Hoop Dawgs

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Frazier’s 37 points lead Georgia to its 4th SEC victory

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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.

Written by hoopdawg

January 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Dawgs beat Gators for second SEC win

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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.

Written by hoopdawg

January 17, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Dawgs rout the Mocks in Chattanooga

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Coach Mark Fox benched Charles Mann to start the game on Tuesday night in Chattanooga in an attempt to send a message to his junior point guard that his play against Minnesota – a game in which Mann had more turnovers (4) than points (0) – was unacceptable.

Message received.

Mann, who did not stay off the floor for long, scored 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and most importantly, just 2 turnovers.

And Mann didn’t even turn in the best performance of the night.

Offensively, Georgia was led by Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton, who scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, in UGA’s 86-55 drubbing of the Chattanooga Mocks, marking the Dawgs’ first road win of the season.  For Gaines, tonight’s effort was a season high; Thornton’s 24 points eclipsed his personal best of 17 set earlier in the year.

Don’t look now, but Marcus Thornton is currently leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 14.7 points per game.

Georgia was incredibly efficient on offense in this contest, scoring 86 points – another season high – on a barrage of three-pointers and lay-ups.  Coming into this game, UGA ranked 328th in the nation in three-point shooting, making less than 26% of its attempts from the perimeter.  However, tonight the Dawgs hit 7 of their 11 shots from beyond the arc, with 5 of them coming from the hot hands of Kenny Gaines.

This game was tied at 10-apiece early in the first half, following a three from the Mocks’ Greg Pryor.

But Georgia responded immediately, going on a 10-0 run that gave UGA a 20-10 advantage after a lay-in by Neme Djurisic with 11:22 remaining in the half.  From that point on, the Dawgs managed to keep Chattanooga at bay for the rest of the first half, taking a 39-32 lead into the break.

After the intermission, though, the Bulldogs totally took over the game.

The Mocks cut the UGA advantage to 44-35 following a three from Duke Ethridge, but then Georgia proceeded to go on a 13-2 run that saw the Dawgs bolster their lead to 57-37 with 12:36 left.  For the rest of the night, UGA coasted, walking out of Chattanooga with the victory and snapping a two-game losing streak.

While the offense certainly stole the show this evening, Georgia’s defense was not too shabby either.  The Dawgs limited the Mocks to just 31% from the floor, and only one UTC player finished the game in double-figures.  Coach Fox used a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses that kept Chattanooga off-balance for much of the night.

The Dawgs badly needed this win as the schedule is about to ramp up a bit before the start of conference play in January.  This Sunday, Georgia welcomes a tough Colorado (4-1) team into Stegeman for an early 12PM tipoff.

Then the Dawgs have games against Seton Hall (currently undefeated), Mercer and at Kansas State.

While the Mocks are expected to finish the season in the top half of the SoCon, Mark Fox’s team desperately needs some wins against teams from power conferences.  Georgia has looked good in its wins over Stony Brook, Troy, Florida Atlantic and Chattanooga; however, the Dawgs have appeared overmatched in their losses to Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Minnesota.

Georgia should certainly enjoy tonight’s win on the bus ride back to Athens, but the Dawgs should feel as though they have something to prove in their game against the Buffaloes on Sunday.

Written by hoopdawg

December 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Posted in ncaa basketball

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In battle of Bulldogs, the ones from Spokane win 88-76

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Mark Fox has got to be wishing that Kyle Wiltjer was still living in Lexiington, Kentucky right now.

The junior from Portland overwhelmed the Georgia defense on Wednesday night, scoring 32 points from just about every spot on the court.

The Zags pounced on UGA from the start, opening up a 12-2 lead before 4 minutes had elapsed, following a three-pointer from Kevin Pangos.  To Georgia’s credit, though, they weathered the storm, bringing the Gonzaga advantage to 16-8 after a Charles Mann jumper with 13:38 remaining in the half.

However, the Dawgs failed to ever make it a one or two possession game.  Gonzaga would build a double-digit lead, and then UGA would make a small run, getting with 7, 8 or 9 points, only to have the Zags back up by 12 or 14 just minutes later.

Honestly, Gonzaga never really appeared threatened by Georgia.   Every time the Dawgs started to get close, Wiltjer or Pangos, who finished with 22 points, would knock down a timely bucket to keep UGA at bay.

Georgia’s last push came with 7:35 left in the game, when a layup by Neme Djurisic made it 65-57, in favor of Gonzaga.  But, 4 quick points by Wiltjer, and a minute later the Zags were back up by 12 points.  Ultimately, Gonzaga ended up coasting to an 88-76 victory.

The lone bright spot for the Dawgs was point guard Charles Mann, who played his best game of the season, scoring 23 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.  Mann was the only UGA player that was able to create any offense against this bigger Gonzaga team.

This game exposed some glaring weaknesses in Georgia’s perimeter defense, which was unable to contain the Gonzaga backcourt.  All night, the Dawgs looked a step slow, allowing the Zag guards to drive the ball into the lane whenever they wanted.

Offensively, Georgia had its issues as well.  One thing that was quite clear from last night’s performance was that UGA does not have an inside game, or at least not when they play against real teams.  Marcus Thornton, who was coming off back-to-back 17-point efforts, was flustered by the bigger Gonzaga front court.  Thornton spent the entire game in foul trouble, scoring just 9 points and committing 4 turnovers; he had to be missing the smaller, less physical frontcourts of both Troy and Florida Atlantic.

Another chink in UGA’s offensive armor was on the perimeter, where the Dawgs continued to struggle from beyond the arc. After going 4 for 16 on three-pointers last night, Georgia is now shooting a frigid 26% on three’s this season.  Kenny Gaines, who is hitting only 26% himself, has yet to find his touch from a year ago.  Other than J.J. Frazier, who is knocking down almost 37% from beyond the arc, no one else on the UGA roster poses much of a threat from the outside.

Whether Coach Mark Fox can clean up some of his team’s faults remains to be seen.  None of his big men are going to grow any taller over the next few months, so it’s hard to envision much improvement in the frontcourt offense.

Kenny Gaines can and most likely will begin shooting better, which will certainly help.

But can anyone honestly say that after watching last night’s contest that this UGA squad looks like an NCAA tournament team?

Written by hoopdawg

November 27, 2014 at 8:02 am

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Georgia gets first victory of the 2014-2015 season

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Calling Georgia’s offense balanced on Tuesday night would be an understatement, considering that Mark Fox got double-digit scoring from five players against the Stoney Brook Seawolves in the opening game of the preseason NIT.  Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines, Yante Maten, Neme Djurisic and Marcus Thornton all eclipsed the ten-point threshold, with Mann leading the way with a team-high 15 points.  The Dawgs appeared to be in more of rhythm offensively, knocking down nearly 46% of their shots from the floor en route to an 80-70 win.

The Seawolves came out of the gates firing, though, building up a 16-8 lead in the game’s first four minutes ,with most of the damage being done by junior guard Carson Puriefoy.  During the aforementioned stretch, Puriefoy scored 9 points, and he finished the half with 21.

Despite Puriefoy’s performance, Georgia managed to carry a 48-41 advantage into the intermission.  But once Georgia was able to contain Puriefoy, the Dawgs began to open up more of a lead down the stretch.  UGA held the game’s leading scorer to zero field goals after the break, and even though Puriefoy finished with 26 points, he was pretty much shut down in the second half.

After corralling Puriefoy, UGA pushed its lead beyond 20 points a couple of times; but, some late threes from Stoney Brook in mop-up time enabled the Seawolves to trim the score to just ten.

Yante Maten, who scored 11 points, made several nice drop-step post moves on the block.

Kenny Gaines did not start in this one, but he looks as though he is starting to regain his form, contributing 13 points, which included a pair of three-pointers; he also had an explosive dunk off of a fast break, showing that his legs seem to have recovered from his recent bout with mononucleosis.

The most improved player from a year ago, though, may be sophomore J.J. Frazier, who has developed an ability to penetrate and use excellent body control to finish around the rim (or at least get fouled).  Frazier peppered the stat sheet tonight with 8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, and most importantly, no turnovers.

Overall, Georgia’s play was much improved this evening against an opponent picked by most to win the American East Conference in the preseason.  Now that Georgia is off their radar, hopefully the Seawolves can string together a 20+ win season and secure the AEC title.

Not that I am insinuating that this was a resume-building win.

Written by hoopdawg

November 18, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Dawgs to start season short-handed

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After a 20-win season and a third-place finish in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs were supposed to be entering the 2014-2015 season with realistic NCAA tournament expectations, building off of an impressive 2013-2014 campaign.

Instead, the Dawgs could be kicking off the year down two starters from last season’s squad.  Granted, Mark Fox and his fan base have had several months to sulk about, deal with and get over the loss of Brandon Morris, the team’s third-leading scorer and arguably its best defender from a year ago.

But, today’s statement from CMF insinuating that Kenny Gaines may not be ready to suit up next Friday might be too much for the Bulldog Basketball Nation to bear.  During a press conference today, Fox told the AJC that Gaines would definitely not play in tomorrow’s exhibition, and that he was “pessimistic” about the junior’s chances of suiting up in Atlanta in the season-opener at Georgia Tech:

“Kenny has been ill,” Fox said Wednesday. “He will not play Thursday. He has not practiced. And really no timetable for a return. We know he’ll return at some point this season. He’s been very sick. He is getting better but he’ll not play tomorrow night.”

Fox’s vague description of Gaines’s condition will leave UGA fans speculating as to what the young man might be ailing from.  Regardless, the Dawgs’ backcourt will need to reshuffle and regroup quickly, and sophomores J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker must find a way to make up for Gaines’s scoring.

Tomorrow night’s exhibition will give eager fans a small glimpse of some of what is to come from this year’s team, but for the players the game should serve as nothing more than a mild tune-up.  In eight days the Dawgs will be playing in a hostile environment against a Georgia Tech team that I believe will finish the season much better than the media expects.  CBS pegged the Jackets as the 13th best team out of the 15-team ACC, but with the addition of four transfers to go along with Marcus Georges-Hunt, I think that Tech could be a tough out.

Last year the Bulldogs’ NCAA hopes were plagued by early season out-of-conference losses, including one at home to Georgia Tech.  This year, Georgia was hoping to return the favor to the Jackets, but now they might have to do it without their best perimeter player.

Written by hoopdawg

November 5, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Dawgs hoping to build on 2013-2014 season’s successes

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With the start to the 2014-2015 college basketball season a little less than three weeks away, Georgia is currently being projected to finish 5th in the Southeastern Conference by most major media networks.  For a team that ended up 3rd in the SEC a year ago with a 12-6 league record, this prediction seems about right considering UGA lost a starter and major contributor in Brandon Morris this past offseason (Morris was dismissed for arrest involving marijuana possession).  Losing Morris, who was the team’s third-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game, is definitely a tough blow to Mark Fox’s roster.

However, CMF does have one of the better backcourts in the conference at his disposal in juniors Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines, who averaged 13.9 and 13.0 points a night, respectively.  Georgia will rely heavily on these two for offense this year, and second-team preseason All-SEC point guard Charles Mann should be more than ready to deliver.  Having a veteran point guard has typically been a good omen for prospective at-large NCAA tournament teams, and in Charles Mann, UGA has a player who can create his own scoring opportunities just about any time the ball is in his hands.  Last year, Mann shot 278 free throws, which placed him 10th in the nation in that category.

Once again, though, Georgia’s biggest question mark will be in the paint, where they return seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic.  While both of these guys have made nice strides in their respective offensive games over the past few seasons, neither of them possesses the ability to receive the ball on the block – back to the basket – and score consistently.  The buzz from preseason practices thus far is that freshman Yante Maten, who was last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year in Michigan, might be ready to provide those aforementioned post skills.  Maten has a big frame at 6’8″ and 245 pounds, and at the SEC media days Fox suggested that the frosh would most likely be playing significant minutes this season for the Dawgs.

Ironically, the starting positions where UGA is the most skilled – guard – might also be where they have the most depth.  Sophomores J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker should give Coach Fox quality minutes off the bench this year to spell Mann and Gaines.  Frazier, who is rumored to have grown two inches in the offseason, came on particularly strong towards the end of last year, scoring in double-figures three times in the final ten games and finishing the season making almost 33% of his three-point attempts.

A trip to the NCAA tournament seems like a must for UGA this year if the Dawgs want to consider this season a step in the right direction.  For that to happen though, Georgia needs to play as well before January as they do after it.  Even though UGA won 20 games last year and nearly ended up 2nd in the conference, they weren’t even really in the NCAA Bubble discussion in March.  Some of that could have to do with an SEC bias that exists in college basketball today, which may be based on the merits of the league’s teams, or simply the fact that people are tired of the SEC’s successes on the football field by the time basketball rolls around.  The league placed three teams in the Big Dance last year and all three reached the Sweet Sixteen; Florida and Kentucky went on to the Final Four.  However, most analysts declared the SEC “top-heavy”, reluctant to give credit to the conference’s other 11 teams.

The bottom line, though, is that the negative perceptions across the college basketball landscape regarding the quality of basketball being played in the SEC is not going to change any time soon.  For Georgia to enter into that Bubble conversation, they cannot afford bad losses like they endured last year to the likes of Georgia Tech, Davidson and Temple.  This season, UGA takes on Tech, Gonzaga, Colorado, Seton Hall and Kansas State before entering conference play.  In my opinion, the Dawgs need to win three of those games if they hope to be taken seriously in late February.

Even though Mark Fox’s squad has to play Kentucky twice this year (potentially three times if they were to meet in the conference tournament), I expect them to post another winning record in SEC play based upon the fact that they return four starters in an expanded league that no longer has UGA playing the likes of Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky twice in a season.

I have no idea what to anticipate on November 14th, though, when the Dawgs take on in-state rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta.  Will the same sluggish bunch that began the year last season come to play?  Or, will it be the tough, hard-nosed team that won 8 of their final regular season games a year ago?

Written by hoopdawg

October 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Posted in ncaa basketball, sec

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