The game was notched at 54-all with six and a half remaining before the hometown Bulldogs exploded for eight unanswered points, the biggest lead for any team at that point. Mississippi State (14-11,5-8) responded with a three-pointer but Georgia (15-11, 6-7) fired back with a Maten layup and an alley-oop from J.J. Frazier to Mike Edwards. The sequence gave Georgia a nine-point lead, 66-57, with a little over three minutes to play. The advantage proved to be enough as the Bulldogs of Athens held onto the victory down the stretch.
“Obviously, offensively — and let’s credit Mississippi State’s defense, they were much more physical than us — I thought we played like a tired team in the first half and only shot 25-percent,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “In the second half, we were certainly much better and shot nearly 65-percent, and that really allowed us to build a lead. We did a little better job in the second half guarding the three-point line, and those things were key for us.”
The 20-point performance marked the 10th such game this season by Maten and the 22nd of his career. In addition, the junior forward snatched team-high nine rebounds and was 12-of-13 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Frazier and redshirt junior Juwan Parker chipped in 17 points and 16 points, respectively, to aid in scoring.
At the half, Georgia trailed the visiting Bulldogs by four points, 32-28, despite getting outshot 43 percent to 25 percent from the field. However, the host Bulldogs drew fouls early and often resulting in a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. Maten and Parker teamed up for the dozen perfect free throws and led Georgia with nine points apiece.
Georgia notched the game at 32-all early in the second half as Maten collected a steal and found Derek Ogbeide for a breakaway lay up. Moments later, Edwards converted a 3-point play with a lay up, foul and free throw to give Georgia its first lead since 8:44 of the first half. Frazier drained a three in the next possession to give the home Bulldogs a five-point advantage, 40-35, at the 14:20 mark.
Mississippi State cut its deficit to at least three points three separate times in the following minutes but each time Georgia matched the visiting Bulldogs’ score. The last instance, Frazier sank a trey to go up six points with 10:21 in regulation. The Bulldogs from Starkville slimmed Georgia’s lead to two points with 8:43 left but again Frazier dropped a high-arcing three to stretch it back to five.
Xavian Stapleton of MSU drained a long distance three that tied the game at 54-all with six and a half minutes in the contest. The subsequent and defining 8-0 Georgia run featured a highly contested Frazier layup that was called goaltending on MSU and a thunderous two-handed slam by Maten.
Georgia flipped the script in terms of shooting in the second half as they shot 66.7-percent from the floor. For the game, the home Bulldogs converted 28-of-32 trips to the free-throw line while the visiting Bulldogs were 7-of-9. Georgia also gained the rebounding edge at 37-30.
The Bulldogs continue their homestand with a game against the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday. The tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.