FULLERTON, Calif. — Georgia coach Mark Fox figured he had a simple enough decision to make before playing No. 21 Saint Mary’s in the third-place game of the Wooden Legacy tournament Sunday.
Either try to shut down Saint Mary’s from the 3-point line or clamp down around the paint.
For much of the night it appeared he had made the wrong choice, Saint Mary’s continually scoring on layups, but the Bulldogs weathered a comeback to hold off the Gaels 83-81 in overtime.
“You’ve got to pick your poison,” Fox said. “So we wanted to make sure we took away their 3-point shot as much as we could, and their perimeter players really didn’t get any.”
The Gaels (5-2) entered the game shooting 44 percent on 3-point attempts. The connected on just 4 of 12, with 26 of their 36 baskets coming on layups.
Georgia was able to send the game into overtime on a driving by Turtle Jackson with 10 seconds left, and then win it when Tyree Crump scored five of his team-high 17 points in OT.
Crump’s 3-pointer gave Georgia the lead for good, and a 3-point play by Jackson iced it for the Bulldogs.
“He kissed me in the huddle and said, ‘You’d better make this shot,’ ” Crump said.
Georgia had the more balanced attack, with five Bulldogs scoring in double figures. Yante Maten had 16 points, Jackson 15, Juwan Parker 14 and Derek Ogbeide 10 points and nine rebounds.
Center Jock Landale led the Gaels with 33 points and 12 rebounds. Emmett Naar added 21 points and nine assists.
In a close game that saw 18 lead changes in the first 24 minutes, midway through the second half Georgia (5-1) finally pushed its lead to as many as eight points.
But a 1-for-9 stretch allowed the Gaels to storm back, before struggling in overtime.
It made for a disappointing weekend for Saint Mary’s, the preseason favorite in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels were 5-0 after an opening tournament victory, but left Fullerton with consecutive losses.
“There’s no way around it, we have miles to go defensively,” said Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett.
“In our seven games, we’re giving up 53 percent (shooting). That has to be about the worst in the country.”
Georgia shot 50.8 percent Sunday, but won despite allowing Saint Mary’s to shoot 50.7 percent. Despite the 26 layups, the Gaels shot only six free throws.
Georgia: The Bulldogs overcame a disappointing loss to San Diego State in the tournament semifinals to return home with a solid victory over a ranked team.
Saint Mary’s: A tough weekend for the West Coast Conference favorite Gaels, who were first upset in the semis by Washington State and lost a close overtime game.
The Gaels figure to fall out of the Top 25 after suffering consecutive tournament losses.
HE SAID IT
Said Bennett: “We’ve been leaking oil defensively … We shouldn’t be bad. We have some good personnel that can defend. I need to do a better job than that.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Landale’s 16 field goals were the most in the 11 seasons of the tournament. His 33 points were the fourth-most ever scored.
Landale, however, had an opportunity tie the game when he was fouled in a one-plus-one situation with 22 seconds left in OT and missed his free throw. Jackson then hit two free throws to the game out of reach.
Georgia: At Marquette on Saturday.
Saint Mary’s: Travel 14 miles east of campus to play California on Saturday.