Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’
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?
On Wednesday night in New York, the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Gonzaga Bulldogs inside Madison Square Garden as part of the preseason NIT. This game represents an opportunity for both teams to secure an out of conference win against a worthy opponent. For Georgia though, this contest is a chance for Coach Mark Fox’s team to prove its relevance in the college basketball world in prime time on a national stage.
Here are a few reasons as to why I believe that Georgia must win this game:
1. UGA has to prove being a good SEC team means something
Last season Georgia went 12-6 in the Southeastern Conference, and they were barely in the NCAA Bubble discussion. Most pundits felt that the Dawgs had to win the SEC tournament to get in, giving them the same scenario that they basically face towards the end of every season. For several years now, the SEC has been routinely sending just 3 or 4 teams to the Big Dance, making it pretty clear what the NCAA selection committee thinks about the quality of basketball played in this league. Having another successful conference season just isn’t going to do it for Coach Fox this year (and I do think they will be a top 5 SEC team). Fox scheduled games against Gonzaga, Colorado and Kansas State to bolster the RPI, which was an achilles heel for this team a year ago. Playing in these games is not enough, though; UGA must show that they can beat high caliber teams outside of their own conference, and they’ve already blown one opportunity against their in-state rivals (whether Tech is high caliber or not remains to be seen). Only winning the games against the Troy’s and Florida Atlantic’s of the world will earn Georgia another trip back to the postseason NIT, at best.
2. Mark Fox is due
The Georgia Bulldogs haven’t beaten a ranked opponent outside of the SEC since Fox’s initial team took down the then-ranked #20 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 73-66 in Athens. Matter of fact, CMF’s teams have only won two games against ranked opponents since the departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie. In that same span of games, UGA has yet to beat a team ranked lower than 20th. In Gonzaga, Georgia will be competing with a team that recently landed inside of the top 10 in both the AP and USA Polls. The Zags, who are 4-0, have already beaten #22 SMU by more than 10 points. They have destroyed their other three opponents, winning all of the games by 40+ points. Gonzaga is off to a great start this year, and more than likely they will go on to have a strong season. When March rolls around, a win against the Zags could really serve to enhance an NCAA tournament resume, considering Gonzaga themselves will surely be dancing.
Make no doubt about, the Zags are incredibly talented. Through 4 games, they are averaging almost 95 points a night (7th in the country), with nearly 7 players scoring in double-figures. UGA needs its best game of the year out of junior Charles Mann, who could significantly impact this game should he manage to get some of the Zags’ starters in foul trouble. Georgia cannot go toe-to-toe with Gonzaga’s firepower for 40 minutes; but, if they could manage to get to the free throw line and slow the game down, the Dawgs could have a chance.
Here is Seth Greenberg’s take:
Seniors Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic continued their strong play from Friday night’s contest – a game in which they each of scored 17 points – against the Owls of Florida Atlantic on Sunday. In this evening’s game, Thornton put the Dawgs on his broad shoulders and carried them to a 74-61 victory, scoring 17 again to go along with 12 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Neme, who seemed to the be the catalyst for a majority of Georgia’s scoring plays, nearly messed around and got a triple-double, scoring 8 points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 8 assists. The senior appears to be as comfortable as ever putting the ball on the floor this season, and for now, it is working for Coach Fox’s team.
UGA’s offense ran as smoothly as it has all year, with the Dawgs hitting cutters down the lane off of screens – the performance was vintage Fox, circa the days of Thompkins, Leslie and GR22. Georgia had 15 team assists, and they shot a robust 46% from the floor.
The only other UGA player to score in double digits was Kenny Gaines, who chipped in 15 for the game. Gaines definitely looks a lot closer to 100% than he did a little over a week ago, knocking down a three and throwing down a couple of thunderous dunks.
Charles Mann, who’s been hot and cold so far this season, struggled against the Owls, netting just 8 points, going 2 for 8 from the field. He had trouble finishing on his drives tonight, and he seemed like he was forcing it at times.
Once Georgia took command of this game – carrying an 8 point lead into the break – they never really felt threatened by the Owls. The Dawgs kept their advantage above 10 points for nearly the entire second half, coasting to their third straight win since losing to Georgia Tech in the season opener.
Coach Fox’s team turned in another solid defensive effort, limiting FAU to just 41% shooting from the floor. The Dawgs dominated the rebounding battle, snagging 45 boards to the Owls’ 32.
Marquan Botley led all scorers with 20 points.
The Owls, who are now 1-3 on the year, were projected to finish in the lower echelon of the Conference USA. While Georgia’s recent win streak has come at the expense of some pretty soft competition, the Dawgs have looked good winning.
Next week’s matchup with #13 Gonzaga will really give fans a chance to measure just exactly what kind of team Coach Fox has this year.
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.
Charles Mitchell, who had spurned Georgia twice already on the recruiting front, torched the Dawgs in Atlanta on Friday night for 20 points and 9 rebounds en route to an 80-73 Georgia Tech victory. Mitchell was one of Fox’s targets coming out of Wheeler High School a few years ago, but the young man opted to go to Maryland. Last year, when Mitchell chose to leave Maryland to return to the state of Georgia so he could be closer to his grandmother, he again snubbed UGA, selecting Tech as his new basketball destination. Despite these choices, last evening he appeared to be playing possessed, with a chip on his shoulder, almost. And, Mitchell gives the Yellow Jackets something that the Dawgs desperately need: a post who can play with his back to the basket.
Much like in the exhibition game last week, Georgia’s offense looked clunky, making just 27% of its shots in the game’s opening half. The Dawgs ended the game hitting nearly 42% from the floor, but Mark Fox’s team appears to be lacking scoring options, especially when Charles Mann has a 3 for 11 shooting performance. While Fox’s offensive scheme involves a lot of motion and picks, without playmakers it simply does not work. This system still needs players who can slice their way into the lane from the wing position, and right now, I’m scratching my head wondering who on Georgia can fill that roll?
Despite starting poorly, UGA managed to hang around in this contest, cutting the lead as low as 4 points after a Marcus Thornton bucket with 14:39 left in the game and Georgia Tech up 50-46. However, back-to-back field goals by Charles Mitchell – one of them an awkward dunk off a break – pushed the Jackets lead back up to 8 points.
Whenever Georgia managed to get close, Tech would pull away. Quinton Stephens, who led all scorers with 22 points, was a menace for UGA all night, connecting on 6 of his eight shots from beyond the arc.
The Dawgs’ best performance was turned in by Djurisic, who finished with 18 points, helping to keep his team around before the intermission with some timely three-pointers.
Cameron Forte wins the award for the most efficient performance of the night, scoring 5 points and grabbing 3 rebounds to go along with a steal and a block, all in just 4 minutes of play. Forte’s lack of presence on the court as the game progressed was perplexing since he was giving his team a viable scoring option. Last season, Forte’s defense is what limited his playing time; whether that has improved or not, he needs to be in the lineup more because this team needs all the help it can get on the other side of the ball.
This loss is going to sting (pun intended). Georgia Tech does not look like a very good team, and it seems likely that they will end up near the bottom of the ACC, just as was projected by numerous media sources. Whether this game will hurt UGA’s NCAA hopes later in the year probably shouldn’t be of much concern to Georgia fans because right now this Dawgs’ team does not have the looks of an NCAA tournament team.
What should worry Dawgs’ fans is that Mark Fox has now dropped four straight to the Jackets, which hasn’t happened since the 1960’s (back when Tech was in the SEC). Georgia gets a slew of cupcake games before taking on Gonzaga in New York on November 26th as part of the preseason NIT.
Georgia played an exhibition game at exhibition quality on Thursday night as they snuck by the Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern, a powerhouse hailing from the mighty ranks of the NCAA’s Division II.
I realize that UGA was without Kenny Gaines, the team’s second-leading scorer from a year ago. And I realize that Coach Fox intended to play a lot of guys and try some different lineups, which he did. It was a glorified scrimmage; I get it.
However, Georgia looked awfully competitive with the Hurricanes tonight, especially when they headed to the locker rooms at the break trailing GSW by a score of 26-23.
For nearly 30 minutes Georgia looked out of sorts and stagnant on offense, misusing screens and struggling to feed the ball inside effectively. UGA shot under 35% from the floor in the first half, and they connected on just 2 of their 15 three-point attempts in this game. Finally – about midway through the second half, J.J. Frazier, who ended up with 9 points, was able to start penetrating the stout Hurricane defense, getting to the line and creating some offense.
Georgia ended up extending its lead into double-digits with several minutes remaining in the game, only to let GSW close the gap to four, giving UGA the 65-61 win. To be fair, the Dawgs had the bench cleared during this entire stretch.
While it was encouraging to see Kenny Gaines on the bench in street clothes – I guess he is not bedridden – it was quite clear that his absence will be difficult to replace if he cannot go next Friday night in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. Juwan Parker finished with 10 points on the night, but he shot the ball horribly from the outside, missing badly on all of his three-point attempts.
Yaten Maten recorded a double-double in his first appearance inside Stegeman, scoring 10 points to go along with 12 boards and 4 assists. He definitely has a nice build and he looks like he could develop into a nice player for Coach Fox, but the key word here is “develop”. Most of Maten’s points tonight were of the second-chance variety, which will be much more difficult to come by when he starts taking on opponents that are his size or bigger.
Not to beat a horse to death, but this game provided a small example of just how much Georgia could miss Brandon Morris this year, especially his length and ability to drive the ball to the basket off the dribble. Cameron Forte had a couple of nice takes tonight in the second half, but he doesn’t quite have that same explosiveness that Morris had when he got into the lane.
Whatever medication the UGA staff is administering to Kenny Gaines needs to be doubled ASAP. Georgia has to have him in the lineup when they start the season because without him they don’t have a lot of viable scoring options.
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.