ATHENS, Ga. — Yes, Yante Maten scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Georgia’s 68-65 win Sunday over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but he also turned the ball over seven times.
Count on Coach Mark Fox to focus on the miscues in the coming days.
For the second straight game, Georgia (3-0) had to hold on to win. Georgia closed out USC Upstate 74-65 on Nov. 14.
“We found a way to win,” said Coach Mark Fox, “but we didn’t play well. When we got the lead, we did not handle it with maturity.”
“I don’t think we relaxed,” said junior point guard Turtle Jackson. “When we jump on people, we have to keep playing hard.”
Georgia scored the first 11 points of the game, jumped out to a 17-2 lead and was up by 19 after 15 minutes. But Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-3) tied the game three times in the second half and had a chance to tie it again at the final buzzer.
“I thought we played very impatiently offensively,” Fox said, noting the five-for-21 performance from beyond the 3-point line.
“Frankly, these games have been good for us. I have played a ton of guys and got them a lot of experience. I think we will be able to get a lot out of these first three games.”
Joseph Kilgore led A&M-Corpus Christi with 22 points. His 3-point attempt to tie rimmed out at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs got 15 points from Rayshaun Hammonds.
Kareem South scored 18 for the Islanders.
Myles Smith hit one free throw with 13.8 seconds remaining to close the Georgia lead to 64-63. But Hammonds and Jordan Harris hit four free throws for the Bulldogs, sandwiched around a coast-to-coast layup by Smith, who tweaked his ankle on the play and had to leave the game.
Georgia bolted to an 11-0 lead in the first four minutes, getting a layup and a dunk from Derek Ogbeide. Midway through the half Hammonds nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 17-2 Georgia.
The Bulldogs led 27-8 with 5:06 to go in the half after a pair of 3s by Maten and Tyree Crump.
The Islanders scored half of their 16 first-half points in the last 2:19 to trail 30-16 at the break.
They continued their surge in the second half, first tying the game at 36-all with 14:29 to go on a layup by Myles Smith.
By holding off the pesky Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, Georgia avoided the kind of loss that can haunt a team months later when the field is selected for the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs have earned NCAA bids in two of Mark Fox’s eight seasons, settling for NIT bids the last two years. Two years ago non-conference losses to Chattanooga and Seton Hall marred a 20-14 resume. Last year Oakland and Marquette beat the Bulldogs early.
“I was never stressed that we were going to lose,” said Fox. “We were not playing well though.”
HISTORY ALMOST REPEATS
In the second meeting ever between the two teams, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi almost scored its second win over Georgia. On Dec. 22, 2008, the Islanders beat the Bulldogs in overtime, 80-79. That was Dennis Felton’s last season as head coach at Georgia.
After starting poorly at the line, Georgia hit 13 of its last 15 free throws. Yante Maten is 23-for-23 this year.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Yante Maten’s 13 rebounds moved him into the top 15 on Georgia’s all-time list, passing Ray Jeffords.
After opening 3-0 at home, Georgia heads to the West Coast for the Wooden Legacy Tournament, playing Cal State Fullerton Thanksgiving night.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi continues a three-game road swing, returning to the Lone Star State for a Nov. 24 game at Texas-San Antonio.