Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Dawgs Open Home SEC Play With 82-63 Win Over Vanderbilt

UGA Sports Communictions

The University of Georgia men’s basketball team beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 82-63 on Wednesday night in the SEC home opener at Stegeman Coliseum.

Sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds was the lead scorer of the night accumulating 19 points. Senior Derek Ogbeide (15) and sophomore Teshaun Hightower (11) posted impressive point totals as well. The SEC leader in rebounds and blocks, sophomore Nicolas Claxton, posted his seventh double-digit boards game (12) of the season, while tallying five blocks.

"The last thing I wanted was a group of guys not confident,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean. “That was going to be the key especially after Saturday's game. We needed to look at the film, and it needed to pierce guys a little bit. This is not the character or mentality that we want to play with. We came out in practice to build confidence, and they did that. What I was proud of was that we didn't take any trips off on the defensive end. We got beat on the dribble a couple times, but to hold this team to 24 percent from three, 33 percent overall, and get thirty-nine deflections, that's good defense. That's the maturity that we have to have.”

Georgia (9-5, 1-1) started the night with a jam from Ogbeide to put the Dawgs on the board. Both teams exchanged baskets in the first five minutes but Georgia maintained the lead. A pair of free throws from Claxon brought Georgia into double-digits, 10-6, at 14:51.

Both teams traded baskets, with Vanderbilt (9-5, 0-2) taking the lead at 12:25. The back and forth continued until the two-minute mark when a three from freshman Ignas Sargiunas inked the Georgia lead at 33-31. Claxton added a free throw and the Commodores sank two of their own to head into the half trailing Georgia 34-33.

Within 15 seconds of coming back to the court, Hammond sunk a three to bring the score to 37-33. Vanderbilt answered with back-to-back scores to notch the game, before Ogbeide recaptured the lead. The Commodores tied it again at 39-all for the eighth and final time of the game. Again, Ogbeide layup brought Georgia over the tie margin, which ultimately didn’t change for the rest of the game.

Two free throws from Hammonds ignited a 12-0 run comprised of four Dawgs to build the Georgia lead to 74-57 with 4:08 left to play. Crump added two free throws to notch the largest lead of the night of 21 points at 81-61 with less than a minute left. The Commodores finished off the scoring with two free throws in the last 30 seconds as Georgia sealed its home conference opener 82-63.

Coach Tom Crean

On the crowd…

"The crowd was fantastic. We had 2700 students, which is 700 over the allotment on the first night back on a Wednesday night. That's just phenomenal, and I can't thank them enough. And everyone else, 9400 fans, and this is the only game not sold-out. They made a difference. They were excited. There was a buzz in here, and it was great. There's no doubt in my mind if we build a crowd this way, it will make such a difference for our team, our program, and our future. It makes such a difference in every possession right now, and we appreciate it.

On the defense...

"We got three stops in a row, seven times. That's a real big barometer for winning. We track that all the time here. When you get to the end of the game, and you add up the amount of times we got three stops in a row, when you got 7 or more, it's hard to lose. I think that played into it, we got some deflections, and we held them to one shot. Again, the crowd helped jack us up, and that was a huge part of it."

Rayshaun Hammonds

On his play in the second half and what was important to his play...

"My teammates, and the coaching staff. I was keeping a positive vibe with the whole team. Just keeping my head in the game, let it come to me, just don't rush it. Just giving me confidence the whole game."

On building momentum...

"Just talking to the team, just being positive with each other, and the whole team coming together really. We all talked to each other, the players on the bench talk to each other, the players on the court talk to each other."

On frustration after the Tennessee loss and first half of game...

"I can say the Tennessee game, the whole team was frustrated. I was frustrated because we played bad. And the first half I think I let it linger in my head, but I just sat on the bench and just thought about it, and let it go. The second half I just came out with a positive attitude."

Nicolas Claxton

On how important the game tonight was...

"It was a great win for us. I know it helped us a lot coming back home in front of our fans. I think we had like 2,700 students there supporting us, so you know that was huge. It was huge getting this first SEC win under our belt. And we will be ready to go to Auburn Saturday."

On the coaches...

"I just want to give credit to Coach Amir and the GA's and the coaching staff, they did a great job with the scouting with Vanderbilt.”

The Dawgs travel to take on the Auburn Tigers Saturday, January 12 at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Dawgs Have National Leading Three FWAA Freshman All-Americans

UGA Sports Communications

The Georgia football team had a national leading three players named to the 2018 Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Freshman All-America Team.

True freshmen Jordan Davis (defensive lineman) and Cade Mays (offensive lineman) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson gave the Dawgs three selections, which equals the total number of combined players from other Southeastern Conference teams.

Georgia has now had at least one Freshman All-American for three straight years. Its trio is the most for the program since Knowshon Moreno, Trenton Sturdivant and Rennie Curran garnered honors in 2007.

Davis, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, started four games and played in 11 in the middle of the Dawg defense. He finished with 25 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, and helped give the Georgia defense the country’s 15th-ranked Scoring Defense with opponents tallying 19.2 points per game.

Mays, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, got the starting nod for seven games and also played in 11 games for a Dawg unit that averaged 37.9 points a game, which was 14th nationally. Mays and his fellow offensive linemen paved the way for D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield to each have 1,000-yard seasons.

Wilson, a native of Brooklyn, New York, started all 14 games at right tackle during his second year with the program. The 6-foot-7, 340-pound Wilson was a key component to Georgia’s rushing attack that averaged an SEC leading 238.8 yards a game, which ranked 16th nationally.

The 11-3 Dawgs advanced to the SEC Championship Game for the second consecutive year and earned a spot in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Lady Dawgs Signs Virginia Tech Transfer Shaniya Jones

UGA Sports Communications

Shaniya Jones, a freshman point guard from High Point, North Carolina, has decided to join the University of Georgia Lady Dawgs basketball program, head coach Joni Taylor announced on Monday.

Jones, who was a four-star guard in the 2018 class according to ESPNW, transfers to Georgia from Virginia Tech, where she played in five games this past fall. Jones will sit out the 2019 spring and fall semesters and will be eligible to play at the conclusion of the 2019 fall term as a sophomore.

“We are thrilled that Shaniya is joining the Lady Dawg family,”Taylor said. “We recruited her out of high school and have always known she is a special player. Shaniya is someone who can score at all three levels and will be a perfect fit with our program. We are excited to have her on campus and can’t wait to help her get acclimated this semester.”

Jones prepped at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, North Carolina, where she helped her team win the state title in her senior season. She was a McDonald’s All-America nominee and two-time all-state selection during her high school career. In addition to earning a four-star rating from ESPNW, Jones was ranked as the No. 88 overall prospect in the 2018 class by the same site.

She is the latest addition to an already highly-touted 2019 class for Taylor and her staff. The Lady Dawgs inked five-star guard Chloe Chapman from Mitchellville, Maryland, five-star forward Javyn Nicholson from Lawrenceville, Georgia and four-star forward Jordan Isaacs from Alpharetta, Georgia earlier this fall.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Post-Game Press Conference

Kirby Smart

Opening Statement

I'll open with the City of New Orleans and Sugar Bowl staff. They do a tremendous job. Give our guys a lot of opportunities to grow. And so many people talk about the fact the bowl games don't mean as much anymore. Our players had an experience this week that they'll remember the rest of their lives. It's one of the best bowl games in the history of bowls.

And I know these guys aren't happy, nor am I, with the performance we had. We didn't come out and play the way we're capable of. But I certainly want to thank the people of New Orleans for hosting us.

I also want to congratulate Texas. Tom Herman did a great job with his team and his program. They've gotten better throughout the season. They played more physical than us, and it showed to me that they wanted it more than we did. And you've got to give them credit for that.

Also, I want to thank my seniors. We've got a group of seniors on this team that have ‑‑ they came in as 30‑something signees and it's down to about six or seven or eight guys that are actually playing now out of that senior class, and that's all that's left is that group.

And they bought into what this staff has wanted to do. They've led. They've done the hard things. And they've won a lot of football games, and they've helped turn this program the right direction. We've just got to find a way to finish it and do it the right way, and we'll do that moving forward. Thank you.

Did it necessarily surprise you how physical they were on both sides of the line of scrimmage tonight?

I wouldn't say it surprised me. They're league (Big 12) guys. People don't respect their league like we do, especially from a scoring standpoint. They do a great job in their league of up tempo, fast.

But when they have to play physical, they played physical. They did a good job of that. I thought their quarterback managed the game well with his quarterback run play. He really hurt us. We missed tackles and didn't finish on him defensively. And then we weren't really able to run the ball like we like to consistently and give Texas credit. They did a good job stopping that.

Do you think that the not getting into the Playoff thing overtook the focus from this game?

I think that would be easy to say, but I certainly don't think that when you go to a meeting that's what you're thinking about. You're thinking about Texas. When you're on the practice field, you're thinking about Texas. We're prepared for Texas.

We prepared for Texas for a long time. That would be an easy excuse to use. I'm not touching that because it has nothing to do. We had an opponent to play, a good football team in which our team was focused on ready to play.

I think in the world of social media it's easy to say things. But 15, 20 years ago you didn't know what kids were thinking because they didn't have the ability to tweet it out or show it. Now, their thoughts change every ten seconds.

So just because they tweet something emotional during that time, that doesn't matter. It gives the other team motivation. But our team was motivated to play Texas. Texas outplayed us, outcompeted us. They outcoached us. They out physicaled us. They did a lot of things better than us, and I think you give Tom Herman a lot of credit.

Seemed like everything kind of steam rolled there. Jake Camarda's knee touching the ground and then fumbled at the 12‑yard line. Just seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong that first quarter and got you in a tough hole.

It did. Those are things that we controlled. We controlled the snap. We controlled Jake's knee. And we control whether we possess ball or not because people try to take it from you. But those are all the things you have got to be resilient about and go our and overcome.

If you prepare right and you go out there and play your best football game, you don't have those errors. You've got to be able to overcome those sometimes. If you think about this year, we didn't have a start of a game similar to like that really all year. We've got to do a better job preparing our players for that and go out and execute.

It took you a little bit of time to get rolling. Was that Texas? Was that y'all, the receivers? Was it everything?

Well, it was tough. They did a really good job game planning for us. They had an entire month to do so. They were showing a lot of different looks. They were constantly mixing stuff up. Did a really good job with some eye violation stuff and showing you one thing one way and bringing it from the other.

But I think at the beginning they game planned really well. They showed us what that game plan was in the first couple drives, but we just couldn't make adjustments quick enough really to capitalize on that.

Coach, you've got a young roster. What do you hope your young players will take away from these last two games?

I hope they learn you better show up to play every game because the teams you're playing at the end of the year are all capable of topping you. We've played in some really incredible venues with the SEC championship and then the Allstate Sugar Bowl. And there's a lot of young players out there that are growing and getting better.

I hope this group buys in with really good leadership, especially the youth on the team, and grows into good leaders. We've got to have great leadership moving forward to get where we want to go. I think the guys leaving have set a legacy and set a standard.

Now we've got to raise that standard, and we've got to learn from the fact that when you go to play a game 30 days later, you got to be at your best. We didn't play our best game tonight, but you got to give Texas a lot of credit because they made it that way.

Divaad Wilson played tonight for the first time at Georgia and played a lot.

He did.

How did y'all get him ready for that, and what were the expectations coming in?

Well, we wanted him to play all year, and I give the kid a lot of credit. He's been frustrated, and he wanted to play. He had the ACL injury in the spring, and we thought he was going to be a really good player. And he was cleared somewhere around the Florida week. But you can't just get cleared and basically go out there and play.

It's similar to Ben Cleveland's injury. It's an injury where you've got to take some time to get over it. We thought with a 30‑day window that if we're going to get to where we want to go as a program, as a football team, we've got to get bigger at the nickel star. We've got to get more athletic and be able to play heavier guys, 200 pounds.

I can't say how he played. And Tyrique McGhee actually got injured during the game, so that's another guy out. So Divaad played hard, and he was excited to go over there and play.

There was a report that you benched a couple starters during practice during the week because of lack of effort. Can you comment on that? And, also, [Mecole] Hardman said he thought the energy level of a bunch of guys seemed to be down at the start of the game. Can you comment on that?

I didn't feel that way. I thought the energy level was really good at the start of the game. Guys were fired up. We sold playing to a standard and making a statement. We didn't do that. We were going to play for each other's back. And the guys that we wanted to go out there and play for were the guys that are seniors.

So we, obviously, didn't do that well. We didn't come out and start very fast. And like I said before you came in, I think, that we didn't have the kind of start that we had in most games. It was the exact opposite.

The beginning question was: Did I bench any starters? I thought our guys practiced really well leading up to the game since we came to the bowl site. We had a lot of starters injured. We had guys out. But there was nobody that got benched that was a starter.


No. If he's a nonstarter, how do you bench him? I certainly didn't feel that way. D'Andre Walker didn't play tonight, but D'Andre Walker has been injured.

We felt it was important to practice shorter and practice good on good. Because the looks you get from the scout team late in the year is not real good, and kids get lethargic and they get lazy and you get sloppy. So we did higher quality work with less quantity and got more competitive. So we had all our starters out there going against each other.

What do you think happened with D'Andre Swift at the beginning of the game? I've not seen him fumble like that in his time at Georgia.

It happens, guys. I mean, I don't know. You want to say that he was wanting to fumble? One of them, the guy literally stripped it out. It was a great strip. We pride ourselves ‑‑ we're one of the teams in the country we start half our practices with defensive players ripping at the ball of the offensive player. The kid ripped the ball out.

The second one, he put his helmet right on that ball. And that one, you almost say that was a weird hit. He spiked and hit him right on the ball. The ball shot out. The first one he got stripped out. Can't happen.

I know D'Andre is just as disappointed as everybody and we didn't play with the same energy level that we usually do.

And that's a lot of credit to Texas because they were in our backfield several times. They penetrated and moved quick. And we weren't able to handle the penetration. And when they're in your backfield, that's how they cause fumbles.

Jonathan Ledbetter

Jonathan, what will your legacy be at Georgia after this four years?

I think it's simple. You know, Georgia's heading a different direction than it was a couple years back. I can say I was a part of that group that laid the foundation for that. Obviously, you see the standards changing, despite today, tough loss. Played a good physical team.

But the culture of Georgia has become something greater than it ever was. I think it will continue to do that way beyond when I'm gone. But I was start of it, and that's big for me. I'm grateful to be that. I'm grateful that the school allowed me to be there and took a chance on me and picked me as a leader for this team and just to get the thing started off in the right way.

The fast pace of the Texas offense, you think y'all were pretty well prepared for that? And also Sam Ehlinger, the quarterback, he was kind of hard to contain and all. What would you say about both of those things?

We handled the tempo pretty well. He's a good quarterback. Can't take that away from him. He threw touchdowns, and he's good running. He's a running back that can throw the ball.

We didn't contain. We didn't have a level pass rush most of the time. And we didn't get him on the ground. When you don't do that, he makes plays.

Jake Fromm

With the running game, a lot of your offense is predicated on that success. What were they able to do to take that away from you guys, or was it something that maybe you guys weren't able to execute?

They were very physical up front. That's one obstacle you have to climb over. And the next thing they were slanting this way and that way, shooting multiple gaps. And we just had a tough time trying to figure out which way they're moving and trying to cut guys out of gaps. It was tough.

And we just didn't really do a good job of being physical up front, and it kind of hurt us not being able to return the football.

Do you feel like you guys were able to flush away the loss in Atlanta before coming here? And the other part of it is, can you guys bounce back from this during an off‑season?

First part, no. I don't think it bothered us. We flushed it. We went back to work. We realized what had gotten us to this point, and that's going to work, that's grinding, and really going hard at practice. And I thought leading up to this game, we practiced really well and had a lot of good things in. Just didn't play well today.

Can you just turn the page from this during an off‑season going into next year?

Absolutely. We're definitely going to do that. Myself, a couple other of these leaders, we're going to step up, and we're going to have a great off‑season, come back better than ever. And I'm fired up for it and can't wait for it.