Heartbreak in Stegeman
Tuesday night’s SEC opener against Texas A&M was a good example of how quickly one’s fortunes can change.
Unfortunately for Georgia, it was the Bulldogs who were left in disbelief after a three-pointer by Marcus Williams with 1.2 seconds left lifted the Aggies to an 81-79 win.
Moments before, Kario Oquendo gave the Bulldogs their first lead after his drive and subsequent free throw put Georgia up by one with 5.5 seconds remaining.
The lead was the first by the Bulldogs after trailing by as many as 18 points.
But that was still plenty of time for Texas A&M and Williams who’s three-pointer from the left of the key put the Aggies up by two.
“I knew the game wasn’t over, but I felt we were going to come out and play good defense, which we did,” Oquendo said. “As the shot went up, it was one of those where if it goes in, it goes in. It went in, but it was good defense by our team.”
Following a timeout, Aaron Cook was able to inbound the ball three-quarters of the way down the court to Noah Baumann. Baumann was able to get off a shot, but was unable to get any momentum, and the ball fell short as the final buzzer sounded.
“Coach (Tom Crean) drew up a good play. It was either for him to shoot the three, or for him to pitch it to me or whoever was running in that direction,” Cook said. “(Baumann) had a good look, it just didn’t fall. He didn’t have the momentum to get a chance to shoot it over the guy who was guarding him. You can’t complain with the play call; it just didn’t go in.”
The Bulldogs (5-9, 0-1) slowly began chipping away in the second half.
A 13-0 run certainly helped, but it was not until a three-pointer by Baumann with 38 seconds left that they tied the game for the first time.
Two free throws by Henry Coleman with 14 seconds left put the Aggies (12-2, 1-0) back on top. However, that was still plenty of time for the Bulldogs.
Following a timeout after getting the ball to midcourt, Cook whipped the ball to Oquendo who drove, was fouled, and sank the free throw to put the Bulldogs up by one.
But 5.5 seconds was just enough time for Williams, much to Crean’s chagrin.
“You’re playing for the drive because it’s a one-point game. We could have done a little better job on the screen to keep them from getting it to Williams like they got it to him,” Crean said. “Aaron ends up picking him up for the drive, he’s in position, but (Williams) pulls up and hits a three. Conventional wisdom, you think you’re playing it right and he’s going to the basket. You want him to make a tough shot and he happened to hit a three.”
Oquendo led the Bulldogs with 21 points, followed by Baumann with 19 and Braelen Bridges with 12.
Once again, a slow start doomed the Bulldogs.
Georgia has struggled to start for most of the year and Tuesday was no exception. The Aggies jumped out an 8-2 lead before Baumann answered with a three.
The Bulldogs would twice get as close as three points in the first half, but both times Texas A&M was able to quickly push the margin back to double-digits before coming all the way back to ultimately take the lead.
“It’s heartbreaking when you fight your way all the way back. You get the lead, and you just need one stop,” Cook said. “But the guy comes down and makes a tough shot from deep. It’s hard to accept that. But that’s what comes with this game; it’s what makes this game so fun.”
NOTES: The Bulldogs played the game without junior college transfer Dalen Ridgnal and freshman Cam McDowell. Crean said during his pregame radio show that Ridgnal was missing the contest due to “Covid-related” issues. McDowell sat out with what was deemed “Covid-related health protocols.
During Monday’s Zoom session with reporters, Crean acknowledged that assistant coach John Linehan tested positive for Covid after receiving his booster shot and would miss an undetermined amount of time.