While the Georgia Men’s Basketball team navigates final exams in Athens, the rest of us are left to sit around and bide our time through an incredibly slow sports week. In fact, UGA basketball fans will have to wait another week on top of this one before getting to see their team return to action.
However, here are a few things came across/thought about this afternoon:
1. Georgia’s 64-57 win over Colorado last Sunday did not just earn them praise locally. Jay Bilas, who has sort of become the “Kirk Herbstreit” of college basketball, threw the Dawgs this little nugget following the game:
2. Speaking of Twitter, here is the latest update on Kenny Gaines’s injured shoulder, per Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph:
3. Thankfully for UGA and the rest of the teams in the SEC not named Kentucky, the AP and Coaches Poll rankings do not carry nearly the same amount of weight in college basketball as they do in football. This week, Kentucky was unanimously voted #1 in the AP, and they received all but two of the #1 votes in the Coaches Poll, with Duke and Arizona getting one apiece. However, the Cats are the lone representative from the Southeastern Conference in both of these polls. The Florida Gators began the season at #7, but after a rocky start that has them at 4-4, Billy Donovan’s team is currently on the outside looking in. The national media’s perception of SEC basketball remains weak my friends.
The good news, though, is that the league has 5 teams in the RPI Top 50, a poll that is much more indicative of a team’s NCAA Tournament chances. Currently, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss all have RPI’s under 50. Georgia plays all of the aforementioned teams (Kentucky and Ole Miss twice), along with #26 Seton Hall, giving Mark Fox’s team plenty of chances to improve upon their 2-7 record against the RPI Top 50 from a year ago. The Dawgs RPI currently sits at 64, which kind of pleasantly surprised me considering the 5-3 record.
Georgia’s first out of conference win against a quality team was bittersweet.
The Dawgs knocked off the visiting Colorado Buffaloes 64-57 this afternoon, but UGA lost star guard Kenny Gaines to an apparent shoulder sprain – his return timetable is unknown at this point.
The Buffs, who were picked by CBS to finish 2nd in the Pac-12 in the preseason, looked as if they were still stuck on Mountain Time in this one. The Dawgs held Colorado to under 37% from the floor, and they limited the Buffs to just 11% from beyond the arc. The noon tipoff clearly did not serve to enhance Colorado’s shooting.
Georgia established control of this game during the final 4 minutes of the first half, when the Dawgs reeled off 12 straight points to break a 22-22 tie, taking a 34-22 advantage into the break. Georgia got back-to-back three-pointers from Neme Djurisic and J.J. Frazier to close out the half.
The Buffs would start the second half with a 3-minute scoring drought, meaning that Colorado went for more than 7 minutes without a point. Asia Booker, who led all scorers with 20 points, broke the spell with a lay-up that cut the Dawgs’ lead to 38-24 with 17:02 remaining.
Minutes later, UGA would lose Gaines to injury, leaving Coach Fox without one of his top scorers.
Luckily, sophomore J.J. Frazier was up to the task, scoring 12 of his 15 points after the intermission on a perfect shooting performance – 3 for 3 from three and 6 for 6 from the line. Georgia had another nice game from beyond the arc as a team, canning nearly 44% of its attempts.
Marcus Thornton, coming off of a 24-point game in Chattanooga earlier this week, had the pleasure of matching up with Colorado’s All-Pac 12 First Team big man Josh Scott. At 6’10”, Scott posed quite a problem for the Dawgs inside, netting 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds. But Thornton again played admirably, scoring 16 points and grabbing 5 boards himself.
With 8:12 left in the game, Colorado shaved the Georgia lead to 47-39 following a lay-up by Scott. But Thornton reliably responded with a three-pointer and then a layup on UGA’s ensuing possession, stretching the Georgia advantage back out to 11 points.
The Dawgs’ free throw shooting down the stretch was critical in this victory. The Buffs Xavier Johnson hit a three to make it a 57-51 game with just 1:07 remaining, but UGA knocked down 7 of 8 free throws in the game’s final minute, making it impossible for CU to complete the comeback.
This win was very important for Georgia’s resume as Colorado should be a team that finishes with an RPI in the Top 50. In addition, Tad Boyle’s squad is expected to make a return trip to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Dawgs will get a brief respite to take final exams before returning to Stegeman on December 21st to play host to undefeated Seton Hall – a team that currently boasts an RPI of 30.
Georgia’s loss to Georgia Tech may have just earned the title of “bad loss” following the Jackets loss to South Carolina-Upstate yesterday.
At 5-3, UGA needs another quality win if they hope to entertain any ideas of postseason basketball.
Coach Mark Fox benched Charles Mann to start the game on Tuesday night in Chattanooga in an attempt to send a message to his junior point guard that his play against Minnesota – a game in which Mann had more turnovers (4) than points (0) – was unacceptable.
Mann, who did not stay off the floor for long, scored 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and most importantly, just 2 turnovers.
And Mann didn’t even turn in the best performance of the night.
Offensively, Georgia was led by Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton, who scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, in UGA’s 86-55 drubbing of the Chattanooga Mocks, marking the Dawgs’ first road win of the season. For Gaines, tonight’s effort was a season high; Thornton’s 24 points eclipsed his personal best of 17 set earlier in the year.
Don’t look now, but Marcus Thornton is currently leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 14.7 points per game.
Georgia was incredibly efficient on offense in this contest, scoring 86 points – another season high – on a barrage of three-pointers and lay-ups. Coming into this game, UGA ranked 328th in the nation in three-point shooting, making less than 26% of its attempts from the perimeter. However, tonight the Dawgs hit 7 of their 11 shots from beyond the arc, with 5 of them coming from the hot hands of Kenny Gaines.
This game was tied at 10-apiece early in the first half, following a three from the Mocks’ Greg Pryor.
But Georgia responded immediately, going on a 10-0 run that gave UGA a 20-10 advantage after a lay-in by Neme Djurisic with 11:22 remaining in the half. From that point on, the Dawgs managed to keep Chattanooga at bay for the rest of the first half, taking a 39-32 lead into the break.
After the intermission, though, the Bulldogs totally took over the game.
The Mocks cut the UGA advantage to 44-35 following a three from Duke Ethridge, but then Georgia proceeded to go on a 13-2 run that saw the Dawgs bolster their lead to 57-37 with 12:36 left. For the rest of the night, UGA coasted, walking out of Chattanooga with the victory and snapping a two-game losing streak.
While the offense certainly stole the show this evening, Georgia’s defense was not too shabby either. The Dawgs limited the Mocks to just 31% from the floor, and only one UTC player finished the game in double-figures. Coach Fox used a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses that kept Chattanooga off-balance for much of the night.
The Dawgs badly needed this win as the schedule is about to ramp up a bit before the start of conference play in January. This Sunday, Georgia welcomes a tough Colorado (4-1) team into Stegeman for an early 12PM tipoff.
Then the Dawgs have games against Seton Hall (currently undefeated), Mercer and at Kansas State.
While the Mocks are expected to finish the season in the top half of the SoCon, Mark Fox’s team desperately needs some wins against teams from power conferences. Georgia has looked good in its wins over Stony Brook, Troy, Florida Atlantic and Chattanooga; however, the Dawgs have appeared overmatched in their losses to Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Minnesota.
Georgia should certainly enjoy tonight’s win on the bus ride back to Athens, but the Dawgs should feel as though they have something to prove in their game against the Buffaloes on Sunday.
If only the Georgia Bulldogs could have just pressed the reset on the first half of today’s game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, maybe they would have avoided their second loss in the preseason NIT.
Before the break, UGA committed 15 of its season-high 18 turnovers, which allowed the Gophers to take a 37-25 lead into the intermission. Georgia was flustered early with Minnesota’s full court pressure, and they looked like they were rushing on offense for much of the game’s first 20 minutes.
There wasn’t any reset button though, and the Dawgs spent the entire second half trying to dig themselves out of the hole that they had created – which they nearly did. Despite the fact that Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines combined for only 4 points on the night, UGA trimmed the Minnesota advantage to 65-62 following a three-pointer from J.J. Frazier. But a free throw on the other end for the Gophers coupled with a missed three from Juwan Parker resulted in Minnesota sealing the 66-62 win.
Charles Mann had a really tough game, scoring zero points and committing 4 turnovers in the first half. He must have gotten in the doghouse with Coach Fox at the half because he only saw the floor for 4 minutes after the break, and that was only because Kenny Gaines went out for a spell with a neck injury.
With Mann out, J.J. Frazier stepped up and played admirably, scoring 12 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Even more importantly, the sophomore point guard did not give the ball away once.
Marcus Thornton recorded another double-double, scoring 14 points and snagging 10 rebounds, and freshman Yante Maten chipped in another 12 points.
Other than the turnovers, another major difference in this contest came from the perimeter, where Minnesota knocked down 10 three-pointers to Georgia’s 3. The Dawgs connected on only 21% of their shots from the outside today, and they are now barely above 25% from beyond the arc as a team this season. If UGA cannot locate its three-point shot, they are going to have some serious trouble putting up points this season.
While it definitely stings for Georgia to leave New York completely empty-handed, it should be noted that this is a descent Minnesota team, picked by many to finish 7th in the Big Ten this year – a team that could very well sneak into this season’s NCAA Tournament.
Coach Mark Fox’s team must regroup quickly before embarking on a road trip to Chattanooga next Tuesday to play the Mocks, a team that Fox Sports suggested could challenge for the SoCon title this year.
Mark Fox has got to be wishing that Kyle Wiltjer was still living in Lexiington, Kentucky right now.
The junior from Portland overwhelmed the Georgia defense on Wednesday night, scoring 32 points from just about every spot on the court.
The Zags pounced on UGA from the start, opening up a 12-2 lead before 4 minutes had elapsed, following a three-pointer from Kevin Pangos. To Georgia’s credit, though, they weathered the storm, bringing the Gonzaga advantage to 16-8 after a Charles Mann jumper with 13:38 remaining in the half.
However, the Dawgs failed to ever make it a one or two possession game. Gonzaga would build a double-digit lead, and then UGA would make a small run, getting with 7, 8 or 9 points, only to have the Zags back up by 12 or 14 just minutes later.
Honestly, Gonzaga never really appeared threatened by Georgia. Every time the Dawgs started to get close, Wiltjer or Pangos, who finished with 22 points, would knock down a timely bucket to keep UGA at bay.
Georgia’s last push came with 7:35 left in the game, when a layup by Neme Djurisic made it 65-57, in favor of Gonzaga. But, 4 quick points by Wiltjer, and a minute later the Zags were back up by 12 points. Ultimately, Gonzaga ended up coasting to an 88-76 victory.
The lone bright spot for the Dawgs was point guard Charles Mann, who played his best game of the season, scoring 23 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Mann was the only UGA player that was able to create any offense against this bigger Gonzaga team.
This game exposed some glaring weaknesses in Georgia’s perimeter defense, which was unable to contain the Gonzaga backcourt. All night, the Dawgs looked a step slow, allowing the Zag guards to drive the ball into the lane whenever they wanted.
Offensively, Georgia had its issues as well. One thing that was quite clear from last night’s performance was that UGA does not have an inside game, or at least not when they play against real teams. Marcus Thornton, who was coming off back-to-back 17-point efforts, was flustered by the bigger Gonzaga front court. Thornton spent the entire game in foul trouble, scoring just 9 points and committing 4 turnovers; he had to be missing the smaller, less physical frontcourts of both Troy and Florida Atlantic.
Another chink in UGA’s offensive armor was on the perimeter, where the Dawgs continued to struggle from beyond the arc. After going 4 for 16 on three-pointers last night, Georgia is now shooting a frigid 26% on three’s this season. Kenny Gaines, who is hitting only 26% himself, has yet to find his touch from a year ago. Other than J.J. Frazier, who is knocking down almost 37% from beyond the arc, no one else on the UGA roster poses much of a threat from the outside.
Whether Coach Mark Fox can clean up some of his team’s faults remains to be seen. None of his big men are going to grow any taller over the next few months, so it’s hard to envision much improvement in the frontcourt offense.
Kenny Gaines can and most likely will begin shooting better, which will certainly help.
But can anyone honestly say that after watching last night’s contest that this UGA squad looks like an NCAA tournament team?
On Wednesday night in New York, the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Gonzaga Bulldogs inside Madison Square Garden as part of the preseason NIT. This game represents an opportunity for both teams to secure an out of conference win against a worthy opponent. For Georgia though, this contest is a chance for Coach Mark Fox’s team to prove its relevance in the college basketball world in prime time on a national stage.
Here are a few reasons as to why I believe that Georgia must win this game:
1. UGA has to prove being a good SEC team means something
Last season Georgia went 12-6 in the Southeastern Conference, and they were barely in the NCAA Bubble discussion. Most pundits felt that the Dawgs had to win the SEC tournament to get in, giving them the same scenario that they basically face towards the end of every season. For several years now, the SEC has been routinely sending just 3 or 4 teams to the Big Dance, making it pretty clear what the NCAA selection committee thinks about the quality of basketball played in this league. Having another successful conference season just isn’t going to do it for Coach Fox this year (and I do think they will be a top 5 SEC team). Fox scheduled games against Gonzaga, Colorado and Kansas State to bolster the RPI, which was an achilles heel for this team a year ago. Playing in these games is not enough, though; UGA must show that they can beat high caliber teams outside of their own conference, and they’ve already blown one opportunity against their in-state rivals (whether Tech is high caliber or not remains to be seen). Only winning the games against the Troy’s and Florida Atlantic’s of the world will earn Georgia another trip back to the postseason NIT, at best.
2. Mark Fox is due
The Georgia Bulldogs haven’t beaten a ranked opponent outside of the SEC since Fox’s initial team took down the then-ranked #20 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 73-66 in Athens. Matter of fact, CMF’s teams have only won two games against ranked opponents since the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. In that same span of games, UGA has yet to beat a team ranked lower than 20th. In Gonzaga, Georgia will be competing with a team that recently landed inside of the top 10 in both the AP and USA Polls. The Zags, who are 4-0, have already beaten #22 SMU by more than 10 points. They have destroyed their other three opponents, winning all of the games by 40+ points. Gonzaga is off to a great start this year, and more than likely they will go on to have a strong season. When March rolls around, a win against the Zags could really serve to enhance an NCAA tournament resume, considering Gonzaga themselves will surely be dancing.
Make no doubt about, the Zags are incredibly talented. Through 4 games, they are averaging almost 95 points a night (7th in the country), with nearly 7 players scoring in double-figures. UGA needs its best game of the year out of junior Charles Mann, who could significantly impact this game should he manage to get some of the Zags’ starters in foul trouble. Georgia cannot go toe-to-toe with Gonzaga’s firepower for 40 minutes; but, if they could manage to get to the free throw line and slow the game down, the Dawgs could have a chance.
Here is Seth Greenberg’s take:
Seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic continued their strong play from Friday night’s contest – a game in which they each of scored 17 points – against the Owls of Florida Atlantic on Sunday. In this evening’s game, Thornton put the Dawgs on his broad shoulders and carried them to a 74-61 victory, scoring 17 again to go along with 12 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Neme, who seemed to the be the catalyst for a majority of Georgia’s scoring plays, nearly messed around and got a triple-double, scoring 8 points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 8 assists. The senior appears to be as comfortable as ever putting the ball on the floor this season, and for now, it is working for Coach Fox’s team.
UGA’s offense ran as smoothly as it has all year, with the Dawgs hitting cutters down the lane off of screens – the performance was vintage Fox, circa the days of Thompkins, Leslie and GR22. Georgia had 15 team assists, and they shot a robust 46% from the floor.
The only other UGA player to score in double digits was Kenny Gaines, who chipped in 15 for the game. Gaines definitely looks a lot closer to 100% than he did a little over a week ago, knocking down a three and throwing down a couple of thunderous dunks.
Charles Mann, who’s been hot and cold so far this season, struggled against the Owls, netting just 8 points, going 2 for 8 from the field. He had trouble finishing on his drives tonight, and he seemed like he was forcing it at times.
Once Georgia took command of this game – carrying an 8 point lead into the break – they never really felt threatened by the Owls. The Dawgs kept their advantage above 10 points for nearly the entire second half, coasting to their third straight win since losing to Georgia Tech in the season opener.
Coach Fox’s team turned in another solid defensive effort, limiting FAU to just 41% shooting from the floor. The Dawgs dominated the rebounding battle, snagging 45 boards to the Owls’ 32.
Marquan Botley led all scorers with 20 points.
The Owls, who are now 1-3 on the year, were projected to finish in the lower echelon of the Conference USA. While Georgia’s recent win streak has come at the expense of some pretty soft competition, the Dawgs have looked good winning.
Next week’s matchup with #13 Gonzaga will really give fans a chance to measure just exactly what kind of team Coach Fox has this year.