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Oquendo has a breakout game as Georgia glides past South Carolina State
Athens, Ga. — Georgia sophomore Kario Oquendo has an innate ability to get to the rim.
He showed his athletic prowess in Georgia’s dominating victory over South Carolina State on Tuesday night.
Oquendo admitted that those type of heads-up plays gives him an advantage in the long run.
“I feel like when I’m going up for a dunk, that’s how I get my energy for a game,” Oquendo said. “In my head, I know if I get this one, then my next couple of shots will be a lot easier.”
Oquendo had three dunks against the visiting Bulldogs where that skill was on full display. The highlight of the night was at the start of the second half when he got a steal at midcourt. He then proceeded to finish the possession off with a windmill dunk at the rim.
Georgia senior point guard Aaron Cook acknowledged that his teammate’s dunking ability is a strength of his.
“That was the first thing we noticed about Kairo when he got here was that he jumps out the gym,” Cook said. “Anytime we were playing open gym in the summertime, I would just say ‘hey, run and I’m gonna throw it up to you’ and I know no matter where I throw it, he’s going to catch it and dunk it. When you have someone that athletic and that can run as fast as he can in transition it’s almost unstoppable.”
Georgia head coach Tom Crean pointed out on the windmill dunk, he was more impressed with what led up to the play.
“I was very impressed with the steal, how active his hands were,” Georgia head coach Crean said. “Certainly, the plays are good. I’ve coached a lot of guys that can do that, but how they get to it is what separates them. Do they get it off offensive boards? Do they get it off steals? Do they get it off picking somebody’s pocket? Do they get it off reading the defense and making a cut? Those are the kind of things that, to me, it’s much more about with the coaching and how do we help them do it more. It’s the actual result, though it is cool.”
The Florida SouthWestern transfer was Georgia’s second-highest scorer with 17 points behind Cook, who finished with 22 points. Oquendo also added four rebounds, one assist, one block and four steals. He was also solid from the field for the Bulldogs, shooting 54 percent (7-of-13).
“Our last game against Cincinnati wasn’t one of my best,” Oquendo said. “It was probably one of the worst games of my career, but the coaching staff told me I was going to be fine. So, tonight I just had to get comfortable and let the game come to me.”
Oquendo had an off night in the loss to Cincinnati. He registered zero points and only hauled in three rebounds against the Bearcats. Oquendo also had a pair of crucial personal fouls and two turnovers in 26 minutes played. So, his performance against South Carolina State was a huge confidence boost.
“There’s no question that he has a lot of tools and a lot of talent in there,” Crean said. “I think he was highly disappointed in the way he played Saturday night. I think what he did tonight is that he came out with an aggressive defensive mindset. He had 11 deflections. He came out with an attack mindset.”
Oquendo committed zero turnovers against South Carolina State. He also helped Georgia force 18 turnovers and score 22 points off them. Oquendo totaled 11 deflections, which was a season-high. It was a matchup where he shined in all phases on the floor.
“I give his coaches back home credit as well because I know they talked to him,” Crean said. “We’re not trying to over-coach him, but we are trying to get him to understand what he’s capable of when it comes to attacking the rim, attacking the glass and being an attack guy defensively. It’s about really being active with his hands and doing all those things. He works extremely hard. We forget that he’s a freshman. Even though he’s 21, he’s a freshman. It takes time.”
Here is Oquendo’s postgame interview: