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.