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?

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