Dawgs Upset Gators at the Steg!

dawgs fans
The Crazies were out in full force in the UGA Student Section on Saturday

Travis Lelsie put to rest any worries about the Georgia Bulldogs having ‘tired legs’ on the Gators’ first possession when he swatted a lay-up attempt by Channing Parsons.

The Bulldogs came out passing and shooting the ball well in this one, and they were able to build up a 15 point lead going into the half despite not having Travis Leslie in the game for the final 6:11 of the first half (after he picked up his 2nd personal foul)…when you shoot 64% from the field as a team anything is possible.

Reserve guards Ebuka Anyaorah and DeMario Mayfield gave Coach Fox some very solid minutes off the bench. EA finished the game with 9 points and Mayfield chipped in 5 (I was surpised at Mayfield’s aggressiveness and athleticism – should this guy be playing more?). Their contributions were instrumental in allowing the Dawgs to remain effective on offense without Leslie in the game.

The Dawgs came out in the second half still shooting the ball well (at one point the announcer said they were hitting 71% from the field!) and were able to maintain their lead for the first 10 minutes.

With 9:45 remaining, Georgia had a 67-52 lead and looked poised to pull off another upset at home.

However, it wouldn’t be a UGA basketball game without a close finish.

In the second half, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton scored 16 and 13, respectively. These two Gators almost willed Billy Donovan’s team to a comeback.


Boynton hit a three to make the score 71-69 Georgia, with 5:46 left in the game.

On the Dawgs next possession, Dustin Ware buried a three with the shot clock expiring to preserve the Georgia lead and put the Dawgs up 74-69 with 5:08 remaining (I felt so good for Dustin when he hit this shot…a bit of redemption for the missed FT’s at Vandy).

I wrote it down on a note pad and was planning to call this the “Play of the Game”.

Then with 3:30 left, Trey Thompkins buried a long two-pointer on a Georgia in-bounds play with less than 3 seconds on the shot clock to put the Dawgs up 76-71.

This was now going to go down as the “Play of the Game”.

But then Boynton buried another three and now Georgia was only up two with 3:10 left. The Dawgs got Thompkins isolated on the block, but his shot missed off the rim…luckily big Jeremy Price was there for the tip in to put the Dawgs up 78-74 with 2:44 left.

I now had a third play to consider for the “Play of the Game” award.

With only 13.3 seconds left in the game, Florida came out of a timeout with the ball (I was picturing the Gators hitting a three to win it at the buzzer).

But then Albert “Ajax” Jackson blocked a pass by Dan Werner that would have gone to a wide open Vernon Macklin (who would have surely dunked it and sent the game to overtime). The ball sailed out of bounds and with 0.1 left on the clock it looked like the Dawgs were going to close out the game…and they did.

So I guess I am going to give Ajax’s deflected pass the “Play of the Game” award. Congratulations Albert, the hardware should be in the mail by Monday.

This may have been the best game that the Dawgs have played this year. When Florida showed man defense, Georgia’s guards pounded it inside. If Donovan switched his team into a zone, the Dawgs patiently moved the ball around the outside until they got an open look from the perimeter.

Georgia finished the game with 21 assists and 15 turnovers (the record for most assists in a game by a Georgia team is 34), and shot the ball 57.4% from the field and 53.8% from beyond the arc.

The Dawgs out-rebounded the Gators 28-25, and Mark Fox got 31 points from his bench!

Thompkins led the way with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Jeremy Price tallied up 13 points and 5 boards in a reserve role.

Travis Leslie was limited to only 22 minutes due to early foul trouble, yet still managed to score 12 points and record 3 blocks.

Chris Barnes didn’t fill up the stat sheet on Saturday (2 points, 0 rebounds), but his block of Erving Walker’s lay-up attempt in the first half was amazing. Walker stole a pass and was taking the ball to the other end for a bucket when Barnes chased him down from behind and pinned the ball so hard on the glass I thought the backboard might break.

Georgia is now 5-0 on the season in Saturday SEC games played in the cozy confines of the Steg.

The Dawgs are 5-9 in the SEC and 13-14 overall.

Gators Come to Athens

The Florida Gators (9-4 SEC; 20-8 overall) roll into Athens this Saturday to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (4-9 SEC; 12-14 overall).

The Gators have won three games in a row, including a 75-62 win over the Tennessee Volunteers last Tuesday.

Barring a total meltdown, it appears that Billy Donovan’s team has just about played itself into this year’s NCAA Tournament.  However, after Saturday’s game with Georgia they have Vanderbilt at home and then they conclude the regular season at Kentucky.  Needless to say, the Gators definitely want/need to get another SEC win, and their best chance is probably against the Dawgs.

Back in January, Florida pounded the Dawgs 87-71 in Gainesville.  The Gators forced Georgia into 19 turnovers, and scored 50 points off Bulldog turnovers and second chance shots…it was not a fun game to watch if you were Dawgs fan.

However, last year the Gators handled the Dawgs 83-57 in Gainesville, only to be beaten in Athens 88-86.

This Florida team is better than last year’s squad, though.

The Gators might have the best backcourt in the SEC, and certainly one of the best in the country.

Sophomore point guard Erving Walker is averaging 16.1 points and 5 assists per game in SEC play, while hitting nearly 37% of his three-point attempts on the season.  In the first meeting between these two teams, Walker torched the Bulldogs for 21 points and dished-out 10 assists.

Freshman guard Kenny Boynton is scoring 13.4 points in conference games, and he too dropped 21 points on Georgia back in January.

On the inside, the Gators frontcourt features juniors Chandler Parsons (6’9″), Alex Tyus (6’8″) and Vernon Macklin (6’11”, 240 lbs).   Parsons is having a big junior season, averaging 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per SEC contest.  He also has a nice touch from the outside, burying 36.1% of his three-point tries on the year.

In conference play, Tyus is scoring 13.2 points and nabbing 7.5 rebounds per game.  In the first game against the Dawgs, Tyus led the Gators with 23 points.

Rounding out the Florida frontcourt is center Vernon Macklin, who is contributing 11 points and 4.8 boards a night in SEC games.

The Gators are very balanced on offense, and they can hurt teams from both inside and out.  Other than Kentucky, Florida is probably the second most talented team in the league.

It will be very interesting to see how Georgia comes out on Saturday following another back-breaking road loss.

Keys to the Game

Breaking the Press

I know that this is a pretty simple “key”, but the Dawgs’ 19 turnovers coupled with their inability to handle Florida’s full-court pressure were two big reasons that they were blown out in January.  There were too many times when the ball was thrown errantly down the middle of the court, resulting in a turnover.

Florida is going to show Georgia a full-court trap press on Saturday until the Dawgs show that they can handle it.  McPhee and Ware have got to be conscious of where they are on the court when they break to the ball.  There have been too many instances this season when a Georgia guard has received the in-bounds pass near the corner of the court, right on the baseline.  This is just asking to get trapped!  The Dawgs have got to find ways (set some picks maybe?) to get the ball in the guards hands closer to the middle of the court so that they have room to operate (and are less likely to get trapped).

Georgia needs to break the Gator press, and then work to get this game moving at a snail’s pace.

Get Inside

In Thursday night’s loss at Vanderbilt, Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee each played 41 minutes.  Dustin Ware played 40 and Thompkins a mere 34.  I realize that these are young men in probably the best shape of their lives, but one day off is one day off no matter how you look at it.  Tired legs can make even the best shooters’ jump shots come up just a bit short.  The Dawgs would be well served by getting the ball inside and pounding the glass.

Saturday Magic

Mark Fox’s Bulldogs are undefeated (4-0) this season in Saturday afternoon SEC home games.  Two of those wins were over Tennessee and Vanderbilt – both were and are still ranked.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan has taken note as well, saying earlier this week, “For me, personally, it’s more about moving into third place in the SEC East. We’re all jockeying for position right now and maybe we can catch Vandy for second, but we’re going up against a Georgia team that I think everyone in our league will attest plays very well at home.”

Side Note…Say What?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) has stated that the Georgia’s basketball team’s only tangible goal left this season (barring a miraculous SEC tournament championship) is to play the role of spoiler…starting with the Gators.

I respectfully disagree.

A win over Florida would give Georgia 5 SEC wins, and a legitimate shot at getting their 6th of the year in the season finale at LSU (I am not going to be so bold as to predict a win over Kentucky).  This would DOUBLE the number of SEC wins for this team from last year’s sum of three.  That would be a pretty good accomplishment.

Not to mention that should Georgia win on Saturday, they will put themselves in a position to reach .500 on the season, and possibly earn an NIT berth (this is again assuming a win at LSU, and then two wins in the SEC Tournament).

Making the NIT is another tangible goal for this young team.

The game tips off at 4:00PM EST on Saturday.  I have to be in Charlotte for work, so I’ll be watching it on the SEC Networks (aka Peachtree TV).  The game is sold out, so it should be an awesome atmosphere!

Dawgs Lose in Overtime 96-94

Ricky McPhee knocked down a pair of free throws with 53 seconds left to put his Georgia Bulldogs up 74-68.  The Dawgs were less than a minute away from earning their first road win of the season, and against a Top 25 team at that.

But Vanderbilt’s senior point guard Jermaine Beal had other plans in mind.  Beal was able to get to the rim and finish on two lay-ups in merely 11 seconds, and following an Andre Walker three-pointer the Commodores were down only 77-75 with 24 ticks left.

The ‘Dores then fouled Dustin Ware, sending him to the line for two shots.

Ware missed them both.

A.J. Ogilvy tipped in a missed Beal shot on the other end, Leslie missed an out of control jumper and the game was going to overtime.

In overtime, Vandy built up a 92-86 lead with 28 seconds left, but Ware knocked down back-to-back three’s and the Dawgs actually ended up with Chris Barnes at the line shooting a free throw with the score 96-94.  Barnes intentionally missed the shot, and Ware was able to track down the offensive board…but with only 0.9 seconds left he had to toss up a near impossible shot that fell short (Leslie grabbed it out of the air and put it in but the buzzer had already sounded).

Had the Dawgs not suffered a defensive let-down in the game’s final 53 seconds, one could go so far as to say that they played a near perfect game.

Georgia shot 46.5% from the field and 47.6% from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs out-rebounded Vandy 35-32, and they only committed 10 turnovers.

The fact that Georgia was able to go into the half down only 5 was an accomplishment within itself.  Trey Thompkins picked up his second foul with 8:15 left in the half, and he didn’t see the floor again until after the break.

The Dawgs had five players score in double-figures, with Travis Leslie leading the way with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists (he also showed up on Sportscenter’s “Top Plays” once again).

The Dawgs are now 4-9 in the SEC, and 12-14 overall.

Mark Fox can add the Vandy game to his team’s collection of heartbreaking SEC losses that they have suffered this season – Ole Miss, Miss St, South Carolina and Arkansas.

It’s mind-boggling to think that Georgia has now lost 5 conference games this year by a total of 14 points.

Georgia has three games remaining on its schedule: Florida and Kentucky at home, and LSU at their place.

If the SEC Tournament were to start today, I’d have to say that I like the Dawgs seed.  Georgia would get Ole Miss in round one (a team that UGA had beat in Athens), and the winner of that game would play Vandy in round two.  Another bonus of having the East sixth seed  is that it keeps Georgia on the opposite side of the bracket from Kentucky.

Ok, that was my attempt to cheer everybody (including myself) up following last night’s nail-biter.

Dawgs @ ‘Dores

The Dawgs' look to flex their road muscles for the Commodore faithful

The Georgia Bulldogs roll into Nashville on Thursday to take on the 16th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores.

Surprisingly, it’s the ‘Dores that will be the team looking for revenge.

The Dawgs handed the Commodores their second SEC loss back on February 6th in Athens.  In the 72-58 victory, Georgia’s bench out-scored Vanderbilt’s 17-5, and Vandy starters A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor were held to a combined 14 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the field.

Too bad Coach Kevin Stalling’s doesn’t want to play the rematch at Stegeman Coliseum as well.

Georgia is now winless in nine true road games this year, and getting the first one in Nashville is going to be difficult.  Vanderbilt is 13-1 this season playing at home in Memorial Gymnasium, with their one loss coming at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday.

Last season, the Dawgs lost to the Commodores in Nashville 50-40 (Georgia only had 18 points going into the half).

Actually, Georgia hasn’t won at Memorial Gym since February of 2006.  The Dawgs have won only two times in their last 10 games in Nashville.  There’s something about that raised floor that just doesn’t sit right with the Bulldogs.

The fact that Georgia was able to hold the ‘Dores to only 58 points in the first meeting is a testament to how well the Dawgs can play defense.  Vandy is second in the conference scoring, averaging 77.2 per game.  They are also second in the conference in both team field goal (46%) and three-point percentage (34.8%).

The Vanderbilt offensive attack starts with senior point guard Jermaine Beal.  Beal is averaging 16.3 points in SEC play this season, and he shoots a robust 45.5% from the field and 41.1% from beyond the arc in nearly 35 minutes of play.

He is a very difficult match-up for opposing team’s because he can create his own shot off the dribble, and he is deadly from three-point range.  He scored 21 points in the first game against Georgia, knocking down 4 three-balls.

Swedish native Jeffrey Taylor has been enjoying a very successful sophomore campaign.  The 6’7″ Taylor is averaging 14.4 points in conference games, and lately he has been the leader inside.  Over his past four games, he is scoring 19.3 points and snagging 5.5 rebounds.

Vandy’s other big threat on the inside is 6’11” junior center A.J. Ogilvy.  In SEC games, Ogilvy is netting 15.1 points and bringing down 6.6 rebounds.  The Dawgs (namely Albert Jackson) held A.J. in check last game, so I look for him to come out and play with a strong sense of purpose on Thursday.

The rest of the starting five is rounded out by a pair of sophomores – guard Brad Tinsley and 6’7″ forward Andre Walker.  Tinsley has struggled with his shooting this year (only 28.6% from three-point range), but he is still averaging 8.3 points and 3.2 assists per contest.  Walker isn’t much of a scorer, but in SEC games he is grabbing 6.4 boards a night.

Freshman reserve sharp-shooter John Jenkins is scoring 8.9 points a game in the SEC, and hitting nearly 44% of his three’s on the season.  Jenkins is (in my opinion) somewhat of an “X factor” for this team.  When he comes off the bench in SEC games and gets 10 points or more, Vandy is 5-1.  However, when Jenkins is held under 10 points the ‘Dores are only 2-2 (against the Dawgs earlier this month he scored merely 1 point on 0 for 9 shooting).  His scoring off the bench can be critical in giving Vandy the offensive punch they need to power past teams.

Some things to look for:

The Tale of Two Halves:

In the Dawgs’ six SEC road games this year, Mark Fox’s team has gone into the halftime break with the lead in four of them.  “Losing the halftime lead” has sort of been one of the mantra’s of this team.  These second-half collapses can largely be attributed to defensive lapses and costly turnovers in the game’s final four minutes.

In the first meeting between these teams, Georgia went into the half down 26-23 to Vanderbilt.  The Dawgs then came out in the second half and blew the ‘Dores out.

How will the Dawgs start out and finish in Thursday night’s game?

40 Minutes

Coach Fox has been preaching lately how much his staff is stressing to the team the importance of playing defense for 40 minutes.  He has repeatedly mentioned time and time again how poor second half defense has “crushed” (his words not mine) the Dawgs on numerous occasions.

The good news is that Vandy is not exactly lighting up the nets lately (please don’t let this be the jinx that gets them going again).  In the ‘Dores last two games, they have made only 6 of 33 attempts from beyond the arc.

It will be difficult for Vandy’s perimeter shooters to get comfortable from the outside if the Dawgs can consistently contest shots.

Can Georgia commit to this for 40 minutes?

Georgia’s “X Factor”?

Earlier I mentioned freshman John Jenkins’ bench scoring, and how it has made an impact on Vanderbilt’s success.

In the first meeting, reserve Vincent Williams scored 7 points and dished out 4 assists (arguably the freshman’s best game of the season).  Jeremy Price came off the bench to contribute 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Who steps up for Coach Fox and gives him big minutes on Thursday?  Chris Barnes (coming off his best game), EA, Williams, Price, Ajax?

The game tips off at 7:00PM EST and will be televised on ESPNU.

Is anyone making the trip?

Does anyone have any answers to the questions I raised above?

Dawgs Mount Comeback to Roll Over Tide

Chris Barnes owned the paint on Saturday

With 11:29 remaining in the game, the Georgia Bulldogs found themselves down 52-39 (and Alabama was already in the bonus shooting free throws).   Georgia actually held a one-point lead at the half, but the Alabama Crimson Tide were in the midst of a 23-9 run (and on the brink of handing the Dawgs their 9th SEC loss).

This would have been a perfect time for a team with only 3 conference wins to throw up the white flag.

Unfortunately for the Alabama, Georgia is not that kind of team.

Instead, the Dawgs turned up their defense and road the backs of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to a 76-70 victory.

What makes this win even more amazing is the fact that Georgia was horrendous at the foul line.  The Dawgs were 13 of 24 from the stripe (54.2%), and Thompkins was one of the main culprits (he hit only 3 of 9).

The free-throw line was Trey’s only flaw, though.  Thompkins finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds (a career high), with 15 points and 11 rebounds coming in the second half.  He scored 7 points in the game’s final 5 minutes.

Trey’s effort on the defensive glass yesterday, and really all season, is a testament to his overall work ethic.  He is the star player on the team, yet no one works harder than Thompkins on securing defensive rebounds.

Travis Leslie scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half, and he finished with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Leslie and Thompkins played great, but in my opinion, Chris Barnes saved the day.

Alabama held a 60-54 lead with 6:26 left in the game, and Trey Thompkins was at the line for a one-and-one.  Thompkins missed the front-end of the one-and-one, making Georgia now an atrocious 1 of 11 on free throws (and making the comeback seemingly impossible).

But Chris Barnes secured the rebound off the miss, and was fouled by Alabama center Chris Hines (this was Hines’ fifth foul).  Chris knocked down both free throws, bringing Georgia within four points.

Following the free throws, the Tide tried to pound the ball inside on its next possession, but their shot attempt was swatted by non other than Chris Barnes.

The Dawgs took the ball down the court and Thompkins converted a basket to bring Georgia within two.

I thought that this little segment of play by Chris Barnes was the play(s) of the game, as it enabled Georgia to get to within two points with 4:54 left (as opposed to being down 8).  Barnes scored a season-high 10 points, to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks.

As a team, Georgia shot 54.7% from the field and 55.6% from beyond the arc (some early three’s from McPhee and EA kept Georgia in the game in the first half).  The Dawgs only turned it over 14 times – 2.5 times less than their SEC average – and finished with 19 assists (Bama only had 8).

The Dawgs out-rebounded the Tide 38 to 25, and won the points in the paint battle 24 to 14.

Georgia’s defense held Bama to only 40.4% from the floor, and they reject 7 Tide shots!

Georgia is now 4-8 in the SEC, and 12-13 overall (and a shot at reaching the NIT).

The Crimson Tide Roll Into Athens

Swimmer Boy will attempt to distract and frighten Alabama players at the free-throw line

I think most UGA basketball fans would agree that Mark Fox’s first season has been a pleasant surprise.  This year we have seen Trey Thompkins develop into one of the best post players in the SEC.  Travis Leslie’s improvement and play has been exceptional, and he has shown up on ESPN’s “Top Plays” nearly as often as Kentucky’s John Wall.

This team has won a slew of games that on paper it probably shouldn’t have – Georgia Tech, Illinois, Tennessee and Vanderbilt – and has lost some very close games to some very good teams – Kentucky, Ole Miss, Miss St, Tennessee.

Overall, we want to think that this year’s team has improved from the dismal 2008-2009 campaign in which the Dawgs finished 3-13 in the SEC and had their coach fired before season’s end.

But sometimes the proof is in the pudding, and it sure would be nice to justify this improvement with a win over Alabama (4-7 SEC; 14-11 overall) on Saturday.  A victory against the Crimson Tide would give Georgia (3-8 SEC; 11-13 overall) its 4th SEC win (one more than last year), a wonderful piece of supporting evidence that this program is in fact moving in the right direction.

Alabama is led by first year coach Anthony Grant, who like Mark Fox, is transitioning from a mid-major schedule to the rigors of the SEC.  Grant was extremely successful at his last job with Virginia Commonwealth, leading the Rams to the NCAA tournament 2 out of the last 3 years.

And also like Fox, Grant’s Crimson Tide squad has beaten several big name teams this year – Baylor, Michigan, Mississippi State and Arkansas.  The Tide have suffered three one-point losses this season in SEC games, making them a mere 3 points away from possibly being 7-5 in the conference.

The strength of this Alabama team is its intense, pressure defense.  The Tide are first in the SEC in scoring defense, surrendering only 61.4 points a game (they rank 55th nationally in this statistical category).  They are holding SEC opponents to only 40.8% shooting from the field, and 26.8% from beyond the arc.  The Tide have held opposing squads under 60 points seven times this season.

On the offensive side of things, the picture is not as pretty for Alabama.  The Tide rank 11th in the conference in scoring offense at 61.1 per game, and have struggled in the half court set due to inconsistent outside shooting.

Alabama returns four starters from last year’s team that beat the Dawgs in Tuscaloosa 75-70.

Senior point guard Mikhail Torrance and sophomore forward JaMychal Green are leading the Tide in scoring in conference games at 14.8 each.  At 6’5″, Torrance is a tough match-up for most point guards in the league.  He likes to push the ball up the court and get his team into transition quickly (remember that they don’t score as efficiently in the half court).  He is also a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 35% of his three-point attempts.  Torrance compliments his scoring with a team-leading 5.4 assists per game.

JaMychal Green is the scoring , rebounding (7.1 in SEC play) and shot-blocking leader (1.88 per game) in the Tide’s rather large frontcourt.  He is a very skilled athlete at 6’9″/220 lbs, and rumor has it he turned down Kentucky to come to Tuscaloosa.  Green is has posted 5 double-doubles already this season.

Junior Chris Hines starts at the other forward position, however, fellow junior Justin Knox rotates into the game quickly as these two guys share a lot of minutes.  Hines is 6’8″ and 220 lbs, while Knox stands at 6’9″ and tips the scales at 240 lbs.  Neither of these players scores many points (Hines – 3.3; Knox 5.7), but both provide some serious beef inside defensively.

The other two starters for the Tide are both natives of the state of Georgia, freshman forward Tony Mitchell (6’6″) and junior guard Senario Hillman.  Mitchell has had a very solid freshman campaign, averaging 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and making 34% of his three’s in SEC Play.  Hillman is another one of the Tide’s three-point threats, connecting on 34% of his three’s and averaging 7.8 points in conference games (he also scored 19 on Georgia in last year’s game).

Coach Grant’s team does not have a lot of depth, as they only play roughly eight guys night in, night out.  Junior guard Charvez Davis and senior point guard Anthony Brock are the only other reserves (other than Knox) that typically see the floor.  Both of these guards are hitting nearly 37% of their three-point attempts in SEC play, so you have to be aware of where they are on the court.

A Couple of Keys

Going Green

A phrase that is used and manipulated by corporations everywhere nowadays in an attempt to attract consumers.  In regards to the basketball game being played on Saturday, I am referring to Alabama’s JaMychal Green.  Green has struggled with foul trouble all season.  He has fouled out of three games, and he has committed four fouls in eight other contests.  He is such a big part of Bama’s offense and defense that it would be very beneficial to the Dawgs if they could get him on the bench (or better yet, out of the game).

Jeremy Price needs to do a better job of making strong post moves, and getting Green up in the air.  In the Tennessee game, Price’s offensive attempts against Wayne Chism were too slow and deliberate.  He was unable to get Chism to commit fouls, and rather, Wayne usually just blocked Price’s shots.

Hopefully Thompkins and Price can attack the Alabama defense and get Green to pick up some early fouls.

Potentially Dangerous Situation

As we know by now, Georgia’s guard play has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for this team all season.  The match-up that Ware, McPhee, Leslie, EA and Vince Williams have against the Crimson Tide on Saturday does not look favorable for the Dawgs.  Alabama’s pressure-style of man defense coupled with their long bodies (Torrance at 6’5″ and Mitchell at 6’6″) could make it very difficult on Georgia’s undersized guards.  UGA is last in the SEC in turnovers at 16.5 a game!

How will the cookie crumble on Saturday?

Something’s Gotta Give

As mentioned earlier, Bama is locking down SEC opponents on defense, holding teams to 40.8% from the field and 26.3% from three-point range.

Georgia is currently second in the conference in both field goal and three-point percentage, at 47% and 38.2% respectively.  The Dawgs are shooting slightly better at home in SEC games, hitting 47.8% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc.

The game tips off at 4:00PM EST.

If you aren’t heading to Athens, the game can be seen on Comcast’s Peachtree TV (channel 7; HD channel 802).

Vols Avenge Loss with a 69-60 win over Dawgs

Georgia came out of the gates Wednesday night playing a 1-2-2 zone, slowing the pace of the game and forcing Tennessee to shoot outside jump shots.  This strategy played out perfectly for the Dawgs in the first half, as Tennessee made only 11 of 29 from the field (38%), including 1 of 10 from three-point range.

Despite not having Travis Leslie on the court for nearly 10 minutes of the half (he picked up 2 fouls early), Georgia fed the ball to Trey Thompkins over and over and was able to build up a 29-24 lead going into the break.

Raise your hand if you felt comfortable with the Dawgs lead at the half?  If you raised your hand, then you haven’t seen many Georgia basketball games this year…

The Dawgs came out of the halftime break and once again fell asleep on the defensive end.  The first 4 minutes of the second half were hard to watch, as Tennessee shredded the 1-2-2 zone by attacking the rim without any resistance from the Georgia defenders.

Mark Fox then tried switching to a man defense, which in turn led to a barrage of J.P. Prince dunks (he had zero points in the first half; 15 in the second).  I am not sure where Ricky McPhee was on the court, but he repeatedly lost Prince on backdoor cuts which resulted in dunk, after dunk, after dunk (to McPhee’s credit, this was a horrible match-up for him since Prince had a 6″ height advantage).

Tennessee scored on its first 10 possessions of the second half…I repeat, Tennessee scored on its first 10 possessions of the half.  UGA did not secure a defensive rebound and take it to the other end of the court for an offensive possession until Albert Jackson grabbed a miss by Scotty Hopson with 12:48 remaining.

The Vols pounded the ball inside, and shot a much-improved 55% from the field (they only attempted four 3-point shots in the second half – they made 2 of them).

The only thing that kept Georgia in this game at all was the brilliant play of Trey Thompkins.  He finished the night with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks…Trey was the only Georgia player to score in double figures (Tennessee had four players score over 10 points).

With 3:37 remaining, the Dawgs had the ball and trailed the Vols 61-56.  Unfortunately, Travis Leslie committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions.

However, the Vols only capitalized on one of the turnovers, and Jeremy Price was able to bring the Dawgs back within 5 following a pair of made free-throws.

The Vols had the ball up 63-58 with 1:47 remaining in the game.  Georgia desperately needed a defensive stand.

Instead, Vincent Williams let Bobby Maze blow by him, which forced Albert Jackson to abandon Wayne Chism underneath.  Maze missed the lay-up, but Chism got an easy put-back off the missed shot that put the Vols up by 7 with only 1:21 left.

On the Dawgs’ next possession out of a timeout, freshman point guard Vincent Williams jacked up an ill-advised jumper that clanked off the rim, and landed in Scotty Hopson’s hands…the game was basically over.

The Dawgs are now 0-9 in true road games this year, with only two opportunities left to get a win away from Athens (at Vandy and at LSU).

Here are two questions that I have about last night’s game:

1) How can the Dawgs come out of the half and once again let up on the defensive end of the floor?  Defense is about effort.  You don’t have to be the most talented or athletic team in the land to play good defense.  And since we know Georgia isn’t A) that talented or B) that athletic, then why can’t they give 40 minutes of solid effort on D?

2) Why was Vincent Williams on the floor at the end of the game?  Did Ware get injured?  Williams may pan out to be a good player, but right now he is too erratic and out of control.  I certainly would rather have Dustin on the court in the games final minutes for key offensive and defensive possessions.

If you have answers to these questions, or any other insights into this team’s “second-half meltdown syndrome” please share…

Will Wayne Chism Play?

According to a news report out of Knoxville, TN, Tennessee center Wayne Chism has not practiced the past week, while getting treatment for his injured ankle and hip.

He was a “game time” decision last Saturday in the Vols game at Kentucky.  He didn’t start the game, but Chism did play 30 minutes and finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds.

Another report from GoVols.com revealed that Pearl may be shuffling his lineup somewhat in anticipation for tonight’s game against the Dawgs.  More specifically, that Tennessee center/behemoth Brian Williams could play a lot more minutes tonight than he played in his first two games back from suspension.

Who knows if and how much Chism will play, but one thing’s for sure: The Dawgs have Bruce Pearl’s full attention.  The Vols remember getting dominated in Athens, and they are on the verge of the first 3-game losing streak of J.P. Prince’s career at UT.

With their backs against the wall, how will the Vols respond?

Nobody knows, but one thing is for sure – this should be a very intense game.

Georgia Visits Knoxville

Will the Vols fans get to see any of Travis Leslie's high-flying dunks on Wednesday?

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team heads to Knoxville, TN on Wednesday to take on Bruce Pearl’s #20 Tennessee Volunteers (18-6 overall; 6-4 SEC).

Georgia snapped a 10-game losing streak with their thrilling 78-63 blow-out win over the Vols in Athens back in January.

The game on Wednesday will be played at the Thompson-Boling Arena, a place where the Dawgs haven’t won since February 21, 2001.

The road as been anything but kind to Georgia this year, as they are now 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the SEC in true away games.  An outside observer would certainly not give the Dawgs much of a chance in this one.

Georgia, however, is coming off a 66-61 comeback victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, and looking to build a little momentum.

Tennessee has lost two straight road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and surely this team will be excited about getting home in front of their own fans.

With the dismissal of All-SEC forward Tyler Smith back in early January, senior center Wayne Chism has done a marvelous job of leading this team.  In SEC play this season, Chism is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game.  He is the team’s best inside scorer and certainly the Vols’ “go to” guy in the clutch.

Senior wingman J.P. Prince has been a “do everything” sort of player for Tennessee.  In SEC games, he is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.  Prince is also an excellent defender, who can make it very difficult on the opposing team’s perimeter players with his long body and athleticism.

On the perimeter, the Vols are led by sophomore Scotty Hopson and senior point guard Bobby Maze.  Hopson is averaging 11.8 points in conference games, and he has hit 39.2% of his three-point field goals on the season.  Maze is scoring 9.8 points a game in SEC play.

Off the bench, Bruce Pearl has gotten solid play from freshman forward Kenny Hall, who is scoring 5.1 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds in SEC play.  Junior guard Melvin Goins has scored 25 points over the last two games against Vandy and Kentucky.

Since the last meeting between these two teams, Pearl has reinstated junior center Brian Williams.  Williams has only played a total of 3 minutes in his first two games back, but the 6’10” 267lb Vol is a load inside and could see a significant increase in playing time against the Dawgs’ big frontcourt.

Here is how the Dawgs can pull off an upset in Knoxville on Wednesday: (and yes I understand Georgia hasn’t won a true road game this year)

Zone Defense

Tennessee does not shoot the ball well.  As a team, the Vols are knocking down 42.1% from the field, and only 29.7% from beyond the arc!  In the game in Athens, Fox used a packed-in 1-2-2 zone against Bruce Pearl’s Vols and it frustrated Tennessee into shooting 42.3% on field goals and 18.8% on three-pointers.  As long as the Dawgs’ defenders can contest shots by Hopson, and keep track of Chism when he slips out to the perimeter Georgia should be able to hold the Vols offense in check.

Who’s Got the Better Bench?

In the game in Athens, Georgia’s bench outscored Tennessee’s 16-13.  This was due in large part to the play from EA and Jeremy Price.  In 15 minutes of play, Anyaorah finished the game with 7 points and 4 assists.  Price gave Coach Fox 9 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes.  These two guys (along with Vincent Williams and Chris Barnes)  have got to be able to come into the game and contribute.

Outscoring the Vols bench this time around could be more difficult for the Dawgs.  Remember that in the last game Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were just being eased back into the rotation following their suspensions.  Add in the return of reserve center Brian Williams, and it is easy to see how the Vols bench could be up to the challenge on Wednesday.

Play Smart Trey

As evidenced by the Auburn game last week, Georgia becomes a much different team when Trey Thompkins is not on the court (that’s what happens when your leading scorer and rebounder and team-leader leaves the game).  I guarantee that Bruce Pearl’s staff took note of this, and I would be willingly to bet that Chism and the other Tennessee frontcourt players attack Trey in the paint on offense.  Albert Jackson and Jeremy Price need to give Thompkins help on the inside, and Trey needs to be careful not to pick up silly fouls because as he goes so go the Dawgs.

A Little Bit of Mojo

Everyone knows that Georgia is 0-8 in true road games this season, and on paper they really don’t have much of a shot to pull off the upset at Tennessee (last I checked UGA was an 11.5 point underdog in this one).  However, for some reason this team thrives against stout competition, as evidenced by the Dawgs 3-2 record against ranked opponents this year.  A lot of Georgia basketball fans thought the Dawgs had a chance of getting their first road win at South Carolina (didn’t happen), and even more thought that Georgia would certainly nab one at Auburn (didn’t come close to happening).  Maybe Wednesday night the Dawgs will steal a game that no one expects them to?  Before dismissing this possibility, please think back to this season’s SEC opener at Kentucky in which Georgia came very close to shocking the then ranked #3 Wildcats on their own court…

The game tips off at 8PM EST and will be televised on Peachtree TV – channel 7 for Comcast and 802 for Comcast HD.

Anyone else giving Georgia  a chance in this game?

Bulldogs in 2011 NBA Draft

jarvis hayes
Not since Jarvis Hayes was the the 10th pick overall in the 2003 NBA Draft has Georgia had a player leave early for the NBA

This morning I found myself perusing the NBA Draft website, which allows users to look at the NBA’s “Mock” drafts for 2010 and 2011 (basically how they anticipate the draft going based on the information that the NBA draft experts have right now).

What I saw on the link for the 2011 Mock NBA Draft was amazing!  The site currently lists Travis Leslie as being the 12th pick in the draft, and Howard “Trey” Thompkins going 19th.

This is great news for these two young players, but to Georgia basketball fans it could mean that these guys will only be with the Dawgs for one more year.

With the addition of junior guard Gerald Robinson, Jr next season, and the added maturity that Thompkins, Leslie, Dustin Ware and Jeremy Price will gain over the summer, it is safe to say that the Dawgs should be contenders in the SEC next year (and quite possibly potential dancers in next year’s NCAA Tourney).

Hopefully Coach Mark Fox will be able to take advantage of his talented roster next year, because he could lose a couple of juniors to the NBA after the season…something that hasn’t been an issue for a UGA basketball coach in quite some time.