Georgia (5-10, 0-2 SEC) vs. Mississippi State (11-3, 1-1 SEC)
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2021
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Humphrey Coliseum (10,500) in Starkville, Miss.
Watch: SEC Network (Roy Philpott, pbp; Mark Wise, analyst)
Listen: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network – Flagship: 960 the Ref-AM, Athens; WXKT-FM, Gainesville. (Scott Howard, play-by-play; Chuck Dowdle, analyst; Adam Gillespie, producer)
The Starting 5…
* In SEC games, UGA has made a league-leading 60.4 percent of its combined FG and FT attempts.
• Through games of 1/2 Aaron Cook ranked No. 5 nationally in assist average (6.6) and No. 8 in total assists (93).
• Braelen Bridges leads UGA with 11 double-figure outputs...and has two more games with nine points.
• Jaxon Etter has drawn 13 offensive fouls this year...and 21 in UGA’s last 26 games dating back to last season.
• UGA’s seven first-year transfers combined to score 4,782 points at their previous schools.
The Opening Tip
The SEC’s Bulldogs of the Eastern and Western variety will face off Wednesday when Georgia ventures to Starkville to take on Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum.
Georgia has been the SEC’s most efficient scoring team in conference play.
Of the Bulldogs’ 144 shots from the field and the line in SEC games, 87 have found the bottom of the net. That 56.4 percentage is the league’s best by a relatively significant amount...Auburn is second best at 56.4.
In stats for SEC games only, Georgia is the only team that ranks among the top-3 in all three shooting percentages – No. 1 in free throws (.892), No. 2 in field goals (.505) and No. 3 in 3-pointers (.405).
Georgia is currently 5-10 on the season, 0-2 in SEC play, and looking to snap a four-game losing skid. Two of those setbacks have been painful, last-second decisions.
The Bulldogs lost to ETSU, 86-84, on Dec. 22 when a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds was off the mark.
Last Tuesday, Georgia battled back from an 18-point, first-half-deficit to Texas A&M and grabbed a one-point lead on a Kario Oqueno 3-point play with 5.5 seconds remaining before the Aggies sunk a game-winner with 1.2 left on the clock.
Prior to the A&M game, head coach Tom Crean stated: “I like the spirit. I like the energy. We just need something to go right for us. These kids are working so hard, so hard...I like the way they’re working.”
Following the contest Crean offered: “There are so many things that I don’t care about. What I do care about is how much better we get every day, and not allowing distractions and disappointments and discouragement and all those kind of things to enter into us... They are getting better. It would be hard to say some guys aren’t getting better. We certainly don’t have record the last few weeks to show for it, but we are improving and we’ll get there.”
Keeping An Eye On . . . Entering Today’s Game:
Aaron Cook is...
• 3 outings from 150 games played in his career
• 14 steals from 200 for his career
Series History With State
Georgia currently leads the all-time series with Mississippi State, 58-57; however, State owns a 33-18 edge in games played in Starkville.
Last season on Dec. 30 in Athens, Mississippi State ended Georgia’s 7-0 start to the season with an 83-73 decision in both teams’ SEC opener.
P.J. Horne led four double-digit scorers for the Bulldogs, pouring in a career-high 21 points by hitting 7-of-13 shots from the field – including 5-of-10 3-pointers – and 3-of-4 free throws.
Mississippi State broke the game open midway through the first half, using a 13-2 run to build a 28-12 lead at the 9:23 mark.
In the most recent matchup in Starkville on Jan. 18, 2020, State shot 61.7 percent from the field – the best effort of last season against Georgia – en route to a 91-59 win.
Scouting The Western Dogs
Mississippi State enters Wednesday’s game at 10-4 overall and 1-1 in SEC play.
The Bulldogs wrapped up non-conference play 9-3 before defeating Arkansas, 81-68, in their league opener. State’s next outing at Missouri was postponed, and the Bulldogs fell Ole Miss last Saturday.
Iverson Molinar leads an balanced offensive attack for Mississippi State featuring five double-digit scorers. Molinar’s 16.8 ppg average is followed by Tolu Smith at 14.2 ppg, Garrison Brooks at 11.3 ppg, D.J. Jeffries at 11.0 ppg and Shakeel More at 10.7 ppg.
Smith has only played in five games to date. He missed the first five contests due to injury. Smith played in three contests before a toe injury kept him out of action for four more outings. After scoring a game-high 18 points versus the Razorbacks, Smith was a DNP against Ole Miss for non-disciplinary reasons.
Last Time Out
Kario Oquendo’s 22 points lead a quartet of double-figure scorers in a 92-77 setback at No. 13/16 Kentucky last Saturday.
Oquendo also led Georgia with seven rebounds, while Aaron Cook added 17 points, Noah Baumann contributed 14 and Braelen Bridges finished with 10.
Georgia led for 14:05 of a back-and-forth first half that featured no less than five ties and 10 lead changes. Kentucky expanded a three-point, 40-37 advantage at the intermission to 12 points with 15:26 remaining and never allowed the Bulldogs closer than eight points thereafter.
State Stops Dogs’ Streak
Last season’s loss to Mississippi State snapped Georgia’s seven-game winning streak to open the campaign, the Bulldogs’ best start since opening their 1982-83 Final Four campaign at 9-0.
Adding Georgia’s victory over Ole Miss in the 2020 SEC Tournament gave the Bulldogs an eight-game winning streak overall before the loss to State.
That was Georgia’s longest stretch of success game wise since securing nine consecutive Ws during the 2010-11 campaign. Calendar-wise, the Bulldogs’ winning streak spanned 294 days and was the second-longest in Georgia’s 116 seasons.
The program’s best streak both for number of victories and calendar span are the same – a 16-game stretch covering 399 days dating between the 1912-13 and 1913-14 seasons.
Dogs Making Buckets
Georgia has connected on 50.5 percent of its shots from the field in two SEC outings this season.
That makes the Bulldogs one of just nine teams in the six major basketball college basketball conferences converting more than its field goal attempts in league games entering this week.
Joining Georgia and Texas A&M from the SEC are North Carolina and Miami from the ACC, Baylor and Oklahoma from the Big 12, UConn from the Big East and Arizona and Southern Cal from the PAC 12. No Big Ten teams are doing so.
Bulldogs Atop SEC Stats
Several Georgia players are prominent names among the SEC’s statistical leaders for conference games only.
Kario Oquendo is No. 2 in scoring (21.5 ppg), No. 3 in FG percentage (.615) and No. 3 in FT percentage (.909).
Noah Baumann is No. 12 in scoring (16.5 ppg), No. 2 in 3FGs per game (4.0), No. 3 in 3FG percentage (.533) and No. 6 in FG percentage (.550).
Aaron Cook leads the league in FT percentage (1.000), No. 3 in assists (5.5 apg), No. 6 in assist-to-TO ratio (1.57).
Georgia Returns To the Road
Georgia will be playing its second-consecutive road game but just its third of the season. Prior to the Kentucky game, the Bulldogs’ last outing outside of Stegeman Coliseum was 46 days earlier on Nov. 23 – the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – in the Roman Legends Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark. After that, the Bulldogs hosted an eight-game homestand.
Bulldogs Battle Through
Georgia dressed only 10 players for its first two SEC outings and has done so three times this season.
The Bulldogs’ 15-player roster was cut by two due to season-ending injuries to P.J. Horne in the preseason and Jailyn Ingram against Jacksonville on Dec. 7.
All told, seven of 13 “currently active” Bulldogs have a combined 17 DNPs, and Georgia has had its full complement of players for six of 15 outings.
From there, additional DNPs include:
• T. Baker vs. Virginia and Northwestern (illness);
• N. Baumann vs. Northwestern (illness);
• A. Cook vs. Memphis (illness);
• J. Etter vs. Gardner-Webb (injury);
• C. McDowell vs. Texas A&M and Kentucky (illness);
• J. Ned vs. Virginia, Northwestern (illness) and George Mason, Western Carolina, ETSU, Gardner-Webb, Texas A&M and Kentucky (injury);
• D. Ridgnal vs. Texas A&M and Kentucky (illness).
Bulldogs Switch Lineups
Georgia has mixed and matched eight player to create six different starting lineups this season.
The Bulldogs have used the starting five of Noah Baumann, Braelen Bridges, Aaron Cook, Jaxon Etter and Kario Oquendo in their last four contests. That’s the most any quintet has been utilized by UGA.
Only Bridges and Oquendo have gotten the nod for every contest, although Cook and Jailyn Ingram have started every game they’ve played. Cook missed the Memphis game due to an illness, and Ingram suffered a season-ending injury in the ninth contest versus Jacksonville.
Kario Likes The Bright Lights
Kario Oquendo has a history of producing big games against the best opposition.
Last season, he averaged 13.5 points while shooting 55.4 percent from the field for the Florida SouthWestern College.
In Buccaneers’ four contests against ranked opponents, those stats jumped to 22.0 points and 63.6 percent.
The trend of big nights continued this season. Against No. 19 Memphis and No. 13/16 Kentucky, Oquendo is averaging in 23.0 ppg and shooting 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the floor.
In six outings versus ranked foes as a collegian, Oquendo is averaging 22.3 points and connecting on 62.2 (51-of-82) of his field goal attempts.
B.B. Is Consistent, Efficient
Braelen Bridges is not only Georgia’s leading scorer, he’s also the Bulldogs’ most consistent point producer and among the nation’s most efficient.
Bridges has posted double-digit scoring outputs in a team-best 11 of Georgia’s 15 games, and he has notched nine points in two of the other four outings.
The graduate transfer senior Atlanta native is shooting a sizzling 64.3 percent from the field, connecting on 72 of his 112 field goal attempts.
Bridges’ effort almost puts him in elite company in the SEC and nationally. To be ranked among statistical leaders in FG percentage, a player has to make a minimum of five shots per game.
With 72 field goals made, Bridges falls three shy of that standard...or he would lead the SEC and rank No. 8 in the nation entering this week.
Cook Among Assist Leaders
Through last weekend’s games, Aaron Cook ranked No. 5 nationally in assist average (6.6 apg) and No. 8 in total assists (93).
Cook’s assist average is on pace to be the second-best ever by a Bulldog. In fact, he has a nice cushion between the current No. 2 in Georgia history – 6.3 apg by Pertha Robinson in 1994-95.
Noah Continues Scoring Trend
In five seasons of college basketball, Noah Baumann has established a trend of scoring most of his points from behind the 3-point arc...and doing so in a highly efficient manner.
Through 15 games, 76.3 percent (29 of 38) of Baumann’s made field goals have been 3-pointers, and he’s shooting the same percentage from 3-point range as on 2-point attempts (.475).
Career-wise, 72.0 percent (175 of 243) of Baumann’s made FGs are 3-pointers, and he is converting on a considerably better clip from outside the arc (.441) than inside that stripe (.372).
Etter Accepting Charges
Defensively, Jaxon Etter is like Visa...as in “everywhere you want (him) to be.”
UGA’s second-favorite walk-on student-athlete took three charges against Western Carolina, the second game this season he’s done so...the other outing being versus Ga. Tech.
Etter now has a team-high 13 charges. The trend began last season when he drew eight in the final 11 games, giving him 21 in UGA’s last 26 contests.
Baumann Hits the Boards
With injuries to P.J. Horne and Jailyn Ingram, Noah Baumann has shifted to playing the traditional ‘4′ spot for Georgia.
In his first outing doing so, Baumann grabbed 11 rebounds against Western Carolina. That was more than double his previous career-most of five in seven different outings including this year’s season opener against FIU.
Joked Tom Crean: “I don’t know if he’s done that since grade school. Somewhere out West, he might have had 11 boards in a CYO game in the eighth grade.”
Dogs Look To Regroup...Again
Georgia lost Jailyn Ingram to a knee injury during the Jacksonville game on Dec. 7. The “super senior” from Madison, Ga., and Morgan County High School was the Bulldogs’ leading rebounder (6.0 rpg) and third-leading scorer (10.7 ppg).
Ingram went down in a non-contact situation while trying to save a ball along the baseline with 14:21 left in the contest.
Following an MRI on Dec. 8, Tom Crean confirmed the prognosis on Dec. 9 with a Tweet stating: “Unfortunately, Jailyn Ingram will have to have surgery to repair his ACL in his right knee. It’s heartbreaking because Jailyn has been emerging in so many areas and has been a model of consistency day in and day out. He’s an incredible young man... Jailyn has brought a spirit and seriousness to us. He is a guy that is in the gym most mornings before we would lift weights at 8:45 and was stabilizing for a young team. We plan to appeal for the waiver to get another year since he’s under the 30% games played. Pray for him.”
Ingram’s injury was UGA’s second season-ending setback. On Oct. 20, Crean announced P.J. Horne, one of just two Bulldogs to start every game last season, would miss the campaign.
Tweeted Crean: “It’s with genuine sadness that I let you know that P.J. Horne will miss this season after undergoing surgery on his right knee this past weekend. In practice, he bumped knees in a scrimmage, lost footing and went down awkwardly. This is such a major blow to us because P.J. was playing so well and showing great leadership as our leading returning player, but more so because he is such a great person and one of the finest people I’ve ever coached.”
Jabri’s Contributions Soar
It’s probably glossed over too much that this fall is the first time Jabri Abdur-Rahim has played extended minutes in nearly two years. He suffered a foot injury during his senior season at Blair Academy and only played in two games and only appeared in eight games last season at Virginia.
Jabri, who was ranked as one of the nation’s top-40 prospects in the Class of 2020, showed signs of returning to form in three early-December outings.
Abdur-Rahim exploded for a career-high 20 points against Wofford and followed that with a 15 and 10-point showings versus No. 18 Memphis and Jacksonville, respectively.
Equally impressive as the totals was the efficiency in which he scored.
In those three games, Abdur-Rahim scored more points, connected on more shots and upped his shooting percentages by massive amounts over his 14 previous career outings as outlined below.
Stat 1st 14 Next 3 Diff.
Total Points 32 45 +13
Scoring Average 2.3 15.0 12.7
FGs Made 9 13 +4
FG Percentage .214 .650 +.436
3FGs Made 3 9 +6
3FG Percentage .125 .600 +.475
Crean Captures Win No. 400
Tom Crean secured his 400th career victory with Georgia’s upset of No. 18 Memphis on December 1.
Prior to arriving in Athens, Crean compiled 366 W’s in his first 18 campaigns as a collegiate head coach. He earned the first 190 in nine seasons at Marquette from 1998-2008 and added 166 more at Indiana between 2008-17 before arriving in Athens and securing the final 44 of his 400.
Tom Crean’s Milestone Wins
No. 1 – Nov. 20, 1999 – Marquette defeats Chicago State, 62-43, in Tom Crean’s first game as a collegiate head coach.
No. 100 – March 6, 2004 – A three-point play with .8 of a second left lifts Marquette over No. 25 Louisville, 81-80.
No. 200 – Dec. 8, 2009 – Indiana knocks off Pittsburgh, 74-64, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
No. 250 – Nov. 20, 2012 – A day after beating Georgia, 66-53, in the first round, IU tops Georgetown, 82-72, to win the Progressive Legends Classic.
No. 300 – Dec. 20, 2014 – Indiana tops No. 23 Butler, 82-73, as Yogi Ferrell became IU’s 48th 1,000-point scorer.
No. 400 – Dec. 1, 2021 – Kario Oquendo’s 24-point outburst paces UGA in an 82-79 upset of No. 18 Memphis.
Wright Stellar In Upset
Freshman Christian Wright started at point guard against No. 18 Memphis for Aaron Cook, who was out of action due to an illness. That task was taller considering the Tigers entered the game forcing an average of 18.0 turnovers per game.
While Wright’s career-high totals of 17 points, six boards and 38 minutes tallies drew significant attention, his turnover tally – a meager one TO – was the most significant digit in his linescore. And he did so logging the most PT of any Bulldog in any game this season to date.
Also of note, Wright drew seven fouls, including two on the offensive end, and converted on 6-of-7 free throw attempts.
The SportsCenter “Top-Quen”
Kario Oquendo has emphatically made his way in the top-10 plays on ESPN’s SportsCenter twice this season.
On Nov. 16, Oquendo came in at No. 3 on SportsCenter’s top-10 plays after his third highlight reel effort against S.C. State. He stole the ball at midcourt and windmilled home an uncontested dunk.
A posterized effort on Nov. 23 was tabbed No. 6. Oquendo, who’s 6-4, gathered a steal in Northwestern’s lane and drove the length of the floor before a thunderous dunk over a 6-9 Wildcat.
Cook Tops Millennium Mark
Aaron Cook blew past the 1,000-point career scoring mark on Nov. 16 against South Carolina State.
The “super senior” was eight points shy of entering the game and inched past the milestone with 2:21 left in the first half. He finished with 22 points, three off his career high versus Indiana State on Jan. 24, 2018.
Cook scored 845 points at Southern Illinois from 2016-20 and added 127 points during Gonzaga’s en route to their NCAA runner-up finish last season.
Cook was presented the game ball from the S.C. State game in a ceremony prior to the George Mason game that featured his mother, Regina, and brother, Anthony.
Dalen, Kario Draw Attention
Kario Oquendo and Dalen Ridgnal are among the top JUCO transfers expected to make the biggest marks this season.
On August 25, bustingbrackets.com ranked the top-25 junior college players moving to the “high-major” level. Ridgnal was tabbed No. 2 on that ledger, while Oquendo was ranked No. 23.
On Nov. 1, college basketball guru Jon Rothstein tabbed his top-10 “JUCOs to watch,” an unranked list that also included Ridgnal.
Cook Among Most Experienced
Aaron Cook arrived in Athens having already participated in 133 games. Cook logged action in 103 contests in four seasons at Southern Illinois and played in 30 contests last season at Gonzaga.
As a point of reference for Georgia’s record for career games played is 133 contests by Marcus Thornton from 2011-15. Thornton’s tally covers five seasons, including a redshirt season when he logged nine GPs.
Cook’s was the third-most experienced player game wise in D-I entering this season as outlined below.
D-I’s Career GPs Leaders
Rk. Player, School Games
1. Jordan Bohannon, Iowa 142
2. Chevez Goodwin, USC 138
3. Aaron Cook, Georgia 133
Garrison Brooks, Miss. St. 133
Jalen Coleman-Lands, Kansas 133
Justin Kier, Arizona 133
Experience Has Traveled
The phrase “defense travels” is a well-known in the sports world.
The slogan “experience has traveled” may become a more appropriate for the 2021-22 Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia’s lineup is anchored by five D-I transfers, sixth-year “super seniors” Aaron Cook and Jailyn Ingram, graduate transfer seniors Noah Baumann and Braelen Bridges and sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim.
That quintet has accounted more than 60 percent of Georgia’s points and assists and the majority of its production in every stat as outlined below.
D-I Transfer Contributions
Stat Team D-I Ts Pct.
Minutes 3000 1671 55.7
Scoring 1065 651 61.1
Rebounds 470 270 57.4
Assists 214 145 66.8
Blocks 43 24 55.8
Steals 79 41 51.9
Welcoming A Slew Of Scoring
Of the 10 newcomers on the Bulldogs’ roster seven are transfers – five D-I players (Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Noah Baumann, Braelen Bridges, Aaron Cook and Jailyn Ingram) and a pair from the junior college ranks (Kario Oquendo and Dalen Ridgnal).
Those players arrived in Athens having already scored 4,782 points at their previous schools, the largest addition of scoring by any D-I program this season as outlined below.
In their previous stops, the D-I quintet of the group also logged 8813 minutes in 404 games played, while grabbing 1283 rebounds, dishing 643 assists, swatting 116 blocks and collecting 304 steals.
Top Scoring Influx’s In D-I hoops
Rk. School Players Points
1. Georgia 7 4782
2. Duquesne 5 4695
3. Florida 5 4144
4. Arkansas 6 4125
5. Penn State 7 5183
6. Washington St. 4 3785
7. SMU 4 3733
8. Kentucky 4 3538
9. Utah 6 3175
10. Arizona St. 3 3132
On The Flip Side...
While Georgia welcomed a huge influx of college scoring from its newcomers, the Bulldogs returned a minuscule portion of their scoring from last season.
Minus P.J. Horne, the four returning Bulldogs accounted for only 1110 of Georgia’s 2014 points a year ago, or 5.5 percent. Walk-on Jaxon Etter is the top returning point producer with 47 points.
“B” Is For Basketball Player
You may notice on Georgia’s roster that the Bulldogs have gone away from listing traditional positions – guard, forward and center. All 15 players are now simply listed as “B” for “Basketball Player.”
Tom Crean is a proponent for “position-less basketball.”
“That’s what they are,” Crean said. “It’s not valid to call them centers and power forwards and things like that as much with the way that we’re trying to play. They’re being trained as basketball players, every day... in the sense of how we train with the ball handling, the driving, the shooting – all those type of things. That’s big to me.”
Putting Up Points Under Crean
Georgia has certainly been keeping scoreboard operators busy since Tom Crean arrived in Athens in 2018.
The Bulldogs reached the 90-point plateau 15 times in 90 games during Crean’s first three seasons. That’s a relatively healthy 16.7 percent of the team’s total contests.
By comparison, Georgia scored 90 or more points just 15 times in 387 games before Crean’s arrival, or .038 percent of the outings in a span that dates back a dozen seasons to the 2006-07 campaign.
The big numbers by the Bulldogs aren’t just a single-game thing.
In three seasons under Crean, the Bulldogs have averaged two of their top-5 scoring outputs of the 2000s as outlined below.
Top Scoring Averages In 2000s
Rk. Season Points Games Avg.
1. 2002-03 2138 27 79.2
2. 2020-21 1944 25 77.8
3. 2001-02 2444 32 76.4
4. 2019-20 2428 32 75.9
5. 2006-07 2477 33 75.1
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