Georgia upsets No. 18 Memphis, Crean reaches career milestone
ATHENS, GA. — Georgia head coach Tom Crean walked off the floor at Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night with a smile on his face.
He did so because the Bulldogs upset No. 18 Memphis and it marked the 400th win of his career.
Crean acknowledged that it was a “fantastic” moment to finally reach that milestone.
“I just wish it could have happened against Georgia Tech,” Crean joked. “They were fantastic. I appreciate the announcement and I appreciate that graphic. I really appreciate getting to hug my wife and daughter and then my son after the game. This isn’t easy on anybody. We just have to persevere. It was a real honor to beat such a good team at home and have it be the way it is with that kind of force and energy from our fans.”
Georgia (3-5) entered Wednesday’s contest against the Tigers (5-2) on a four-game losing skid, so a victory was much needed.
It was a ‘get right’ mindset for freshman guard Kario Qquendo, who had a career night.
"It was everybody, really. It was the coaches coming in, saying we were not going to lose the game. It was a different type of energy tonight. Nobody wanted to lose again because we lost a couple in a row. We knew that we had to come and get the win. I feel like this was the hardest that we've played all season. We've just got to piggyback off that and keep going."
Georgia trailed for most of the second half until freshman Jabri Abdur-Rahim gave his team a lead on a made 3-pointer with just under two minutes remaining. Oquendo then forced a turnover on Memphis’ next possession to extend the Bulldog lead to five points.
The pair of Jailyn Ingram and Christian Wright nailed free throws down the stretch, which gave the Bulldogs a three-point advantage with 5.2 seconds left. The Tigers’ attempt to send the game into overtime failed on a desperation 3-pointer by freshman Emoni Bates as time expired.
Crean pointed out that the Bulldogs faced a similar situation on Sunday against Wofford, although that Wednesday’s scenario turned out to be in their favor.
“We needed something good to happen for us,” Crean admitted. “We had a to have a belief because we’ve been close. We’ve had too many games that have been close, and many times those wounds have been due to ourselves, but that tonight that did not happen.”
Oquendo led Georgia with a game and career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He also had four rebounds, one block and two steals. Wright had himself a night, scoring 17 points and pulling down six boards. The Bulldogs had several other scorers in double-digits, including Abdur-Rahim (15), Ingram (10) and Braelen Bridges (10). Georgia shot 48 percent from the field and 77.1 percent from the free-throw line, respectively.
The Bulldogs mustered up 11 turnovers in the second half but only gave up two in the second. Their ability to protect the ball and make the easy baskets in the final 20 minutes of regulation proved to be the difference. On the other hand, the Tigers played well in the second half, but a few key mistakes and turnovers cost them a second consecutive loss.
Oquendo said he feels like this win could elevate the confidence level in the locker room moving forward.
"This group is one team,” Oquendo said. “I feel like I always have confidence in us. Everybody we have played this year, we were in the game through the stretch in the last five minutes. Something didn't click, and we lost it. I feel like we can play against anybody, and we came out tonight and wanted to show people that."
Here is the video from Tom Crean’s postgame presser: