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Mar 25, 2024 5:35 pm

No. 4 Georgia aims for another NIT road surprise at Ohio State

georgia basketball

The NIT is a second chance for programs that, for whatever reason, didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.

In the case of the Georgia Bulldogs (19-16), they lost four of their final five regular-season games followed by one win in the SEC tournament before being eliminated.

But the No. 4 seed Bulldogs’ 72-66 road win Sunday against top seed Wake Forest puts them a game away from reaching the NIT semifinals if they can defeat host No. 2 Ohio State on Tuesday in Columbus.

The winner plays Seton Hall or UNLV at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse on April 2.

“The NIT is a unique situation; we all want to be in that other tournament (NCAA),” Georgia coach Mike White said. “But we’re honored to be here. Our guys exemplify that.

“These kids continue to compete in an attempt to lengthen their season. They’re playing with one another. They care about one another.”

The Buckeyes (22-13) felt they had a case for the NCAA Tournament based on their surge under coach Jake Diebler. They went 6-2 and reached the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament after Diebler was named interim coach following the Feb. 14 firing of Chris Holtmann.

Ohio State was won two more games in the NIT after Diebler had the interim tag removed March 24.

“I think the way we finished the season, the way they performed in the postseason says a ton about who they are as people,” Diebler said Monday.

“It says a lot about the chemistry within this team and program and speaks to their pride for what’s on the chest of their jersey but also playing for guys who this is the end of their college basketball careers.”

Georgia downed Wake Forest despite the absence of leading rebounder Russel Tchewa (6.6 per game) due to illness. He is expected to be available.

“It’s win or go home,” Georgia guard Justin Hill said. “We like this group a lot, so we just keep winning.”

The Buckeyes are 15-4 at home but that doesn’t faze the Bulldogs because Wake Forest was 17-1 in its building.

“Let’s go do the same thing to Ohio State,” White said. “We’re going to be in Columbus anyway, might as well compete.”

— Field Level Media

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