Georgia weathered a stormy start, kept it close for a time, but ultimately proved no match for #10 Gonzaga, falling 88-76 in their first of two games in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament,
It's hard to isolate what Gonzaga did that Georgia couldn't stop. The list would take some time, but any summary would have to begin with an inability to force Zags' point guard Kevin Pangos out of his comfort zone. Pangos started hot and never really lost control of the game, finishing with 22 points on a perfect 10/10 shooting. Pangos's ball distribution often found Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, who scored 16 in the first half and finished with 32 points on 14 of 26 shooting. Georgia defenders just seemed outmatched at times by Wiltjer's enviable combination of size and quickness.
Georgia did do a good job of forcing Gonzaga's big lineup into foul trouble early, drawing 8 fouls in the first few minutes of the game. However that advantage evaporated as the game wore on, with both teams going to the line 35 times. Georgia's charity attempts were not used to full effect, as the Hoop Hounds shot only 63% from the line while the Zags were a blistering 91% from the line. That disparity alone was good for about 10 points of the final 12 point margin.
In the end analysis Georgia was simply outplayed by a superior team tonight. It didn't help that Gonzaga executed well from the opening tip, hitting a very solid 53% of their field goals in the first half before losing focus a little in the second half. Georgia however battled back in the first half, then trailed by as many as 17 in the second half before going on a 7-0 run to make the final score look perhaps a little closer than the game taken as a whole really was.
In summary, the Georgia Bulldogs were clearly not ready for the big stage on this night, but they weren't that far away. If you're going to lose a non-conference game it's best to lose a competitive one early in the season to a top 10 team away from home. This one feels a lot different from the early season clunkers of last season. Tonight felt like this Bulldog team just isn't quite a top 10 team and still has some things to work on, but can play with just about anyone. In the long sweep of UGA basketball that's just a bit exciting. Until later...