Dawgs Hold Off Jaspers to Clinch 7th Place

Trey Thompkins blocked Kidani Brutus’ three-point attempt with time expiring to seal a 61-58 win over the Manhattan Jaspers, ensuring that Georgia was not in fact the worst team in this year’s Old Spice Classic field.

The Dawgs came into this game favored by a whopping 17 points, but actually trailed the Jaspers 53-50 with just five minutes remaining in regulation.  When Manhattan took the lead at 48-46 following George Beamon’s break-away dunk, it was the first time the Jaspers had held a lead in a game since they were up 6-4 on Wisconsin on Thursday.

In the first half, Georgia’s offense didn’t look all that bad.  The Dawgs used their superior size and athleticism to exploit the Manhattan defense.  Georgia’s star players – Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson, Jr. – combined for 29 of the Dawgs’ 37 first half points.

Manhattan was scrappy and continued to fight the entire first half though, and the teams went into the break with Georgia leading 37-30.

Almost as if on cue, the Dawgs came out of the half with a flatness that is starting to become a trademark of this team.

The Jaspers showed some full-court pressure, and Georgia proceeded to turn the ball over five times in the first five minutes of the second half (the Dawgs finished the game with 17 turnovers in all).

Manhattan used a 1-3-1 zone defense to rattle Georgia’s offense, resulting in more turnovers and missed shots.  The Dawgs were ice-cold again from beyond the arc, hitting just 1 of 12 three-point attempts.  Coach Fox looked as if his head might actually pop off due to excessive frustration.

But alas, the Dawgs hit the shots when they needed to in the game’s final three minutes and were able to get the win, salvaging something from the team’s trip to Orlando.

The Jaspers were led by Brutus’ 16 points and 7 rebounds, along with George Beamon’s 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Trey Thompkins led Georgia with 18 points and 8 rebounds, but he also led them with 5 turnovers.

Following the game, Thompkins said, “We can go back and get back in the lab and know that at least we left out of here with one win.  That Manhattan win was one we needed just to get out of the sort of a daze we were in as a team.”

When the Dawgs get back to Athens and “get back in the lab”, hopefully they can find the answers to some of these problems:

1.  Zone Offense – The Dawgs should expect to see A LOT more zone defense in the future based upon the way they handled it down in Orlando.  GR2 has shown that he can be a zone-buster and penetrate into the lane, but somebody on this team has to step up and start hitting some outside shots.  In the last three games, Georgia made just 12 of 55 three-point attempts, or merely 21.8%.

2. Depth Issues – Coming into the 2010-2011 season, depth was not supposed to be a concern for the Dawgs.  On the contrary, it was supposed to be one of the strengths of the team according to Coach Fox.  At the moment, I’m not really sure just how deep Georgia’s bench really is – Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams are freshmen, and they are playing like it.  Sophomore guard Vince Williams makes me nervous every time he touches the ball, and fellow guard Sherrard Brantley is throwing up shots at an alarming rate, despite making just 4 of 18 from the field so far this season.

Connor Nolte and Chris Barnes are the only players coming off the bench that are giving Coach Fox consistently solid minutes.

3. Lackadaisical After The Break – At the Old Spice Classic, Georgia was outscored by a total of 29-14 in the first 5 minutes of the second halves of its games against Notre Dame, Temple and Manhattan.  Coach Mark Fox has to find a way to get his starters focused when they come out of the locker room following intermission.  Last season, Georgia led at the break of six SEC games that they proceeded to lose.

Hopefully a return to Athens and Stegeman Coliseum will be just what the doctor ordered for this Georgia team.

The Dawgs need to have a good week of practice and get out of their “daze” before their game this Friday against the UAB Blazers (4-1) – a team coming off a 70-65 overtime win against Arkansas (not to mention the Blazers whipped the Dawgs 72-56 last year in Birmingham).


Old Spice Classic Finale

The Georgia Bulldogs (3-2) will square off with the Manhattan Jaspers (2-3) today at 4:30pm, with both teams looking to avoid the dubious title of “Worst in Show” at this year’s Old Spice Classic.

The Jaspers first two games in Orlando were anything but pretty – a 50-35 loss to Wisconsin and a 74-45 shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M.

Manhattan’s two wins this season have come against New Jersey’s Science & Technology University (N.J.I.T.) – basically their version of “Georgia Tech” – and the Penn Quakers.

The Jaspers hail from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where they were projected to finish 9th coming into the 2010-2011 season – just ahead of Marist University.  Mike Hugueinin of Rivals.com says “Manhattan and Marist combined for five league wins last season, and combining for eight this season is an admirable goal.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is a team that Georgia should beat (easily).

The strength of this Jaspers team lies not in its shooting (38.9% from the floor as a team), but in its backcourt.

Freshman Michael Alvarado (14.2 ppg), Sophomore George Beamon (13.6 ppg) and Junior Kidani Brutus (11.4 ppg) account for over 66% of the Jaspers offense.  Alvarado and Brutus are the three-point shooters on this squad, hitting 28.6% and 37%, respectively.  Beamon is more of a slasher and looks to score closer to the basket.

I expect Manhattan to show the Dawgs a lot of 2-3 zone to slow down the game and force Georgia to shoot it from outside.  Gerald Robinson, Jr and Dustin Ware need to be able to give Georgia some offense from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs don’t need to toss up 30-plus three-point attempts like they did against Notre Dame, but they do need to take advantage when teams are giving them open looks.

The Georgia bigs should have a field day in this one as the Dawgs have a distinct height and thickness advantage.  Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes should all 6+ rebounds and a number of good scoring opportunities in the paint.

It will be interesting to see how the Dawgs come out for this one.  Their opponent  has yet to net more than 50 points in a game in Orlando, and looks to be once again outmatched (at least on paper).

However, if Coach Fox’s team comes out flat defensively (again) and allows Beamon and Brutus to penetrate inside and draw some fouls this game could remain close.

The Dawgs opened up this season playing  an inferior opponent, Mississippi Valley State, and it took an eight-point Jeremy Price run to come from behind and pull out a 72-70 victory at home.

It would be nice to see Georgia dominate this team from the start, build up a lead going into the half and then keep the foot on the accelerator after the break as well.  Getting at least one win down in Orlando is obviously the goal for today, but I’d like to see it done with some authority.

Old Spice Classic Woes Continue

So maybe playing in this year’s Old Spice Classic was not such a good idea for Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs?

The Dawgs were 3-0 pre-Disney World, but the Magic Kingdom has not been kind and now they sit at 3-2 following a 65-58 loss to the Temple Owls (3-1).

There might be little too much tryptophan being consumed in the Dawgs‘ locker room at half time.  For the second straight day the Dawgs came out utterly flat following the break, surrendering 9 points in the half’s first four minutes prompting Mark Fox to remove all five starters with his team down 40-33.

He actually kept the reserves in for three minutes before bringing the starters back in.  To their credit, the Georgia back-ups only surrendered one basket and left the game with the Dawgs trailing 42-33.  Matt Bucklin – or Ollie from the movie Hoosiers – even saw a few minutes and managed to commit two personal fouls.

Coach Fox was clearly upset with his starters defensive effort, but I’m not sure if that justified sacrificing three minutes of offense in the second half when his team was already down by seven.

The Dawgs didn’t shoot the ball extremely well in the first half – 44.4% from the field – but they did look a lot more comfortable against Temple’s 2-3 zone (I guess the Owls watched the Notre Dame game).  Georgia did a nice job of being patient and working the ball into Trey Thompkins just beneath the free throw line where he could operate.  Thompkins looked much more comfortable on offense, scoring 10 first-half points and playing very well with his back to the basket.

After hoisting up 34 three-pointers against the Fighting Irish on Thursday, the Dawgs didn’t attempt a single three until Dustin Ware’s miss with just 45 seconds left in the first half.

Travis Leslie was very active in the first half, coming away with 3 steals and 9 points.

After combining for 19 in the first half, Georgia’s star tandem of Thompkins and Leslie pulled a “disappearing act” – scoring just 7 points total in the second half (Trey had 2 and Leslie had 5).

As a team, the Dawgs shot just 33.3% from the field in the second and connected on just 2 of 10 of their three-point attempts.

Were it not for Gerald Robinson, Jr., this game would have gotten a lot worse – GR2 scored 12 of his 16 points after the break and was virtually unguardable when he decided to take the ball off the dribble.  There was an eight-minute span in the second half where GR2 was the only Bulldog converting field goals.

The Dawgs were able to get the game as close as 54-51 with just 3:25 left following a basket plus the free throw by Travis Leslie.  However, Georgia was unable to get stops or defensive rebounds when they needed them down the stretch, and Juan Fernandez put the dagger in the game when he buried his first three of the night to put his Owls up 59-51 with just 2 minutes remaining.

Junior forward Scootie Randall came into the game averaging just 5.0 points per game, yet he torched the Dawgs for 18 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the field.

It’s way to early to push the “panic button”, but these last two games have definitely left a lot to be desired.  This is a team that was getting placed in a lot of analysts’ preseason Top 25’s.  Florida Coach Billy Donovan said that Georgia might be the best team in the SEC East this season.

So far, they haven’t looked the part.

Right now, Georgia is a very soft defensive team that is struggling to play strong for the entire possession.  Temple came into this game shooting just 43.9% as a team from the field – yet against Georgia the Owls got hot and connected on 50% of their field goals and nearly 36% of their threes.

On the offensive end, Georgia looks totally out of sync.  Travis Leslie is an exciting player who makes some spectacular dunks, but he seems to get lost when the Dawgs are running their offense in the half court set.  While Trey Thompkins was out, Jeremy Price was averaging 17.7 points per game.  In the two games since Trey’s return, Price has scored just 9 points total.  Georgia isn’t playing with any fluidity on offense – everything looks awkward or pressed.

At this point, GR2 appears to be the only player on Fox’s team that is comfortable playing offense in the half court.

Coach Fox has to figure out how to help this team find some chemistry on offense now that it’s star player is back in the mix.

The Dawgs will have an opportunity to get a win in Orlando on Sunday as they take on a Manhattan team that was drilled 74-45 by Texas A&M.

Next Up: Temple

If there is any silver lining in the Dawgs double-overtime loss to Notre Dame last night, I suppose it’s that the game tonight against the #20 Temple  Owls (2-1) will not tip-off until 7:30pm – giving everyone the opportunity to watch The Iron Bowl at 2:30pm (Notre Dame plays California at 5:00pm).

Both Georgia (3-1) and Temple blew second-half leads in their games yesterday, and now the two teams will meet in the loser’s bracket of the Old Spice Classic.

Temple is currently ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls, and the Owls were predicted to win the Atlantic 10 by Rivals.com.

The strength of this Owls team is its tough, physical man defense.  Through their first three games, Temple has been surrendering a mere 54.0 points per game and limiting opponents to just 35.2% from the field.

On offensive it’s been a different story for the Owls – they are averaging just 64.7 ppg (259th in the nation) and shooting a rocky 43.9% from the floor (171st in the nation).  I watched their game last night against the Cal Bears, and it’s pretty clear that this Temple team isn’t going to scare many teams with their shooting prowess – the Owls shot 33.3% on field goals and a dismal 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.

The Temple frontcourt features Atlantic 10 Preseason Player of the Year Lavoy Allen.  Allen, a 6’9″ senior, is currently averaging 11.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 3.7 assists.  He looks more comfortable with the ball when facing the basket, and he is a surprisingly good passer for a big man.

Alongside Allen is the man with two first names, 6’11” junior Michael Eric.  Eric is netting 8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg and a team-leading 2.7 blocks.  He is very athletic for a guy his size, and attacks the basket with a quickness not seen in too many 6’11” bigs.

Georgia’s Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes will need to clean up their interior defense tonight unless they want Allen and Eric to repeat what Notre Dame did in the paint.

The Owls are led in the backcourt by junior point guard Juan Fernandez.  Fernandez was named to the Atlantic 10 preseason All-League Second Team after coming off a strong sophomore season in which he averaged 12.4 points and 3.6 assists per game.

If there is a shooter to be weary of on this Temple team, it’s Fernandez – last season he hit 45.3% from beyond the arc.  He has started out sluggish from three-point range this year, knocking down just 2 of his first 14 attempts.  But all good shooters snap out of their funks eventually, and Georgia needs to be conscientious of where Fernandez is on the court so he doesn’t get it going from outside.

Personally, I thought that the return of Trey Thompkins would mean that things would open up even more on the inside for senior big Jeremy Price.  Last night, Price proved me wrong – he finished 0-0 from the field and mustered just 3 points in 20 minutes before fouling out.

Against this aggressive Temple defense, Price has to be more active on the opposite block when the ball goes down into Thompkins.  The Owls will look to lend a lot of help in the paint when Trey has the ball, and Price needs to make himself an available target for his teammate.

At the risk of sounding over-confident, I feel like Georgia matches up really well with this Temple team (Las Vegas does not agree however, making the Owls a 4-point favorite).

Gerald Robinson, Jr. should be able to exploit Juan Fernandez in the half-court set and get into the lane and create for himself (and his teammates).

Trey Thompkins got his first game back out-of-the-way – I expect him to be a little closer to form tonight.  Allen is a solid post player, but he is no Trey Thompkins.  If Trey can get things going from the outside, Allen will be in for a LONG night.  Defensively, I think that Trey can really limit Allen’s offense if he can initiate contact and keep him with his back to the basket when he has the ball.

The Georgia guards must put their 26.5% three-point shooting performance that they had last night against Notre Dame behind them (Dustin Ware and GR2 were a combined 5 of 21 from beyond the arc).  The guards should get some nice looks from outside using the high-low game, and hopefully more of the shots will fall tonight.

This is another great early season test for Mark Fox’s Dawgs, and another opportunity to try to add a big out-of-conference win to their tournament resume.

Both the Dawgs and the Owls will be looking to avoid a second-straight loss, so expect both teams to play with a sense of urgency (which should make for an exciting game).

This Temple team is going to win a lot of games this year (and possibly their conference), and a “W” over the Owls would really look to the NCAA Selection Committee in March.

Dawgs Fall In Double OT

Trey Thompkins makes a surprise return to the lineup, and Georgia (3-1)  loses its first basketball game of the season to Notre Dame 89-83.

Not exactly how many people might have scripted it.

Georgia went into the half leading Notre Dame 37-25.

Last season, six of the Dawgs SEC losses came in games in which Georgia actually held the lead at the break.

The Dawgs were given an opportunity to show their growth from last season by closing out a game that they had total control over.

This did not happen.

I attribute the Dawgs second half collapse to three things: an inability to adjust their offense to Notre Dame’s 2-3 defense, poor interior defense and even poorer free throw shooting.

In the second half, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey switched his bigger Irish team into a 2-3 zone defense, daring Georgia’s guards to shoot it from outside.  The Dawgs shot it from beyond the arc, but not very well as they connected on just 9 of 34 attempts (or 26.5%).

At times, Gerald Robinson, Jr. was able to penetrate the zone and get into the lane and create – but this did not happen often enough.  It seemed like Georgia was more content with swinging the ball around the perimeter until something opened up from three-point range.

It would have been nice to see Georgia push the ball a bit more and not give the Irish so much time to get back and settle into their zone.

I already noticed a few comments on my last post about the defensive play (or lack there of) by Georgia’s bigs last night.  In the second half, Notre Dame bigs Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott feasted on Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes like they were Thanksgiving leftovers.  Nash scored 9 points in the second half and finished with 18, and Scott matched his 9 and finished the game with 11 before fouling out with 1:42 left to play.

Price and Barnes repeatedly allowed the Irish bigs to receive the ball WAY to close to the basket, resulting in a barrage of Notre Dame points in the paint.

During the stretch of play in the second half in which Notre Dame outscored Georgia 35-18 (from 17:42 down to 0:37 left in the game) the Dawgs missed 8 consecutive free throw attempts.  They finished 10 of 20 on the night from the charity stripe, and were probably left wondering if they could have won the game in regulation if only they could have knocked down a few more.

But you do have to give the Dawgs credit – they definitely fought until the buzzer sounded.  Even though they were down 62-56 with only 43 seconds remaining in regulation, Georgia scrapped and clawed and tied the game up on a tip-in by Trey Thompkins with just 9 seconds remaining.

Personally, I thought Georgia was going to pull it off at the end of the first overtime after GR2 knocked down a jumper with 41 seconds left to put the Dawgs up 69-68.  The Irish missed a couple of shots on their last possession, but kept securing the offensive rebounds until Ben Hansbrough was fouled by Dustin Ware on a put-back attempt (this could have been a no call in my opinion).  “Psycho B” knocked down 1 of 2 from the line, though, and the game went on to a second overtime.

It was great to see Trey back out on the court again – he appeared to be slimmer and certainly had less hair.  Trey looked a tad rusty on offense, missing shots he normally makes and traveling 3 times.  But I thought his defensive play was solid – bringing down 10 rebounds (8 defensive) and blocking 3 shots.

I haven’t seen ESPN’s Sportscenter yet today, but I have to imagine that Travis Leslie’s one-handed alley-oop dunk and his Dominique Wilkins-esque windmill both made the “Top Plays” segment.  Leslie led the Dawgs with 23 points and a team-high 9 rebounds.

Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitas lived up to his top billing, scoring 25 points including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.  Georgia really didn’t have an answer for this guy all game, and when the Irish needed buckets he was there to provide.

This was a tough loss because it would have looked great on UGA’s tournament resume to have a win over a quality Big East opponent.

Hopefully it will serve as a learning experience though, and next time Georgia goes into the half with a lead the Dawgs will come out of the locker room and put their opponent away.

Old Spice Classic

Hopefully GR2 brings his running shoes to the Notre Dame game

The Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0 for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, or as some people call it, “The season that ended with a tornado ripping through Atlanta, forcing the SEC Tournament into Georgia Tech’s gym and resulting in the Dawgs winning the championship and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament”.

But this 3-0 start has been far more impressive because the Dawgs are doing it without the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, Trey Thompkins.

And yes, Trey is listed as “doubtful” for this Thursday’s game against Notre Dame in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida.

Yet, ESPN analyst Andy Katz (my favorite ESPN analyst of all-time) is sticking with Georgia to win this holiday tournament.  Matter of fact, so are two of Katz’s colleagues – Jay Williams and Fran Fraschilla.

It’s too bad that Georgia didn’t get that same kind of love in either of this week’s national polls – Georgia remained unranked in both the AP (receiving 28 votes) and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (receiving 1 vote).  The head-scratcher here is that in last week’s polls, the Dawgs were receiving 42 votes in the AP and 4 votes in the Coaches – so they are being punished for winning without their best player?

Luckily for Georgia, the college basketball polls aren’t nearly as significant as the college football polls – but it would be nice to crack one of those Top 25’s since it hasn’t happened in nearly seven years.

The best thing that the Dawgs can do his head down to Orlando and win some ball games.

And that starts with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0).

The Irish finished 23-12 last year (their 5th straight 20-win season) with a 10-8 record in Big East play.  However, they did suffer two key losses from that roster – PF Luke Harangody, the team’s leading scorer (21.8 ppg) and rebounder (9.1 rpg) and PG Tory Jackson who led the team with 5.3 assists and also chipped in 9.6 ppg.

Heading into this season, analysts felt that Notre Dame had enough depth in the frontcourt to replace Harangody’s points and rebounds.  The big concern for the Irish was in their backcourt, where they would be breaking in a new point guard.

Through the first three games, Notre Dame freshman point guard Eric Atkins has put a lot of those concerns to rest.  Atkins, a McDonald’s All-American nominee, has played well for coach Mike Brey, averaging 10.3 ppg, dishing out 4 assists/game and shooting a blistering 62.5% from beyond the three-point line.

Joining Atkins in the backcourt is senior guard Ben Hansbrough, the younger brother of Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough.  Young Ben has been lighting it up from beyond the arc, hitting 15 of 25 three-point attempts (60%) and leading this team in both scoring (20.3 ppg) and assists (4.7).

The Notre Dame frontcourt is made up of three seniors and anchored by 6’8″ Tim Abromaitas, who had a “breakout season” last year, averaging 16.1 ppg and shooting 42.9% from three-point range.  Abromaitas is out to a strong start this season, scoring 14.7 ppg and grabbing 7.3 boards despite hitting only 4 of 24 from beyond the arc (let’s hope he doesn’t find his touch against Georgia).  He is a nightmare match-up for opposing bigs because he has the ability to score both inside and out – Price and Barnes are going to have their work cut out for them.

Tyrone Nash (11.3ppg / 7.0 rpg) and Carleton Scott (9.0 ppg / 8.0 rpg) round out the rest of the Irish frontcourt.

Senior wingman 6’8″ Scott Martin – a transfer from Purdue – gives Coach Brey a quality sixth man he can look to for a little bit of everything (6.5ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 apg) off the bench.

Even though Notre Dame is 3-0, it’s hard to judge just how good they really are because their schedule thus far has resembled “Cupcake Row” – Georgia Southern, Liberty and Chicago State.  The Dawgs will no doubt be the first real test of the season for this Irish team.

However, Notre Dame will be the best team that Georgia has played so far as well – four seniors in the starting five, balanced scoring and rebounding and a proven coach in Mike Brey (the Irish have made it to the postseason in each of Brey’s 10 seasons).

Georgia‘s last-second win at Saint Louis was definitely a great confidence booster for a team that didn’t win a road game last season (I was at a family trip in Dahlonega, GA and unfortunately unable to listen – I did follow fervently on my phone under the dinner table and nearly kicked the person across the table from me when I refreshed the screen and saw 61-59).

But this team must clean up the turnovers (17 @ Saint Louis and 18 vs Colorado).  Gerald Robinson, Jr. (GR2) had 8 assists at Saint Louis – including the dish to Jeremy Price that led to the game-winning bucket – but he nearly matched that total with 7 turnovers.  If Georgia is going to find success down in Orlando, Coach Fox is going to need smarter play out of GR2, who has been the Dawgs’ most pleasant surprise of this young season – 16.7 ppg and a team-leading 5.7 apg.

This is a senior-laden Notre Dame team that is only turning the ball over 10 times a game, meaning that they play smart with the ball and don’t give their opponents too many extra possessions.

This game is going to present quite a rebounding challenge for the Dawgs‘ frontcourt of Price, Travis Leslie (G/F) and Chris Barnes.  The Irish are grabbing 49 boards a game to Georgia’s 34, and on top of that they have a serious size advantage inside – their roster is full of 6’8″ and 6’9″ bigs.

Barnes was productive again off the bench for Coach Fox against Saint Louis, hauling down 5 rebounds in just 14 minutes of play.  He’s averaging 7.0 rebounds in the last two games and needs to continue to attack the glass going forward with Thompkins on the sidelines.

Notre Dame will most likely be looking to slow the pace of this game down, allowing them to pound the ball inside on the Dawgs defensively.  It will be up to GR2, Travis Leslie and Dustin Ware to push the ball and try to turn this game into a bit of a track meet because the Dawgs certainly have a quickness advantage.

I think the key to this game is going to lie in the hands (or legs) of Travis Leslie.  Leslie has been sensational for Coach Fox so far this season, leading the team in points (18.0), rebounds (8.3) and minutes (32.0).

However, it’s not just his offense that the Dawgs will rely on Thursday night – they are going to need a great defensive effort from Leslie as well.  I am assuming that the 6’7″ Connor Nolte will match up with one of Notre Dame’s bigs (maybe Carleton Scott?) because they have so much height inside (6’8″, 6’8″ and 6’7″).

This will leave Leslie to guard the Irish’s leading scorer, Ben Hansbrough.  Hansbrough is an excellent shooter, and guarding excellent shooters is difficult.  Leslie will have to be aware of where “Psycho B” is on the court at all times, which will be a tiring endeavor.

The Old Spice Classic presents another great opportunity for this Georgia team to continue building its NCAA tournament resume.  Any wins that the Dawgs can secure away from The Steg will go a long way in convincing tournament committee members that they deserve a bid in March (especially if they can continue to win without Trey).

The game will be televised at 7:00PM EST on ESPN2, meaning that this game (and tournament) will give Georgia some much-needed national exposure.  Sounds like a nice thing to mention to recruiting prospects as well, doesn’t it?

Hopefully the Dawgs can make playing in a preseason tournament a regular occurrence in the future.  Winning a few games at the Old Spice Classic would certainly help.

Dawgs First Road Game

Goofiest-looking mascot?

The Saint Louis Billikens were a trendy pick this off-season to win the Atlantic 10 conference this year – they were coming off a 23-win season which included an 11-5 conference record, and the whole team was returning.

Things have gone downhill since the off-season for Saint Louis.

The team’s two leading scorers from last year – PG Kwamain Mitchell and PF Willie Reed – have been suspended from the team amid sexual assault allegations.  Mitchell and Reed averaged a combine 28.3 points per game last year, or 45% of the Billikens offense.  Needless to say, these were key losses for Saint Louis.

Expectations have lowered a bit for Saint Louis, as Coach Rick Majerus is now working with a team composed of 11 freshman and sophomores.  The good news for the remaining Billikens is that everyone is getting to play – through the first two games, Majerus has nine guys that are averaging 16.5 minutes or more.

Junior guard Kyle Cassidy is leading the Billikens in both scoring (16.5 points) and assists (3.5)

The Saint Louis frontcourt features an Australian and a New Zealander – hard to believe the two can co-exist!

Aussie native Cody Ellis, a 6’8″ sophomore, is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 boards, and Kiwi freshman Rob Loe is netting 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a contest (while standing at 6’11”).

As tempting as it might be to feel confident about the Dawgs chances in this game, I feel compelled to remind everyone of the Dawgs‘ 0-11 record in true road games last season.  Things were anything but cozy for Georgia away from the Steg, and Saturday night will give the Dawgs an opportunity to get Coach Mark Fox his first road win at UGA.

And yes, they will have to win it without leading scorer and rebounder Trey Thompkins.

Through the first two games of the season, Gerald Robinson, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price are averaging a combined 56.0 points per game – an astounding 72% of the Dawgs‘ offense (with GR2 leading the way at 20.0).  These three have really stepped up their games in Trey’s absence and picked up the slack on the offensive side of the court.

On Saturday night I am looking for more of the same from GR2 – push the ball on every possession, get into the lane and score or get to the line.  He has been putting relentless pressure on opposing teams defenses and hopefully Saturday night will be no different.

Georgia upperclassmen Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes weigh a combined 504lbs, and I want to see them use that size to assert themselves on the offensive and defensive glass against this young Saint Louis team.  As I already mentioned, Price has been great through the first two games – averaging 18.5 points.  Against Colorado, Barnes stepped up big for Coach Fox off the bench, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 9 points.  Georgia is going to need Barnes to be a regular contributor this season, so hopefully Tuesday night’s performance was a start.

This will be the first road game for freshman Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams, and on top of that it will be at 8PM on Saturday night in front of a likely sold-out Chaifetz Arena.  We’ll see how the frosh handle the atmosphere of their first hostile collegiate environment.

If this Georgia team wants to be taken seriously by the NCAA Selection Committee come March, then they have to win some road games – just ask ESPN’s Andy Katz.  And speaking of Andy Katz, this guy seriously loves plugging Georgia Bulldog basketball.  In his recap of the first 10 days of the season, Katz says “The world is right again. Georgia handled Colorado after nearly losing to Mississippi Valley State, and both games were without injured SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins.

Even though the Billikens roster took quite a hit with the losses of Mitchell and Reed, they did lose to the Dawgs in Athens last year 64-56 and they no doubt will be looking to exact some revenge tomorrow night in the prime time slot.

One final thought – the last time that a Georgia Men’s basketball team was ranked in either the AP or USA Today Coaches Poll was March 10, 2003 (they were #21 in the AP; #22 in the Coaches).

At the moment, the Dawgs are just outside of both polls – they are receiving 42 votes for the AP and 4 for the Coaches.  If Georgia were to win at Saint Louis on Saturday night, could they possibly break into the AP Poll next Monday?

It will be very interesting to see how Coach Fox’s team responds to its first road challenge of the 2010-2011 season.

Dawgs Improve to 2-0

Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs beat a quality Colorado Buffalo team 82-74 last night en route to their second win of the season.

The Dawgs came out red-hot, knocking down their first three shots from beyond the arc along with one of Jeremy Price’s patented three-point plays to build up an early 18-4 lead with 15:21 remaining in the first half.

Unfortunately, though, Gerald Robinson, Jr (GR2) picked up his second foul with 15 minutes left before intermission, and Coach Fox was forced to sit his starting point guard for the remainder of the half.

GR2 is definitely the “straw that stirs the drink” for this UGA offense.  In his absence, Vincent Williams got some extended playing time (8 minutes) in which he managed to shoot 0-3 from the field and commit 2 turnovers.  Williams still looks somewhat out of control when he has the ball, and seems to dribble with his head down (a characteristic not normally present in PG’s).

Colorado was able to scratch and claw their way back into the game, and the teams went into the locker room knotted up at 33-33.

GR2, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price all had big second halves, scoring 16, 12 and 10, respectively.

Robinson looked great once again last night, scoring 21 points and dishing out 6 assists.  He’s getting his points from both the lane and outside, and he really put the team on his shoulders in the final four minutes of the game.  Fox obviously feels confident putting the ball in his hands when it counts, and GR2 responded by taking it to the basket where he either scored or was fouled – he finished with 7 of the Dawgs‘ final 15 points.  He is a real difference maker for this team – it is SO NICE to have a guard that can penetrate and create offensively.  I know I said this after the last game, but this team is going to be VERY DANGEROUS once Thompkins gets back on the floor.

Travis Leslie (“The Elevator from Decatur“) was his usual self, scoring 19 points and nabbing 8 rebounds.  I was surprised to learn that he only finished the game with 8 boards – it felt like he was grabbing everything off the rim in the first half.  Leslie did a great job of moving without the ball and getting himself into positions for easy baskets.

Jeremy Price (“The Refrigerator from Decatur”) had another big game on offense, finishing with 17 points in just 17 minutes on the floor – he was in foul trouble for a majority of the night.  Price is looking a lot more agile this season, and he’s doing a phenomenal job of finishing near the rim.

And how about big Chris Barnes?  He’s certainly not going to be asked to host any Free Throw Clinics any time soon, but the big fella contributed 9 points and tied Leslie for a team-high 8 rebounds.

The rebounding effort as a whole was much better by the Dawgs last night as they won the battle 36-32, with 15 of them coming on the offensive end.

The only real flaws that I saw were the turnovers (18), the temporary defensive lapse in the first half after GR2 had to sit and the free throw shooting (27-43 as a team).  However, it should be noted that Chris Barnes was 5-13 from the line, so the rest of the team shot 22-30 or 73.3%.

The Colorado guard tandem of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins scored a combined 36 points, but for the most part Georgia held the rest of the team in check.

This was a really good win for Georgia against what should end up being a pretty good team, and the Dawgs did it without their best player (again).  It already appears that there is a much greater level of maturity on this team, as they have successfully closed-out two tight games (games that they may have lost last season).

Buffs Visit Athens

The Georgia Bulldogs will be tested on Tuesday night as they play host to the Colorado Buffaloes in Athens, GA.

Tad Boyle inherited a nice crop of talent in his first year as the head coach of the Buffs, who are currently receiving votes (seven to be exact) for the AP Top 25 Poll.

Colorado’s guard tandem of sophomore Alec Burks and senior Cory Higgins gives the Buffs one of the best backcourts in the country.  Higgins was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team, and Burks was given an Honorable Mention.  Oh yeah, and they were both named to the Preseason Wooden Award Top 50 List, college basketball’s most prestigious award.

In his freshman season, the 6’6″ Alec Burks averaged 17.1 points and 5 rebounds per game en route to earning the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award.  This guy is a bona-fide scorer at the shooting guard position, and he is currently project to go 7th in the latest “Mock Draft” on NBADraft.net.

Cory Higgins led the Buffs with 18.9 points per contest last year.

This dynamic duo accounted for 48% of Colorado’s scoring last season.

The main knock on the Buffs last season was their lack of scoring and rebounding on the inside.  In their first game against Idaho State, Colorado was out-rebounded 29-28 in a 88-80 win – so the verdict is still out on whether their frontcourt has improved or not.

With Trey Thompkins most likely sitting again due to a high ankle sprain, the Dawgs will have to look elsewhere for an inside presence.  Mark Fox is going to need strong play out of Jeremy Price and the other bigs.

I am looking for Price to build off his 20-point performance in the MVSU game, and for him to continue attacking the basket on offense.

Last year, Georgia was a very good rebounding team, finishing second in the SEC with a +4.4 rebounding margin.

In the first game of the year against Mississippi Valley State, the Dawgs were out-rebounded 37-28.

Against Colorado, Georgia must take back control of the paint.  Senior Chris Barnes has got to step up and be a leader for this team in the rebounding department in Trey’s absence.  Barnes is 6’8″ and built like an NFL defensive lineman – yet against MVSU, he finished with 1 rebound in 13 minutes, which is inexcusable.

Defensively, I think that Georgia could have some mismatch problems with Burks and Higgins in the half-court set.  It might be a good idea for Fox to apply some full-court pressure to dictate the tempo of the Buffs’ offense.

This is a very big game for both teams – Georgia and Colorado will both be in the RPI Top 50 this season – and the winner will add to its NCAA Tournament Resume.

Not to state the obvious, but the Dawgs are going to have to play much better defense than they did last Thursday night if they want to win this one.  Colorado may have a more talented starting five than Georgia, so the Bulldogs are going to need some guys to step up and contribute.

Georgia has one player on the Preseason Wooden Award Top 50 List – Trey Thompkins – and he won’t be playing.

Who is going to make plays for Coach Fox on Tuesday night?

The Price Was Right!

When Mississippi Valley State guard Terrance Joyner knocked down a three with 3:35 left in the game to put his Delta Devils up 66-59, things were beginning to look bleak.  The possibility of Georgia losing it’s home opener to MVSU was starting to look like it might become a reality (I was starting to feel sick).

But then Jeremy Price hoisted the Dawgs up on his shoulders and rattled off eight straight points through a barrage of baskets (plus the free throws).  The second consecutive basket that Price converted during this streak – when he stole an open court pass and took it the length of the court and finished despite being fouled – was a display of athleticism that I did not know the big fella possessed.

After Georgia‘s (Price’s) 8-0 run, the Dawgs had a 67-66 lead that they would not relinquish again – winning 72-70 and avoiding an embarrassing home loss.

Jeremy Price finished with a game-high 20 points.

One thing is certain: Georgia looks like a pretty average team without Trey Thompkins (hopefully that ankle heels up asap).

The Dawgs got out-rebounded, out-hustled and basically out-played for nearly 37 minutes by a Delta Devils team that was playing without its best player as well – Shannon Behling.  I’m not sure why MVSU coach Sean Woods kept Behling out – injury, academics or just to be fair since Trey was already out? – but thank goodness he did.

The Delta Devils brought some serious sharp-shooting to Athens, knocking down an unbelievable 10 three-pointers.

This was my first look at transfer guard Gerald Robinson, Jr. and I was definitely impressed.  Robinson finished with 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field, and he was really Georgia’s most reliable offensive option throughout the game.  Robinson looks strong with the ball, and he gives Georgia a viable “dribble-drive” scoring threat from the guard position.  When Trey gets back, this team could really do some damage this year with GR running the point.

Travis Leslie started the game a little sloppy (he looked like he might have been pressing a bit), but the junior played a strong second half and finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds.  Leslie’s final rebound prevented the Delta Devils from getting a second-chance shot on their last possession, and closed out the win for the Dawgs.

This game should serve as a good learning experience for coach Mark Fox’s team.  Even though his Georgia squad was out-played for nearly the entire game, they still found a way to buckle-down on defense and win.

On a side note, I am very interested as to what the NCAA record is for consecutive “and one’s”?  I searched the web but couldn’t turn anything up…anybody know?  Did Jeremy Price make history last night at the Steg?