Yante Maten scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the second half to help Georgia come from behind to defeat USC-Upstate 74-65.
The Bulldogs found themselves in a precarious spot trailing the Spartans 58-53 with 6:34 remaining in the second half. Freshman Teshaun Hightower missed a pair of free throws but Maten was able to run down the offensive rebound and connect with Rayshaun Hammonds to cut the deficit back to three. That would spark a 9-1 run that would put Georgia back in front for good. The Bulldogs outscored the Spartans 21-13 over the final six minutes of the game to escape with the victory.
Georgia got off to a fast start in both halves. The Bulldogs jumped out to 13-2 lead just four minutes into the game but USC-Upstate battled back behind Malik Moore and Jure Span and trailed 34-30 at the intermission.
Georgia started quickly again in the second half and pushed the lead to 42-33 with 17:27 remaining. However, the Spartans would come roaring back and outscore the Bulldogs 25-11 over the next 10 minutes of the game.
Georgia struggled throughout the game to contain USC-Upstate’s perimeter attack. Defenders consistently got caught on screens freeing up shooters for good looks throughout most of the game. The Bulldogs began switching on screens late in the game which produced some unfavorable matchups but eliminated a lot of the wide open looks that the Spartans had seen throughout the game. USC-Upstate went 10-of-36 from three-point range and came away with 10 offensive rebounds.
Georgia also struggled to solve the Spartans’ zone defense particularly through the middle part of the game. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 15 times and were just 5-of-22 from three-point range.
The final score is a bit deceiving as this contest was much more in doubt. The difference was the Bulldogs had a player the caliber of Maten and USC-Upstate simply did not. Maten finished 6-of-14 from the field but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line. He was the best player on the floor and came up big late when Georgia needed it the most. Hammonds and Turtle Jackson finished with 13 points each.
Moore and Michael Cunningham led USC-Upstate with 16 points each. All of Cunningham’s points came in the second half. Span finished with 13 while Deion Holmes chipped in 10 off the bench.
It wasn’t a pretty performance by any means but Georgia was able to find a way down the stretch and avoid what would have been a bad home loss.
The Bulldogs will wrap up a three-game homestand to start the season on Sunday afternoon when they host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at Stegeman. After that they will head west to take part in the Wooden Legacy Tournament.