Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs (9-10 overall, 1-5 in the SEC) need an SEC win in the worst way. After losing two straight and 5 of their first 6 conference games, the Dawgs need to build a little momentum before heading into Saturday’s game with #18 Vanderbilt.
Nothing like a trip back home to shake off the cobwebs and get a couple wins.
Arkansas (10-11 overall, 3-3 in the SEC) comes into Athens riding a two-game winning streak, including an 80-73 win at Ole Miss last Sunday (their first road win of the season in four tries).
Don’t read to far into the Razorbacks’ losing record – they played the first 14 games of the season without sophomore starting point guard and leading-scorer Courtney Fortson. Arkansas suspended Fortson indefinitely following his infamous tweet that poked lightly at an alleged rape that occurred on campus at an Arkansas fraternity. Fortson was not involved in the incident, but was punished for his crass comment, “Im gettin it at workouts like a dude who doesnt understand the word no from a drunk girl lol.”
Fortson had to learn the hard way that it’s probably not a good idea to make comedic observations about certain kinds of felonies.
But he is back now, and is averaging 18.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 34 minutes per game. It is safe to say that if Fortson did not own and use a Twitter account, the Razorbacks might have won games against Morgan State, East Tennessee State and South Alabama back in 2009.
The Hogs run a 3-guard attack that enables them to get out in the open court and run, run, run. They will play a fast-paced game with a lot of full-court pressure, similar to the Nolan Richarson team’s that were known for their “40 Minutes of Hell” basketball.
Complimenting Fortson in the backcourt is sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke. Clarke is netting 17.4 points a game in nearly 36 minutes, and he is shooting a blistering 47.7% from 3PT range.
The good news for Georgia is that Clarke is the only real threat that the Razorbacks have from beyond the arc. As a team, Arkansas is shooting an icy 32.5% on 3-pointers in SEC games. The Hogs’ field goal picture isn’t much prettier, as they are hitting only 40.4% in conference play.
Junior guard Marcus Britt rounds out the Razorback backcourt. Britt is the starter, but senior Stefan Welsh and freshman Julysses Nobles play nearly as many minutes – all three are averaging just under 22 minutes a night. Welsh and Nobles average 6.4 and 4.3 points per game, respectively.
Anchoring the frontcourt is senior center Michael Washington (6’9″) and freshman forward Marshawn Powell (6’7″). Washington averages 13.3 points/6.0 rebounds, and Powell gives the Razorbacks 15.3 points/6.8 rebounds. Both of these bigs run the court pretty well.
Get out the Windex, and clean up the glass
Georgia is second in SEC play this season in both rebounding margin (+5.7) and offensive rebounds per game (13.5). This is largely attributed to the Dawgs having one of the widest frontcourts in the country to go along with a guard that jumps out of the gym (Travis Leslie is snaring 8.8 boards a game in SEC play!).
Arkansas is not quite as active on the glass – the Hogs are second to last in the conference with 10.5 offensive boards a game, and dead-last in rebounding margin at -7.5 a game. I suppose that’s the price you pay when you choose to go with a three-guard lineup.
Georgia’s bigs should dominate the boards against Arkansas. I want to see at least two Georgia players bring down over 8 rebounds apiece, and I am expecting to see the Dawgs light-up the stat sheet line under “Second Chance Points”.
Please Protect the Ball
Georgia is averaging 15.3 turnovers a game, which ranks them at 259th in the country in this lovely category. This means that the Dawgs’ opponents are taking more field goal attempts each game, giving them more scoring opportunities (UGA averages 53 FG attempts a game; opponents are averaging 57). The only thing keeping Georgia close in FG attempts per game is that they offensive rebound so well. The Dawgs are not talented or deep enough to be giving opposing teams five to six extra possessions every game (in SEC play, UGA is last in the conference with a -5.67 turnover margin). Moving forward, every player on the Dawgs’ roster has to focus on taking care of the basketball.
More 3’s Please
Before the Tennessee game, I called on Trey Thompkins to start looking for more shots from behind the arc (he went 3-4 in that game). Since then, Georgia has knocked down 21 of its 39 three-point attempts (that’s 53.8% for all of you without calculators). The Dawgs are actually leading the conference in 3PT% in SEC play this season, shooting 42% as a team. The problem is that Georgia ranks last in the conference in 3-point attempts with only 81. Nine teams in the SEC have over 110 three-point attempts in conference play this season. Georgia is shooting the long ball well, so let’s see them shoot it more! In SEC games, Thompkins and McPhee are hitting 61.5% and 42.9% from three-point range, respectively.
Highway to the 2-3 Zone
Sorry for the “Top Gun” reference, I couldn’t resist. Just as I hope Coach Mark Fox won’t be able to resist putting his team in a 2-3 zone against the Hogs. As I mentioned, Arkansas does not shoot it well from the floor (only 40.4% on FG). Georgia has a distinct size advantage on the inside.
Poor shooting opponent + UGA size advantage = 2-3 zone for the Dawgs. UGA should pack it in and dare the Hogs to try to score from the outside. Plus, this will make it all the more difficult for Arkansas’s guards to score on penetration since Ajax or Trey will be waiting on them.
The game tips off at 7:00PM and will be televised on CSS.
The Dawgs need this one bad…