Dawgs come up short at Rupp, lose 76-68

I watched ESPN’s Gameday Saturday morning, and no one predicted that Georgia Bulldogs would have the lead at the half against the Kentucky Wildcats…Nor did anyone think that the game would be tied at 59-59 with 7:35 remaining.

Kentucky did end up pulling away at the end of this one, and spoiled the Dawgs attempt of knocking off their second ranked opponent this week (largely because of the play by Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins)…but it was a battle till the end.

Travis Leslie made it very clear  two minutes into the game that Georgia did not travel to Lexington to back down.  Leslie caught an outlet pass, took it the length of the court and finished with a monster tomahawk dunk right on Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins (Big Cuz probably never thought he would be face-to-face with Leslie’s thigh).

Thompkins put in another herculean effort, scoring 17 points and nabbing 13 rebounds in the face of the Cats big frontcourt.  Ricky McPhee had 13 points and was not at all intimidated by superstar frosh John Wall (McPhee actually gave the “silence” signal to the Kentucky fans after dropping a three-pointer in the first half).

Georgia did not protect the ball well, committing an atrocious 26 turnovers.

It is also becoming evident that the Dawgs do not have much depth – Thompkins and Ware played 37 minutes each, Leslie 36 and McPhee 35.  Mark Fox is doing his best to give these guys short rests by taking them out before TV timeouts, but this could catch up to Georgia in the latter part of the season…UGA needs some of its bench players to step up and contribute.

When Thompkins and Leslie are not on the floor the offense tends to self-destruct.

But all and all, I was very proud of the effort that Mark Fox’s team gave on Saturday.  They challenged the Cats from the start and fought hard until the last second.

I think that the Dawgs are going to surprise some teams in SEC play this season.

Great Quote – “The members of the media voted us unanimously as the last-place team,” Fox said to the media after the game. “If you guys are right, then this league is really balanced because Kentucky’s very, very good.”

What did everyone else think about the game?

Dawgs Open SEC Play with….eeeekkk! Kentucky

Kentucky should enjoy their success now, because it won't be long before the NCAA Rules Committee comes knocking on their door...

Georgia shocked the college basketball world on Tuesday night when they knocked off #17 Georgia Tech at home in Athens.

Saturday, the Dawgs begin SEC play with a date in Lexington to take on the undefeated #3 Kentucky Wildcats (where’s Florida Atlantic when you need them?).

These days you can’t watch a segment of ESPN’s Sportscenter without seeing something pertaining to the Cats’  undefeated season , or another gravity-defying dunk by freshman sensation John Wall.  Since Kentucky signed renowned coach/rule-breaker John “Calamari” Calipari (he left his last two programs in fraudulent ruins – UMASS & Memphis) the Cats have been at the forefront of college basketball’s media frenzy.

Kentucky super-Frosh John Wall is leading the team in scoring (17.2 points/game) and highlights (5.4/game).  What many people don’t realize about Wall is that he is a great passer too, netting 7.3 assists per game.  Speaking of “netting”, Mr. Wall is projected to be the first pick in next year’s NBA draft which will most likely send him to the New Jersey Nets…so he better cherish all this winning now cause last I check New Jersey was 3-32.

Kentucky’s frontcourt features two of the better forwards in the SEC in junior Patrick Patterson (16.7 points/8.3 reb) and freshman DeMarcus “Big Cuz”  Cousins (15.4 points/9.6 reb).  What’s even more impressive about Cousins is that he is producing these numbers in only 19.2 minutes a game…Big Cuz has a little bit of a “foul problem” (don’t worry he is taking an Anger Management class to control his temper) averaging 3.2 personal fouls a contest.

This UK squad is actually the tallest in the country going by average player height.  Maybe that’s why Kentucky is 11th in the country in total offensive rebounds, and pulling down nearly 43 total rebounds a night.  If the Dawgs defensive rebound as poorly on Saturday as they did against the Yellow Jackets they are going to get run out of the gym (there are actually several other scenarios in which they could get run out of the gym but I am trying to be positive here).

Not to sound like a defeatist, but when analyzing Kentucky it’s really hard to find weaknesses.  They are 15th in the nation in offensive scoring at 82.8 points a game, and they are shooting lights out – 50.2% FG; 40.6% 3PT.   Their defense has been stingy, surrendering only 64.3 per game.

They are 15-0 despite playing an EXTREMELY difficult schedule already which included games against Stanford, North Carolina, UCONN, Indiana and Louisville.

I am going to mix up the format a bit for this one…instead of “Keys to the Game” I think we will go with “Things That Could Help”.

“Things That Could Help”

1.  Get in the Zone – Even though Kentucky is a good shooting team, I still think that UGA needs to play more zone defense than man-to-man and hope that the Cats are cold.  The Dawgs just don’t have the personnel to match up with Kentucky in a man defense…as much as I love Ricky McPhee, I would hate to see him trying to guard Wall out on the perimeter.  Thompkins could hold his own against Patterson or Big Cuz, but one of these guys would then get a very favorable match up against either Jackson, Barnes or Price.

2.  Temper, Temper – As mentioned above, Big Cuz can be somewhat of a hothead and routinely gets into foul trouble.  If anyone watched the Louisville-Kentucky game, then you probably saw Cousins give a flagrant elbow to the head of a Louisville player while wrestling for the ball (unfortunately the referees didn’t see it and Cuz stayed in the game).  I would love to see Albert Jackson or Chris Barnes get really physical with Cousins from the start, and maybe frustrate him into some cheap fouls.

3. Beyond the Arc – UGA won the game at Rupp Arena last year 90-85 because they were on fire from 3-point range.  Georgia made 11 or 16 three point attempts en route to the win (they also shot 50% from the field).  I realize that this is a difficult performance to repeat, but when you are playing the #3 team in the country you have to bring your best game.  Hopefully McPhee, Ware and Thompkins are on (fingers crossed) or things could derail early (freshman Ebuka Anyaorah has also been shooting the ball well lately averaging nearly 6 points off the bench in his last 3 outings).

The game will tip off at 4pm Saturday in the confines of historic Rupp Arena.  It will be televised on the SEC Network (which I believe is Peachtree TV) and on the radio at 750AM.

Any other thoughts?

Utah Jazz sign Sundiata Gaines to 10-day contract

I just finished watching ESPN’s Sportscenter for the third time today…I just can’t seem to get enough of the show’s opening clip which features Travis Leslie catching an alley-oop pass from Trey Thompkins and then flushing it on Georgia Tech’s D’Andre Bell.

The Columbia High School alum’s fantastic dunk also appeared on the “Top Plays” segment.

Anywho, I am digressing…

Sundiata Gaines was signed by the Utah Jazz to a 10-day contract pending a physical.  Read all about it here on the Utah Jazz home page.

Good luck to Sundiata in his first stint in the NBA.

Tech Wrecked!!!

Trey showed the Jackets who Runs This State

Georgia upset #17 Georgia Tech with solid defense (held Tech to 38.3% from the field and 25% from 3pt) and a whole lot of heart (I got my “Rocky Balboa” performance after all).

The Dawgs had the lead for all but about 5 minutes the entire game, and every time the Jackets got close or took the lead Georgia played strong and responded.

The only major flaw on the night for Georgia was that they let Tech get way too many offensive rebounds (Tech finished with 17).  If the Bulldogs Bigs had done a better job rebounding defensively, this game might not have been close at all.

The Dawgs held Tech’s freshman sensations Derrick Favors and Mfon Udofia to 8 points and 6 points, respectively.  Favors only logged 21 frustrating minutes, and was in foul trouble for most of the game.

I give Trey Thompkins and Ricky McPhee Co-MVP awards – Trey finished with 20 points/6 rebounds and McPhee had 16 points (4-7 from 3pt).

More importantly, both of these players made amazingly clutch plays in the final 2 minutes of the game.

With 1:29 left in the second half McPhee nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner to put Georgia up 61-55.  Zach Peacock answered with a 3-point bucket to cut the lead to 61-58.  McPhee immediately took the ball down the court and hit a running jump shot to put Georgia back up by five points.

Thompkins made  a crucial steal on an in-bounds play with 46 ticks left and Georgia only up 64-60…he got the ball to Ware who hit a free throw and put the Dawgs  up 65-60.

UGA would never look back and finished the game 73-67.

Travis Leslie played with great energy (12 pts, 4 reb, 2 assists, 2 stl, 2 blk) and made two sensational plays – an alley-oop dunk, and a block in which he nearly hit HIS HEAD ON THE BACKBOARD.  The only downside for Leslie were his 5 turnovers…

I read Mark Bradley’s article about the game on AJC.com, and was slightly offended when he stated that Trey Thompkins wouldn’t start for the Jackets.  Bradley claims that he attended the game, but obviously he wasn’t paying very good attention…Thompkins would not only start for Tech, but he would be a star player on that team.

ESPN highlights can be watched here – definitely worth it to see Leslie’s dunk.

Anything else about the game?

Wreck Tech

Will the Dawgs have the "Eye of the Tiger" on Tuesday night?

In 1976, Sylvester Stallone created an iconic boxing figure in his film directorial debut, Rocky.  Rocky Balboa  glorified the heart of the underdog and achieved success against all odds.

Why the 1976 reference?

Because this was the last time that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won a Men’s basketball game in Athens, GA.  Seems unbelievable doesn’t it with all of the talented players and teams that Tech has had over the years (Mark Price, Danny Manning, Tom Hammonds, Duane Ferrell, Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, Matt Harpring, Stephon Marbury)?

For the Bulldogs to keep their home winning streak alive Tuesday night against the Jackets, I think they are going to need a “Rocky Balboa “-esque performance because this GT team is very talented.

The Jackets come into this game 11-2 and ranked in both polls – #20 in AP; #17 in USA Today.  Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology edition has Tech entering the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed.

Georgia Tech had one  of the top recruiting classes coming into this season, and those talented freshman are producing early:

  • F Derrick Favors – 12.4 pts, 8.8 rebounds
  • PG Mfon Udofia – 11.2 pts, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists
  • G/F Brian Oliver – 7.2 pts, 41.4% from 3pt

The Wramblin’ Wreck’s front court features junior Gani Lawal and senior Zachery Peacock, who are averaging 14.8 and 9.5 points, respectively.

This team shoots the ball well (47.2% FG), plays great defense (only allowing 60.5/game) and they are big inside which allows them to control the glass and bring down 42.8 rebounds a game.

The good news for the Dawgs is that this Tech team hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent all season (not that UGA has either) – CBS Sportsline has the Jackets strength of schedule at 179; UGA’s is 130…so there is a slight possibility that this Tech squad has built up its 11-2 record against weaker opponents.

Another bonus for the Dawgs is Tech’s next opponent – the Jackets play host to #5 Duke on Saturday and could get caught looking ahead…

Keys to the Game

“Under Pressure” – the Queen and David Bowie hit song should be the Dawgs’ mantra Tuesday night.  This Jackets team has struggled with turnovers so far this year, averaging nearly 17 a game and ranking them 51st in the country in basketball’s ugliest statistical category.  Mark Fox should consider utilizing the full-court zone trap press that features Travis Leslie up front and on the ball…this could create some easy buckets for the Dawgs and get Tech out of their half-court offense.

“Jackson, Barnes & Price, LLC” – Albert Jackson, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price have got to give Georgia quality minutes against the Jackets.  I always feel confident that Trey Thompkins will get his rebounds, but sometimes the other forwards make me a bit nervous…UGA needs them to step up and work hard on the glass to help limit Tech’s second-chance opportunities.

Marquee Matchup – Last year Trey Thompkins scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in an ugly game in which the Jackets won 67-62 in Atlanta.  Gani Lawal scored 15 points and added 14 rebounds.  It’s safe to say that they ended in a draw (though Lawal’s team won the game).

This year, I anticipate Trey winning this matchup.  He has improved more both physically and statistically since last year’s rookie campaign, while Lawal’s numbers have remained almost identical.

The crowd for this one should be primarily red and black since the Georgia Tech football team plays Iowa at 8:15pm in the Orange Bowl.  Hopefully the UGA faithful can bring a lot of energy and get the Dawgs nice and fired up.

I think that on paper the Georgia Tech team is more talented (vegas has them at a 6-point favorite), but I remember a situation back in November 2009 where a Georgia Tech football team was also considered “better on paper”.

This game will be televised on CSS beginning at 7:00PM EST.

What’s everyone thinking about this one?  Will Travis Leslie come onto the court with “I Run This State” on his eye black or arms?

What happened?

I was in the car all day today driving to Wilmington, NC so I was unable to listen or watch the game on ESPN360.  I did check the score and saw that UGA got whipped by Missouri 89-61.

The box score said that Mizzu had 16 steals and forced 23 turnovers, and that Thompkins was in foul trouble most of the game.

Did anybody watch or listen to the game?  If so, fill us in on what went wrong…

Up Next: Missouri

Last season, the Missouri Tigers won the Big 12 Tournament Championship and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament (oh yeah, and they beat the Dawgs in Athens 83-76).

They lost their top 3 scorers from that team, but they haven’t dropped off that much.  Mizzu is currently 10-3 and riding a 5-game win streak that includes an 81-68 victory over the two team’s common opponent – The Fighting Illini.  The Tigers are 8-0 at home this season, and are actually in the midst of a 27-game home winning streak that dates back to the 2006-2007 season.

Nervous yet?

We are just getting started…

This Mizzu team plays tenacious full-court pressure and they are deep.  Nine out of ten Tigers have reached double-figures in scoring so far this season, and ten different players are averaging 10.8 minutes per game.

The Tigers are currently ranked #2 in the country in steals at a blistering 12.7 per game, and they have reached DOUBLE-FIGURES in steals 11 out of 13 games!  This is an unbelievable statistical accomplishment…Furthermore, Mizzu is forcing opponents into 21.8 turnovers a game and scoring an average of 28 points off those turnovers.

They are holding opponents to an ugly 38.5% from the field, and Mizzu is only surrendering 62.8 points a contest (they are scoring 83.8 per game themselves).  Their defensive leader is 6’3″ senior point guard  J.T. Tiller, who last year was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year…Guess where Tiller is from?  Marietta, GA…he claims he wasn’t offered by any schools  in Georgia (nice job D. Felton).

On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers are hitting 47.1% of their field goal attempts along with 40.8% from behind the arc.  They are led by smooth-shooting sophomore guard Kim English who is averaging 16.8 per contest.  Missouri’s scoring is so balanced that I think it would be silly to list all the guys and their point averages cause it looks something like this – 10, 10, 9, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 5.

The only chink in the armor that I could find in this team is that they tend to get out rebounded…Missouri is averaging 36.5 rebounds per game but opponents are beating them out at 37.5.

Keys to the Game

  • Hit the Boards – In two of Missouri’s three losses this season, they were significantly out rebounded by their opponents…in an 89-83 loss to Vanderbilt, the Commodores grabbed 46 rebounds to the Tigers 25.  Against Oral Roberts, Mizzu lost the rebounding battle 28 to 36 and were beaten 60-59.  Georgia does have a big front court (Thompkins, Jackson, Barnes, Price), and those guys need to really assert themselves and give the Dawgs an advantage inside.
  • Slow It Down – Missouri wants to press full-court all day and rattle opponents into turnovers.  Williams, Ware and McPhee need to be prepared (actually the whole team does) to play strong with the ball and get it across half court.  If Georgia can handle the pressure and limit turnovers they will slow down Mizzu’s momentum.  Once the ball crosses half court, I want to see the Dawgs use most of the shot clock.  Mizzu wants this thing to turn into a chaotic track meet that will enable them to get a bunch of easy fast-break points.  The Dawgs need to slow this game down and “ugly” it up a bit.

The game tips off Saturday at 4:00PM ET. We’ll have to listen to this one on 750AM, unless you are planning on either going to the game or you are a subscriber to the Missouri Sports Network (it might be on ESPN360 as well).

I think this is going to be the Dawgs toughest opponent yet (especially since UGA is still searching for its first road win)…any other thoughts?  Can Georgia extend it’s current win streak to four games?