Coming into tonight’s game, Rotnei Clarke was averaging 12.1 points, shooting 37.5% from beyond the arc and knocking down over 3 three-pointers a game in SEC play.
Clarke has only had two games this season in which he didn’t make a three-point field goal, and both of those games came against Georgia. He finished with only 4 points and shot 0-4 on three-point attempts against Georgia on Thursday night.
Clarke’s offensive woes can be attributed to the Dawgs defense (especially McPhee), which was tenacious for most of the game. Georgia limited Arkansas star guard Courtney Fortson to only 16 points (2 below his SEC average).
Marshawn Powell, selected to the SEC All-Freshman team, scored his only 2 points (he finished with 10) of the second half on a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left in the game (he averages over 15 in SEC play).
The only Razorback player that Georgia didn’t have an answer for was senior center Michael Washington, who finished the game with 20 points.
Coach Mark Fox showed Arkansas a mixture of man and 1-2-2 zone defense, and his Bulldogs held the Hogs to only 38.8% shooting from the floor.
The Dawgs overall effort was not just limited to their defense, they were tenacious on the boards as well. Georgia out-rebounded Arkansas 41 to 25, and the Dawgs brought down an astounding 16 offensive rebounds!
Other than a few careless turnovers, Georgia played a pretty solid game. Fox did seemed concerned about the turnovers after the game, referring to them in his post-game interview as “some careless turnovers, some ‘November’ turnovers; guys getting their pockets picked.”
On offense, the Bulldogs shot the ball really well – 46.6% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc. The Dawgs had four players reach double-figures in scoring.
Trey Thompkins led the way with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. He scored 11 of his points in the games final 10 minutes.
Travis Leslie scored 14 points in the first half, and finished the game with 21. He also pulled down 6 rebounds.
Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee each poured in 10 points. Three of McPhee’s points came on a last-second NBA-range three to close out the half and give the Dawgs a 40-32 advantage.
And most importantly, Georgia closed out a game outside of Athens and got the win! With 3:51 remaining and the Dawgs leading 67-61, Ricky McPhee got the ball taken away by a Razorback defender who took the ball to the other end of the court and got fouled.
Georgia fans everywhere had to be thinking, “Here we go again”.
But the Arkansas player missed both free throws, and Georgia scored on 6 of its last 8 possessions to seal the victory 77-64.
The Dawgs remain alive in the SEC tournament, and will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night at 9:45PM.
Personally, I have an 8-hour car ride ahead of me tomorrow (en route to Port Charlotte, FL) so I am going to write a bit about Vanderbilt now.
Dawgs @ Vanderbilt
The fact that the #20 Vanderbilt Commodores lost their last SEC home game to the South Carolina Gamecocks has me thinking that they are probably going to be pretty focused for the game on Friday. Not to mention that they lost to Georgia 72-58 in Athens, and needed overtime to beat the Dawgs 96-94 in Nashville.
Add to all this that the ‘Dores need an SEC tournament run to solidify a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and it’s not hard to see just how much this game means to this Vandy team.
The guy that gets Vandy going on offense is senior point guard Jermaine Beal. Against the Dawgs, Beal is averaging 24.5 points per game this season, and he pretty much single-handedly willed his team past Georgia in the game in Nashville. During the SEC Tournament Preview Show on the SEC Network, Beal was one of the candidates selected as a potential SEC Tournament MVP going into this weekend.
For the most part, the Dawgs have held Vandy big man A.J. Ogilvy in check this season. Ogilivy has hit only 5 of 18 field goal attempts against Georgia, totaling a mere 22 points in two games. The only thing that Georgia hasn’t been able to control regarding Ogilvy is his hair, which no doubt should be freshly-dyed for this tournament.
The other three big offensive threats for the ‘Dores are sophomore forwards Jeffrey Taylor and Andre Walker, and freshman sharp-shooter John Jenkins.
In the Dawgs’ win in Athens, they held Taylor, Walker and Jenkins to a combined total of only 9 points. However, this trio tallied up a total of 42 points in Vandy’s win during the rematch in Nashville.
If you remember in my preview of the second game against Vanderbilt, I labeled freshman guard John Jenkins as somewhat of an “X-Factor” for the ‘Dores (stating that they were 5-1 in the SEC when he scored over 10 points, and 2-2 when he went for under 10).
This trend of Jenkins scoring 10 points and its relation to Vandy’s success has definitely continued. The ‘Dores finished the season 8-1 in games in which Jenkins put in more than his 10.0 scoring average, and 2-3 in games when he did not.
Mark Fox has got to employ a similar defensive strategy on the perimeter as he did, in say, last night’s game against Arkansas’s Rotnei Clarke.
Jenkins has been red-hot lately, knocking down 14 of 23 from beyond the arc over the past four games.
Vanderbilt forward Jeffrey Taylor is having an amazing sophomore season, averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds a game in conference games. This native of Sweden may be one of the most underrated players in the league, and has scored in double-figures in 7 of his last 8 games.
The Bulldogs need to get some rest and relax tomorrow.
I think that Vanderbilt is a very good match-up for Georgia, especially on the inside. And if you don’t believe me, check out this article I found on The Tennessean newspaper. Apparently the Vandy players aren’t too crazy about playing Georgia either.
Watching Georgia close out and win against Arkansas makes me feel a lot better about the Dawgs chances against the ‘Dores.
What’s everyone else think? I can’t wait to read the comments when I get to into Florida, and I am excited to see how Mark Fox’s team plays tomorrow night!