Dawgs lose a heart-breaker 78-77

Down by one to South Carolina, Georgia came out of a timeout with the ball underneath their own basket and only 20 seconds left…and looked confused.

McPhee in-bounded it to point guard Dustin Ware, who then proceeded to hand it over to reserve true freshman guard Ebuka Anyaorah – and this is where the play derailed (nothing against EA, he is a true frosh playing in the final seconds of an SEC road game).  EA got pressured from the Carolina defender, and threw an errant pass to Ware near the Dawgs’ bench that was on its way out-of-bounds.  Luckily for Georgia, the referees took pity on them and gave a very questionable foul to the Gamecocks’ superstar Devan Downey with 3.5 seconds left (to me it looked like he and Ware were both going for the ball and this one probably should have been a “no call”).

Dustin Ware went to the free throw line for a one-and-one, and an opportunity to tie or take the lead.  Before I tell you what happened on Ware’s free throw (as if you don’t already know), it should be noted that the Bulldogs did not have a SINGLE PLAYER in the lane to offensive rebound on the shot.  I don’t know who is to blame for this (Fox or the players?), but it seems pretty inexcusable to not have anyone in to offense rebound when you are shooting a one-and-one and your team is LOSING by a point.

Anyhow, Ware missed the front end of the one-and-one and Carolina grabbed the rebound to secure the win.  This makes two games now (the other was against Wofford) in which Ware had an opportunity to tie the game from the free throw line in the final seconds and couldn’t convert.

Georgia has now lost three SEC games by a total of 8 points – Ole Miss by 4; Miss State by 3 and SC by 1.  The Dawgs are still winless in true road games in both the regular season and in SEC play.  Mark Fox’s team is now 9-10 overall, and 1-5 in the SEC…it’s tough for me to put a positive spin on it right now.

The loss to South Carolina was as agonizing as the ones to Ole Miss and MSU.  Just as in those other two games, the Dawgs played pretty well overall.  UGA finished the game with 16 assists to only 9 turnovers, they shot 50% on field goals and out-rebounded the Gamecocks 28-25.

Georgia led for a majority of the first and second halves, and got the lead as high as 9 following a Trey Thompkins 3-pointer with 9:23 remaining in the game to put UGA up 63-54 (Thompkins blew a kiss to the fans after the shot – probably should have saved that one till the game was more secure).

Travis Leslie had his best game of the year, scoring 21 points to go along with 7 rebounds and an onslaught of highlight reel dunks.

Trey Thompkins had a pretty good game – 17 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.  However, he only scored 2 points in the final 9 minutes of the game.  The Dawgs have to be able to rely on Trey more down the stretch in close games for offense.  He is the team’s best player, and if he can’t be counted on for big buckets in the final minutes then Georgia will continue to struggle in closing out ball games.

The Gamecocks’ Devan Downey led them again with 33 points, and scored 12 of them in the final 8 minutes of the game.  That makes two-straight wins in which Downey has pretty much single-handedly willed his team to victories.

The good news for Georgia is they head back to Athens for a pair of games next week against Arkansas (Wed) and Vanderbilt (Sat).

How is everybody else feeling about the SC game?

Gamecocks Host the Bulldogs

Before examining the Georgia Bulldogs (9-9) next opponent, I want to share a couple of uplifting notes about the Dawgs’ 1-4 SEC Conference record.

The casual on-looker might dismiss this 1-4 record as a bad start to conference play.  However, two very important points need to be considered: strength of schedule (thus far) and home/away games.

The combined record of the Bulldogs’ first 5 opponents (Kentucky, Ole Miss, Miss St, Tennessee, Florida) is 80-19, with an overall SEC record of 18-9.  Every team that the Dawgs have played has a winning conference record (and overall).

The combined record of the Dawgs’ next 4 opponents (SC, Arkansas, Vandy, Auburn) is 47-33, with an overall SEC record of 11-11 (I only used 4 teams because they play SC again after Auburn).  Georgia still has to lace up its shoes and play these games, but in theory the competition should not be as strong as what UGA has already faced.

Another point to consider is that of the remaining 11 SEC games, the Bulldogs will get to play 6 of them in Athens (where they are 9-2 this year).

That being said, Georgia is still 0-6 in “true” road games this year and 0-3 in the conference.  It’s time for Mark Fox to go out and get his first SEC road win (especially since UGA has lost in Columbia the last two seasons).

On Saturday night, the Bulldogs head to Columbia, SC to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks aka “The Fighting Devan Downeys”.

The Gamecocks win last Tuesday night over the #1 Kentucky Wildcats was extra amazing considering the hit that their roster took earlier this season.

Coming into the 2009-2010 season, the Gamecocks were returning 4 starters  from a team that finished 21-8 last year.  Needless to say, many ESPN analysts were predicting the ‘Cocks would earn a trip to this year’s NCAA tournament.  During the 5th game of the year against Miami, 6’7″ senior forward Dominique Archie was lost for the season with a sprained knee – he was averaging 14.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.  After the 7th game, 6’7″ junior power forward Mike Holmes was dismissed from the team by Coach Darrin Horn for repeatedly violating team rules – he was averaging 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Before the loss of both starters, the Gamecocks were off to a hot 6-1 start…they are 6-7 since (yet 3-3 in SEC play and again, they did beat #1 Kentucky).

To say that the South Carolina offense revolves around Devan Downey is a gross understatement – he is the offense.  In their first six games in SEC, Downey is taking nearly 39% of the ‘Cocks field goal attempts!  His 22.4 points per game is tops in the conference, and 8th in the country.  He shoots the ball pretty well from 3-point range, and has an endless supply of running trick shots…Downey is a tough match-up for any guard in the country (including John Wall).

Fellow senior guard Brandis Raley-Ross is the only other Gamecock player scoring in double-figures, averaging 10.4 points and shooting a solid 41.7% from 3PT.

On the inside, 6’9″ junior forward Sam Muldrow is very active on defense, blocking 3.4 shots a game (which is second in the SEC behind Jarvis Varnado).  He is also contributing 9.2 points and 5.7 boards.

Other than Downey, no one on this Gamecock roster really jumps out at you.

South Carolina’s style of play is not going to light up the scoreboards or highlight reels.  They basically look to play a half-court game on both offense and defense in order to keep it low-scoring and close going into the final minutes…then they turn the reigns over to Devan Downey and see where he can take them.

I am not doing any “Keys to the Game” for this one.

If the Dawgs are going to go into Columbia and steal an SEC road win, they simply need to get back to what they do well – offensive/defensive rebound, strong help defense and pounding the ball inside on offense.

South Carolina is last in the SEC in rebounding margin at -3.6 a game.  Georgia’s bigs should be licking their chops going into this one, determined to own the glass.

Defensively, I am still looking to see more of the 1-2-2 defense that Mark Fox brought to Athens.  However, I want to see the version that was used against Miss St, Tenn and the first 10 minutes of the Florida game – contesting 3’s and ROTATING underneath.  Against the Gators, the Dawgs’s bigs were consistently out-of-place underneath when the ball was swung quickly around the perimeter.  Hopefully Coach Fox worked the kinks in the practices on Thursday and Friday.

On offense, I think the ball needs to go down to Trey early and often.  It’s so hard to win on the road in this conference, but when you have a superstar like Thompkins in the paint he needs to be used to get everything going at the beginning of the game.  If Trey can get a couple buckets at the start, it’s going to open things up for everybody else – meaning Ricky McPhee, Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie.

Lastly, the turnovers have to be significantly reduced.  The Dawgs rank last in the SEC with an abysmal -3.2 turnover margin per game.  On top of that, the Gamecocks are leading the conference with 9.4 steals per game as a team.  Everybody needs to play strong and smart when they have the ball – no panicky or silly passes.  In my opinion, I’d rather see a guy being trapped take a 5-second call instead of throwing it to the other team…at least with the 5-second call you get to set up your defense.

I believe this game will be  more suited to the Dawgs’ half-court style of play (more so than say the Missouri or Florida games).  It’s should be fairly low-scoring, and will probably go down to the wire.

The game tips off at 7pm and will televised on the Fox Sports Network (channel 48 for all you Comcast customers).

Gators Handle Dawgs 87-71

In the post-game wrap-up after the game, Coach Mark Fox proclaimed “We have to play defense better if we want to win on the road.  We have to rebound better if we want to win on the road.”

That about sums up Wednesday night’s  loss in Gainesville at the O’Connell Center.

The Dawgs didn’t defensive rebound well, turned the ball over too many times and looked totally lost on defense when Florida reversed the ball.  The Gators scored an astounding 50 points off turnovers and second-chance points!

Georgia had 19 turnovers to Florida’s 10, and UGA was out-rebounded 27-23 (which is shocking since Georgia came into this game with a +4.5 rebounding margin).  The Gators were ferocious on the offensive glass, hauling in 13 offensive boards.

The Dawgs, however, only brought down 7 offensive rebounds – they came into the game averaging 12.5 on the season.

Georgia did shoot the ball very well, knocking down 59.6% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the arc (problem was they only took 47 shots due to excessive turnovers).

Trey Thompkins and Ricky McPhee combined for 63% of the Dawgs offense.  Thompkins was on fire, connecting on 10 of 12 shots including 2 for 2 on 3-pointers.  McPhee knocked down five 3’s and finished the night 8 of 11 from the field.  Travis Leslie was the only other Georgia player in double-figures, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-leading 8 rebounds…he also had two more alley-oop dunks and may show up on ESPN again tonight.

Florida’s dynamic guard duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker proved too much for Georgia to handle.  Walker burned the Dawgs for 21 points on four 3’s (which all were from FAR outside the line) and dished out 10 assists.  Boynton hit three 3’s himself and ended up with 21 points.

Forward Alex Tyus was unstoppable all night, hitting 10-14 on field goals and leading the Gators in scoring with 23 points.

Georgia is not 0-6 in true road games (not counting the Illinois game), and 0-3 in SEC away games.

The Dawgs have to shake this one off, though, and get ready for another difficult SEC road game this Saturday night as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, SC.

In case you missed it Tuesday night, the Gamecocks just knocked off the #1 Kentucky Wildcats.

Dawgs Head to Florida

jarvis hayes
On January 19, 2002, Jarvis Hayes scored 23 points and the Dawgs won at Florida 84-79...this was the last time Georgia won at the O'Connell Center

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team (9-8) rolls into Gainesville on Wednesday night to take on a hot Florida Gators team that is coming off a thrilling buzzer-beater win over South Carolina last Saturday.

The Gators have been somewhat of an anomaly this year.  Florida has recorded wins over Michigan State, NC State and Florida State, yet they lost at home to South Alabama and Richmond.

Billy Donovan’s squad started out conference play with back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but have since won three straight games to put them at 3-2 in the SEC.

On Wednesday, Mark Fox’s Dawgs will be trying to do something that hasn’t been done since the 2001-2002 season…win in Gainesville.  Last year in the game at Florida, the Gators lit up the Bulldogs with eleven 3-pointers in an 83-57 rout (and basically put the nail in Dennis Felton’s coaching coffin).

The SEC road has not been kind to the Dawgs over the years, as they have tallied up just 4 wins in the past 3 seasons coming into the 2009-2010 campaign (they are 0-2 this year away from The Steg in SEC play).

And to top it all off, the Florida Gators have now won 35 of their last 43 SEC home games.

This Gator squad’s strength is its backcourt, which may be one of the best in the country.  Freshman Kenny Boynton and sophomore Erving Walker account for 38% of Florida’s offense, combining for 27.4 points per game.  The Gators as a team hoist up twenty 3-pointers a game, and their starting guards are a big reason for that.  These two players have taken a total of 465 field goal attempts this year, and 256 of them were from 3-point range (that’s 55%!).  Walker is the better shooter of this tandem(38.2% 3PT), and he is also very good at creating his own shot off the dribble.

The Florida frontcourt is tall (yet thin) and features juniors Alex Tyus 6’8″, Chandler Parsons 6’9″, Vernon Macklin 6’10” and senior Dan Werner at 6’8″.  Tyus can score inside with his back to the rim, yet he also has a surprisingly soft touch from 15′-18′.  He is averaging 11.9 points a game, and is the Gators leading rebounder at 7.1 per contest.

Chandler Parsons (he hit the 3pt shot that beat SC) is averaging 10.7 points/6.6 boards, and he often looks to pop out for 3’s (shooting 35%).  Reserve Dan Werner is another guy that will shoot it from beyond the arc, yet so far this season he connecting only 30.2% of the time.

You may be noticing trend in Florida’s shot selection on offense – they like to jack it up from downtown.

The Gators are second in the conference in team defense, surrendering only 62.8 points per game.  However, they are second to last in blocks per game with only 2.95 per outing.  They do a good job of guarding the perimeter, but their bigs do not give them much support on the inside (Tyus and Parsons are awfully thin and struggle against wider opponents).

Keys to the Game

Handle the Pressure – Coach Fox’s team should expect to see a lot of full-court pressure from the Gators on Wednesday.  In last Saturday’s win over Tennessee, Georgia only saw token pressure from the Vols when bringing it up the court.  I expect Billy Donovan’s team to run a more aggressive full-court trap press, trying to force Georgia into turnovers.  The Gators prefer to play up-tempo, and will want to make this game somewhat chaotic and fast-paced.  Dustin Ware, Ricky McPhee, Vincent Williams and EA (Ebuka Anyaorah) need to play strong with the ball.  Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Price and Albert Jackson must be careful with their ball-reversal passes when taking on the press (can’t have a repeat of what happened at the end of the Mississippi State game).

Get in the (1-2-2) Zone! – Against Mississippi State and Tennessee, the Dawgs played in a 1-2-2 zone defense for the majority of both games (with Travis Leslie out on top).  This defensive set limits the number of quality looks for opponents from 3-point range.  Georgia held MSU and UT to 25.8% and 18.8% from beyond the arc, respectively.  Hopefully Fox will have his team in the same defense on Wednesday, ready to challenge and contest all Gator 3-point field goal attempts.  With Georgia’s size inside I don’t see the Gators getting too many second chances.

OutFox Them – Last Saturday was a good day for both of these programs.  Georgia ended a 10-game losing streak with their upset of the #8 Vols, and Florida won their 3rd straight SEC game on a thrilling last-second shot by Chandler Parsons.  How will these teams handle their recent successes?  Luckily for Coach Donovan, his Gator team is playing at home and will have a rowdy crowd backing them up.  Mark Fox has a greater challenge ahead of him – not only does he have to get his players focused on THIS game (and put the UT game in the past), but he also has to get them ready for another SEC road trip.  Hopefully Fox can keep his guys level-headed, and ready to dictate a slower tempo in this game.

The game tips off at 7PM EST and will be televised on CSS.  On the radio, you can listen to the first half on 750AM, and the second half on 97.1FM.

Side notes:

-Pat Forde of ESPN gave Mark Fox his “Coach who earned his comp car this week” award in his this week’s “Forde Minutes”.  He also proceeded to mention what none of us Georgia fans dare say at this point for fear that it won’t come true…the Dawgs have an outside shot at finishing .500 in the SEC.

-Congratulations again to Travis Leslie for nabbing the SEC Player of the Week award.  His dunks are becoming a regular part of ESPN’s Sportscenter highlights.

-During the Kentucky-South Carolina game on Tuesday night, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes (who was calling the game for ESPN) mentioned that he was looking forward to the Georgia-Florida matchup on Wednesday night.  Dykes went on to proclaim the Dawgs as the best team in the country to be ranked last in a conference, citing wins over Georgia Tech, Illinois and Tennessee.

Bonus side note from Hoop Dawg:

This is my first year with this blog, and I just wanted to say that I am loving all the comments!  Keep them coming…

It’s great to know that there are so many other fans of UGA basketball out there, and I love having a place like this where we can discuss the team, coaches, players, opponents, etc.

Anybody smell a Gator upset?

Spotlight: Gerald Robinson, Jr.

If you have been to any Georgia Bulldogs basketball games this year (or watched them on television), you might have noticed an athletic-looking (guard-type) that is on the UGA bench – usually in a red collared shirt.  He converses with other players and huddles with team during timeouts.

Who is this mystery fellow you might ask?

Gerald Robinson, Jr. scored 24 and 16 in two games against the Yellow Jackets

It is non other than 6’1″ transfer point guard Gerald Robinson, Jr.

Robinson transferred to UGA after playing two seasons at Tennessee State University, where he led the Tigers in scoring last season (17.8 points) and was second on the team his freshman year (15.2 points).  Matter of fact, all this guy does is score.

As a senior at Martin Luther King High School in Nashville, TN, Robinson paced his team with 29 points per game en route to the Region Semifinals and making him a McDonald’s All-American nominee.  According to his profile on GeorgiaDogs.com, he once scored 64 points in merely the first 3 quarters of a game!

The casual on-looker might attribute Gerald’s scoring to the fact that he played in a weaker Ohio Valley Conference.  But Mr. Robinson is no stranger to tough competition.

During his tenure at TSU, Robinson played against Georgia Tech (twice), Indiana, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Alabama and Kentucky.  He averaged 17.1 points per game in these out-of-conference affairs.

He was named to the 2nd Team All-Ohio Valley Conference his sophomore year, and made the conference’s All-Freshman team in 2008.

With the departure of Ricky McPhee after this season, Robinson should give the Bulldogs some much-needed depth at the guard position next year.

Post Tennessee Notes

Georgia native Kenny Hall thoroughly enjoying a Thompkins jam

After last night’s win, CBS Sportsline has the Dawgs RPI at 73 (almost on the coveted first page!) and their Strength of Schedule is 6th hardest in the country.

On Feb 14,2004, the Dawgs beat Kentucky 74-68 in Athens…this was the last time Georgia beat an opponent ranked in the Top 10 (and they’ve had 9 tries).

As my friends and I were walking into the game, we heard people negotiating ticket prices in excess of $75 dollars apiece.  Coach Fox definitely is generating some interest in UGA basketball around the Bulldawg Nation.

Bruce Pearl played both Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins against Georgia on Saturday.  This was the first game that these two players saw action in since the “incident”.  That means that not only did the Dawgs end the Vols’ 5-game post-Tyler Smith win streak (something the Kansas Jayhawks couldn’t do), they did it against a stronger Tennessee lineup (with 8 scholarship players).

Calling out Mark Bradley – after the Georgia Bulldogs upset the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Athens earlier this season, Mark Bradley of the AJC made the bold statement that the Bulldogs had merely one player (Trey Thompkins) who would make Tech’s 10-man rotation.

First off, I would take Trey Thompkins over any player on the Yellow Jacket roster – he is averaging more points than anyone on Tech and he beat them in a head-to-head matchup.  Gani Lawal is a great forward that plays very hard, but he doesn’t have the outside game or ball-handling skills that Thompkins possesses.

What about Travis Leslie?  Does Bradley really believe that Paul Hewitt wouldn’t prefer to have Leslie (13.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 ESPN Highlights) instead of D’Andre Bell, Iman Shumpert, Brian Oliver, Glen Rice, Jr., etc?  I won’t even list these players statistics because they are not comparable – click here if you like numbers.

Dawgs Crush Vols 78-63

I just got back home from Athens…and I am still super-pumped!

What a game!  What an atmosphere!

The Dawgs came out in front of a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum and took control of the game from the get-go…and they never relinquished it .  I have to admit, I was very nervous at halftime even with the 15-point Georgia lead – the Dawgs had halftime leads against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Miss St.

But tonight was different.  Georgia came out in a 3-2 defense with Leslie up top that completely took the Vols out of their game plan.  Tennessee shot an abysmal 42.3% from the field, and an even uglier 18.8% from beyond the arc.

Travis Leslie was a highlight-making machine, and I fully expect to see at least two of his dunks on ESPN’s “Top Plays” for today (if you watched the game you know the two I am referring to).

Thompkins was perfect, scoring 21 points and nabbing 8 rebounds (he also apparently read my blog from yesterday cause he knocked down three 3pt shots).

Off the bench, the Dawgs got great minutes from Ebuka Anyaorah and Jeremy Price (EA had 7 and Price 9).

Georgia knocked down 27 field goals in the game, and 8 of them were dunks.  This means that 30% of the time when UGA scores the fans are treated to a big-time highlight.

The Georgia in-bounds plays still continue to be an adventure, hopefully that will get better  as the season progresses.

And as far as the match-up of Ricky McPhee vs Skylar McBee…give me McPhee any day of the week!  McBee proved to be nothing more than a flopper that was constantly whining to the refs and looking for calls.  Hopefully he was able to learn a thing or two from Ricky.

Did anybody else go?  Let’s hear some comments…

Georgia Hosts Tennessee

The "Braveheart" Special: McPhee vs McBee

This Saturday, Georgia will be playing host to Bruce Pearl’s #8 Tennessee Volunteers in Athens at 5:00PM EST.

This will mark the Dawgs fourth-ranked opponent in their last five games.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably well aware of the drug/gun scandal that several Volunteer players were involved in.

The result of that incident: senior G/F Tyler Smith was kicked off the team and reserves C Brian Williams, G Melvin Goins and Lithonia, GA native G Cameron Tatum were suspended indefinitely (Goins and Tatum were actually re-instated onto the team earlier this week).  These four players represented 40% of this team’s offensive production through the first 12 games of the season (Smith was the team’s leading scorer last year and was averaging in double-figures again this year).

Amazingly, this Tennessee team has won five games in a row with the help of only 6 scholarship players and a mix of walk-ons.  Two of those wins were against #3 Kansas and #22 Ole Miss…go figure?

This Vols squad is led in the backcourt by Scotty Hopson, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince (6’7″ brother of NBA player Tayshaun Prince).  In his sophomore season, Hopson is leading Tennessee in scoring (13.5) and 3-point shooting (40.6%).  His wiry 6’7″ frame allows him to shoot over defenders from the outside, but Hopson is not afraid to take the ball to the rim as well (he had a couple of very impressive dunks against Alabama).

Maze and Prince are chipping in 8.8  and 7.0 points/game, respectively, though neither of them is much of a shooting threat.  Both of these guys play great defense, and rarely turn the ball over.

In the frontcourt, the headline name for UT is senior C Wayne Chism.  If you have never seen Mr. Chism play, he’s easy to spot with his white headband that he sports about 3″ too high on his forehead.

Chism is the Vols leading rebounder at 6.5 per game to go along with 12.1 points.  He is also actually a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 39% of this 3-point attempts.

In the last five games, these four leaders have stepped up their efforts to compensate for the loss of their four suspended teammates.  All of them are averaging more points per game than their season averages – Chism 15, Hopson 14, Maze 12, Prince 9.4.

Off the bench, Tennessee has gotten great play from sophomore F Renaldo Woolridge (6’8″, 208lbs) and freshman F Kenny Hall (6’8″, 220lbs).  Over the past five games, Woolridge is averaging 7.4 points/5.4 rebounds and Hall is giving the Vols 8.4 points/6.0 rebounds (both guys only average 4.8 points/game on the season).  Kenny Hall (from Stone Mountain, GA) is very active on the offensive glass, so the Dawgs better be aware of where he is on the court when shots go up and get a body on him.

I watched this team win at Alabama on Tuesday night, and it was interesting to see how their style of play has been affected by the loss of the suspended players.  Bruce Pearl’s past teams at Tennessee have thrived off running a full-court press for a majority of the game, dictating a fast tempo and forcing opponents into turnovers.  However, with less personnel at his disposal, Pearl’s team has been forced into playing a half-court game.

Bruce Pearl has never lost to the Dawgs since his arrival at Tennessee in 2005.  His Vols have won 10-straight against Georgia, and will be looking to make it 11 on Saturday.

Georgia’s Keys

Men vs Boys – Wayne Chism is the only UT player that weighs 240lbs or more (he’s listed at 246).  The Dawgs have 4 guys that tip the scales over that 240lb plateau – Chris Barnes – 240, Trey Thompkins – 247, Jeremy Price – 264 and Albert Jackson – 265.  Georgia needs to make the most of this size advantage and bang down low on the thinner Vols.  Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee should be looking to dump the ball down to the Georgia bigs early and often.  The Dawgs are third in the SEC in rebounding margin (+4.1), and in Saturday’s game UGA needs to continue its domination on the glass.

Kiddy Pool Depth – This “key”  is somewhat tied into the first one in that it is focused on Georgia getting the ball inside early.  Tennessee’s depth chart got axed by 33% after the scandal, which means that when a starter goes off a walk-on player enters.  The Dawgs need to look to draw fouls on offense so that they can get into the Vols’ bench.  This would give Georgia a rare talent-advantage over an opponent (usually its the Dawgs that are doing more with less).

From Downtown!!! – Guess where Georgia ranks in the SEC at 3-point field goals made per game?  If you guessed last, then “Yes! You are correct, Sir!”.  The Dawgs are shooting only 33.2% from behind the arc, and making merely four 3’s a game (and McPhee is making 2 of them per contest).  I’m not saying that I think that UGA should start chunking up 24 3-pointers a game like Mississippi State (Dawgs shoot 12/game), but it would be nice if they could take & make just a couple more.  Thompkins is second on the team in 3pt% at a solid 39.1%, yet he has only taken 23 shots from there on the year.  I wouldn’t mind if Trey started looking for a few more (like one or two) three-point shots a game…a couple more 3’s would remove some pressure on offense, and help open things up more in the paint.

Bonus Note:

Saturday’s game will give fans a rare chance to see a match-up between two walk-ons, both presumably of Scottish decent.  If you haven’t guessed, I am referring to the Dawgs senior guard Ricky McPhee and Tennessee’s freshman guard Skylar McBee.

McBee made headlines when he hit a 3-point field goal with time winding down on the shot clock to all but seal the Vols upset victory over the then #1 Kansas Jayhawks.  He received offers to play at East Carolina, Marshall, Santa Clara and Winthrop, but elected to stay close to home and walk-on at UT.  This was probably a wise decision since he has been playing 15.5 minutes per game, contributing 4.8 points.

The elder McPhee (also known as the Pride of Lawrenceville) transferred to Georgia after two seasons at Gardner Webb University.  This season, McPhee has started every game for the Dawgs and is averaging 9.8 points in 30.4 minutes.  He has also established himself as Coach Fox’s best perimeter defender (and is certainly a crowd/blog favorite).

It will be interesting to see if these two players defend each other at all on Saturday.  Both of them continue to serve as inspirations to future walk-ons and Scotts everywhere.

– I will be heading up to Athens with a few buddies for this one…  If you can’t make the trip, the game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network and 750AM radio.

Any other thoughts on what Dawgs need to do to win this one?

The Road to .500 Has Not Been Easy

It’s now Tuesday, and I am finally not feeling bummed-out about the meltdown that happened in Starkville last weekend.  With a huge home game against the #8 Tennessee Volunteers looming on the horizon, it’s time to move forward.

The Georgia Bulldogs record sits at 8-8 (0-3 in SEC play), which is probably perceived nationally as being fairly unimpressive.  However, as I mentioned last week this team (especially Coach Fox) is being recognized by people like Dick Vitale as a team that is overachieving.  The Dawgs even snuck into ESPN’s “Weekly Watch” again this week (look at the “Conference Headlines” section), being referred to as a “tough out” in the SEC (if you watched the MSU game, Jimmy Dykes must have referred to Georgia as a “tough out” at least 3 times).

In my opinion, the Dawgs’ 8-8 record deserves to have an asterisks next to it.  As of January 19, 2010, CBS Sportsline’s RPI Ranking has Georgia’s Strength of Schedule (SOS) as the 13th hardest in the country!  Only 5 teams in the latest AP Top 25 poll had a higher SOS rating than UGA.  Georgia has already played 4 teams ranked in the AP (make it 5 after Saturday), and 2 others are receiving votes (UAB & Missouri).

The Dawgs have gone up against 7 teams (beat 2 – GT, Illinois) listed in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of Bracketology.

Mark Fox’s squad is literally 7 points away from being 10-6 (2-1 in SEC), and having a legitimate NCAA Tournament resume (assuming they had beaten Ole Miss and Miss St).

An 8-8 record won’t jump out off the computer screen to the casual sports fan outside of Georgia, but to me it looks pretty good.

Dawgs Fall to Dogs 72-69

Q: How do you lose a 13-point lead with only 4:16 to play in the game?

A: Commit 5 turnovers and score 2 points

When Albert Jackson made both free throws to put Georgia on top 65-52 with only 4:16 left in the game, I definitely was starting to think that the Dawgs could pull off their first SEC win of the season (and on the road at that).

But Mississippi State had other things in mind.  The Bulldogs got into a full-court trap press that forced UGA into multiple turnovers, and essentially “all-out panic mode”.  State made three 3-point shots (they were merely 5-25 from beyond the arc before that) and finished out the game with a 20-4 run.

This leaves the Georgia Bulldogs with an 8-8 record overall, and winless in the SEC (0-3).  This was Georgia’s third straight game in which they led at the half yet still lost.  I am still pleased with everything that Coach Mark Fox is getting out of this team that is generally less talented than it’s opponents (MSU was favored by 13.5), but I am also worried that the team’s morale could take a hit.

The Dawgs are staying in these games by mostly sheer will and effort, and today was no different as they pulled down an outstanding 18 offensive rebounds (a very telling “effort” stat).  If the losses continue to pile up, will the effort eventually deteriorate?

I thought that Georgia’s bigs gave them very good minutes today.  Albert Jackson scored a season-high 11 points to go along with 6 rebounds (if he hadn’t made the turnover at the end that led to a Phil Turner 3-pointer I might go so far as to say he played a perfect game).  Jeremy Price played hard and finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists (unfortunately, he too had a terrible turnover at the end that led to Miss St points).  Chris Barnes only played 12 minutes, but he was productive as he grabbed 4 rebounds (3 offensive) and scored 3 points.

All and all, the UGA bench gave Coach Fox a much better performance today.  Thompkins picked up his 2nd foul with 8:47 left in the first half…after the State player made the two free throws, the UGA lead was cut to 18-15.  This was the last action that Trey would see for the rest of the half, yet his compatriots were able to build the lead up to 41-30 at the break.

Travis Leslie finished with a pretty good line – 14 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals – but he got a majority of those stats in the first half.  Mississippi State clamped down on Leslie in the second half, holding him to only 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting from the field.  However, Leslie did catch two more backdoor alley-oop dunks (he leads the country in this statistic with 6 on the season), and he continues to be my favorite player for his relentless hustle (and highlights).

Miss State came into today’s game averaging nearly 10 three-point field goals a game.  At the half, State had only made one.  The Bulldogs heated up in the second half to hit 7 more threes, and their defensive intensity did a complete 180 from the lackluster performance in the first half.

MSU guards Dee Bost and Phil Turner led the Bulldogs with 15 apiece, and Varnado added 14 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks.

Georgia ran a 3-2 zone defense for almost 85% of the game (it felt like), and for the most part it worked well as the Dawgs were able frustrate MSU from beyond the arc – State shot 8 of 31, or only 25.8% (they usually shoot over 41%).

At the end of the game though, it seemed like the Bulldogs were getting better penetration from Bost which led to more wide-open 3PT looks on kick-outs (I would have like to see Fox switch to a man-to-man defense with 3:30 left).

This was a tough one to swallow…what’s everybody else think?