Hoop Dawgs

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An early look at UGA’s 2013-2014 basketball season

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With the start to the 2013-2014 season less than three weeks away, Georgia Bulldog basketball fans are beginning to assess the possibilities and expectations for this year’s team.  This Dawg team is comprised of a slew of sophomores and juniors (nine in all) – most of whom saw significant playing time last year – and one lone senior in Donte Williams.  By today’s college basketball standards, Coach Fox has something of a “veteran” squad on his hands.

The outlooks provided by various media sources have been mixed for UGA: CBS’s Matt Norlander and Doug Gottlieb predict 7th and 8th place conference finishes for the Bulldogs, respectively.  However, the more common estimation of how Georgia will fare in the SEC typically has the Dawgs ending up somewhere between 11th to 13th (thankfully Auburn seems to be a pretty consensus last-place pick).

Nationally, Georgia did secure one vote to be ranked in the first USA Today poll of the season, but as the AJC reported that vote came from none other than Coach Mark Fox, leaving us to wonder if his decision might have been at all biased.

Since the departure of Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price several years ago, UGA has severely lacked any sort of an inside presence.  Heading into this season with the same cast of bigs as last year – Neme Djurisic, Donte Williams, Tim Dixon, John Cannon and Marcus Thornton – it is hard to imagine that much will change in the Dawgs’ ability (or inability, rather) to get consistent post scoring.

One factor that could certainly make points hard to come by in the paint is that UGA does not have any serious shooting threats, so teams may opt to sag off shooters and load down on the blocks.  Remember, this Georgia team struggled mightily on offense last season, finishing 307th in the nation in scoring and 287th in field goal percentage.  In addition, Coach Fox’s team will be looking to improve on these abysmal offensive numbers without the help of last year’s SEC Player of the Year – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – who is now a member of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

While Georgia fans should be excited about sophomore guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – both of whom showed a lot of promise during their freshman campaigns – neither of these guys exactly lit up the nets last season, where the two converted less than 40% of their field goal attempts.  

The Bulldogs will be relying more on Mann’s ability to get to the rim and draw fouls than his outside shot.  However, Fox needs Gaines to be a consistent shooter in the two-guard position, and hopefully for Georgia’s sake Kenny is up for the challenge.

Both of these players benefited from having a superstar on the court with them last year in Pope – someone who drew a lot of attention from opposing defenses.  This season Mann and Gaines may find it more difficult to score the basketball without the aide of KCP, yet Fox still needs them to step up and shoulder significant chunks of the scoring load.

In the words of Athlon Sports writer David Fox: “This could be a key year for Mark Fox.

Interpret however you like.

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Written by hoopdawg

October 19, 2013 at 7:09 am

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Dawgs will be tested away from home next season

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In a few months, Georgia will begin to explore life in the world of college basketball without the services of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was recently selected 8th overall by the Detroit Pistons in this year’s NBA draft. Losing the SEC’s Player of the Year would be a detrimental blow to any team in the league’s roster; however, Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldogs will have to adapt and find additional scoring while navigating through a 2013-2014 schedule that contains a number of difficult games that will be played outside of Athens.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Dawgs will take part in the 2013 Charleston Classic, where they start off with an opening round game against the Davidson Wilcats – a team that reached the second round of last season’s NCAA tournament. Depending on the outcome of that game, UGA will play either Clemson or Temple – schools that both boast a strong basketball pedigree.

Some time in December (the exact date has yet to be determined), Georgia will venture to Boulder, CO to play another team that reached the second round of last year’s Big Dance – the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs return all five starters from last year’s team, earning them a preseason #11 ranking by Sports Illustrated.

In conference play, UGA will face Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky just once each, respectively. Unfortunately for Coach Fox, all three of those contests will be played on the opposing team’s court.

At this point, it’s hard to predict how this upcoming Georgia basketball team will perform without KCP on the court. More than likely, Fox will rely heavily on sophomores Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris to supplement the scoring load that Pope shouldered last season.

One thing is for sure though, this bunch will be tested regularly on the road.

Written by hoopdawg

July 31, 2013 at 9:41 am

Dawgs look to stay hot in Knoxville

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The last time a Georgia Bulldogs (10-11, 4-4) basketball team won four consecutive Southeastern conference games was during the 2002-2003 season, which ended in turmoil for the Dawgs when coach Jim Harrick was forced to resign amid rampant cheating allegations. That season’s team, led by superstar Jarvis Hayes, pulled itself from postseason consideration, a postseason that might have featured a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

On Wednesday night, Coach Mark Fox’s team will be looking to put together a similar SEC win streak when they take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

The Vols (11-9) have gotten out to a slow start in conference play at 3-5, but much of that can be attributed to the challenging schedule that they have played thus far. Much like Georgia, Tennessee was dealt an SEC slate that began rather top-heavy, playing Ole Miss and Alabama twice as well as traveling to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky – UT beat Bama at home, but lost all of the other aforementioned games.

Tennessee has been tough at home this year, winning 3 of 4 league games and notching significant out of conference wins over #14 Wichita State and Xavier.

The Vols are a big, physical group, led by mammoth sophomore Jarnell Stokes, a 6’8″ (270 pound) forward who sets the tone inside for a Tennessee team that is fourth in conference play in rebounding at 36 a game. Stokes, who averages 12.6 points and 9.6 boards in league contests, has already tallied 5 double-doubles in his first 8 games.

On the perimeter, Georgia will have to find a way to contain junior wingman Jordan McRae, who is putting together a phenomenal junior campaign. In conference play, the Midway, Georgia native is scoring a whopping 17.3 points on 43% shooting from the floor. Most likely, McRae will guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and vice versa, which should provide fans with an intriguing match-up on both ends.

While Georgia has struggled to put up points in SEC games, averaging only 58 a night, the Dawgs are improving offensively. Though UGA has attempted a league-low 356 field goals through eight games, the Dawgs are making nearly 44% of those shots, which is fourth-best in the conference. Even more impressive has been Georgia’s outside shooting, where the Bulldogs are connecting on over 37% of their attempts from beyond the arc (3rd in the league).

At the center of Georgia’s offense stands last week’s SEC Player of the Week – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – who has been nothing short of spectacular for Coach Mark Fox thus far. When gazing over the conference-only statistics, it’s hard to find a list that doesn’t have KCP’s name somewhere near the top. Pope is second SEC games in scoring (17.6) and steals (2.3). He is third in the field goal (51%) and free throw (86%) percentage categories, and KCP ranks fifth in three-point (43%) percentage as well. Pope even finds himself among the league leaders in rebounds with 5.5 boards per SEC contest. At the risk of gushing over the young man, I think it is safe to say that he is living up to his preseason First-Team All-SEC billing.

Georgia’s success away from Athens in SEC games this season can be directly attributed to Pope, whose calming presence on both the offensive and defensive ends has given this team the lift it has needed to win on the road.

KCP is providing veteran leadership to a young team, and amazingly, he himself is just a sophomore.

Written by hoopdawg

February 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Georgia and Auburn lock-up in Stegeman on Wednesday night

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The Georgia Bulldogs are part of a five-way tie that exists within the SEC for teams with 2-4 conference records. This week, the Dawgs will have the opportunity to play two of those teams that are residing in the same logjam – Auburn and South Carolina.

Considering that Georgia’s schedule strength is currently ranked 33rd by ESPN’s RPI tool, this week’s games should appear more welcoming for a Dawgs team that has played an intense SEC slate thus far.

The Dawgs and the Tigers are coming off of contrasting Saturday experiences. Georgia snuck up on Texas A & M and walked out of College Station with 59-52 road victory, while Auburn lost a 63-61 heartbreaker at home to #16 Ole Miss (declaimer – Ole Miss shot 4-17 from the free throw line). The loss to the Rebels marked Auburn’s fourth in a row after beginning SEC play with back-to-back wins. The Tigers have a road date with #17 Missouri slated for this Saturday, meaning that Georgia should be ready to deal with an Auburn team that will be playing with a sense of urgency in order to avoid its fifth-straight loss.

Auburn is led by its seniors – point guard Frankie Sullivan and 6’10″ big man Roy Chubb – who are both averaging in double-figures, with Sullivan topping all Tiger scorers at over 15 points per SEC game. Chubb, a native of Peachtree City, is fifth in the league in rebounding at 9 boards a night.

The Tigers have not defended well in conference games, yielding over 72 points per contest, which is fortunate for a UGA team that has trouble putting the ball in the bucket – remember, the Dawgs are dead-last in offense in league games at 56.7 points per night.

Georgia’s scoring problem might have something to do with the fact that the team is only hoisting up just 45 field goal attempts per SEC game, which is worst in the league. The reason for the Dawgs’ low number of attempts: turnovers and a lack of presence on the offensive glass.

While Georgia only coughed the ball up 12 times against the Aggies, they are still averaging over 16 giveaways a night in league games. On top of that carelessness, when the Dawgs do manage to put up a shot, they rarely give themselves a second chance – UGA is snagging a conference-low 8.5 boards per SEC contest.

A win over Auburn would move Georgia into a tie with Tennessee for seventh place in the SEC. It would also move the Dawgs’ records – both overall and conference – one step closer to .500.

After a strong showing last Saturday against the Aggies, I am anxious to see how this UGA team handles a little bit of success.

Written by hoopdawg

January 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Georgia drops second SEC game in a row, falling 72-61 to Missy State

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On an afternoon which the University of Georgia honored members from the school’s 1983 Final Four basketball team, the current Bulldogs put on a performance that fans are probably trying their best to forget.

After an exciting first half that saw Mississippi State take a narrow 36-35 lead into the break, both offenses came out flat to start the final twenty minutes. With 7:38 remaining in the game, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a free throw that cut the State advantage to just one point at 52-51.

It was at this exact moment that MSU guard Jalen Steele decided that he wanted to win the game, making three shots from beyond the arc on consecutive possessions. Steele’s last three-pointer during this span put his team up 62-51 with only 5 minutes left, ensuring that the Maroon Dawgs would secure the road win and start out the SEC season 2-0.

KCP, who looked as if he was going to have a monster game after scoring 14 points in the first half, was unable to convert on any of his 6 field goal attempts after the intermission – a sure recipe for disaster considering he is UGA’s only real scoring threat. Pope made a pair of free throws, finishing the game with a team-high 16 points.

The Dawgs put up a herculean effort on the glass, winning the rebounding margin by a count of 44-37. What was particularly impressive was Georgia’s success on the offensive boards, where they brought down 17 rebounds.

Once again, however, it was the team’s shooting that ultimately led to their demise. UGA shot under 33% from the floor and just 59% from the free throw line on 32 attempts. In his post-game interview, Coach Mark Fox seemed unable to explain his team’s inability to perform from the charity stripe in games other than the players need to take more responsibility.

I wish that Fox has spoken more about his substitution strategy after the game, because I left Stegeman perplexed as to why starter Brandon Morris only played two minutes in the game’s second half. Morris, who ended up logging just 11 minutes in this one, scored 4 points before the break on two nice moves that he made off the dribble, and he appeared to be raising Georgia’s energy level. Yet, Fox chose to leave him on the bench for 90% of the second half.

The Dawgs 0-2 start to conference play is troubling because today’s game was considered by most to be one of their easier home games. On Wednesday, Georgia heads to #10 Missouri for a game that could get rather ugly in a hurry (a la last week’s Florida game).

Written by hoopdawg

January 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Georgia takes on Iona in Athens on Saturday

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The Georgia Bulldogs (2-6) return to action on Saturday after nearly a two-week layoff from the hard courts to take on the Iona Gaels (3-4) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Georgia’s lackluster start to the 2012-2013 season earned them the esteemed position of “bottom rung” in the latest SEC Conference Power Rankings by ESPN. Considering this team’s first month of basketball I’d say that this week’s ranking was well-deserved, since the Dawgs’ only victories thus far have come over Jacksonville and East Tennessee State (both of whom possess losing records).

Despite the rather big hole that Georgia has dug themselves into, this holiday schedule does provide UGA with an opportunity to right the ship before they open up SEC play at #5 Florida on January 9th (eeek!). If Georgia were able to notch victories in their next five games – all of which are at home – the Dawgs could take a winning record into the conference schedule.

Though Iona is rolling into Athens with a 3-4 record, Georgia need be concerned about the Gaels because of their ability to score the basketball, something UGA has not shown a prowess for yet this season. Iona is netting nearly 79 points per game, and they have eclipsed the 90-point mark twice already this season. Georgia, conversely, has yet to crack 70 points in a game this year.

The Gaels run with a four-guard offense and they will look to push the basketball at every opportunity. Iona gets over 50% of its scoring from senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones and junior Sean Armand, who contribute 21.7 ppg and 19.9 ppg, respectively, ranking them 7th and 29th in the nation in points per game. Jones creates his points off the dribble, while Armand is a lights-out shooter, knocking down a robust 48% of his attempts from the three-point line.

If Georgia sleepwalks into the start of this game, as they have done in previous contests this season, they could find themselves trailing the Gaels by a wide margin. The Gaels buried Wake Forest 94-68 on November 17th, and they just lost an 81-73 heart-breaker to Rutgers last Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Iona should be unfazed by the confines of Stegeman Coliseum, and this team is highly capable of extending Georgia’s losing streak to three games.

As far as the Dawgs are concerned, I’d really just like to see something different, either offensively or defensively (or both). Before the Georgia Tech game, I highlighted the fact that UGA might benefit from playing a bit more up-tempo, considering the ineffectiveness of their halfcourt game. Hopefully this layover has given Coach Mark Fox some time to implement some press looks that could serve to move the ball up and down the court quicker. With athletes like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris, I see no reason why Georgia cannot attempt to play with a little more urgency.

Before this season began, Coach Fox expressed his excitement about working with and coaching this group of Bulldogs. Now, it’s time for his team to show us why.

Written by hoopdawg

December 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Dawgs drop second in a row, fall 62-54 to Georgia Tech

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Trailing 55-50 with only 1:48 remaining in the game, the Georgia Bulldogs came out of a timeout with 18 seconds on the shot clock and an opportunity to cut the Tech lead to just one possession.

However, the Dawgs were unable to seize the moment.  Instead, Vincent Williams put up a prayer with only 1 second left on the shot clock that was quickly batted out of play by the Yellow Jacket defender.  Georgia’s Neme Djurisic couldn’t get a shot up quickly enough on the inbounds play, resulting in a UGA turnover.

On the ensuing possession, Georgia Tech senior point guard Mfon Udofia slashed to the basket and scored the bucket while drawing the foul.  After completing the three-point play the old-fashioned way, Udofia’s Jackets held a 58-50 advantage with only 58 ticks left on the clock. 

Udofia and Marcus Georges-Hunt carried the Jackets on Tuesday night, scoring 12 and 18 points, respectively.

Georgia Tech came into the game connecting on under 25% of their three-point attempts this season, yet the rim must have looked awfully big against the Georgia defense as the Jackets made a season-high 9 three-pointers on 21 shots from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs failed to contest a number of Tech’s perimeter attempts, which probably led to the Jackets’ much-improved shooting performance.

In Georgia’s case it was pretty much business as usual for the Dawgs, hitting less than 32% from the floor and going 2 of 17 from the three-point line.  Coach Mark Fox’s team was held under 60 points for the 6th time this season (in 8 games), and they have yet to crack the 70-point barrier.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led all UGA scorers with 16 points, but it took a 5 for 18 performance from the floor for him to reach that tally.  In KCP’s defense, Georgia Tech obviously learned from the example set by South Florida last Friday as they shadowed help on Georgia’s star player anytime he had the ball.  KCP’s effort in this game was relentless, finishing with a game-high 13 rebounds.

The lone bright spot offensively for the Dawgs had to come from the play by freshman Brandon Morris, who turned in 9 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes of action.  If Morris continues to improve he could begin to start pushing Neme for his starting position.

Djurisic turned in another dismal performance, going 1 of 8 from the floor to give him 4 points and 6 boards.  Neme’s inability to score from either inside or out is beginning to make him a liability, and it is time for Fox to start looking to John Cannon and/or Brandon Morris as potential replacements for Djurisic in the starting five.

The 62-54 loss to the Jackets drops the Dawgs to 2-6 on the year, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that this is going to be a long season.  Georgia cannot shoot the basketball, and they can’t sign any free agents to help in this facet of the game. 

As long as Donte Williams continues to turn in mediocre efforts UGA will remain a team with little firepower in the paint.

 

 

Written by hoopdawg

December 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Georgia’s nonexistent frontcourt

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Georgia is now nearly a quarter of the way through its 2012-2013 schedule, losing 5 of their first 7 games.  Heading into this season, UGA needed at least one or two of its bigs from a year ago to show significant gains so that they could become offensive factors on this year’s team.

So far, the frontcourt has been virtually factor-less.

After last night’s loss at South Florida, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had sat through another UGA basketball game in which two things were completely missing from Georgia’s offense – free throws and short- to mid-range baskets.

The number of made two-point field goals and free throw attempts are both very telling statistics that can be used to gauge the effectiveness of a team’s inside game.

As of this morning, Georgia is scoring just under 27 points per game on two-point baskets, ranking them 321st out of 347 NCAA Division-I teams in that category.  The Dawgs are barely attempting 16 free throws per contest, tying them with North Dakota State for 295th in the land.

This atrocious production by the UGA big men is either due to some serious overall underachieving, or more simply, that they are devoid of legitimate talent (I tend to lean towards the latter).

By now, most of the premiere high school bigs have already committed to top-notch programs.  The only offer that Fox currently has on the table is to blue-chip center-type is to 6’10″ five-star center Dakari Johnson, a native of Montverde, Florida.  However, Mr. Johnson is also entertaining offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, Georgetown and Florida, so something tells me that the Dawgs are not really in the running.

Some of UGA’s recent inside players, like Jeremy Price, Albert Jackson and Dave Bliss, were merely role players on their respective teams.  However, I would gladly take any of those three bigs right now and make them the featured forward on this year’s team.

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December 1, 2012 at 8:37 am

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Southern Miss edges out Georgia 62-60 in overtime

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A major question coming into the 2012-2013 season for this Georgia Bulldog (1-2) basketball team centered on how much improvement the Dawgs would see in their big men after a season and off-season under the tutelage of Coach Mark Fox.

The answer:  Not much.

After being pushed around and out-rebounded in their first two games, the Georgia bigs once again lost the rebounding advantage (36-27) – this time to a much smaller opponent.

Coach Fox tried to open the game in a man defense, but Marcus Thornton, Neme Djurisic, Tim Dixon, etc. were unable to contain on the outside, allowing the quicker Southern Miss players to slash to the basket for easy baskets.  The Golden Eagles opened up a 15-3 lead with 12:07 left before the break after a lay-up by Neil Watson.

For the remainder of the game, Fox sat his team in a zone, which permitted Southern Miss’s left-handed shooter Jerrold Brooks to connect on 5 of his 10 three-point attempts en route to a team-high 17 points.  It wasn’t just Brooks who feasted on the zone however, as the Golden Eagles scored 30 points in the paint on Thursday night to the Bulldogs’ 12.  Even this morning, I am still unable to shake the haunting images of the Southern Miss posts sliding around the heavy-footed UGA bigs for bucket after bucket.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has been the lone bright spot on this otherwise dimly lit team, had an off night, hitting only 5 of his 21 shots from the floor.  With the supporting cast that KCP has around him this year, he cannot have off nights.

Despite Pope’s poor offense, he did manage to contribute in other ways for his team with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.

In his post-game comments, Fox harped on his team’s poor free throw shooting, citing that the Dawgs made only 11 of 21 attempts from the stripe.  Making barely over half of your free throws won’t win you many games, and in last night’s case, these misses may have been the difference in a win or a loss.

Georgia’s shooting as a team was slightly improved from Monday night’s 32% performance, but still sub-par overall at just 38.5% against Southern Miss.

If I were to offer a quick analysis of this year’s UGA team through three games I would say that they do not shoot very well, they are soft on defense and the boards, and they only have one player that can score.  I am sorry that I cannot offer more positivity, but up to this point this team has not given me much to work with.

The scariest prospect to start concerning yourself with right now as a Georgia basketball fan is not the impending match-up with #1 Indiana (though that deserves merit).

Right now, I’m envisioning what this team will look like next year without KCP, who I am thinking may not choose to return to endure another season with this group with the allure of the NBA as another option.

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November 16, 2012 at 6:44 am

Youngstown State deals Georgia its first loss of the season

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The Georgia Bulldogs (1-1) were spanked 68-56 on their home floor by Youngstown State on Monday night, leaving me wondering if it might not be better if the loser did not automatically advance in the Legends Classic to play the #1 Indiana Hoosiers on November 19th in Brooklyn, New York?

After a sloppy first game against Jacksonville last Friday, the Bulldogs followed up that performance with more of the same on Monday, committing 15 turnovers as well as losing the rebounding battle 41-31.  In addition to these shortcomings, Georgia added atrocious shooting to their repertoire against the Penguins, hitting under 33% from the floor as a team inside Stegeman.  In fact, the Dawgs made just 3 of 24 first-half field goal attempts, resulting in the Penguins taking a 24-15 lead into the break.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored a career-high 27 points, was the only Bulldog to make a field goal prior to the intermission; Sherrard Brantley became the second Georgia player to connect from the floor with 18:35 left in the game.

This game seemed ominous for UGA from the start, with the Dawgs quickly trailing 8-0 after the game was only 4 minutes old.

Coach Mark Fox’s backcourt was unable to corral preseason All-Horizon League player Kendrick Perry, who finished the game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.  Perry dominated his counterparts – Vincent Williams and Charles Mann – who combined for 1 point (on 0 for 8 shooting), 1 assist and 5 turnovers (all Mann’s).

On the block, Atlanta native Kamren Belin (Walton High School) poured in 17 points for the Penguins to go along with 6 boards.  According to ESPN.com, Belin’s only legitimate scholarship offer a few years ago came from Youngstown State.

Other than KCP, the only other Georgia player’s performance worth mentioning was that of sophomore Tim Dixon, who scored 8 points and nabbed 4 rebounds in a productive 19 minutes.

Even though we are just two games into this season, I am already concerned about the lack of observable progress that has been made by UGA’s post players from last year to this one.  Donte Williams remained sidelined again for disciplinary issues, and his presence on the court has been sorely missed.  However, Donte cannot fulfill this team’s inside needs by himself (especially since he tends to get into foul trouble regularly), and Coach Fox hopefully has another big that can step up and make an impact or this season could become PAINFULLY long.

Georgia’s poor shooting, turnovers and lackadaisical rebounding against Jacksonville and Youngstown State have me concerned as to how exactly this UGA team plans to navigate through an SEC schedule.

Written by hoopdawg

November 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm

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