Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs (5-10 SEC, 13-15 overall) will be going into Baton Rouge on Saturday with one last opportunity to snag a true road win before the regular season comes to an end.
Getting a win at LSU would also give the Dawgs 6 SEC wins on the season, doubling their total from a year ago.
Not to mention that it’s always more fun going into your conference tournament off of a victory, right?
LSU’s 1-14 conference record (10-19 overall) is anything but stellar. However, the Tigers are a much better team at home in the confines of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where they have earned all 10 of their wins on the season (including one conference win).
In SEC games this year, LSU’s scoring margin per game is -12.1. At home, though, that number drops to -8.9 a game. Their one SEC victory came in the form of a 65-54 win over Arkansas (something the Dawgs couldn’t accomplish), and they have lost a number of close games against good competition – lost by 5 to Tennessee, lost at Vandy by 8 and lost to Mississippi by 1 at home.
Add in the fact that it will be Senior Night for the Tigers leading scorer Tasmin Mitchell (who will go down as one of the better players in LSU history), and it is easy to see how this will be another tough road test for Fox’s Dawgs.
Last season, LSU hammered Georgia 80-62 in the game in Athens, with Mitchell scoring 27 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.
The Tigers team statistics in conference play are more like eyesores for Coach Trent Johnson than anything else. His LSU team is last in the SEC in scoring offense at 57.9 points per game, field goal percentage (38.3%), three-point percentage (28.5%) and three-point field goals made per game (4.6).
However, over the past six games the Tigers have been shooting the ball pretty well from the perimeter, knocking down nearly 37% of their three-point attempts.
In the backcourt, the Tigers leader is junior guard Bo Spencer. In 35.4 SEC minutes per game, Spencer is netting 14.2 points and tossing up over 7 three-point attempts. There are not many shots that Mr. Spencer does not like.
The LSU frontcourt features senior Tasmin Mitchell and sophomore Storm Warren (a member of the SEC’s “All Name Team”).
In conference play, Mitchell is scoring 16.3 points and grabbing 9.7 rebounds in nearly 37 minutes a game – he pretty much never leaves the floor for Coach Johnson.
When asked about this being the last home game for Mitchell, Johnson stated, “I’ve been in this league for two years, but it’s hard for me to imagine anybody who’s won two SEC championships and has been to the Final Four and has been all-conference two years in a row. He’s played for three different coaches. He’s got passion, and he’s committed to his teammates and to his school. My biggest concern against Georgia is making sure I do everything I can so he has a good game.”
Think Tasmin Mitchell is going to want to get a win in his last home game as an LSU Tiger?
Fellow forward Storm Warren is chipping in 9.5 points and pulling down 4.7 rebounds per contest in SEC games.
Spencer, Mitchell and Warren combine for an average of 40 points of offense a game for the Tigers (or 70% of their scoring!).
The main asset that Coach Johnson has at his disposal off the bench is freshman Dennis Harris (a native of Georgia). At 6’10”, Harris can alter a lot of shots in the paint (he only weighs 195lbs though, so larger bigs tend to muscle him around). Harris’s play has picked up over the past five games as he is averaging 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds.
The Tigers lost at Ole Miss 72-59 on Thursday night, so they will be entering Saturday night’s game off only one days rest.
When I was thinking about this game and trying to come up with things that Georgia needs to do to win, one point just kept showing up in my mind:
Poor second half play has been an underlying theme for the Georgia Bulldogs in SEC road games this season (they are a young team though so we’ll give them a pass). Other than the games at Florida and Auburn, for the most part this Georgia team has not appeared intimidated when playing in opposing team’s gyms. Matter of fact, the Dawgs have held leads late into the second half of four conference games that they eventually lost:
@Kentucky – UGA led by 2 with 8:06 left in the game
@Miss St – UGA led by 10 with 4:08 left in the game
@South Carolina – UGA led by 6 with 5:29 left in the game
@ Vanderbilt – UGA led by 5 with 33 seconds left in the game
For Georgia to win on Saturday, this young team has to learn how to close out a game on the road. This means that they must keep up the defensive intensity for the full 40 minutes. On offense, Ware and Thompkins need to be floor leaders and orchestrate smart possessions (especially in the game’s final 10 minutes).
Staying under their SEC average of 15.9 turnovers a game might help as well.
A loss at LSU on Saturday would send the Dawgs backing into SEC Tournament, and undoubtedly would do some damage to this team’s confidence.
I found a website that projects the field for this year’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT) – who knew such a thing existed? Anyhow, as of March 2 (pre-Kentucky loss) this website had Georgia on the NIT bubble.
The game tips off at 5:00PM EST and will be televised on the Fox Sports Network.