from beyond the arc.
“With Kario (Oquendo), there’s no question that he has a lot of tools and a lot of talent in there,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “I think he was highly disappointed in the way he played Saturday night. I think what he did tonight is he came out with an aggressive defensive mindset. He had 11 deflections. He came out with an attacking mindset. I give his coaches back home credit as well because I know they talked to him. We’re not trying to overcoach him, but we are trying to get him to understand what he’s capable of when it comes to attacking the rim, attacking the glass and being an attack guy defensively. It’s about really being active with his hands and doing all those things. He works extremely hard.”
Georgia began the game briskly as Cook connected on a 3-pointer in the first minute of play, followed later by a pair of treys from redshirt senior Noah Baumann that helped the Bulldogs build a 13-4 lead by the first media break. The Bulldogs continued their shooting barrage, eventually extending the lead to 15 by the 12-minute mark.
South Carolina State (0-5) then began to cut into the deficit as Georgia started to cool, bringing the margin to 10 on a layup with 7:32 remaining in the half. SCSU continued to charge with three consecutive 3-pointers, bringing the score to 38-33. In need of a resurgence, Georgia found one with a 7-3 run to end the half, culminating in a dunk by Oquendo.
The pace slowed as the second half started with neither team scoring in the first two minutes. Georgia started maintaining its advantage via the foul line, entering the bonus just five minutes into the period. However, SCSU once again cut the lead down to five with its midrange game, yet this rally proved to be short-lived.
Beginning with a 3-pointer from Cook, the Bulldogs scored eight unanswered to return the lead to double-digits with eight minutes to play. As Cook and Oquendo led the way, Georgia began to seal the contest with strong outside shooting and a faltering SCSU offense, with Oquendo knocking down a long triple to make the score 74-57 with three minutes left.
“When you’re a new program like this, or new players in a program like this, it takes time to get it to come together,” said Crean. “Every time it does, you should be able to build your confidence with it and make it a continuation.”
Georgia remains home this Friday as it renews its annual rivalry with Georgia Tech following a one-year interruption. The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets tip-off at 9 p.m. with the game airing on SEC Network.