ATHENS, Ga. - With a late surge, the University of Georgia men's basketball team earned its signature win of the young season, upsetting No. 18 Memphis, 82-79, Wednesday evening before a raucous crowd of 7,147 spectators at Stegeman Coliseum.
The win earned Georgia head coach Tom Crean the 400th victory of his career and broke a four-game losing streak for the Bulldogs (3-5). It was also the first win over a ranked opponent for Georgia since an 80-70 victory against then-No. 20 Missouri on Feb. 16 in Athens.
Five Bulldogs eclipsed double-digits in scoring, led by sophomore Kario Oquendo with a career-high 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Freshman Christian Wright posted 17 points and tied for the team high with six assists, while sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim pitched in with 15 points. Additionally, graduate Jailyn Ingram and senior Braelen Bridges tallied 10 points. For the evening, the Bulldogs shot 48 percent from the field, including to a 51.9 clip in the second half.
"First off, our fans-our students and our Georgia fans-were so good, and you could hear them all game," said Crean following the game. "You could hear them all game. They were great all game, but the last eight minutes, they carried us. Every time we needed something, our fans carried us. That's a team, program win and not just the players and coaches but everybody that follows this program. I'm so thankful for them, thankful for the way the students are. They were there in force, and it will get even better. I told our guys, 'You keep showing the way you can play. We'll have the upper deck filled again here pretty quick too.' Very proud of our team, very thankful for the fans, and it was a great Georgia win."
In the early going, scoring came at a premium as both teams struggled with turnovers, but the success began to improve following the first media timeout. The Bulldogs soon took the lead off a 3-pointer from Wright and continued to hold the advantage thanks to a pair of subsequent treys from Abdur-Rahim and Ingram. With under nine to play in the half, Oquendo forced a Memphis (5-2) timeout with a one-handed fast break dunk but came right back after the break with a nifty up-and-under layup again in transition.
Oquendo continued to shine on the defensive end, stopping a Tigers fast break with a strong block on Landers Nolley II just before the under-8 timeout. Georgia extended the lead to seven, but six unanswered from Memphis made it a one-score game with three minutes left in the half. Eventually, the Tigers retook the lead on a late dunk from Emoni Bates and headed to the locker room with a 34-32 advantage.
As the second half opened, Oquendo worked to keep the Bulldogs in the game, scoring Georgia's first six points of the half. The Tigers' lead continued to hover around four points until Oquendo tied it with a 3-pointer, followed by a go-ahead triple from Abdur-Rahim at the 12-minute mark. Memphis then responded with its own pair of consecutive 3-pointers to move back in front.
Georgia cut the deficit to one on a pair of occasions, simultaneously working its way into the bonus midway through the period. With exactly five minutes remaining, senior Noah Baumann energized the Stegeman crowd as he drew a Memphis foul to put Georgia in the double bonus and again make it a one-point contest. Back-to-back layups from Wright and Oquendo sent the Bulldogs into the final media timeout trailing 74-73.
Coming out of the timeout, junior Jaxon Etter squared the game at 75 with 2:54 left, draining a pair of free throws. Following two Memphis makes, Abdur-Rahim put the Bulldogs ahead with a deep three, accompanied by a steal and thunderous dunk from Oquendo. In the final seconds, Wright looked to clinch the game at the line, making the first but missing the second to set the Tigers up down three with five ticks to play. Georgia elected not to foul as Bates' final heave hit the rim and the buzzer sounded.
Georgia returns to the court next week for a matchup against Jacksonville on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.