ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Yante Maten scored 21 points and had strong support from a freshman class led by Rayshaun Hammonds as Georgia rolled to an easy 79-54 win over Bryant on Friday night in the season opener for each team.
Maten had game-high totals of 12 rebounds and four blocks. Hammonds added 17 points on his 19th birthday. He became the first freshman to start Georgia's opener since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, now with the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, in 2011.
Maten, a senior, has been the mentor for the four-man freshman class. His lessons included pointing to where they should sit for postgame interviews.
"I think they did really good," Maten said. "Everyone showed what they're about."
Hammonds said guidance from Maten and other upperclassmen "made the game easier for us."
The Bulldogs showed improved athleticism and size while giving significant playing time to three freshmen — Hammonds, 6-foot-11 Nicolas Claxton and Teshaun Hightower. A fourth freshman, Isaac Kante, played late in the game.
Georgia stretched its advantage to double figures less than six minutes into the game and pulled away with a 15-2 run to close the first half. William "Turtle" Jackson, who had 11 points, hit two 3-pointers in the run for a 40-17 halftime lead.
Adam Grant led Bryant, a Northeast Conference school from Smithfield, Rhode Island, with 24 points. Ryan Layman added 12, all in the second half.
The visiting Bulldogs couldn't capitalize on their plan to stay close by relying on 3-point shooting. Bryant consistently passed the ball outside and made only 8 of 31 3s, including 3 of 17 in the first half.
"We knew going in, for us to really have a chance, we were going to have to make a lot of 3s," said Bryant coach Tim O'Shea. "We had some good looks in the first half, but we just couldn't knock down shots."
Bryant: Forward Sebastian Townes, referred to by O'Shea as the team's best inside player, was out with appendicitis. ... Layman, a freshman, missed each of his four shots from the field in the first half but made four of nine shots in the second half and had a team-high seven rebounds.
Georgia: Coach Mark Fox wasn't happy with totals of 17 turnovers and 14 assists, a sign the team is still looking to replace the leadership lost with its only departed starter, guard J.J. Frazier. "We've got to find a floor general," Fox said. ... Claxton, the son of former Bulldog center Charles Claxton, blocked three shots and had six points and eight rebounds. Hightower also scored six points.
Asked if he was surprised by the good crowd of 7,387 the night before No. 2 Georgia's football game at No. 10 Auburn, Fox said "I'm not sure I know one member of the Bulldog nation who wants to spend the night in Auburn, Alabama. So no, I'm not surprised."
NEW AND IMPROVED
Georgia unveiled a new center-hung scoreboard, seats, LED lighting and sound system as part of a $20 million renovation of Stegeman Coliseum.
Bryant: After opening the season against a Power 5 conference team for the sixth straight year, Bryant will have another test against a major college team at North Carolina State on Tuesday night.
Georgia: The Bulldogs will continue their stretch of three straight home games to open the season when they face USC Upstate on Tuesday night.
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