Georgia falls to St. John’s 66-56

First off, I want to say that this team plays hard and doesn’t quit.  I know that there aren’t “moral victories”, but it was encouraging to see this team fight all the way until the end against St. John’s Tuesday night.

Georgia started out down 9-3 early in the first half before going on a 9-3 run of their own to tie the game at 12-12 with 11:11 left in the first half.  The Dawgs were playing great defense and limiting St. John’s to only one shot – their leading scorer, DJ Kennedy, only scored 2 points in the first half.  Trey Thompkins came out of the gates on fire and finished the first half with 11 points…Ricky McPhee even had a massive block (meaning he blocked the shot) which may or may not have been the first of his life.  At the break, Georgia trailed the Red Storm 28-25.

At the start of the second half, St. John’s started playing with a lot more intensity and Georgia couldn’t match it.  The Red Storm really extended their man defense and started challenging the ball with a lot of tenacity.  Georgia’s offense got pushed away from the bucket, and this resulted in several bad possessions.  UGA’s defense (match-up zone) was somewhat sloppy, and St. John’s was able to knock down some big 3 pointers to build up a 10 point gap that the Dawgs were unable to close.

A couple of key statistics:

  • St. John’s shot 48.1% from the field while Georgia shot an icy 37.5%.
  • The Johnnies shot 81.8% FT; UGA only 66.7%

Trey Thompkins played a very good game offensively scoring 19 points and grabbing 6 rebounds…he looked unstoppable when he was able to get in one-on-one situations.

Travis Leslie had another solid outing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  He continued to play very aggressively on the offensive end, and also finished an amazing alley-oop in the second half (it looked like his head might hit the rim) that may show up on ESPN’s “Top Ten” highlights tomorrow.

Dustin Ware had a tough night, shooting 1 for 5 from the field while scoring only 6 points.  He also committed 4 turnovers with only 1 assist to match.  The Dawgs must get more consistent play from Dustin going forward to be successful offensively.

The team is off for exams next week and won’t play again until December 19 when they take on Illinois in Duluth, GA.

Anybody have any other thoughts/comments from the game against St. John’s?

UGA (4-3) at St. John’s (6-1) in the DirectTV SEC/Big East Invitational in New York, NY at 7:00PM EST on ESPN2

The Dawgs have got their work cut out for them tonight.  Vegas has the Red Storm favored by 11.5 which basically means that they don’t think UGA has a chance.  St. John’s is receiving votes in both the AP & Coaches polls, and they are currently ranked 4th in CBS Sportsline’s RPI.

Unfortunately for Georgia  the site that was chosen for the game (Madison Square GardenSEC/Big East Invitational) is actually where St. John’s plays HALF of their regular season home games (the other half are played on their campus at Carnesecca Arena in Queens, NY)…and call me crazy, but I don’t see many UGA fans making the trip to “The Big Apple” to watch this one.  I am going to go out on a limb and guess that a majority of the people in the stands will be cheering for the Red Storm.

This experienced St. John’s team (they return all five starters from last year’s squad) has been tested early in the season, and for the most part they have been successful.    They have already beaten Temple and Siena (who won the MAAC the last two years and should contend to win it again); the Red Storm travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium and lost to Duke 80-71 in a competitive game.   This game is going to be treated with extreme importance to the Johnnies…they know that they need to accumulate as many non-conference wins as possible before getting into their Big East schedule if they want to be considered for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season (and they do have a real shot of making the tournament).

Who on the Red Storm should worry you if you are a Dawgs fan?

Jr. Guard/Forward DJ Kennedy is a superb athlete who can score inside and out.  He is currently averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting a robust 44.8% from beyond the arc.

Junior Guard Dwight Hardy can also fill it up from three-point land, shooting a solid 37.5%.  Hardy is a native of Bronx, NY, and during high school he built quite a reputation as an amazing street ball player in the Harlem Summer Leagues….point being, he isn’t just a shooter.  He likes to take it to the rim and score off the dribble as well.

Junior Forward Sean Evans is a big body (6’8″, 255lbs) and probably St. John’s best inside player.  He averages  10.0 points/7 rebounds a game, and prides himself on being a very versatile defender.  He will most likely be matched up on Thompkins and will be looking to frustrate him early and often.

Ok, Ok…Enough about St. John’s.  Let’s turn the focus over to Georgia, and what needs to be done for them to win the game.

UGA’s “Keys to the Game

  • Trey All Day (and Night): “Big time players make big time plays in big time games” – one of the oldest clichés in sports.  However, for young Trey Thompkins this couldn’t be a better motto going into tonight’s game.  He will be playing in one of the most famed venues in all of basketball in Madison Square Garden against a storied St. John’s program.   He is being handed a wonderful opportunity to show the country his talents on ESPN2’s prime time slot.  He cannot have another 0 for 6 performance like he did against Virginia Tech last Sunday.  Georgia is 1-3 this season in games when Trey scores under 15.
  • Slow it Down: This certainly will not be the case in a lot of games this season for the Dawgs, but I really feel like they should do their best to keep this a half-court game.  St. John’s will want to turn it into a track meet so that they can free up Kennedy & Hardy in the open court and allow them to operate in space.  UGA has a slight size advantage and can possibly win the battle on the boards with Thompkins, Jackson, Price, Barnes & Leslie crashing.
  • Ware & McPhee for 3!!!: The Dawgs really need these two to come out of the gates knocking down some buckets from outside the arc.  The better they shoot, the more the Red Storm defense will have to shade its guards towards the perimeter – leaving Thompkins with more chances to play one-on-one in the paint.

I expect to see Mark Fox’s team play with more fire than they have yet this season.  This UGA basketball team lives in anonymity even on its own campus because of the prestigious juggernaut that is Georgia Football.   Tonight’s game will give them a rare “spotlight”, and hopefully they can seize the opportunity!