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Dawgs @ ‘Dores

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The Dawgs' look to flex their road muscles for the Commodore faithful

The Georgia Bulldogs roll into Nashville on Thursday to take on the 16th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores.

Surprisingly, it’s the ‘Dores that will be the team looking for revenge.

The Dawgs handed the Commodores their second SEC loss back on February 6th in Athens.  In the 72-58 victory, Georgia’s bench out-scored Vanderbilt’s 17-5, and Vandy starters A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor were held to a combined 14 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the field.

Too bad Coach Kevin Stalling’s doesn’t want to play the rematch at Stegeman Coliseum as well.

Georgia is now winless in nine true road games this year, and getting the first one in Nashville is going to be difficult.  Vanderbilt is 13-1 this season playing at home in Memorial Gymnasium, with their one loss coming at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday.

Last season, the Dawgs lost to the Commodores in Nashville 50-40 (Georgia only had 18 points going into the half).

Actually, Georgia hasn’t won at Memorial Gym since February of 2006.  The Dawgs have won only two times in their last 10 games in Nashville.  There’s something about that raised floor that just doesn’t sit right with the Bulldogs.

The fact that Georgia was able to hold the ‘Dores to only 58 points in the first meeting is a testament to how well the Dawgs can play defense.  Vandy is second in the conference scoring, averaging 77.2 per game.  They are also second in the conference in both team field goal (46%) and three-point percentage (34.8%).

The Vanderbilt offensive attack starts with senior point guard Jermaine Beal.  Beal is averaging 16.3 points in SEC play this season, and he shoots a robust 45.5% from the field and 41.1% from beyond the arc in nearly 35 minutes of play.

He is a very difficult match-up for opposing team’s because he can create his own shot off the dribble, and he is deadly from three-point range.  He scored 21 points in the first game against Georgia, knocking down 4 three-balls.

Swedish native Jeffrey Taylor has been enjoying a very successful sophomore campaign.  The 6’7″ Taylor is averaging 14.4 points in conference games, and lately he has been the leader inside.  Over his past four games, he is scoring 19.3 points and snagging 5.5 rebounds.

Vandy’s other big threat on the inside is 6’11” junior center A.J. Ogilvy.  In SEC games, Ogilvy is netting 15.1 points and bringing down 6.6 rebounds.  The Dawgs (namely Albert Jackson) held A.J. in check last game, so I look for him to come out and play with a strong sense of purpose on Thursday.

The rest of the starting five is rounded out by a pair of sophomores – guard Brad Tinsley and 6’7″ forward Andre Walker.  Tinsley has struggled with his shooting this year (only 28.6% from three-point range), but he is still averaging 8.3 points and 3.2 assists per contest.  Walker isn’t much of a scorer, but in SEC games he is grabbing 6.4 boards a night.

Freshman reserve sharp-shooter John Jenkins is scoring 8.9 points a game in the SEC, and hitting nearly 44% of his three’s on the season.  Jenkins is (in my opinion) somewhat of an “X factor” for this team.  When he comes off the bench in SEC games and gets 10 points or more, Vandy is 5-1.  However, when Jenkins is held under 10 points the ‘Dores are only 2-2 (against the Dawgs earlier this month he scored merely 1 point on 0 for 9 shooting).  His scoring off the bench can be critical in giving Vandy the offensive punch they need to power past teams.

Some things to look for:

The Tale of Two Halves:

In the Dawgs’ six SEC road games this year, Mark Fox’s team has gone into the halftime break with the lead in four of them.  “Losing the halftime lead” has sort of been one of the mantra’s of this team.  These second-half collapses can largely be attributed to defensive lapses and costly turnovers in the game’s final four minutes.

In the first meeting between these teams, Georgia went into the half down 26-23 to Vanderbilt.  The Dawgs then came out in the second half and blew the ‘Dores out.

How will the Dawgs start out and finish in Thursday night’s game?

40 Minutes

Coach Fox has been preaching lately how much his staff is stressing to the team the importance of playing defense for 40 minutes.  He has repeatedly mentioned time and time again how poor second half defense has “crushed” (his words not mine) the Dawgs on numerous occasions.

The good news is that Vandy is not exactly lighting up the nets lately (please don’t let this be the jinx that gets them going again).  In the ‘Dores last two games, they have made only 6 of 33 attempts from beyond the arc.

It will be difficult for Vandy’s perimeter shooters to get comfortable from the outside if the Dawgs can consistently contest shots.

Can Georgia commit to this for 40 minutes?

Georgia’s “X Factor”?

Earlier I mentioned freshman John Jenkins’ bench scoring, and how it has made an impact on Vanderbilt’s success.

In the first meeting, reserve Vincent Williams scored 7 points and dished out 4 assists (arguably the freshman’s best game of the season).  Jeremy Price came off the bench to contribute 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Who steps up for Coach Fox and gives him big minutes on Thursday?  Chris Barnes (coming off his best game), EA, Williams, Price, Ajax?

The game tips off at 7:00PM EST and will be televised on ESPNU.

Is anyone making the trip?

Does anyone have any answers to the questions I raised above?

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Written by hoopdawg

February 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

Up Next: Vanderbilt

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The #18 Vanderbilt Commodores (17-4) come into Athens sporting the reciprocal of Georgia’s 1-6 SEC record (their only loss was at Kentucky).

Vandy has played well on the road this year, winning 5 out of 7 games away from their home court in Nashville, TN.

They are second in the SEC in scoring at 80.4 a game, and they lead the conference in both FG% (50.1%) and 3PT% (42.4%).  Their offense is…efficient.

The ‘Dores attack teams with a well-oiled inside/out game.  Senior point guard Jermaine Beal is a very tough match-up because he can create off the dribble and shoot it well from the outside.  Beal is leading Vandy in scoring, pouring in 14.1 a night and burying 37.1% of his 3PT attempts.

Sophomore shooting guard Brad Tinsley is a nice complement to Beal, giving him someone to kick it to on penetration.  Tinsley averages 7.3 points a game, and though he is only hitting 31.3% of his three’s this year you must be aware of where he in on the court because he is a career 38% shooter from beyond the arc.

The key to Vandy’s inside/out game is junior center A.J. Ogilvy, who at 6’11” and 250lbs can create some mismatches down low.  Ogilvy is averaging 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds, and he is the glue that holds it all together.  If Ogilvy is able to establish himself and score in the paint, Vandy wins…it’s that simple.  In their 4 losses this year, A.J. was held to 13, 8, 8 and 12, respectively.  Once he gets going, it frees up everybody else on the perimeter and wing positions.

The rest of Vandy’s scoring comes from forwards Jeffrey Taylor,  Andre Walker and guard John Jenkins.  Taylor is a native of Sweden, and like the Swedes, he prefers to take it to the rim.  He is a good athlete that is giving the ‘Dores 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.

Andre Walker rounds out the starting five, and he is a versatile player that can line up at both forward positions.  He handles the ball well, making Vandy difficult to pressure on the perimeter.  Walker is chipping in 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

Off the bench, the main guy to know on this team is freshman John Jenkins.  Jenkins is the most highly decorated recruit to ever sign at Vandy.  Jenkins can flat-out shoot it – hitting 49% of his three-point attempts and averaging 10.8 points (he averaged 42.3 points a game his senior year of high school!).  He will definitely be one of the premier players in the SEC in the years to come.

Keys to the Game

There are two sides to every story

If the Georgia Bulldogs could have somehow convinced their first 7 SEC opponents into playing only one half, they would be 6-1 in the conference.  Unfortunately for the Dawgs, they do not play in a  bizzarro-world SEC, and they did have to go out and play those second halves…how unfortunate, indeed.  Georgia is out-scoring SEC teams in the first half 38.4 to 33.7.  In the second half, the Dawgs are getting outscored by an average of 34.0 to 41.7.

I don’t know if this is because of a lack of depth, focus, experience or all the above.  Whatever it is, it has to stop.  Georgia is nearly half-way through their SEC schedule, meaning that freshman are now considered sophomores and sophomores are viewed as upperclassmen.  Ajax, McPhee, Thompkins, Ware, Leslie, Price, Barnes, etc…some of these guys need to step up and make it clear to everyone on the team that the game doesn’t end at the break.  When the opponent comes out of the half and cranks up their defensive intensity, the Dawgs need to match that intensity on both sides of the ball.

Play Loose, Play Loose, Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes

I don’t even like that movie (Footloose), but I couldn’t think  of any other good puns.  The point is that Georgia is 1-6 in the conference and has lost a handful of close games.  They can’t dwell on it though…Vanderbilt is the team with the national ranking and 6-1 SEC record.  They are coming into Athens with a bullseye on their back, and the pressure that comes from the fear of losing to the “worst” team in the league.  Hopefully Coach Fox has the guys nice and loose and ready to have some fun on Saturday night.

Side notes

Since I started talking about the Dawgs’ impressive rebounding margin (which is still +4.4 and second in the conference), they have lost three straight games and got out-rebounded in two of them.  So this is me “not mentioning” that I think that Georgia could have a rebounding advantage over Vandy.  You did not hear it from me.

The game tips-off at 8:00PM, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Network if you can’t make the trip up to Athens, GA.

How is everyone feeling about this game?  Hopefully interest has not dropped too much in the midst of this three-game losing streak…The Dawgs have finished with a winning record only once in the past five years, so this isn’t anything new to a Georgia Bulldogs basketball fan…

Written by hoopdawg

February 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm

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