NEWARK, N.J. –The Roman Legends Classic started off like a track meet between the University of Georgia and Virginia. It was a back-and-forth contest, the Bulldogs fell to the Cavaliers, 65-55, in the semifinals of the Roman Legends Classic Monday evening at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Georgia sprinted out to a 6-2 lead in the opening three minutes of the game with strong play down low on the blocks, but the Cavaliers settled down and countered with an 11-0 run spearheaded by Armaan Franklin.
The Bulldogs trimmed the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers from Ingram, keeping the margin within five for much of the half until Bridges retook the lead with a layup at the 4:28 mark.
Franklin scored 23 points to lead Virginia in the victory.
Both teams continued to trade baskets as the first half was coming to a close. Bridges put the Bulldogs ahead for the remainder of the half with a pair of free throw makes, followed by a jumper with a minute left. The Cavaliers trimmed the lead to one in the final seconds, Jaxon Etter drew a foul on a mid-court heave at the buzzer, burying two free throws with zeroes on the clock to make it 34-31 Georgia at halftime.
Both teams shot poorly, particularly from downtown. UVA made 5 of 20 treys and Georgia hit just 3 of 21. Overall, the Cavaliers shot 40% and Georgia 37%.
The Bulldogs took its last lead, 48-47, on a rim rattler dunk by Tyron McMillan with 7:18 remaining in the contest. Georgia was held to just seven points the remainder of the game, all by Kario Oquendo.
The contest was close throughout and neither team led by more than four in the second half until Franklin scored on consecutive possessions to give the Cavaliers a 57-51 lead with 2:34 remaining in the game. The Cavaliers then made 8 of 10 free throws to advance to Tuesday’s championship game. Virginia will play the winner of the later game between Northwestern and Providence.
Braelen Bridges led Georgia (2-3) in scoring with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting with five boards. Jailyn Ingram recorded his 11th career double-double and first with Georgia as he chipped in 10 points and snatched 12 rebounds. For the game, the Bulldogs outrebounded the Cavaliers (3-2) by a 42-29 margin.
“Our guys kept fighting and going through it,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean after the game. “We’ll shoot better, there’s no doubt about it. We were good in the first half (with ball security), but we weren’t as good in the second half, but they have some outstanding guard play.”
Virginia committed only four turnovers, compared to 16 for Georgia.
Kihei Clarkscored 12 points for Virginia and Jayden Gardner scored chipped in 11.
It was Georgia’s second consecutive loss, keeping coach Tom Crean stuck on 399 career wins.
Georgia will return on the hardwood Tuesday for the Romans Legends Classic consolation game against the loser of the Northwestern-Providence matchup. The contest will tip at 5 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.