Posts Tagged ‘Bulldogs’
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?
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.
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.
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?
The AJC’s Michael Carvell reported late last night that Coach Mark Fox picked up a pair of commitments – a 3-star and an unranked prospect – that will make up Georgia’s 2014 freshmen class.
The 3-star recruit – Yante Maten – stands at 6’8″ and weighs 230 pounds. Maten, a Bloomfield, Michigan native, apparently received offers from both Michigan State and Indiana, but he was upset that both of those schools offered him late (and by “late”, I mean less than a week ago for each school).
The unranked prospect – Fred Iduwe – is a 6’11” recruit who currently hails from just outside of Milwaukee (via Nigeria). Iduwe reportedly chose Georgia over the likes of North Dakota and Wisconsin-Green Bay, which should provide some comfort to UGA fans that the Dawgs’ basketball program carries more prestige than those two aforementioned powerhouses.
Frankly speaking, it seems like Fox secured a potential contributor in Maten and a project in Iduwe. Any high school senior who has not been signed at this point in the year is most likely not going to provide an instant impact on the court next season.
The Dawgs return almost the entire team for the 2014-2015 season (minus Donte Williams), and they should be a contender for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
However, Fox only has two more seasons with his star backcourt duo of Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines.
Recruiting has been Fox’s achilles heel during his tenure in Athens, and these two signings are not going to settle the fan base.
If Fox cannot land several major talents in next year’s recruiting class, UGA’s upward trend of success – assuming next year is a success – will level off with the eventual departures of Mann and Gaines following the 2015-2016 season.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs looked primed and ready for the early tipoff in Athens this morning, while Georgia appeared hungover.
Tech’s pressure overwhelmed the Dawgs from the opening tip, forcing UGA into 4 turnovers before the game was 3 minutes old. In addition to the stingy defense, LA Tech was on fire from the outside, connecting on 7 of its first 8 three-pointers, allowing the other Bulldogs to open up a 39-13 advantage with 7:27 left before the intermission.
Georgia was completely overmatched to start the game, unable to slow down Louisiana Tech’s onslaught.
The Dawgs did manage to cut the lead to 19 points heading into the break, but the initial pummeling that Georgia took at the beginning of the game ended up being too much to overcome.
UGA was less careless with the basketball in the game’s final 20 minutes and LA Tech cooled off a bit, but the hole that Georgia dug for itself was just too deep.
The Dawgs gave the home crowd a glimmer of hope when they trimmed the LA Tech advantage to 62-54 with 6:06 remaining in the game after a three-pointer from Kenny Gaines. However, the other Bulldogs quickly quieted Stegeman Coliseum by going on a 7-2 run which was capped off by a Kenny Smith three, making it 69-56 with just 2:40 left.
LA Tech would go on to win 79-71, and the UGA season came to an abrupt end at about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
Georgia’s 19 turnovers led to 17 points for Tech, and 16 of those came in the first half.
Charles Mann, who finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, unfortunately committed another 7 turnovers, matching his total from the first-round game against Vermont.
Freshman J.J. Frazier paced the Dawgs offensively, scoring a career-high 15 points, including a 4 for 7 performance from beyond the arc.
Today’s loss puts UGA’s record for the season at 20-14, which is certainly better than most anticipated coming into the 2013-2014 season.
While Georgia certainly overachieved this year, for whatever reason, this team did not appear to be that interested in being a part of the NIT. The Dawgs needed a late second-half comeback to beat a less talented Vermont team at home in the opening round. This morning, UGA turned in maybe its worst first half of the season.
Some teams use the postseason NIT as an opportunity to tack on some additional wins in the hopes that it builds momentum going into the next season.
That did not happen for Georgia.
Dawgs fans should feel optimistic about next year’s basketball season, but the sleepy performances that UGA provided in its two NIT games felt a little too similar to the games Georgia played back in November to start the season.
If the Dawgs hope to be closer to the NCAA bubble next March, they must find a way to avoid these lackadaisical games going forward.
Sometimes talent triumphs grittiness and effort.
At least that was the lesson the Georgia Bulldogs learned yesterday in its 70-58 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals round of the SEC tournament.
The Cats are a physically impressive bunch, especially when viewed in person.
If you think having a 6’4″ point guard like Charles Mann is nice, guess what? Kentucky has two of them – each of the Harrison twins is 6’6″ and they both handle the ball well.
Julius Randle is 6’10” of pure muscle, and he too can move with the athleticism of a guard or wing.
The fact that UGA hung around and managed to make it a game at all is a testament to Coach Mark Fox’s system and his players’ belief in that system.
Just as in the Ole Miss game, Georgia had to play much of the first half with four starters – Mann, Kenny Gaines, Brandon Morris and Donte Williams – on the bench with two fouls each.
Once again, UGA’s reserves stepped up – JuWan Parker scored 7 points and J.J. Frazier contributed another 5 (to go along with 3 rebounds). Neme Djurisic and Cameron Forte scored 4 points apiece, and the Dawgs went into the intermission trailing Kentucky 36-32.
These aforementioned UGA players were all two-star recruits coming out of high school, and yet they managed to keep the Dawgs competitive in a game against a team that has McDonald’s All-Americans on its bench.
In the second half, though, UK’s talent took over.
Kentucky tightened up its defense, making it very difficult for Georgia to get good looks near the basket. The Cats are so long and athletic that it felt like there were six or seven of them on defense each possession.
For the majority of the afternoon, Georgia had the game played at the pace it wanted – slow and deliberate. The speed of the game definitely slowed down the Kentucky offense, but unfortunately for UGA, Kentucky turned in one of its better shooting performances of the season.
The Wildcats, who ranked near the bottom of the SEC in three-point percentage at just 32% in league games, knocked down an impressive 9 of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. These three-pointers were devastating for the Dawgs, and they enabled UK to secure the 70-58 victory and earn a chance to play the Florida Gators on Sunday.
Georgia got as close as 3 points after a free throw from Neme to make it 46-43 with 13 minutes remaining, but the Dawgs were unable to wipe out the deficit completely.
UGA was led offensively by Kenny Gaines, who scored all 13 of his points in the game’s second half. Charles Mann was the only other Bulldog to finish in double-digits, contributing 12 points.
This loss pretty much assures that Georgia will not be playing in the NCAA tournament this season, but with an RPI of 76 the Dawgs look like a lock for the NIT.
Yesterday’s game embodied the kind of overachievement that the Dawgs have produced for much of this season as Georgia played toe-to-toe with a team that began the year ranked #1 in the country.
After a 6-6 start in the non-conference portion of the schedule, Georgia looked like a program that was about to go off the rails once conference play started. In addition to this mediocrity, Coach Mark Fox was being listed on just about every “Hot Seat” compilation being generated amongst college basketball media sources.
Somehow, CMF and his team altered the course of the season. For Georgia to finish the year 19-13 overall and tied for second in the conference is living proof to the amount of heart and perseverance this team possesses.
The Dawgs won 9 of their last 12 games, arguably making them one of the hotter teams in the country.
The knock against Fox has always been his inability to bring in more big-time recruits from the metro Atlanta area, which may be true.
But the guy definitely develops players (see J.J. Frazier, Neme Djurisic, Marcus Thornton, Kenny Gaines), and he finds a way to squeeze every ounce of effort out of his team.
The Dawgs are set to lose just one player from this team -senior Donte Williams – and they should enter next season as one of the favorites to finish near the top of the conference.
Coach Fox seems to have the program going in the right direction.