Dawgs Smother Waves 64-47

Lock-down defender Ricky McPhee kept Pepperdine's Bell in check all night

Mark Fox certainly had his Georgia Bulldogs focused on the task at hand on Wednesday night, as the Dawgs cruised past Pepperdine 64-47 in front of a crowd of nearly 7,000.

No one on Georgia had a particularly flashy game offensively, rather it was a fairly balanced scoring effort – Leslie 14, Thompkins 12 and McPhee 10 (including a slick fast-break lay-up in which he faked a pass and then finished over the Pepperdine defender).  The Dawgs shot 46.4% from the field, and only really had one slow stretch in the second half when they scored merely 5 points between the 18:00 to 12:00 minute mark (the Waves switched to a 2-3 zone defense and this crossed Georgia up a bit).

The story of the night was once again UGA’s defense, which limited Pepperdine to only 34.6% from the field to go with 47 points (and this was a team was averaging over 70 points a game coming into the contest).  Georgia controlled the glass, out rebounding the Waves 41-26 and essentially dominating them at their own game.  And once again, the Bulldogs hosted another “Block Party” at Stegman Coliseum by racking up 7 blocked shots (Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price led the way with 2 apiece).

I felt like the game’s MVP was the pride of Lawrenceville, GA – Ricky McPhee.  McPhee guarded Keon Bell for most of the night, and limited him to only 6 points on 2 of 12 shooting to go along with 7 turnovers (Bell was averaging 20.6 points/game before last night).  Ricky scored 10 points himself and shot a solid 4 of 7 from the field.

McPhee has clearly established himself as the Dawgs best perimeter defender, and I for one never saw that coming going into this season.

The Dawgs are now sitting at 7-4 as 2009 comes to an end.  In my opinion, so far so good.

What’s everybody else think?

Pepperdine @ Georgia Wednesday Night 7:00PM

The Dawgs look to send the Waves back to sunny Malibu with their 5th road loss

The Pepperdine Waves came into the 2009-2010 season returning all five starters from last year’s team that finished 9-23, including sophomore sensation Keon Bell (who is averaging a robust 20.6 points a contest).

Several experts projected the Waves to finish as high as fifth in the West Coast Conference this season, a level of optimism that hasn’t been seen at Pepperdine since they last won the conference back in 2002 and earned a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

So far, so not good.

The Waves are sitting at 4-10, and were riding a 7-game losing streak before beating a Rick Majerulus-less Utah Utes team last week (in years past, this might have been considered a “quality win”…this year, not so much – Utah is 5-7 and a shell of its former self).  During the Waves’ streak they were surrendering 80.1 points per game…in other words, their defense has been slightly “porous” lately.

Actually, Pepperdine’s defense (or lack there of) has been missing all season as they are allowing opponents to light them up for 74.2 points a night.

Furthermore, Pepperdine is winless on the road in four attempts (and this game is being played a LONG ways from Malibu, CA).

It hasn’t been all bad for the Waves though.

They do have a bona-fide superstar/future NBA-er in Bell.  He is a very athletic guard that takes the ball to the rim and rebounds well  (check out this link I found of him dunking over five teammates  at their preseason “Midnight Madness” event – pretty impressive hops).

This Pepperdine team is doing an excellent job of rebounding the ball, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me considering how bad their defense has been.  The Waves are 13th in the country in offensive rebounding, and are averaging 41.9 boards per game (UGA only averages 35.6).

The Waves really like to jack it up from behind the arc, averaging over 17 three-point attempts a game.  However, they do shoot a decent 35% from 3pt range, with Sophomore G/F Dane Suttle, Jr. leading the way at a whopping 45.8%  (averaging 10.8 pts ).  Hopefully Mark Fox has the team focused on contesting shots and rebounding (I am thinking we could see some of that extended 3-2 zone defense that UGA has been showing already this year).

What Georgia needs to do to win the game:

Don’t Look Ahead – New Year’s Eve, a trip to Missouri, Georgia Tech, SEC play beginning…get the drift?  There is a lot to look forward to for this UGA basketball team, and on top of that they have a 4-10 team coming into Athens (meaning I bet the Dawgs feel like they should win this game).  In my opinion, the challenge going into this game for Georgia is similar to the Florida Atlantic game – stay focused on the task at hand and don’t get caught looking ahead.

Thompkins (luckily) played lights-out against FAU and carried Georgia to a win – but who else played well?  What if Trey hadn’t scored a career high 35 points?  Everybody needs to be focused on this Pepperdine team and finishing out 2009 strong.

Georgia should win this game, but that doesn’t mean that the Waves are going to just come into Athens and lay down.  I want to see the same physicality from the start that we saw against the Illini.  I would also like to see Travis Leslie bounce back from a sub par performance against FAU.

On a side note – Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury was the head coach at Kansas State while Mark Fox was an assistant there as well…hopefully the student has become the master.

I will be heading up to Athens for this one…anyone else?  I think there is another $5 ticket promo here.

There isn’t a televised broadcast of the game so if you aren’t going you’ll have to go with Scott Howard and Mark Slonaker on 750AM.

Moral Victories?

I hope that everyone got what they wanted for Christmas today (my present came early back in November at Historic Grant Field).

Ten games into the 2009-2010 basketball season and the Hoop Dawgs are sitting at an unassuming 6-4.  Their biggest win so far has to be the one over orange people from Illinois.  Hopefully Coach Fox has a few more big wins stored up his sleeve before they get into the SEC schedule…

I was looking at the 4 losses (Wofford, UAB, Virginia Tech, St. John’s) the other day, and I started taking comfort in the successes these teams have had thus far:

UAB (11-1) – The Blazers are riding a 10-game win streak that includes victories over Butler and Cincinnati

Virginia Tech (10-1) – The Hokies are winners of 7 straight games, and in the process have knocked off Iowa and Penn State.

St. John’s (10-2) – The Red Storm has beaten Siena and Temple (both teams that will most likely make the tourney), and they lost a close one at Duke.

Wofford (7-6) – The Terriers have the worst record of this bunch, but that’s only because they have played a brutal out-of-conference schedule with losses to Pitt, Illinois and Michigan State.  They upset South Carolina last week to make themselves 2-0 against the SEC.

This puts the combined record of Georgia’s opponents that they have lost to this season at a stunning 38-10.  I am (as I am sure all of you are as well) aware of the old adage “There’s no such thing as moral victories”.  I remember hearing it when I played, as I am sure many others have heard it as well.  In some regards it does hold true…but for a Georgia team that finished last season 12-19 (3-13 in SEC play) I think it’s ok to take a little pride in these four losses.

Thompkins (and Georgia) beats FAU 77-60

To say the Dawgs started slow in last night’s game is an understatement…a big understatement.  Georgia was down 18-10 to the Owls with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, and no one other than Trey Thompkins had even scored until Travis Leslie made a shot with 8:44 on the clock.

The Owls put Georgia in the bonus with 9:57 remaining in the half, and that enabled UGA to claw their way back into it (score was FAU 30, Georgia 29 at the half).

Luckily for Georgia, there was a halftime and in that time they were allowed to get fired up about the game.  The Dawgs came out of the second half and started playing man defense with a little bit of fire…finally Georgia was able to get some stops and open up a lead at 53-41 with 10 minutes left in the game.

The major key to the game was that Georgia had Trey Thompkins and FAU didn’t.  Thompkins finished with 35 points (career high) and 15 rebounds and was the only real bright spot of the night for the Dawgs.

The good news is that Georgia didn’t suffer a huge letdown by letting FAU steal a win.  The game was close for a half, but the Dawgs came out and shut the Owls down in the second half and avoided a Christmas debacle.

Quick notes:

  • Dustin Ware was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 12 points
  • Drazen Zlovaric made a jump shot in the first half (his only of the game).  Unfortunately, I was only able to hear about it on the radio which is too bad because I would have loved to have been able to see it.  I guess what I’m trying to say is “why does this guy play?”
  • Jeremy Price didn’t play a single minute of the game…wonder what he did?   Maybe he drew Coach Fox in the Dawgs “Secret Santa” and got him a Snuggie…

Owls @ Dawgs Wednesday Night at 7:00PM

“I expected to get pounded, and I got pounded.”

This was the answer that Florida Atlantic Owls coach Mike Jarvis (former coach of both St. John’s and George Washington) gave the Miami Herald when asked if he expected to take some lumps entering last season (a season in which the Owls finished 6-26, his first as their head coach).

ESPN’s Andy Katz listed the Owls as a program primed to jump within their conference entering this season, even though they finished last year 2-16 in the Sun Belt Conference.   On top of that stellar record,  Florida Atlantic lost seniors Paul Graham III and Carlos Monroe who last year accounted for 46% of the offense.  The Owls record thus far through 10 games is 5-5 (compared to 4-6 last year), so I can see the marked improvement that Mr. Katz was referring too.

Mike Jarvis began this season with a very young team (the Miami-Herald did comment that his first recruiting class was “highly touted”) that is led by freshman guards Raymond Taylor and Greg Gantt.  Raymond Taylor a.k.a. “Spud Webb, Jr.” (he stands at a mere 5’6″) has gotten off to an extremely fast start and is averaging 18.2 points per game.  His teammate Greg Gantt is pouring in an additional 13.9 for an FAU team that is averaging 76.4 ppg (up from 65.0 ppg last year).

They do share a common opponent with the Dawgs, the New Orleans Privateers, whom FAU dismantled 66-48 on the road.  If you forgot, Georgia also beat the Privateers 67-59 in the season-opener in Athens…this one could get interesting if Georgia isn’t ready to play (UGA is a 10-point favorite so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s close).

Hoop Dawg’s “Keys to the Game”

1. Great Win…Now Get Over It!

This is a game that the Dawgs should definitely win (in my humble opinion)…but that doesn’t mean that they will.  Beating Illinois was a great accomplishment and a big step in the right direction for the program.  Now the question is: will they take another step forward, or two steps back?  Last year’s Georgia squad only had 3 SEC wins, but they were all against very good teams – Florida, Vanderbilt & Kentucky.  And guess what happened after each of those wins in the following game?  That’s right, the Dawgs lost!

I think that this game is going to be a real test of Coach Mark Fox’s ability to keep his team focused and intense.  Not only are they coming off of an emotional victory, but the Christmas holiday is only two days away (and these are college kids so I’m guessing Xmas still excites them).  If the same UGA team from last Saturday night comes to play (“one and done” defense, attacking the offensive glass) I see no reason why Georgia shouldn’t get the win.

However, if the Dawgs come out flat, don’t take FAU seriously or are still riding high from the Illinois win then things could really derail for this team.

2. Unbalanced Scoring

As I mentioned earlier in the article, FAU gets 32.1 ppg from it’s guard tandem of Taylor & Gantt (or 42% of the team’s offensive output).  I am sure that many NCAA teams would love to get that kind of production out of their guards.  The problem for the Owls this season has been when it’s only been those two doing the scoring:  In their 5 losses they have had more than 3 players reach double-figures only once; in their 5 wins they have had more than 3 players hit double-digits 4 times.

Conclusion:  if the Dawgs can keep the Owls stat sheet unbalanced (on the scoring end) they will significantly increase their chances of winning.

If you are planning on going to the game their is a $5.00 ticket promotion – click here.

It isn’t being televised so if you aren’t heading up to Athens you’ll have to follow along on 750AM.

Any more thoughts on this contest?

***I didn’t do the “Hoop Dawg Player of the Week” because Trey Thompkins was named the SEC Player of the Week for his performance against Illinois.  Congratulations to Trey for winning this slightly more prestigious award.

Georgia upsets Illinois 70-67

UGA entered into last night’s game an 8-point underdog according to Las Vegas…they left it a 3-point winner.

Albert Jackson and Trey Thompkins celebrating the big win

This was easily the best game that this team has played this year, and maybe the most complete game that they’ve played in a year and a half (ESPN”s Andy Katz put a bit of a damper on the win in his recap of the game about halfway down the page).  Thompkins and Leslie were scoring; Ware was dishing; Price and Jackson were rebounding…it was a total team effort.

Not to mention that it was done in front of a predominantly Illinios crowd.  I went to the game with a few friends, and we were amazed when we got to our seats and saw that we were in a sea of orange and blue (their cheer “ILL”…”INI” never got old).  That only made the win that much sweeter.

The Dawgs came to play from the start, opening up a 16-11 lead 7 minutes into the first half.  The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the half and the game was tied at 32 before going to the break.

Georgia came out strong in the second half and built a 44-36 lead with 15:35 remaining in the game.  Coach Mark Fox gave some of his starters a quick blow (namely Leslie, Ware & Thompkins), and Illinois closed the lead to 45-40 before Fox had to call timeout and get the essentials (namely Leslie, Ware & Thompkins) back in.

With 4:57 left in the game, Travis Leslie made an acrobatic lay-up and was fouled and the lead sat at 64-55 Georgia.  Before the free throw attempt by Leslie, Illinois called timeout to regroup.  During the timeout, Fox again took out Ware and Thompkins (and Leslie after he shot the free throw) and once again Illinois cut the lead to 64-60 following a Billy Cole 3-pointer right in front of the Illini bench.

Fox called timeout and put the starters back in, but this time it was for the rest of the game (thank goodness).  But Demetri McCamey made an amazing basket and the foul with 35 seconds left to tie the game at 66-66.  He knocked in the ensuing free throw and Illinois was up by a point with 35 ticks left.

Ware took the ball down the court and gave it to Thompkins, who took it right to the bucket and was fouled shooting.  Trey coolly stepped up to the line and knocked down both free throws to put Georgia up 68-67 with 22 seconds remaining.

Georgia then played great defense, forcing McCamey to take a tough shot that barely glanced the rim before Thompkins (again) brought down the rebound.  The Illini were forced to foul, which forced Trey to knock down two more free throws and seal the game at 70-67.

A few quick hitters:

  • Thompkins was a beast inside offensively and really owned the offensive blocks dropping 21 points/7 rebounds
  • Leslie was sensational and scoring big bucket after big bucket to end up with 17 points
  • In my opinion, this might have been Albert Jackson’s best game of his career.  He had 8 rebounds (including 3 offensive) and played really strong inside
  • The team effort on the boards was relentless.  Georgia out rebounded Illinois 35-26, and it seemed like the Illini were limited to only one shot attempt per possession all night
  • The “UGA Block Party” was in full-force last night as the Dawgs swatted 6 shots
  • Former UGA coach Dennis Felton was at the game with his son (he was sitting one aisle over from me).  He appeared to be writing on a pad the entire game, and then he left the arena with the game tied at 66-66 and 35 seconds left (bizarre).

What a game!  Anybody else got any more thoughts?  Did I leave anything or anybody off that deserves credit?

Illinois (8-2) @ Georgia (4-4) at 7PM in the Gwinnett Center (and on ESPNU)

leslie blocks shot
Block Party hosted by UGA

Tickets – check; wallet – check; gas in car – check…only thing left to do is before I head out to the game is to talk about it.

I wonder how much time Mark Fox spent previewing this year’s out-of-conference schedule before he accepted the job as head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs Men’s basketball team?  Did he realize that before his first UGA team even enters into SEC play that he would take on Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Illinois, Missouri and Georgia Tech?  For all those Joe Lunardi Bracketology fans out there, the Illini, Red Storm and Yellow Jackets are all currently listed as IN the projected field for this year’s tourney (and in my opinion the Hokies will make it too when it’s all said and done).

But what’s done is done, and the schedule is set…time to take on the Illini.

And without further ado, here are the Hoopdawg’s “Keys to the Game”:

1. Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap), Defense (clap, clap) – Most of the preseason attention (which was minimal & local) circling this year’s team focused around new head coach Mark Fox’s Triangle Offense.  While I am excited to see more of this offense and how it operates, I can’t ignore what has been the strong point of this UGA team so far this season – the defense.  The Dawgs are holding opponents to a mere 63.6 points per contest which ranks 84th out of the 347 Division I teams (or better than 76% of the country).  And don’t look now, but Georgia is beginning to resemble  something of “SWAT Team” on the defensive end, averaging 5.6 blocks/game (ranking 28th in the country!).   As I mentioned in my last post, Illinois shot terribly in both of their two losses this season.  If Georgia can maintain the same defensive intensity it’s shown through the first 8 games, I truly believe this one will go down to the wire.

2. Thompkins, Leslie and Ware – Oh My! (pretty cheesy “Wizard of Oz” reference) – The Bulldogs haven’t had one game this year in which Thompkins, Leslie and Ware have all had good shooting/scoring nights (check the box scores if you don’t believe me).  For the most part, it’s been Leslie and Thompkins that have been consistent…but the couple of games that Ware was scoring, one or both of these other two guys were off.  Tonight’s game against Illinois would be a great time for this trio to all post good offensive efforts.

3. Home Court Advantage – Winning college basketball games on the road is hard…very hard.  The fans are physically located very close to the court, and I believe that basketball players can feel the crowd’s energy and feed off of it.  Now I realize that this game isn’t in Athens, but it is only 41 miles away and should have the same feel as a game being played at “The Steg”.  Hopefully a good number of Georgia fans turn out for the game tonight to help this team seize the momentum early…

A few people commented earlier in the week that they had tickets…anybody else going?

Getting to Know the Fighting Illini

Before I preview the Illinois team that Georgia will take on this Saturday night, I thought I would mention that Michael Jordan‘s (remember him?) son, Jeffrey, is a member of the Fighting Illini squad.  In fact, young Jeffrey made a statement earlier in the year that he would not be returning to the team for his junior season so that he could focus on his studies…I guess he didn’t have to focus too hard because he is now back on the team and playing the role of backup point guard.  He doesn’t fill up the stat column quite like his father did (Jeff is averaging 2.4pts/2.4rbd/2.8ast), but his coach Bruce Weber likes to use him to spell starting point guard and leading scorer, Demetri McCamey.  If you never got to see MJ play in person, you can at least see his eldest son JJ play Saturday night at the Gwinnett Arena (if that’s any consolation).

Illinois overachieved last season by making the NCAA’s.  This year, expectations are sky-high.  The Illini started the season ranked in the Top 25 in both polls.  Joe Lunardi of ESPN had them listed as a 3 Seed in his first Bracketology of the season (I think he had them as a 9 Seed in his December 15 update).  Illinois is currently 8-2 and receiving votes in both the AP & Coaches poll.  They have won 4 games in a row, with two of those wins coming at #19 Clemson and against #24 Vanderbilt.  In the Clemson win, the Fighting Illini came back from a 23-point second half deficit to win 76-74.

Illinois brings back 3 starters from last year’s team that pounded Georgia 76-42 in Champaign.  Point guard Demetri McCamey scored 19 points (13 in the first 8 minutes) and forward Mike Davis along with 7’1″ center Mike Tisdale each added 14 in a game that was close for only one half (UGA trailed 30-23 after one; lost the second half battle 46-19).  These 3 juniors along with two freshman sharp-shooters (DJ Richarson &  Brandon Paul) round out the starting five.

All five of the aforementioned players are scoring in double figures on a nightly basis.  They have a very deep bench that is spotlighted by versatile senior forward Dominique Keller – a solid defender and great 3pt shooter at 50% on the year.  Juniors Jeff Jordan (18.4 min/game), Bill Cole (15 min/game) and Alex Legion (11.2 min/game) all see significant time on the court.

This is very good shooting team: they rank 20th (out of 347 teams) in the country in field goal percentage at 49.5% and 55th from beyond the arc at 39.1%.   They like to get McCamey, Richardson and Paul going from beyond the arc, which opens up the paint for Davis and Tisdale (if you missed it earlier, he is 7’1″ tall) to operate.  Mike Davis is a smooth scorer around the bucket and a monster on the glass (9.9 rebounds/game).    Tisdale actually has a pretty nice touch from about 15-18′, which is certainly unusual for most 7-footers (minus Dirk Nowitzki).

Coach Bruce Weber is known for having teams that play strong defensively, and this one is no different as they are currently holding opposing teams to an ugly 38.9% from the field.  The Illini are also doing  a good job rebounding defensively and limiting teams to just one shot opportunity per possession.

In their only two losses this season to Utah and Bradley, Illinois shot atrociously from the field at 39% and 39.7%, respectively.  They also were limited to 11.1% from three-point land against Utah, and only a managed a slightly better 3pt% against Bradley at 22.2%.

Illinois and Georgia share one common opponent so far this season – those pesky Wofford Terriers (for those of you who might not remember, the Terriers beat the Dawgs in Athens earlier this year 60-57).  The Terriers were actually tied with Illinois 50-50 until Bill Cole made a layup with 12:34 left in the second half to put Illinois up by a bucket.  The Illini went on to win the game 78-64 in front of a home crowd of nearly 13,000 .

One last side note:

Before taking the coaching job at Illinois in 2003, Bruce Weber was the head coach of the Southern Illinois Salukies from 1998-2003.  In the 2002 NCAA Tournament, Weber’s 11th-seeded Salukies upset 3-seeded Georgia in the second round to go on to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Connecticut.

Hoop Dawg “Player of the Week”

Trey ThompkinsThis week’s prestigious “Hoop Dawg Player of the Week” Award goes to (drumroll) Trey Thompkins.

Trey had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in a losing effort against St. John’s in the SEC/Big East Invitational.  He established himself as the team’s scoring leader early in the game, and kept the Dawgs in it at the beginning of the first half (Ricky McPhee was the first person other than Trey to score a FG with 11:57 left).

Gaines Leading NBA Development League in Scoring

Sundiata GainesFormer University of Georgia standout PG Sundiata Gaines is currently playing in the NBA’s Development League (D-League) for the Idaho Stampede (who are affiliated with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets)…and at the moment, he sits atop of the scoring leaders with a stellar 27.0 ppg average!  But Gaines isn’t only scoring, he is also averaging 8.3 assists a game and 4.3 rebounds.  Sundiata already has one double-double under his belt in this young season, and it’s safe to say that he is clearly establishing himself as the “Lebron James” of the D-League.

This is Gaines’s first year playing in the D-League.  He spent the 2008-2009 basketball season playing in Italy for a team called NGC Cantu.  Him choosing to live in Boise, Idaho instead of Italy (beautiful landscape, amazing food culture, wine, etc) can only mean one thing – this guy must believe he has a real chance to earn a spot on an NBA roster (or he loves potatoes and all potato products).

Currently, there are only two former UGA players in the NBA – Damien Wilkins is on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Jarvis Hayes plays for the New Jersey Nets.

Hopefully there will be a third former Bulldog entering the NBA ranks before the season ends.