Tom Crean talked about the fact that he didn’t agree for his Georgia basketball team to take part in the Cayman Islands Classic simply so his players could take a walk on the beach. They were going to work.
Based on Monday’s 80-68 win over Illinois State in George Town, Cayman Islands, it appears his Bulldogs took the message seriously.
Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton certainly did. The two sophomores almost outscored Illinois State (2-2) all by themselves, combing for 53 points, to spark the Bulldogs (3-1) to their third victory.
For Hammonds, his 31-point effort established a career high, while Claxton tossed in 22 and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Georgia was never seriously threatened, although the Redbirds did manage to draw with 13 with 16:09 to play on a pair of three-pointers by William Tinsley.
But the Bulldogs would answer. Georgia came back with a 10-0 run to push the lead back out to 63-40. The Redbirds — whose only lead came at 2-0 — would close within 11 with less than two minutes left, but got no closer.
Milik Yarbrough led Illinois State with 20 points, followed by Tinsley with 14 and Keyshawn Evans with 12.
There would be no jet lag for Georgia. The Bulldogs started quickly, roaring out to a 47-26 halftime lead thanks to a hot beginning from the field that saw Georgia shoot 54.8 percent (17 of 31).
Hammonds led the way for the Bulldogs, scoring 18 points.
Illinois State’s start was the exact opposite. The Redbirds made just seven field goals the entire first half (7 of 28) for a mere 25 percent.
Georgia and Illinois State return to action Tuesday when the Bulldogs take on Clemson, a 72-69 winner over Akron, in the semifinals, while Illinois State will take on the Zips in the consolation bracket.
—Field Level Media