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Bulldogs avoid upset with 68-65 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Georgia watched another big lead evaporate but was able to avoid the upset.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia watched another big early lead slip away but were able to make just enough plays down the stretch to escape with a 68-65 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Sunday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs began the game with a 17-2 run and held the Islanders scoreless until the 15:08 mark of the first half. Georgia pushed the lead to 27-8 and 30-16 at the break but would have led by much more if not for 14 first half turnovers.

The Bulldogs appeared to lose their focus at halftime and the Islanders responded with a 20-6 run to open the second half to tie the game at 36-36 at the 14:29 mark. Georgia answered back with a 9-0 run to go up 45-36 but Texas A&M-Corpus Christi would not go away.

A pair of free throws from Tyree Crump put Georgia up 62-57 with 1:17 remaining but Joseph Kilgore knocked down a three on the Islanders’ next possession and cut the lead back to just two.

Jordan Harris, playing in his first game of the season, then scored and was fouled on a nifty drive along the baseline to put put the Bulldogs back up by four. He missed the free throw and Kilgore converted at the other end to make it 64-62 with 26 seconds remaining.

Georgia turned the ball over under pressure on the inbounds pass giving Corpus Christi the chance to tie the game. Crump fouled freshman Myles Smith on a jump shot but he made just one of two at the line to cut the lead to 64-63 with 13 seconds to go.

Rayshaun Hammonds pushed the lead back to three with a pair of free throws at the other end but Smith went coast to coast and cut the lead back to one with just eight seconds remaining on the clock.

On the ensuing possession, the Islanders fouled Harris who calmly sank a pair of free throws to push the lead back to three. Kilgore missed a game-tying attempt at the buzzer and Georgia escaped with the win.

Yante Maten led the Bulldogs with 19 points and 13 rebounds but was credited with a game-high seven turnovers. Maten was 5-for-8 from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 at the charity stripe. Hammonds added 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting while Derek Ogbeide added eight points and nine rebounds.

Kilgore led the Islanders with a game-high 22 points while South added 18 including four made three-pointers.

Georgia’s guard play left a lot to be desired in this one. Turtle Jackson finished with three points on 1-of-4 shooting and had four assists and three turnovers but was on the bench down the stretch. Tyree Crump saw a lot of action as the backup point guard and finished with nine points but was just 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-8 from three-point range. Teshaun Hightower played just three minutes all in the first half.

Harris’ debut was a bright spot and he was on the floor during crunchtime and should see more of an opportunity.

If you are looking for things to be positive about there were a few. The Bulldogs showed their composure down the stretch for the second straight game and pulled this one out without a big impact from Maten over the game’s final minutes. The Bulldogs were 21-of-29 from the free throw line and a perfect 6-for-6 over the final 1:17 of the game.

Still blowing leads to lesser competition is a major concern and 24 turnovers is something that they will be hard pressed to overcome moving forward. Mark Fox is still searching for combinations that work and it doesn’t look like he has settled on anything particularly in the backcourt where there are still a number of question marks.

Up next for the Bulldogs is a west coast trip and a Thanksgiving matchup against Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the Wooden Legacy Tournament Thursday night.