STARKVILLE, Miss. – Despite a career scoring night from sophomore Kario Oquendo, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team was unable to earn its first conference victory of the season, dropping an 88-72 contest to Mississippi State Wednesday evening before 5,973 spectators at Humphrey Coliseum.
Oquendo led Georgia (5-11, 0-3) with a career-high 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with six rebounds and two steals. With the performance, Oquendo became the first Georgia player with three-consecutive 20-point outings since Anthony Edwards in 2020.
Redshirt senior Noah Baumann tallied 15 points and five rebounds, while sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim notched 13 points and redshirt senior Braelen Bridges brought down seven rebounds. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 41.8 percent from the field.
“We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be, as in the first half,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “We didn’t come out and stay with the same level of attack. We did rebound, but we let go of the rope shortly after the eight-minute timeout when it was still a highly winnable game. You’ve just got to bear down and not watch the score as much as get stops.”
Both Georgia and Mississippi State (11-4, 2-1 SEC) opened the game impressively on offense, with junior Jaxon Etter and Oquendo leading the scoring in the early going before a pair of quick threes built a 14-8 Georgia lead. As the outside shooting started to cool down, Mississippi State began cutting into the lead, briefly retaking the lead at the midway mark.
Georgia responded by consistently getting to the line and forcing Mississippi State to shoot from outside, with the Georgia lead hovering around two for much of the period. After Mississippi State finally connected on a triple with two minutes to play, Oquendo and Baumann each hit jumpers in the last minute to give Georgia a 36-35 advantage at the half.
Coming out of the locker room, Oquendo continued his scoring with two jumpers, but Mississippi State soon moved ahead and used an 13-3 run to build a 10-point lead. After over three minutes without a field goal, Abdur-Rahim broke the drought with a three-point play. He then added a jumper and two more makes at the foul line to complete a personal 7-0 run that brought Georgia to within three.
Unfortunately for Georgia, Mississippi State swiftly answered with an 8-0 run to move back ahead by double-digits. Oquendo responded with another score, followed by a 3-pointer from Baumann as Mississippi State headed into the under-8 timeout with a 65-57 lead. Following the break, Mississippi State again rattled off nine straight points to extend the lead to 15 with six minutes to play. Despite the deficit, Oquendo set a new career high at the foul line with a pair of makes, followed by a transition three to close out the evening.
Georgia returns home this weekend to host Vanderbilt on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum. The game will broadcast live on ESPN2.
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