KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Here’s a quick recap of Georgia’s 61-57 victory over Notre Dame in the consolation game of the CBE Classic at the Sprint Center.
How it happened: Georgia hardly showed any lingering effects from Monday’s 24-point loss to Cal. The Bulldogs were patient and poised on offense, rarely taking a bad shot. Defensively, they held Notre Dame to 34.8 percent shooting. Pestered by UGA's length, Fighting Irish star Tim Abromaitis scored just six points on 1-of-12 shooting. His only field goal game on a dunk. Abromaitis had 22 points against Missouri on Monday night. Notre Dame battled back from a nine-point deficit in the second half and forced a 53-53 tie on a pair of free throws by Jerian Grant. But Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope responded with a 3-pointer that made it 56-53. The Irish never threatened again.
Star of the game: Caldwell-Pope, a freshman, continues to show why he was a consensus top-20 recruit coming out of high school. He scored a team-high 16 points Tuesday and made four of his nine 3-point attempts. While other freshmen across the country struggle, Caldwell-Pope is appearing more and more at ease. He entered Tuesday’s game averaging 12.5 points.
What it means: Georgia lost some key players -- mainly Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins -- from last season’s NCAA tournament team. Still, even though the Bulldogs are in what some would call a “transition” season, they’ll be able to finish in the middle of the SEC if they continue to improve. There are some good players on this squad who simply lack experience. Freshmen Caldwell-Pope and Nemanja Djurisic (10 points Tuesday) were two of the best players on the court Tuesday. Senior point guard Gerald Robinson averaged 12.2 points last season. His backcourt mate, Dustin Ware, appears to have taken more of a leadership role. An NCAA tournament berth may be out of range for this team, but the Dawgs will pull some upsets and get better as the year goes on.
Meanwhile, the CBE Classic turned out to be a disaster for Notre Dame, which turned in another disappointing effort following Monday’s blowout loss to Missouri. Once again, Notre Dame’s lack of athleticism and overall toughness was exposed. The Fighting Irish deserve credit for keeping it close despite an atrocious performance by Abromaitis. Still, Notre Dame struggled to find good shots and seemed rattled and rushed when it finally got open looks. To be fair, this is a team incorporating a lot of new pieces. Guards Grant and Pat Connaughton are inexperienced and forward Jack Cooley is having to play a bigger role than ever. It’s too early to judge the Irish, but the early outlook suggests that this season has “NIT” written all over it.
What’s next: Things certainly won’t get any easier for Georgia from here. The Bulldogs have back-to-back road games against Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier (Friday) and then Colorado (Monday) before hosting Cincinnati on Wednesday. Head coach Mark Fox is hoping the tough nonconference schedule pays off when UGA begins league play. As for Notre Dame, it hosts Bryant University on Sunday before hitting the road for back-to-back road games against Gonzaga (Wednesday) and Maryland (Dec. 4).