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.