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No Kenny Gaines? No problem.
At least not for tonight.
Despite not having Gaines on the floor against the Winthrop Eagles (6-2) due to a minor knee injury, Georgia (4-3) turned in one of its better offensive performances of the season. The Dawgs only shot 38% from the floor, but they dished out a season-high 17 assists. Coach Fox had to be pleased with his team’s unselfishness as well as their ability to hit the open cutters tonight.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Yante Maten finished his fourth straight game with more than 20 points, scoring 24 this evening to go along with 12 rebounds, giving him his second double-double of the season. The game definitely seems to be slowing down for Maten, who appears to be bursting with confidence on offense, scoring consistently on his mid-range jumpers and hook shots.
Maten was not the only double-doubler, though, as little J.J. Frazier managed to snag 10 boards in addition to his 15 points. He did have another tough night from the floor, however, hitting only 4 of his 14 attempts.
Charles Mann was the only other Bulldog to end up in double-figures, scoring 14 points on a 2 for 8 shooting performance.
UGA’s offense is much more effective when the ball is moving, and players are moving without the ball. When the Dawgs start relying more on creation off the dribble from Frazier or Mann is when things start to get a little stagnant.
Georgia jumped out to a double-digit lead and maintained it for much of the first half, largely due to the fact that Winthrop only had 5 field goals through the game’s first 15 minutes of play. With 4:23 left before intermission, UGA held a commanding 29-14 advantage.
In the second half, though, the Eagles found their range from beyond the arc, knocking down 6 of their 12 three-point attempts. Roderick Perkins, who scored 14 points, nailed a three with 7:53 remaining that cut the UGA lead to 57-51.
Over the next minute, Georgia made 6 straight free throws, bolstering their advantage back into double-digits. The Dawgs were able to keep the Eagles at bay for the latter stretch of the game, giving UGA the 74-64 home win.
While Winthrop is far from a powerhouse, they were picked to finish near the top of the Big South Conference before the start of the season. More importantly, Georgia avoided a potentially bad loss in a game in which they were playing without their leading scorer.
The Dawgs have 11 days off before returning to Stegeman for the yearly matchup with Georgia Tech, a team that UGA hasn’t beaten in four years (or since Brian Gregory took he reigns). The Jackets have already knocked off Tennessee and Arkansas this year, so Georgia had better be at full strength on December 19th if they hope to be competitive in this one.
J.J. Frazier’s last-second desperation shot looked like it was in fact tipped in front of the rim by a Kansas State (6-1) defender. However, the ball still just barely glanced the rim, so either his shot was going to be an air ball, or it might have barely glanced the front of the rim.
Either way, Georgia lost 68-66 to the Wildcats, a team that Sports Illustrated projected to finish last in the Big 12 heading into the season. For Georgia (3-3), dropping a game at home that they controlled for much of the first half has to be frustrating. Once again, UGA shot the ball well – 45% – and lost.
The Dawgs went up 42-37 with 15:50 left in the second half after a jumper from Yante Maten. For some reason, though, over the next 9 minutes Yante didn’t attempt a single field goal. To make matters worse, Kenny Gaines took just two shots during the same time frame, hitting one of them, before knocking down a pair of free throws that dropped the KSU lead to 56-55 with 6:16 left. The Dawgs failed to get the ball to their two hottest players during a critical stretch in the second half, and the Wildcats capitalized by taking the lead.
Maten and Gaines, who finished with 20 and 17 points, respectively, have established themselves as Georgia’s best offensive players. Yet, for a major chunk of the second half of this game, they took a combined two field goal attempts.
The Dawgs have to do a better job of recognizing that Maten and Gaines demand touches, especially in the latter part of a close game.
Coach Fox’s team had far too many second half possessions that ended with Frazier, who made only 3 of his 10 shots, hurling up a rushed shot to beat the shot clock.
Georgia’s defense held the Wildcats to under 40% from the floor, but UGA once again struggled to limit second chances as they allowed Kansas State to pull down 16 offensive rebounds. Defensive rebounding has been a hallmark of Mark Fox coached teams at Georgia during his tenure, but this year’s team seems to be struggling when it comes to holding teams to just one shot.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber enjoyed balanced scoring from his team tonight in Athens, with four players finishing in double-figures.
Coach Fox’s team has played two power conference teams this year – Seton Hall and Kansas State – and they are 0-2. If the Dawgs cannot find a way to be successful against these bigger schools it could turn out to be a long SEC season for Coach Fox’s team.
The Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2-3), who are strangely from Detroit, Michigan, gave the Georgia Bulldogs (3-2) a scare on Tuesday night in Athens. With 1:13 left in the game, Oakland’s Max Hooper buried his 7th three of the night to tie the game up at 80 apiece.
The Dawgs remained poised, though, hitting their final 6 free throws (Mann, Maten and Frazier), and they managed to hold on for the 86-82 home win.
UGA has had no shortage of tough mid-major competition early this season, and Oakland showed itself to be another worthy adversary. The Golden Grizz entered the season projected to finish 2nd in the Horizon League, and they are led by the league’s Preseason Player of the Year Kahlil Felder, who lived up to that billing this evening in Athens. Felder proved to be a difficult match up all night for the Georgia guards as he scored 23 points to go along with his 5 assists. He and Hooper combined for 10 of the team’s 11 three-pointers, and Oakland connected on nearly 38% of its attempts from beyond the arc as a team.
The Golden Grizz actually boasted a commanding 20-11 lead over the Dawgs midway through the first half, following a pair of free throws from Felder. Georgia, however, picked up the tempo on offense and managed to cut the Oakland lead to 37-34 at the break.
The Dawgs were led offensively by J.J. Frazier, who scored a season-high 23 points to go along with his 6 assists. Frazier had been mired in a shooting slump over the past 3 games that saw him connect on just 19% of his field goal attempts; but, J.J. found his stroke on Tuesday night inside Stegeman, hitting 9 of his 15 shots.
Yante Maten, who appears to be developing into a reliable scorer right before our eyes, followed up his 21-point effort against Seton Hall last Saturday with another 21-point game tonight in Athens. Maten is starting to find some consistency in both his midrange jumper as well at the free throw line, where he sunk 9 of his 10 attempts. He also snagged 9 rebounds, just missing his second double-double of the season.
Though Charles Mann’s start to the season has been a little up and down, he had a nice bounce back game tonight, scoring 15 points to go along with his 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Even more importantly, Mann committed just 2 turnovers this evening (he came into this game averaging nearly 4 per contest).
Probably the biggest surprise of the night for Georgia was freshman Michael Edwards, who scored a career-high 14 points to go along with his 6 rebounds. Edwards kept running the floor and getting into the paint, and his guards rewarded him, leading to several easy dunks and layups for the big man.
After posting back to back sub 30% shooting efforts, UGA has seemingly found some offense over the past week. In the loss to Seton Hall, the Dawgs shot nearly 47% from the floor, and they made almost 53% of their attempts tonight against Oakland.
Maten’s newfound offense is starting to open up better looks for the UGA backcourt triumvirate of Mann, Gaines and Frazier, who shot a combined 58% from the floor on Tuesday.
Coach Mark Fox has a few days to get his team ready to host a revenge-hungry 5-1 Kansas State team whose lone loss this season came at North Carolina back in late November.
Georgia played its best first half of the season, but in the end the Dawgs couldn’t find enough offense to pull off the upset in Newark. Here are some thoughts I had on the game:
Hello Yante Maten
Yante Maten, who has been a relative non-factor through the first 3 games, stepped up and scored a career high 21 points tonight against the Seton Hall Pirates. Maten put together his most complete offensive performance as a Bulldog, showcasing a midrange jump shot that hopefully is here to stay. He also hit 9 of his 11 attempts from the line, helping to keep his within striking distance of the Pirates for much of the night.
Defense takes a step back
Playing primarily man defense for much of the evening, Coach Mark Fox’s team struggled to contain Seton Hall’s guards, allowing Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington to finish with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Fox managed to slow the Pirates down late in the second half by switching into a zone with the Dawgs trailing 60-57, and Georgia even pulled to within a point following a pair of free throws from Kenny Paul Geno. However, Whitehead quickly went off for 7 points to send his team up 67-59 with only 29 seconds left, and the Pirates would eventually win 69-62.
Seton Hall killed Georgia on the glass, hauling in 13 offensive rebounds, which contributed to 30 second chance points for the Pirates. Even though UGA shot the ball much better this evening (47%), the Dawgs do not have enough scorers to give opposing teams too many additional opportunities on offense.
Georgia’s backcourt was supposed to be a strength this year
Kenny Gaines hit 5 of his 10 shots and finished with 13 points, but he had to work extremely hard for those attempts. Right now, Gaines is clearly the only scoring threat that UGA has on the perimeter, and defenses are certainly aware of it – Seton Hall defenders were draped over Gaines all night, denying him off the ball for much of the game. Until Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier find some offense, Gaines will continue to be keyed in on by the opposition.
Frazier and Mann are really hurting UGA right now, especially J.J. He made only 2 of his 11 field goal attempts en route to just 4 points, and Frazier is now 6 for his last 32 from the floor. If J.J. cannot start converting more of his shots, then hopefully Coach Fox can convince him to at least take less of them.
Mann continues to bull his way into the defense in the hopes that he gets a whistle, which hasn’t been happening a lot lately. Mann connected on only 2 of his 6 shots, giving him 5 points on the night.
Mark Fox’s team took a page out of the UGA football playbook tonight in Athens, proving that games can in fact be won with little to no offense.
The Dawgs (2-1) surged to a 33-22 halftime lead, riding a 14-5 run into the locker room.
However, Georgia forgot to bring its offense back out for the final twenty minutes. The Dawgs went for nearly 15 minutes without a field goal during the second half before Kenny Gaines knocked down a jumper with 2:35 remaining. The damage was done, though, as the UGA drought allowed High Point to erase Georgia’s double-digit lead.
High Point had a shot at tying the game on the final possession, but neither of Anthony Lindauer’s three-point attempts went in, giving UGA the 49-46 home win.
J.J. Frazier and Charles Mann, who both played otherwise underwhelming games tonight, both made key baskets for the Dawgs in the final minute of this contest. Frazier hit an off-balanced jumper as the shot clock was winding down to put his team up by three with just 28 seconds remaining, and Mann knocked down a pair of free throws that again gave Georgia a three-point advantage with only 11 ticks left on the clock.
Mann was just 2 for 7 from the floor, but he shot a perfect 8 for 8 from the stripe as he led all UGA scorers with 13 points.
Frazier followed up his 1 for 11 shooting performance against Murray State with a 3 for 10 effort this evening, although he did manage 8 rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
The most curious aspect of the Dawgs’s offensive strategy in this contest was the limited number of shots that Kenny Gaines was afforded. After scoring a career-high 35 points last Friday against the Racers, Gaines took just 8 shots against High Point; he did make 4 of those attempts en route to 12 points.
Coach Fox’s team shot under 30% from the floor as a team for the second straight game, but luckily they held the Panthers under 30% as well. The Dawgs defended John Brown very well, limiting him to just 11 points, which is 9 below his season average.
Though it wasn’t the prettiest 40 minutes of basketball ever played inside Stegeman Coliseum, the bottom line is that Georgia found a way to win against a solid mid-major opponent. The Dawgs have a tough road test looming this Saturday when they travel north for a date with Seton Hall, and that game would have had much more a desperate feel had UGA been upended at home this evening.
Georgia’s string of consecutive games against quality mid-major opponents will continue on Wednesday when the Dawgs host the High Point Panthers.
UGA began the season with an overtime loss to Chattanooga, a media favorite in the preseason SoCon standings. A week after taking down the Dawgs, the Mocs went up to Champaign and took down Illinois 81-77. Chatt picked up its first loss of the season last night following an 83-63 drubbing from #4 Iowa State.
Georgia’s first win of the season came last Friday over the Murray State Racers (3-1), a team that ESPN projected to win the Ohio Valley Conference this season.
Now, enter High Point, a team that many in the media predicted would win the Big South Conference this year. The Panthers, who return three starters, including hyper-athletic senior John Brown, have either won or shared the conference title over the past three seasons.
According to an NBC Sports College Basketball analyst, High Point is the favorite to win the Big South:
“In my mind, it would probably be High Point. There will be several teams that have really good players back, but High Point has several really good players back and John Brown has been one of the top players in the league for the last three years.”
Picked for the fourth time as the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, here is NBC Sports’s depiction of Brown:
“I’d say John Brown should be the favorite for preseason player of the year. There are a lot of good ones, but he’s definitely been really good for a long period of time. I think it starts with his motor and how hard he competes and how physical he is. He just stays after it every possession. He really plays so hard on both ends. He’s great at working at working on catching the ball at the rim and using his size and athleticism to score in the paint. Then he’ll get stuff in transition and on the offensive glass. He’s a monster.”
CBS Sports deemed Brown the #1 dunker in college basketball for 2015:
Georgia could definitely use the services of freshman center Derek Ogbeide in its efforts to contain Brown on Wednesday. Ogbeide, who has missed the first two games of the season with a shoulder injury, was a “game time” decision against Murray, so he must be getting closer to returning.
John Brown and his Panthers will view Georgia as a potential NCAA Tournament resume-builder, and the Dawgs should expect an intense effort from their opposition on Wednesday.
Kenny Gaines must not of liked the idea of starting out 0-2 this season.
The senior from Atlanta torched Murray State for a career-high 35 points, simply willing his Bulldogs to their first win of the season.
With 4:11 left in the game, the Racers jumped ahead 50-48 following a pair of free throws from point guard Bryce Jones, erasing a Georgia lead that had been as high as 8 points just 5 minutes earlier.
Unfortunately for Murray, though, their comeback would end there as Kenny Gaines rattled off three-pointers on the next three possessions for UGA, and after his free throw with 1:35 remaining Georgia held a 58-52 lead that they would not relinquish, ultimately winning this one 63-52.
The other major highlight of the night other than Gaines was the Dawgs’ defense, which looked much improved since the debacle against Chattanooga last Friday. Georgia consistently closed out strong on the Racers, holding them to just 30% from the floor and only 17% from beyond the arc. UGA also did a great job of limiting the Racers to just one shot – Murray managed only 10 offensive rebounds because Georgia hauled down over 75% of the Racer misses, which led to just 3 second-chance points for MSU.
While Murray shot the ball poorly, Georgia shot it worse, connecting on under 30% from the field. Kenny Gaines made 10 of his 18 field goal attempts, but the rest of the Dawgs hit under 18% of theirs. J.J. Frazier was 1 of 11 and Charles Mann 0 for 7.
Yante Maten grabbed 10 rebounds, but he looked lost on offense, missing a plethora of hook shots that led to a 2 for 8 shooting performance. Hopefully Maten has more in his arsenal than the hook, or UGA is going to struggle to find offense in the paint because right now the Dawgs do not have any sort of productivity coming from that area of the floor.
Freshman Mike Edwards scored just 2 points because he missed a couple of easy put backs, but he was very active on the glass, snagging 8 rebounds in 26 minutes (3 of them offensive). As the season progresses, Edwards may play his way into the starting five with his athleticism.
The only other tidbit of interest from this one was Coach Mark Fox’s decision to sit senior Charles Mann for the game’s final 5 minutes. Even when UGA had taken control of the game thanks to Gaines, Mann remained on the bench. Mann’s free throw shooting continues to be a problem (1 of 2 last night), so it’s possible that Fox saw him as a liability down the stretch once the Dawgs had the lead. To Mann’s credit, he was the loudest cheerleader on the UGA bench up until the final horn.
This win gets Georgia to an even 1-1, with a chance to get above .500 right before turkey day as they host High Point on Wednesday here in Athens.