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The Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 7-4) are at a critical juncture in the season where opportunity is both literally and figuratively knocking at their door.
On Saturday, UGA will host the Ole Miss Rebels with third place in the conference at stake. A win this weekend would bolster the Dawgs’ SEC record to 8-4, and it would move them a step closer to bypassing the first two rounds of the conference tournament by way of finishing in the top four in the league standings.
Earlier this week, ESPN released its first Bubble Watch of the year – a weekly segment that analyzes the chances that teams have of earning at-large bids to the NCAA tournament in March. At the moment, ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan has the SEC down for two NCAA Tournament “locks” (meaning they are in) – Florida and Kentucky (no surprises there).
However, I found it incredibly interesting that of the five teams that Brennan lists from the conference with “Work left to do” – Tennessee, Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU and Arkansas – all of them are on Georgia’s remaining schedule of SEC games.
UGA actually has the chance to put itself into consideration for at at-large bid to this year’s NCAA tournament over the next three weeks based upon their remaining opponents.
Now, whether Georgia can embrace and rise to those challenges is a different story. The Dawgs most likely would need to be very successful in a majority of those aforementioned games because they just can’t seem to shake off the stigma of being a mediocre program.
Brennan mentioned Georgia twice in his SEC segment of the Bubble Watch, but unfortunately both plugs were just to highlight the fact that Missouri and LSU had suffered “bad losses” to the Bulldogs (a team that is currently tied for 3rd in the league standings).
If Georgia wants respect they are going to have to earn it.
This key stretch of games starts Saturday with the Ole Miss Rebels, a team that is led offensively by a crazy person – Marshall Henderson. The Rebels’ backcourt has been shouldering half of the team’s scoring load in conference play with Henderson netting 20 ppg and junior guard Jarvis Summers contributing another 16.2 ppg.
The Dawgs’ perimeter defense has been steadily improving, and it will need to be on point this weekend as Ole Miss comes into Athens making more three-pointers (over 8) per game than any other SEC team in league games.
After a 1-4 start to the season that had most Georgia fans cringing at the thought of conference play, UGA has put itself in position to challenge for a top spot in the league with a very meaningful SEC game on the horizon this weekend in Athens.
After a little more than 10 minutes of play on Wednesday night, the Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 7-4) looked completely lost inside The Hump in Starkville. With 9:54 remaining before the half, Mississippi State held a 22-8 lead, and Georiga had committed 5 turnovers and just 1 field goal.
Ten seconds later, Nemanja Djurisic tossed the ball out of bounds for the team’s 6th turnover, and Dawgs’ coach Mark Fox called a 30-second timeout.
Whatever Fox said to his team during that brief exchange – which appeared heated – worked.
Georgia closed out the final 9 minutes of the first half on a 20-5 run, receiving a spark from reserve freshman Kenny Paul Geno, who scored 6 of points during that stretch. The man with three first names was instrumental in the UGA comeback, and the Dawgs actually took a 28-27 lead into the break after a pair of free throws from Juwan Parker.
Georgia’s onslaught continued into the second half as UGA immediately went on a 13-4 run that put them up 41-31 with 15:19 left in the game, following a layup by Marcus Thornton.
The Dawgs’ offense was clicking on all cylinders at this point, connecting on nearly 74% of their shots from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
UGA pushed its advantage to as high as 23 points following a bucket by Brandon Morris with 1:58 left in the game. The Dawgs won the game 75-55, leaving The Hump with their second SEC road victory of the season.
Georgia’s Charles Mann led all scorers with 19 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists, including a sensational performance from the free throw line, where Mann knocked down 10 of 11 attempts.
While Mann’s effort was sublime, the play of freshman Juwan Parker – who scored a career-high 16 points (14 of which came in the second half) – deserves to be mentioned as well. Parker finished in double-figures for the fourth time this season, and he continues to show flashes of the scoring potential that lies ahead in his career.
The Dawgs won another rebounding battle against the Maroon Dawgs (38-30), making UGA the number one rebounding team in the conference in SEC games this season at just under 40 a night.
Wednesday’s win was absolutely huge for Georgia as it puts them in a tie for third with the Ole Miss Rebels – a team that UGA will host in Athens this Saturday.
A victory over the Rebels would give the Dawgs sole possession of third place in the league as well as a very legitimate shot of ending the season with an above .500 conference record.
The fact that Georgia and Texas A&M played 40 minutes of low-scoring basketball should not come as much of a surprise to anyone following either team, considering they boast two of the lower shooting percentages in conference games (both hit less than 40% from the floor, ranking them 12th and 13th in that category).
Saturday’s game in Athens was pretty much true to form with the Dawgs hitting just 41% from the floor and the Aggies making merely 33% of their attempts.
At the half, UGA held a 25-23 advantage even though they had only put up 17 shots from the field!
In a game where it seemed as though nearly everyone on the court was off, Coach Mark Fox got a huge effort from sophomore Kenny Gaines down the final stretch.
Gaines scored 10 of his team-high 14 points during the last 10 minutes, beginning with a three-pointer that helped UGA reclaim the lead 42-40 with 10:03 remaining. He then hit another three and a jumper that pushed the Georgia advantage out to 54-48 with only 3:04 left.
Gaines and fellow sophomore Charles Mann went a combined 6 for 6 on free throws in the final minute, enabling the Dawgs to pull away with the 62-50 victory.
The Aggies entered this contest with the worst offense in the SEC in league games and they lived up to that billing, scoring just 50 points on a night in which they went an atrocious 1 for 19 from beyond the arc.
Coach Mark Fox got a nice performance out of senior Donte Williams, who finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks (two of which came within seconds of each other in the second half).
While it was not pretty for much for the night, this game was definitely one that you want to come out on the winning end of and Georgia did just that.
Also, credit the Dawgs for responding to last week’s losses to Vandy and Auburn by sweeping their two home games this week.
Saturday’s win gives UGA a 6-4 conference mark and it sends their overall record to 12-10.
Georgia’s SEC schedule is about to get more difficult as 5 of the remaining 8 games will be played outside the confines of Stegeman Coliseum, starting Wednesday when the Dawgs travel to Starkville to take on Missy State.
If UGA hopes to finish above .500 in the SEC and on the season, they are going to have to find some success on the road.
Georgia Bulldog freshman J.J. Frazier scored a career high 8 points on Thursday night against LSU, all of them coming in the game’s second half.
Georgia’s Charles Mann hit the deck extremely hard after getting his shot blocked on a dunk attempt with 9:54 left in the game and his team up 61-53. After writhing on the floor in agony for a few minutes, Mann had to leave the game with what appeared to be bruised ribs.
Frazier stepped in and buried a long three-pointer with only a few seconds left on the shot clock, giving the Dawgs a double-digit 64-53 advantage.
A little over a minute later, the freshman hit another shot from beyond the arc, which pushed the UGA lead to 70-59 with only 8:08 remaining.
LSU failed to cut the lead down to anything closer than 6 points, and Georgia coasted to a 91-78 victory, snapping a three-game losing streak.
The Dawgs’ backcourt did an excellent job of getting LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III into foul trouble early in this contest. O’Bryant, who leads the Tigers in scoring at nearly 16 points a night, spent a majority of the evening on the bench before fouling out with two minutes remaining – he left the game with 9 points.
Georgia was led offensively by Nemanja Djurisic’s 17 points to go along with 6 boards. Neme, who entered the game 9th in the nation in three-point percentage at 51%, hit 2 of his 3 attempts from the perimeter.
Marcus Thornton notched his second double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
After a solid first half, it appeared that UGA might blow LSU out as they went into the half with a 43-30 advantage. However, the Tigers managed to hang around with the help of a number of timely three-pointers from senior Andre Stringer. Stringer scored a team-high 19 points on a 4 of 6 shooting performance from downtown.
Every time Georgia seemed poised to pull away from LSU in the second half the Tigers would knock down a clutch three-pointer. LSU made nearly 41% of its three-point shots, and they got as close as 48-45 after Jarrell Martin’s three with 15:08 left in the game.
UGA responded immediately with a Charles Mann layup and an old-fashioned three-point play from Brandon Morris, bolstering the Georgia lead back up to 53-45 with 13:53 left in the second half.
LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones must not have gotten the memo mentioning Georgia’s recent struggles against the 2-3 zone because the Tigers didn’t show that defensive look once all night. For the most part, LSU interchanged some soft match-up zones with man-to-man, and the UGA offense totally carved them up – the Dawgs shot a robust 60% from the floor and nearly 56% from beyond the arc.
Tonight’s win puts Georgia’s conference record at 5-4 with another home game against Texas A&M this Saturday on the horizon.
The Aggies recently snapped a five-game losing streak with a 72-52 win over Missy State on Wednesday.
If Georgia were to hold serve at home this weekend, they could find themselves on the inside track for the fourth best record in the Southeastern Conference.
Ever since Georgia exploded for 97 points in their last conference win over South Carolina, the UGA offense has looked extremely inept, resulting in three straight losses.
While it should be noted that UGA played two of those games without Kenny Gaines – Kentucky and Vandy – they did have Gaines in the lineup yesterday against perennial SEC bottom-feeder Auburn and the Dawgs still failed to put the ball in the basket consistently.
Sophomore Charles Mann has been averaging nearly 16 points per game during the current skid, which is more than his SEC average of 14.5 ppg. The problem, however, is not Charles Mann. Rather, it’s the rest of the Bulldogs.
Opposing teams are starting to discover that if they sit in a zone they can provide more help on Mann’s drives to the basket. In addition, since UGA doesn’t have a legitimate perimeter threat, defenses can key on Mann without much fear of giving up too many open shots.
A look at Georgia’s offensive statistics in conference play is quite staggering, so brace yourself.
UGA is dead-last in the SEC in field goal percentage (37%), assists (9.4), assist-to-turnover ration (0.7) and three-pointers made (4.9).
The poor shooting has landed Georgia 11th in the league in scoring at just under 66 points per game.
Unfortunately, the Dawgs have been pretty careless with the ball as well in SEC games, committing over 14 turnovers per contests, which is second to last in the conference.
About the only thing Georgia is doing well consistently in league play is rebounding – UGA is tied with LSU for first in the league at nearly 40 boards a night.
Georgia leads the conference in offensive boards with over 15 per game; however, that’s probably just because they are getting so many opportunities with all the missed shots.
The Dawgs’ low output of assists can be directly attributed to a lack of talent. Assists were a hallmark of Mark Fox’s first two years where he saw his team lead the SEC in team assists for both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons.
But that kind of makes sense when you think about the players that Fox had at the time to run his offense, which relies heavily on passing and spacing – both of which work better when you have players like Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson, Jr. Defenses had to respect those player’s abilities to score, which created passing lanes and open routes to the basket.
In the last three years, however, Georgia has found itself in the lower-half of the conference in team assists, leaving fans to wonder if Fox’s offense is feasible without two NBA players on the roster.
After a disappointing preseason, the Dawgs offered fans a glimmer of hope by starting out 2-0 in SEC play. At one point in January, it appeared as if UGA may have been locked in for at least an NIT trip this year.
However, Georgia’s ineptitude on offense has taken their conference record to 4-4, and the idea of postseason play is beginning to seem more abstract.
Georgia (10-10; 4-4) followed up a frustrating loss to Vanderbilt earlier this week with another equally disappointing performance at Auburn this afternoon.
The Dawgs dug themselves into a hole early in this game with poor shooting and bad ball security. UGA hit only 36% from the floor and committed 10 turnovers before the break, which allowed the Tigers to take a 33-25 advantage into the half.
Coach Mark Fox’s team never really managed to figure out how to attack Auburn’s zone defense, causing the Tiger lead to seem almost insurmountable. Sadly, this Auburn team came into today’s game with a 1-6 conference record, making Georgia’s ineffectiveness on offense even more upsetting.
The Dawgs trailed by 8 points or more for much of the second half. Georgia did cut the Auburn lead to 59-57 after a J.J. Frazier three-pointer with 5:43 remaining, but the Tigers responded with a 7-1 run that pushed the score back out to 66-58 with 3:50 left following an old-fashioned three-point play by Allen Payne.
The Bulldogs were unable to recover the lead that they had relinquished in the game’s first two minutes, and Auburn notched its second SEC win of the year with a 74-67 home win.
All five starters for the Tigers finished in double-figures with Chris Denson leading the way with a game-high 18 points.
Georgia was carried by Charles Mann’s 18 points.
After missing two games, sophomore Kenny Gaines returned to the starting lineup for UGA. Instead of providing Georgia with a much-needed offensive spark, the sophomore scored only 9 points on an abysmal 2 of 10 shooting performance.
While the Dawgs ended up hitting 42% of their field goals in this contest, Georgia’s shooting woes are starting to catch up to them. UGA entered today’s game with the lowest team field goal percentage in SEC contests this season, and Georgia’s inability to shoot the ball well again today made Auburn’s zone appear even more daunting.
On the other side of the ball, UGA continues to yield way too many three-pointers. Georgia came into this game ranked second to last in three-point percentage defense in conference games, allowing opposing teams to hit nearly 39% of their attempts from beyond the arc. Today, Georgia’s perimeter defense failed them yet again, permitting Auburn – an average three-point shooting team at best – to bury 7 of 16 attempts (almost 44%).
After a 2-0 start to conference play, the Dawgs have dropped 4 of their past 6 games, and they are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Georgia had better find some sort of a zone offense between now and Thursday, or next week could prove to be another difficult one for this program.
I don’t know about anyone else, but coming into this week I was optimistic that the Dawgs might sweep their two conference games – Vandy at home and Auburn on the road.
Unfortunately, I think that the UGA men’s basketball team might have been thinking the same thing, which ended up allowing them to get upset 59-54 by Vanderbilt in front of the largest student crowd of the season.
Coach Mark Fox’s team was playing its second straight game without Kenny Gaines. However, considering that the Commodores currently have just seven scholarship players on their roster, Gaines’s absence is no excuse when playing at home.
UGA looked lost on offense, hitting only 27% of their field goals and going 4 of 17 from beyond the arc. As a team, Georgia only compiled 3 assists – the lowest total of the Mark Fox Era.
The only Georgia player who managed to bring his game to Stegeman on Wednesday was sophomore Charles Mann, who scored 20 points on a 5 for 10 shooting performance from the field. The other starters – Donte’ Williams, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Morris and Juwan Parker – shot a combined 4 of 26 on field goal attempts (15%).
Vanderbilt did not have a spectacular shooting night, but the ‘Dores did knock down their three-pointers, making 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Rod Odom, who led Vandy with 16 points and hit 4 three’s, hit several of his shots from the perimeter at very timely moments. With Vanderbilt’s lead at just 36-33 and 7:59 left in the game, Odom buried a three that pushed the Commodore advantage to 6 points.
Later in the half, Georgia trailed again by only 5 points until Odom sunk another monster three that gave the ‘Dores a 44-36 lead with 3:25 remaining. This shot from Odom was a real dagger as UGA never managed to get closer than 4 points, which didn’t happen until only 15 seconds were left on the clock (following a three-pointer from Charles Mann).
Vandy knocked down 14 of 19 free throws in the game’s final minutes and walked out of Athens with the 59-54 victory.
This loss was extremely deflating considering Georgia’s excellent start to SEC play, and it essentially negates UGA’s road win at Missouri.
Now Georgia must hit the road this Saturday and try to steal one back at Auburn – a team that is still searching for its first conference win. While the Tigers are struggling this season, winning away from home is tough no matter who the opponent is in league games.
The Dawgs are 10-9 overall and 4-3 in the conference, and a winning record for the season now appears a lot more difficult to achieve. Without an above-.500 finish, UGA will have a difficult time being selected for any post-season tournaments (namely, the NIT).
Who knows what Georgia’s mindset was entering last night’s contest, but I am thinking that they might have been just as guilty as I was of looking ahead to a 6-2 SEC mark.
When teams go into Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats, they typically like to be at full strength. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Georgia (10-8; 4-2) on Saturday as Coach Mark Fox’s squad played without the services of Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker. Gaines, who was dealing with a deep leg bruise, is one of UGA’s leading scorers at 12 points per game, and the freshman Parker has already started a handful of games this season.
Georgia got down big in the first half after a relentless 13-0 Kentucky run that ran the score up to 25-10 following a Derek Willis layup with 5:46 remaining before intermission. At this point, it appeared that the Cats were on the verge of delivering a knockout blow and putting the game out of reach.
To the Dawgs’ credit however, UGA fought back. Brandon Morris scored 8 of his team-leading 15 points over the next 5-plus minutes, and Georgia went into the break trailing Kentucky 34-22.
While Georgia was unable to reclaim the lead in this game, they did get to within 6 points after a pair of free throws from Charles Mann trimmed the UK advantage to 37-31 with 16:19 left int he game.
Eventually, Kentucky’s talent became too much and the Cats pushed the lead out to 63-39 following a 12-0 run. With only 6 minutes remaining in the contest, Coach Cal’s team would cruise for the remainder of the game, earning the 79-54 victory.
Despite the fact that UK seemingly ran one 7-footer into the game after another, Georgia still battled strongly on the boards, out-rebounding Kentucky by a count of 35-32.
Kentucky’s strategy on Charles Mann – which was basically to have him facing pressure from the moment he received the ball under his own goal – served to wear down the sophomore, who only just 9 points on a 1 of 9 shooting performance from the floor.
Other than Morris, the only UGA player to score in double-digits was Marcus Thornton, who finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds while shooting just 2 of 10 on field goals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I will say this again: if Thornton could ever start finishing consistently around the rim he would score 15+ points a night.
To be fair, it was a tough shooting night for the entire Bulldog team as they connected on less than 33% of their field goals. In addition to the poor shooting, Georgia committed 20 turnovers inside Rupp, a credit to the Cats’ defensive intensity.
Kentucky had four players finish in double-figures in scoring with freshman Aaron Harrison leading the way with 15 points.
The bottom line is that UK’s lineup and bench is full of McDonald’s All-Americans and four-star recruits, and Georgia’s roster doesn’t include either of those. When Kentucky is this talented it is difficult for a team like UGA to hang around for 40 minutes, especially when playing without the services of one of their leading scorers.
The silver lining in all of this is that the Dawgs managed to split conference games again this week, and if they can continue to produce similar results they should end up with a winning SEC record.
Georgia gets Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday – a team that will be coming off of its first conference road win, following a 66-55 victory at Texas A&M.
Neme Djurisic brought a new haircut and a hot hand to Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night when his Georgia Bulldog team took on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Neme shot a perfect 9 for 9 from the floor (including 3 three-pointers), leading all scorers with a career-high 22 points. The junior from Montegro started fast, scoring 9 of UGA’s first 11 points.
Georgia was too much for Carolina on offense on Wednesday, making over 50% of their field goals. From beyond the arc, UGA hit 10 of 17 attempts – a season-high on made three-pointers for this team.
The Dawgs led by double-digits for much of the night, taking a 45-34 advantage into the intermission. Coming out of the half, Georgia went on a 19-8 run which helped bolster their lead to 64-42 following a Djurisic three. From that point, UGA was basically able to coast to the 97-76 victory, pushing their SEC record to 4-1 on the season.
In addition to Neme, UGA had four other players – Marcus Thornton (12), Kenny Gaines (14), Charles Mann (10) and Brandon Morris (11) – finish in double-figures in scoring.
Georgia entered this game with the 5th best rebounding margin in the conference at +5.0 per game. The Dawgs won another rebounding battle on Wednesday night, besting the Gamecocks by a tally of 35-25.
South Carolina was led offensively by Sindarious Thornwell, who topped all scorers with 23 points.
Both teams struggled to move their feet on defense tonight as they racked up a combined 59 fouls, which caused the game to take an extremely long time to wrap up.
Since losing to Florida on January 14th, Georgia has won consecutive basketball games at home to Arkansas and South Carolina.
The schedule gets a bit tougher from here though, starting out with a road trip to Lexington this Saturday where Georgia will take on the Kentucky Wildcats (who are also 4-1 in league games).
The Georgia Bulldogs proved that they can win in the SEC even when their star point guard is having an off day.
Charles Mann struggled mightily on Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks, dealing with foul trouble for most of the afternoon. Mann, who finished with 9 points, shot 2 of 10 from the floor, committed 5 turnovers and didn’t even score a field goal until there was 7:56 remaining in regulation.
The Dawgs stepped up in the absence of their leader and won this game with effort. Georgia was ferocious on the boards, grabbing 56 rebounds – 24 of which came on offense, leading to 22 second-chance points. UGA’s points on the offensive glass were huge in a game when Georgia managed to shoot only 31% from the field.
Things were beginning to look bleak for the Dawgs when the Hogs opened up a 41-34 lead with 15:57 left in the game and Charles Mann on the bench with 3 fouls. Georgia stepped up its defense over the next 12 minutes, holding Arkansas to just 2 field goals and 7 points. UGA reclaimed the lead for the first time in the second half on an athletic finish from Brandon Morris that put Georgia up 49-48 with 3:19 remaining.
Mark Fox’s decision to not bring Charles Mann back into the game at this point confused me, but I especially couldn’t believe that Fox didn’t bring Mann in when UGA had the ball with 52 seconds left in a tie game. Freshman J.J. Frazier held his own – scoring 5 points on an 0 for 6 shooting performance – but give me Charles Mann with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game at the end.
Fortunately, the Dawgs played strong defensively and forced overtime with the score knotted at 52-apiece.
Georgia jumped on the Hogs quickly in overtime, taking a 59-52 lead with 2:22 remaining after an old-fashioned three-point play from Mann.
The Dawgs held on for the 66-61 home win, pushing their conference record to 3-1.
Kenny Gaines led all scorers on Saturday with 15 points, but the player of the game – in my opinion – was junior Marcus Thornton. Thornton produced the first double-double of his collegiate career, scoring 11 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. He consistently kept balls alive on the offensive glass, and if he could ever start finishing better around the rim he might start scoring 15 points every night.
After two weeks of SEC play Georgia is in a three-way tie for second place with a home game against South Carolina on the horizon.