When Marcus Thornton hit the deck Tuesday night late in the second half following a flagrant foul by a Vanderbilt player, he courageously bounced back up, collected himself and buried both free throws.
Apparently, though, Thornton wasn’t doing as well physically as he appeared.
This afternoon Georgia Coach Mark Fox announced that Thornton was being treated for a concussion from his spill in the Vandy game and that he would not play this Saturday against South Carolina. Fox also gave no indication as to whether Thornton would be available on Tuesday night in Lexington against the #1 Kentucky Wildcats, only saying that the senior would be going through the normal concussion protocols.
Losing Thornton is a crushing blow for this UGA team that is currently riding a five-game conference win streak. Even though South Carolina has lost four in a row and they are just 1-6 in SEC play, the Gamecocks did knock off #9 Iowa State, Clemson and Oklahoma State earlier in the season. Georgia should no doubt have its hands full on Saturday as they try to steal a road victory without the services of its leading scorer and rebounder.
South Carolina’s RPI: 111.
The Georgia Bulldogs looked to be in total control over the Vanderbilt Commodores, leading 55-41 with 7:41 remaining after a pair of free throws from Nemanja Djurisic. But, four minutes later, Vandy found itself within 4 points with 2:31 left following two free throws from Wade Baldwin.
Fortunately for Coach Mark Fox, his team was poised from the line on Tuesday, knocking down 9 of its final 10 shots from the stripe to help seal the 70-62 home win, Georgia’s fifth in a row.
The Dawgs’ shooting in this game was sublime – UGA hit 23 of 25 from the line and 9 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Yet, even though Georgia shot the ball well against the ‘Dores, it was UGA’s sloppiness and defense that enabled Vandy to hang around in this one. The Dawgs committed 16 turnovers to Vandy’s 7, with Charles Mann leading the way with a team-high of 5 turnovers.
Defensively, especially in the first half, Georgia looked slow closing out, making things too easy for Vandy on offense. The Commodores made 8 of 22 from beyond the arc, and that percentage could have been even better if they hadn’t take a slew of desperation three-pointers in the game’s final minute.
Georgia won the rebounding battle 37-27, but its defensive rebounding – which has become a staple of this team – was not strong on Tuesday as they yielded 14 offensive boards to the ‘Dores.
The Dawgs had four players finish in double-digits: Neme (15), Marcus Thornton (14), Kenny Gaines (13) and J.J. Frazier (12).
Winning five consecutive games in conference is no small feat, but Georgia did not appear very crisp in securing this victory. This win puts UGA in a three-way tie for third in the conference with an SEC record of 5-2. Georgia travels to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks on Saturday.
A trip to Lexington next Tuesday to take on #1 Kentucky is certainly looming over the Dawgs’ minds at this point. However, hopefully South Carolina has UGA’s full attention so that Georgia doesn’t suffer a setback over the weekend.
Georgia swept its pair of conference games for the second-straight week, ravishing the state of Mississippi with wins over Ole Miss and Missy State. The Dawgs have won four SEC games in a row, and the Bracketologists are taking note: CBS’s Gary Parrish bumped UGA up to a 7-seed, and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi slid the Dawgs up to a 9-seed, taking on Dayton in Charlotte with 1-seed Duke – ouch – looming.
J.J. Frazier earned SEC Player of the Week honors this week, scoring a total of 48 points in his team’s two games. Not only did Frazier light up the nets against the Rebels and Maroon Dawgs, he also grabbed 7 boards in each of those contests, tying him with Marcus Thornton for the team lead in rebounds last week as well. According to SECsports.com, Frazier’s 37 points in Starkville were the most points scored by an SEC player this season and the highest point total for a UGA player in 23 years.
With J.J.’s recent offensive outburst, he joins Marcus Thornton, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Neme Djurisic in averaging double-figures, giving the Dawgs one of the most balanced scoring lineups in the country.
And for what it’s worth, even though Georgia has yet to crack either of the AP or Coaches polls, Gary Parrish has penciled UGA in at #24 in his weekly Top 25 (and one) poll.
J.J. Frazier couldn’t have picked a better game to set a career high in scoring. With Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Neme Djurisic and Marcus Thornton all turning in sub-par performances, Frazier hoisted the Dawgs up on his little back and carried his team to a 72-66 road victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs, scoring 37 points in the process.
Missy State had multiple chances to tie the game, down 69-66 with 54 seconds left, but the Maroon Dawgs failed to convert, missing a dunk and an open three-point attempt. J.J. came away with the long rebound after the missed three, and he was immediately sent to the free throw line, where he iced the game after knocking down a pair to send the score to 71-66 with only 26 ticks remaining on the clock.
UGA found themselves down early in this one after State opened up a 17-9 lead following a free throw from Craig Sword with 12:21 left before intermission. The Dawgs looked out of sorts offensively from the onset, letting the other Bulldogs’ defensive pressure disrupt their offensive flow.
Frazier helped to settle his team, though, connecting on all three of his three-point attempts before the break, which enabled UGA withstand MSU’s initial punch and take a 36-31 lead into the break.
Georgia looked in total control coming out of the half, opening up a 46-34 advantage with 16:46 remaining in the game. But Missy State wouldn’t go away, keeping the UGA lead in single digits before they finally closed the gap to 63-61 with 3:18 left after a three-pointer from Fred Thomas.
Had it not been for Frazier’s remarkable play, Georgia would not have stood a chance in this one. The Dawgs were outrebounded 42 to 32, and the Maroon Dawgs took 15 more shots from the floor than Mark Fox’s team. Frazier finished 12 of 14 from the floor, and he hit all 7 of his shots from beyond the arc. He also managed to snare 7 rebounds, tying Marcus Thornton for the team-high in rebounds for the game.
While it is frustrating to watch Thornton, Djurisic and Mann all completely tank on the same night, Coach Fox and the UGA fan base have to be satisfied with an SEC road win. Georgia has now won four-straight in conference play, and they are looking more and more like a legitimate contender for the league title.
With an RPI of 24, Georgia has positioned itself well for an NCAA Tournament birth…for now (Lunardi had UGA as a 10-seed in this week’s Bracketology). The Dawgs still have 13 SEC games remaining on their schedule, and if they don’t handle their business down the road (finish above .500) they could find themselves on the outside of the bubble. In the Maroon Dawgs, UGA will be taking on a team that has not had the most spectacular start to the 2014-2015 season. Missy State is 9-9 overall and just 2-3 in conference games; yet, a win over Georgia tomorrow and the other Bulldogs are dead-even with the red Dawgs in league play.
In fact, the SEC will feature a number of games tomorrow in which the winners/losers – if all the chips fell a certain way – could leave the league with an eight-way tie at 3-3. Coach Mark Fox’s team has an opportunity to put some separation between themselves and some of the other competition in the conference, meaning a win is critical.
Another reason that Georgia cannot afford a slip-up in Starkville on Saturday is related to that whole RPI-thingy. See, the Maroon Dawgs have an RPI of 177, which means that should they pull the upset they would go down as UGA’s worst loss on the season. Minnesota (RPI 99) and Georgia Tech (72) are now both ugly blemishes on Georgia’s tournament resume – these two teams are a combined 1-12 in conference play, and neither squad needs a pair of shades because the future does not look too bright. Tech still hasn’t played UVA, Duke or Carolina, and Minnesota has to play Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin (twice).
I realize that everyone reading this blog knows that a big reason the Dawgs fell to GT was that Kenny Gaines, who was coming back from a bout with mononucleosis, played just 18 rusty minutes. But, the NCAA Tournament Committee will more than likely not know about that little tidbit since they do not have time to comb through the personnel histories of all the teams that they are considering.
Finally, as a UGA basketball fan, I understand just how precious it is when Georgia reaches the Big Dance because it happens oh so rarely. However, at the risk of becoming a bit spoiled, I’d like to go on record saying that should UGA be privileged enough to be selected this year, I truly hope the Dawgs can avoid seeds 7-10. The 7,8,9 and 10 seeds, which are typically given to teams from large conferences, are kind of a let down. Yes, fans are excited that their team is going to the tournament, but a win only means that their squad has to go on to most likely play a 1- or 2-seed.
Georgia’s inability to hit free throws at the end of the game left the door open for Ole Miss in this one, giving the Rebels a chance to tie, down 63-60, with only 54 seconds left on the clock. However, Charles Mann, who was guilty of missing the front end of two one-and-one’s late, made amends by drawing a heady charge on Mississippi guard Jarvis Summers.
The Dawgs went on to make their next 6 attempts from the line, and UGA came away with the 69-62 conference win – their third in a row.
Georgia began the game playing rather sloppy, possibly still feeling the effects of a post-Florida win hangover. The Dawgs looked nothing like the team that hit its first 7 shots against the Gators in opening minutes of this contest. In tonight’s game, UGA missed all 7 of its three-point tries before the break. Heading into the locker room, Georgia was only connecting on 33% of its shots from the floor as a team. Before a Cameron Forte layup that brought his team within 3 points with 8:15 left before intermission, Coach Mark Fox’s team had been mired in a nearly 9-minute slump in which they failed to convert a field goal.
Contributing to Georgia’s first half struggles was a general lack of effort on the glass. Georgia entered game with the best defensive rebounding percentage in the conference, yielding just 11 offensive rebounds a night to opponents. However, Ole Miss nabbed 7 offensive boards in the first half, giving them extra opportunities to score.
Marcus Thornton, who led the Dawgs in scoring, carried his team in the first half, scoring 11 of his 16 points.
However, Mark Fox must have given one heck of a halftime speech because his team came out of the break playing with some serious fire. UGA opened up the first 5 minutes of the second with a 15-8 run that saw them reclaim the lead after a post-move by Marcus Thornton with 15 minutes remaining. Charles Mann, who was held scoreless before the break due to foul trouble, scored 8 of his 12 points during this stretch of the game. Additionally, after grabbing just 4 offensive rebounds in the contest’s first 20 minutes, Georgia pulled down 3 offensive boards in this same span.
Once again, Georgia had four players – Thornton, Mann, Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier – finish the game in double-figures. Cameron Forte, who gave Coach Fox quality minutes off the bench this evening, nearly made the fifth player to reach double-digits, scoring 9 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
The Dawgs got their act together in the final 20 minutes of this contest, hitting almost 50% from the floor, and yielding just 4 offensive boards to the Rebels.
Ole Miss’s Stefan Moody led all scorers with 26 points. UGA limited Jarvis Summers – who nets nearly 14 a night – to only 7 points in Athens.
Tonight’s victory gives Georgia another quality win against an RPI Top 50 opponent. In his latest Bracketology this week, Joe Lunardi had UGA pitted as a 10-seed; however, Georgia’s stock surely will go up following this game.
This victory puts the Dawgs in a three-way tie for third place in the league. For now. Should Tennessee lose its game later tonight against South Carolina, Georgia would be locked into a four-way tie for second.
Saturday, Coach Fox’s team has a golden opportunity to steal a road conference win in Starkville against Missy State, a team that has started out just 1-3 in SEC play.
After relinquishing big leads against both Arkansas and LSU (and nearly blowing a double-digit lead in its win over Vandy on Wednesday), Coach Mark Fox preached the importance of “closing” to his team heading into today’s matchup with conference rival Florida.
With 5:46 left in the game, UGA held a 61-51 advantage, but Florida still seemed too close given the inconsistency that Georgia had shown towards the end of its first three SEC games.
This afternoon, though, the Dawgs kept their composure and actually extended the advantage to close out the win, knocking off the Gators 73-61 in Athens. This loss was the first for Florida in 24 SEC games, and it was definitely overdue for Georgia, who had dropped 18 of the previous 21 to the Gators.
Georgia started the game on fire, hitting its first 7 shots, allowing UGA to open up a 15-0 advantage.
Florida’s full-court pressure eventually began to wear down the Dawgs in the first half. After not turning the ball over for the first 11 minutes of the game, UGA committed 8 turnovers in the final 9 minutes going into intermission, enabling the Gators to close Georgia’s advantage to just 36-31. The Gators’ defense not only created turnovers, it also really limited the amount of time Mark Fox’s team had each possession to run its half-court sets, frustrating UGA offensively.
The Dawgs outscored the Gators 10-6 after the break, giving them a 46-37 lead with 15:16 left. From this point on, though, Georgia never looked back, building a double-digit lead that they managed to keep for the next fifteen minutes.
UGA had four players finish in double-figures, with Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton leading the way with 16 apiece. Kenny Gaines, who came out briefly midway through the second half with an undisclosed injury, once again played fantastic for Coach Fox, connecting on 4 of his 5 three-point attempts. Gaines has been lights out from beyond the arc since SEC play started, hitting 12 of his 21 attempts.
Surprisingly, Georgia – a team that couldn’t buy a three-point basket early in the season – entered today’s game with the best three-point shooting percentage in conference play at 43%. In today’s game against the Gators, the Dawgs made 53% of their shots from the perimeter, proving that they are a dangerous team from the outside.
Georgia’s biggest flaw this afternoon was its ball security – UGA committed 16 turnovers. Luckily, Coach Fox’s defense was able to turn the Gators over 19 times, a season-high for Billy Donovan’s team.
This win was huge for the Bulldogs, who even up their SEC record after starting the season 0-2 in conference games. Georgia will look to go above .500 in the SEC when they take on Ole Miss in Athens on Tuesday.