Colonels Visit Dawgs On New Year’s Eve

Is anyone else ready for 2011 to get here so Georgia (10-2) can get into this season’s SEC schedule?

I appreciate a seven game winning streak as much as the next guy, but frankly, it’s getting a little repetitive watching Georgia take on inferior opponent after inferior opponent.  I want to see how this Bulldog team stacks up against the other powers of the SEC East, and we will get a very good indication of that on January 8th when Kentucky rolls into town.

But before the Dawgs play the mighty Wildcats from Lexington, they will host the lesser-known Eastern Kentucky (5-7) Colonels from Richmond.

The Colonels hail from the Ohio Valley Conference, where they were projected to finish fifth prior to the start of the season.  Eastern hasn’t gotten out to the best of starts, however, as their conference record currently sits at a dismal 1-3.  They will cruise into Athens on fumes, riding a three-game losing streak.  Friday’s game will mark the Colonels’ fourth straight road game, which hasn’t been kind to Eastern as they are now 0-4 in true away games this season.

Georgia will be the second team that Eastern has played this season from a major conference.  The Colonels lost 71-58 at #14 Minnesota earlier in the month, but it should be noted that they actually only trailed the Golden Gophers by three at the half.

This Eastern Kentucky team has a similar persona as the Charleston Southern team that Georgia dismantled on Tuesday – not a lot of size or depth; prefer to shoot it from outside.  The Colonels basically live and die by the three-ball, shooting over 20 shots from beyond the arc per game.  But they are skilled at their trade, knocking down 36.6% of their three-point attempts, ranking second-best in the Ohio Valley.  Eastern gets nearly a third of their 67.8 points per game from three-point shots, so Georgia has to be prepared to step up and contest on the outside.  Defending the three-point shot has not been a strength of this Dawgs‘ defense this season, as they still rank 11th in the SEC in that category, allowing opponents to make 35.2% from beyond the arc.  However, Georgia did a nice job against Charleston Southern on Tuesday, limiting them to just 20.8% from three-point range.

Eastern Kentucky runs a motion offense and treats the basketball with a lot of respect, averaging 15 assists to just 14 turnovers per contest.

The Colonels essentially start a four-guard lineup, with 6’7″ senior Justin Stommes playing sort of a G/F wing position.  Stommes, a preseason Ohio Valley First-Team selection, is the leader of this team and basically does it all, tallying 9.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 3.0 apg.  He shoots the ball very well from beyond the arc, knocking down 41.7% of his attempts.

Joining Stommes in the backcourt is 6’5″ senior Josh Daniel and 6’4″ junior Joshua Jones.  Both of these guys can light it up from the outside, connecting on 37% of their three-point attempts.  Daniel and Jones average 11.0 ppg and 9.7 ppg, respectively.

Leading the Colonels in scoring is 6’5″ senior Spencer Perrin, who is netting 12.1 ppg to go along with 4.4 rpg.  Perrin has a wiry build (185lbs), but he is a high-flyer who likes to attack the basket in a Travis Leslie-esque fashion – I saw him finish three alley-oop dunks in a game against Murray State earlier this season.

As I already mentioned, Georgia does have a size advantage in the paint on this Eastern team.  However, the match-ups defensively could be a bit tricky for Coach Mark Fox.  The Colonels tallest starter is Stommes at 6’7″, yet their shortest starter is 6’4″, meaning that Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Dustin Ware are going to be undersized on the perimeter.

Normally, I would assumed that Travis Leslie would be assigned to Stommes, being that he is their most effective outside.  But with Stommes having three inches on Leslie,  I’m not so sure.  Trey Thompkins may have to guard the quicker Stommes, which could put him in some difficult defensive spots (especially in space away from the basket).

Eastern does not rebound all that well, averaging just 32 boards per game as a team (compared to Georgia’s 37).  Georgia should be able to get a decent number of second chance shots from its bigs in the paint.

The Colonels tend to interchange a 1-3-1 zone with their man defensive sets, so Georgia’s zone offense and outside shooting will be tested on Friday afternoon.  Dustin Ware has been a ghost the last two games, scoring a total of just 5 points and connecting on just 1 of 5 jump shots.  He needs to get some confidence back in his stroke before SEC play, and this will be his last chance to do it.

Georgia is looking to stay perfect at home on the season, and they are hoping to win their 8th straight game.

The Dawgs looked flat in their win over Mercer, which came just two days before Christmas.  How will they handle playing on New Year’s Eve with another holiday looming?

If you like Georgia sports (which I assume you do if you are reading this blog), then Friday will give you the rare opportunity to cheer on the basketball and the football teams on the same day.  The basketball game tips off at 1pm on Fox Sports South, followed by the Liberty Bowl at 3:30pm on ESPN.

One final note – I will be doing some more traveling over the weekend and won’t be able to blog about the Eastern Kentucky game until Sunday January 2nd.  So please, if you have thoughts or comments about the game post them early and often.

Happy New Year!

Dawgs Smack Buccaneers Early and Win 70-55

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-2) did exactly what they needed to do on Tuesday night against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers – they came out intense on defense and controlled the paint (on offense and defense).

The Dawgs definitely deserve praise for their defensive effort last night.

The Bucaneers came into the game averaging 80.5 points per game, and they were shooting 48% from the field and an astounding 39.4% from beyond the arc as a team.  The strength of this team this season has been its outside shooting.

However, Georgia‘s  man defense in the first half was smothering, limiting the Bucs to just 20 points at the break.  Georgia held Southern to merely 25% from the field and only 18.2% from three-point range.  And to add insult to injury, Georgia hosted a “Block Party” in the first half as well, rejecting five Buccaneer shots (Georgia finished the game with 9 blocks).

Charleston Southern tried to trip Georgia at the start of this game by coming out in a match-up zone to start the game – that didn’t work.

Georgia took advantage of its height advantage and pounded the ball in the paint, with Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price combining for 28 of the Georgia’s 41 first-half points.  Georgia finished the game with an unbelievable 46 points in the paint, with Leslie leading the team with 15 points and 7 rebounds.

In continuing with the height advantage discussion, it should be mentioned that Georgia dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Bucs 45-34.  Georgia did a great job of limiting this Bucs team to just one shot on offense in the first half (which happened quite often since the Bucs were ice-cold).

Following a 10-0 Georgia run, Charleston Southern took a timeout with 12:43 left before the break and the Dawgs up 18-6.  From that point, Georgia never looked back.

Georgia built up a 41-20 lead at the half, and won the game 70-55 with everyone except for Matt Bucklin getting at least 5 minutes of playing time in the second half.

This game was over right away, which was exactly what the doctor ordered for this team’s confidence.  After a near let-down in Macon last week, the Dawgs needed a nice blowout win to get back on track before the SEC season begins.

Georgia has now won seven straight games, and they now boast a 6-0 home record.

Georgia plays one more game before 2011 – Eastern Kentucky – and then the real season begins for this team.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers Visit Athens, GA on Tuesday

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-2) will take on their second opponent this season from the Big South Conference (the first being High Point) as the Charleston Southern Buccaneers role into Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday.

In continuing with the holiday spirit, I am willing to chalk up the Dawgs unimpressive win over Mercer last Tuesday to some pre-holiday jitters.  Hopefully Mark Fox’s guys got all the presents they asked for over the weekend, and they can turn their attentions back to basketball.

ESPN wasn’t as nice – listing Georgia’s 56-53 win over Mercer as a score that “caught their eye”, and saying that “the Bulldogs still shouldn’t be struggling this much.”

I tend to agree.

Charleston Southern is 6-6 on the season, however some of those wins have come against rather flimsy competition – Southern’s strength-of-schedule sits at 208 on CBS’s rankings.  Four of their wins have come against Division II teams – Montreat College, Toccoa Falls, Milligan and Bluefield College.

The Dawgs do share a common opponent with the Buccaneers:  the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  Charleston Southern lost 52-39 at Georgia Tech in their first game of the season, while the Dawgs beat the Jackets 73-72.

Despite their soft schedule and unimpressive start, Charleston Southern does have seven Georgia natives on its roster, and they will be looking to play well against the Dawgs in what will be a “homecoming” of sorts for many Buccaneer players.  Four of the Buccaneers starters hale from the Peach State, and two players – forward Kenny Mitchell and reserve guard Chris Grier – played their high school ball at Columbia High in Decatur, where Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price played as well.

The Bucs start three guards that all average in double-figures – Jermarco Warren (14.4 ppg), Sheldon Strickland (11.3 ppg) and Jeremy Sexton (10.4 ppg).  Warren, a preseason Big South All-League First Team selection, is leading his team in both scoring  and steals (1.8) while shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc.

Freshman Sheldon Strickland is out to a great rookie campaign, not only scoring in double-figures but also leading this Bucs team with 3.6 assists per game and connecting on 50% of his three-point attempts.   Strickland comes from Lithonia, GA where he played at my alma mater in Atlanta – Lakeside High School.  I saw him play in a few games last year – he is a very athletic guard that could challenge Robinson or Ware defensively.

Sophomore guard Jeremy Sexton, the only starter not from Georgia, is hitting nearly 35% of his three-pointers and scoring 10.4 ppg.

Leading the charge in the paint for the Bucs is 6’5″ junior forward Kelvin Martin.  Martin, a preseason Big South All-League Second Team selection, is netting 11.6 ppg and leading the Bucs in rebounds at 9.0 per game.  His field goal percentage is off the charts, as he is making over 70% of his attempts from the floor.

This team has no trouble scoring the basketball.  Currently, Southern is averaging 80.5 ppg (21st nationally), shooting 48% from the field (30th nationally) and making 39.4% of their three-point attempts (33rd nationally).  Granted, these numbers may have been bolstered by playing against lesser competition, but it’s definitely apparent that this is a very good shooting team.

Georgia is currently 11th in the SEC in three-point percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37.1% from beyond the arc.  If the Georgia comes out lackadaisical on defense and doesn’t contest outside shots, the Dawgs could be in for another close game (in a game that shouldn’t be close at all).

Charleston Southern is undersized with only one starter over 6’5″ – sophomore forward Kenny Mitchell stands at 6’7″ (9.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg).  The Bucs also lack depth, with several starters playing nearly 40 minutes in games against Division I opponents this year.

Mark Fox’s team needs to get back on track after a near let-down in Macon.  Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price SHOULD have their way in the paint on Tuesday night.

After combining for a total of zero points against Mercer, Georgia’s guard tandem of Gerald Robinson, Jr. (0-2 FG) and Dustin Ware (0-1) SHOULD be chomping at the bit offensively.  GR2 did have 4 assists in the game, but he has to look for his own shot more on offense, especially off the dribble-drive.  When he gets into the paint and scores, it really opens things up for everyone else on this team.

Dustin Ware needs to be this team’s three-point threat, meaning he can’t have games where he only attempts one shot from the outside.  When Ware gets passes to him on the kick-outs or skips, he has to be ready to knock down shots for Coach Fox.  Georgia is still averaging under 5 three-point field goals per game as a team.

Speaking of three-pointers, Trey Thompkins has started to find his outside stroke in the month of December, connecting on 4 of 9 attempts.  And as I mentioned last week, Georgia is now 6-0 in games this season in which Trey scores 15 points or more.  As his scoring goes, so go the Dawgs.

And finally, Georgia is 5-0 at home in The Steg this season, while Charleston Southern is 0-4 on the road – so nothing’s got to give, right?

Can the Dawgs put the Mercer game (and the holidays) behind them and stay perfect in December?

Dawgs Squeak Out 56-53 Win Over Bears

When Mercer got up 48-37 with just 8:32 remaining in the game, Georgia‘s chances of winning were starting to look bleak.

Luckily for the Dawgs, Trey Thompkins decided to give them a spark and buried a clutch three-point shot on the ensuing possession.  After a stop on the defensive end, Thompkins converted another three points “the old-fashioned way” on a nice entry pass from Gerald Robinson, Jr.

Mercer took the ball the length of the court only to have it stripped away by none other than, Trey Thompkins.

Jeremy Price converted on a basket underneath to give Georgia a 49-48 lead with 4:53 left, their first lead since the 10-minute mark in the first half.  And it was Price who had a nice hustle play on defense a few possessions later, drawing a foul on Mercer guard Jeff Smith during a scramble for a loose rebound.  Price converted 1 of 2 free throws to give Georgia a 54-53 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish again (Price finished with 11 points and 6 boards).

But the end of this game was not without its dramatics.

Georgia‘s Trey Thompkins botched an in-bounds pass to Gerald Robinson with under a minute to go which resulted in a Bud Thomas steal for the Bears.  And just to clarify, Georgia was leading 54-53 and essentially just needed to put the ball in play so that they could be fouled and shoot free throws.  This was one of the 18 turnovers the Dawgs committed last night, matched by just 10 assists – the first time Georgia has had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio since their 61-58 win over Manhattan back in November.

Luckily for the Dawgs, Mercer’s Brian Mills, who had a career night (21 points, 12 rebounds), froze up on the game’s final two possessions.  Following Trey’s turnover, Mills had the ball in his hands with 7 seconds on the shot clock and a chance to give his team the lead, but alas he traveled – turning the ball back over to Georgia.

Mercer then had the ball again with another opportunity to go ahead with only 13 ticks left on the clock, but Mills mishandled a beautiful interior pass that would have set him up for an easy score.

And as if things hadn’t been close enough, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins tossed another in-bounds pass all the way to half court (from the baseline) between two Mercer defenders – he was fortunate that Travis Leslie (and his 40-something inch vertical) was on the receiving end to snag the ball out of the air and get fouled.

Leslie buried both free throws, putting Georgia up 56-53 and ending the game.

As close and ugly as this game was for Georgia, surprisingly, the Dawgs did not come out flat.  On the contrary, Georgia started with a nice intensity and built up a comfortable 19-8 lead with 12:40 left before the break behind 12 quick points by Travis Leslie – he finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds.

But then Georgia’s offense screeched to a halt, allowing Mercer to go on a 23-5 run that gave the Bears a 31-24 lead at the half.  The trio of Trey Thompkins, Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Travis Leslie all picked up 2 fouls fairly early in the first half, and Mercer clearly took advantage of the Dawgs’ reserves.

Georgia shot just 42.2% from the field on Thursday night and they hit only 2 of their 8 three-point attempts.

Dustin Ware, who came into the game shooting a red-hot 44% from beyond the arc, attempted merely one shot on the night (a missed three-pointer).  In the three games prior to the Mercer game, Ware was averaging 13.3 points per game.  But on Thursday night against the Bears, he seemed extra tentative on offense and repeatedly found himself not ready to shoot on open kick-outs.  Dustin is a junior and the best outside shooter on this team, and he needs to give Georgia some offense from the three-point line on a more consistent basis.

Up to this point, I feel as though I have been pretty lenient in regards to Georgia’s freshman duo of Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams.  However, last night was another opportunity for them to make plays against a smaller school (with a 3-7 record) and once again, they both looked lost.  Actually, neither player got their shots to reach the rim – Thornton was rejected for the 20th time this season and Williams was (luckily) bailed out on his field goal attempts by cheap fouls – Donte connected on 1 of 4 free throws.

Again, I realize they are freshman, but Thornton was named Mr. Georgia Basketball last year.  Shouldn’t he be able to compete against teams like Arkansas State, High Point and Mercer?  Shouldn’t the players on these schools be no match for a high school blue chip?  In 41 minutes against those aforementioned teams, Marcus has mustered 4 points (1-5 FG), 4 rebounds and he’s made just 2 of his 6 free throw attempts.  If Thornton and Williams are struggling against the competition that they are seeing now, how will they fare next month when Kentucky rolls into Athens on January 8th for the start of the SEC season?

I guess I am just a tad worried that Georgia doesn’t have as much depth as Mark Fox thought they did coming into this season.

As a team, Georgia had another tough night from the charity stripe (or on par?), shooting a dismal 61.5%.  It should be noted however, that Travis Leslie was a perfect 8 of 8 from the line, and he made the two big ones that put his team up by three at the end of the game.

On a personal note, I did think that the University Center in Macon was a really nice little gym, and the atmosphere inside was great last night.  The game was WAY closer than people thought it would be, but Georgia did find a way to win its sixth straight game and they now sit at 9-2 on the season.

I guess Mark Fox said it best on his twitter account following the game: “Like my brother told our buddy when we were young, even an ugly girlfriend is a girlfriend… We’ll take the W. Go Dawgs! Merry Christmas!”

Lions, Tigers and (Mercer) Bears…Oh my!

If a sandwich were used as a metaphor to describe the Georgia Bulldogs (8-2) 2010-2011 schedule, then the SEC slate would probably be the meat.

Which would leave Georgia’s holiday slate of games – Arkansas State, High Point, Mercer, Charleston Southern and Eastern Kentucky – as either the lettuce, or maybe the alfalfa sprouts?

On Thursday night, the Dawgs will take on another group of “alfalfa sprouts” when they travel to Macon, Georgia to play the Mercer Bears.

Mercer (3-7; 0-2 A-Sun) is coming off a 73-68 win over Navy, a win that snapped them out of a four-game losing streak.  The Bears were projected by to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference this season, and they are currently living up to those less-than-lofty expectations with an 0-2 A-Sun record.

Mercer is 3-2 at home this season though, and their win over Navy was mildly impressive considering they were playing without senior forward Brandon Moore – the team’s leading rebounder (6.7 rpg) and second-leading scorer (11.8 ppg).  Moore suffered an elbow to the face in a game against Lipscomb on December 4th and he hasn’t played since.  However, Moore should be available on Thursday night for the game against Georgia.

The Bears are led by senior guard Jeff Smith, a preseason Atlantic Sun All-League Second Team selection.  Through the first 10 games of the season, Smith is averaging 14.8 points and hitting nearly 33% of his shots from beyond the arc.  He has gone over 20 points four times already this season.

In the frontcourt joining Brandon Moore is 6’7″ forward Brian Mills, a  Douglasville, Georgia native who is giving the Bears 11.7 points and 5.5 boards a night.

The sharp-shooter on this Mercer team is freshman guard Langston Hall, who hails from Atlanta and played his high school ball at Chamblee.  Hall is shooting a blistering 45.2% from beyond the arc, while averaging 8.5 points per game.

As a team, Mercer has not been shooting the ball well this season – 41.7% from the field and 30.6% from three-point range.  However, they are certainly not shy about putting it up from beyond the arc, hoisting up nearly 21 three-point attempts per game.

This is another game in which Georgia will have a serious size advantage inside.  Mercer only starts one player taller than 6’6″, Brian Mills, who is also the heaviest starter at 201 pounds.  The Bears are only bringing down 33.4 rebounds per game (Georgia averages 37 rpg), and they sport a not-so-impressive negative 1.2 rebounding margin.

The Dawgs dropped 42 points in the paint against High Point on Tuesday, and they should be looking to be just as physical inside against the Bears.  Trey Thompkins has scored in double-figures in every game so far this season, and he’ll need to continue that streak for the Dawgs to be successful in Macon on Thursday.  Georgia is 5-0 in games this year when Thompkins nets 15 points or more, so clearly his offensive production is a big part of the winning.

Georgia junior Travis Leslie did not have many offensive highlights on Tuesday, scoring just 5 points and shooting only 25% from the floor.  However, his defensive effort did not go unnoticed.  The “Elevator from Decatur” held High Point guard Nick Barbour, the preseason Big South Player of the Year, to merely 3 points – Barbour was averaging 16.8 ppg before running into Georgia.

On Thursday, Coach Mark Fox will probably ask Leslie to put the clamps on Mercer star Jeff Smith.  If he can take Smith out of his offensive game, it will put a lot of pressure on the other Mercer guards and should take them out of their comfort zone.

One final note, there have been a lot of comments over the past few weeks in regards to Georgia’s team free-throw shooting.  As a team, Georgia is currently shooting an atrocious 61.1% from the charity stripe, ranking them at #322 out of the 346 Division I schools.  This is a glaring weakness for Mark Fox’s team, and it makes me nervous about their ability to close out SEC conference games (which are just around the corner).

This will be my first game at University Center in Macon, which sports a potential capacity of 3,200.

If you can’t make the trip to Macon, the game will be televised on CSS at 7:00PM.

Mark Fox’s team will look to win its sixth straight game on Thursday before taking a short break for the holidays.

Dawgs Defense Smothers High Point

After the Georgia Bulldogs (8-2) win over Arkansas State last Saturday, senior forward Chris Barnes felt like his team lacked a killer instinct.

“I think it’s a focus thing,” Barnes said. “We see that we’re up by 20, we get a little lackadaisical and start releasing our pressure on the team. We have to start holding them down. Once we put our foot on their throat, we have to keep them down.”

On Tuesday night, Georgia didn’t take its foot off High Point’s throat until the Panthers’ team bus had pulled out of Athens and was heading north up Interstate 85.

High Point came into the game with an 0-9 record against SEC schools, and the Georgia Bulldogs made sure that the Panthers left Stegeman Coliseum still in search of their first win (against an SEC team).

Georgia was able to build up a 34-24 lead going into the half despite not having Trey Thompkins for nearly 10 minutes due to foul trouble.  The Dawgs were led offensively by Gerald Robinson, Jr. who scored 10 points before the break – he finished the game with 21 points and probably could have reached 40 if Coach Mark Fox hadn’t pulled him from the game with 11:46 remaining and his team up 58-32.  GR2 was knifing through the Panther defense all night, getting nearly all his points off of lay-ups.

The Dawgs started the second half with a 7-0 run following back-to-back buckets inside by Thompkins, and then a jumper by Dustin Ware off of a Travis Leslie steal.  High Point Coach Scott Cherry called a timeout to help his team regroup with the score at 41-24, but the route was already on.

Georgia’s second half defense matched the intensity of its first half defense and then some, holding High Point to just 14 second-half points and limiting them to 14.3% from the field.  As a team, the Panthers shot just 20.7% from the floor on the game.

Big South Preseason Player of the Year, Nick Barbour, came into Tuesday night’s game averaging 16.8 points per game.  However, Barbour was frustrated all night by relentless pressure from Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Marcus Thornton, and the junior only finished the game with 3 points on 1 of 9 shooting.

The only Panther player to reach double-figures was guard Shay Shine, who led his team with 15 points.

The Dawgs defense forced the Panthers into 19 turnovers, and Georgia converted those extra possessions into 25 points.

Georgia had its biggest “Block Party” of the season, tallying up 11 rejections as a team with Jeremy Price and Chris Barnes getting 3 apiece.

Offensively, Mark Fox’s team had another superb effort in efficiency, dishing out 16 team assists to just 6 turnovers.  Georgia came into this game with a size advantage inside, and they exploited that advantage for 42 points in the paint.   Trey Thompkins led all Georgia bigs with 15 points in just 19 minutes of play.

And once again Georgia shot it well from the floor, knocking down nearly 54% of their field goal attempts.

Mark Fox said before the game that he wanted to see his team play defense for 40 minutes – it’s safe to say that he got his wish.  Even though Georgia was taking on a lesser opponent and expected to win, it was great to see the Dawgs treat the Panthers like an inferior opponent by blowing them out of the gym 85-38.

The Dawgs are now winners of five straight and will play one more game before Christmas Thursday night at Mercer.

Georgia Hosts High Point Tuesday Night 7PM

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) will take on the High Point Panthers (5-4) on Tuesday night in Athens, GA.

According to in this year’s preview of the Big South Conference, the Panthers “could be sleepers in the league race.”  High Point was projected to finish 5th in the conference, however, they are currently tied with Liberty for first with a 2-0 record in league play.

The heart and soul of this High Point team is its backcourt, led by preseason Big South Player of the Year Nick Barbour.  Barbour, a junior guard named to the All-League First Team, is a streaky shooter that is currently leading his team in scoring with 16.8 points per game.  He is not afraid to shoot it either, averaging nearly six three-point attempts a night while connecting on 31.3% of them.

Joining Barbour in the backcourt is fellow junior Shay Shine, who is the only other Panther scoring in double-figures at 12.9 points per game.  Shine is freakishly athletic – check out this dunk from a game earlier this season – and will definitely provide a challenge for Georgia guard Dustin Ware.

The Panthers do not start a player over 6’6″, and other than 6’8″ freshman Travis Elliott (12 minutes per game) they do not have anyone coming off the bench over 6’6″ either.  This lack of size on the inside has caused problems for the Panthers – in their four losses this season, they have posted a -7.25 rebounding margin.

When High Point gets killed on the glass, they get killed on the scoreboard as well.

Enter Stage Right:  Trey Thompkins (6’9″ 247 lbs), Jeremy Price (6’8″ 264lbs) and Chris Barnes (6’8″ 240lbs).

Mark Fox has 751 lbs of power forward at his disposal to unleash against this smaller High Point team.

Barnes is coming off one of his best games as a Bulldog, pouring in 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the floor in Georgia‘s win over Arkansas State last Saturday.  He looked very strong in the paint on offense, establishing great interior position and getting most of his shots right under the basket.

Trey Thompkins should have a mismatch at just about every moment on offense in this game.

If High Point comes out in a man defense, Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Dustin Ware should be prepared to feed their bigs the ball inside as much as possible.

If the Panthers show Georgia a 2-3 zone (which they may given their size disadvantage), GR2, Ware and Sherrard Brantley need to be ready to knock down open looks – this could open things up on the inside as well.

It all sounds so simple.

How well will the Dawgs execute?

Geogia Holds On for 68-59 Win Over Arkansas State

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) built up a 19-point lead over the Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-7) with 7:35 remaining in the game following a Trey Thompkins jumper.

But the end of this game was anything but smooth sailing.

The Dawgs had to withstand a furious 17-5 Arkansas State run that got the game as close 66-59 with 1:34 left before holding on to close out the game.

Red Wolf senior guard Donald Boone had only 2 points after 33 minutes of play, but quickly caught fire and buried four three-pointers during his team’s late push.  Boone finished the game with a team-high 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half.

Georgia got out to a slow start (as might be expected after an 11-day break from the hardwood), but they were able to build up a 36-27 lead going into the break.  The Dawgs looked pretty solid for the game’s first 30+ minutes, especially on offense where they shot nearly 52% from the field as a team.

The offense today might have looked the best it has all season, with Georgia racking up 20 assists to just 12 turnovers – the Dawgs‘ passing was superb.  Dustin Ware (7 assists) and Gerald Robinson, Jr. (4 assists) both did a great job of feeding the ball inside and hitting the cutters coming down the middle of the lane.  The official statistics only had Trey Thompkins down for one assist, but I could have sworn he had at least two on entry passes to fellow big Chris Barnes…I could be wrong though.

Though Thompkins led the Dawgs in scoring with 15 points, I felt like this was one of the better games that Chris Barnes has had as a Bulldog, thus making him worthy of the “Player of the Game” award (no hardware included).  Barnes finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 monster block late in the second half against ASU big Martavius Adams – Chris was just reminding Adams (a Georgia native) how not to take the ball to the basket when in the state of Georgia.  Barnes did a great job of asserting himself on offense by establishing great position near the basket, connecting on 5 of his 6 field goal attempts.

It was nice to see Travis Leslie getting back into an offensive rhythm, especially in a game that was played at a fairly slow tempo.  Leslie finished the game with 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the field – none of which were dunks.  He was scoring on mid-range jump and turn-around shots – he did a nice job of letting the game come to him.  Leslie led the Dawgs in with a team-high 8 rebounds, and he also chipped in 3 assists.

Georgia’s trio of bigs – Thompkins, Price and Barnes – defended Martavius Adams beautifully on Saturday, limiting him to just 9 points on 2 of 8 shooting from the floor.  Adams never really looked comfortable on the block all game, and I credit that to the efforts by the Georgia’s defenders.

And finally, I was pleasantly surprised by the fan turnout for this game considering the early holiday tip-off time.  I think the official attendance was listed at just over 6,000 people, which isn’t anywhere close to full, but certainly not too shabby.

Did anyone else go to or watch the game?  Any thoughts?

Dawgs At Home Against Arkansas State

Former Arkansas State player and movie star, Arthur Agee

The Georgia Bulldogs (6-2) take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves (3-6) this Saturday in Athens at 12:00PM.

Arkansas State…Arkansas State…where have I heard that name before?  Arthur Agee, one of the two stars from the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams“, played his final two years of college basketball for the Red Wolves.  If you have never  seen the movie, check it out – it’s a great sports flick.

Despite returning four starters from last year’s team and being predicted to finish 2nd in the Sun Belt’s West Division by, the Red Wolves have not gotten out to the best start.  Actually, their start to this season was terrible, losing their first five games of the season to Ole Miss, Missouri State, Belmont, Pacific and Pepperdine – not exactly Murder’s Row.

However, they have won three out of their last four games, with their lone loss coming in overtime to then-ranked #15 Memphis.  Arkansas State coach, John Brady (former coach of the LSU Tigers), credited his team’s zone defense for keeping the came close by taking Memphis out of its offensive rhythm.

Any chance that Brady may put his team in some zone sets to force Georgia to shoot it from outside?

The leaders of this Arkansas State team are 6th-year senior guard Donald “Don’t Call Me Daniel” Boone and junior power forward Martavius Adams.

Besides providing this ASU team with leadership and the wisdom that comes from being in college for six years, Boone is  also chipping in 10.2 ppg – 46.6% from the field and 34.1% from downtown – from the shooting guard position.  He’s probably their most consistent outside threat, and the Georgia guards will need to be aware of where he is at on the court.

Martavius Adams, a native of Irwinton, Georgia, was selected to the Sun Belt preseason All-League Second Team coming into the 2010-2011 season.  Adams has a Jeremy Price-like frame – 6’8″, 255lbs – and leads the Red Wolves in both scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 ppg).  He originally signed and played his freshman season with the Oklahoma State Cowboys before transferring to Arkansas State (reserve forward Malcoln Kirkland also came from Oklahoma State).

When previewing his team for this season, Coach Brady had this to say about his star player, “”I thought the last 12-14 games of the year that Martavius was as good, if not the best, post player in the league.  It took him a while to get going, but the last 12 or 14 games I thought he was as good as anybody in the Sun Belt. I anticipate him picking up where he left off, and then those other guys are going to make him better because of what they bring to practice.”

As a team, Arkansas State doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well – 40.6% FG and 29.7% 3PT.  Their main strengths seem to be their team defense and rebounding, hauling down 37 boards per game.

On paper, this looks like it should be a cake-walk for Mark Fox’s Bulldogs.  However, there are several abnormal circumstances at play that could make this an interesting game:

1. This is the first game that the Dawgs have played since their December 7th win in Atlanta over in-state rival Georgia Tech.  How rusty will their legs and jump-shots be after such a long lay-off?

2. School is officially out for the holidays, meaning that the crowd on Saturday could be somewhat sparse due to a lack of students in Athens, GA.  There are still tickets available for the game for just $5 (promo code is “HOLIDAYS”), and something tells me that a lot them will remain “available”.  The Red Wolves will not be entering a very “hostile” environment.

3. The game tips-off at an unusually early time – high noon (which will feel like 11am for the ASU players).  Can Coach Fox can get his guys ready to start fast despite the lunch-time tip?

Hopefully Dustin Ware and Sherrard Brantley can be zonebusters again on Saturday and hit some shots from beyond the arc.  The two combined for 10 three-pointers against Georgia Tech, which not only bolstered Georgia‘s scoring but also opened things up on the inside for Trey Thompkins to work.

Jeremy Price, who mustered just 2 points against the Yellow Jackets, has played phenomenal at home this season, averaging 17 points in games against Mississippi Valley State, Colorado and UAB.  Look for him to get back on track against the Red Wolves after being a no-show in the game at Georgia Tech.

And finally, it’s time for junior forward Travis Leslie to snap out of his current funk.  In the Dawgs‘ wins over UAB and Georgia Tech, Leslie scored a total of 8 points on just 3 of 13 shooting in 50 minutes of play.  He has to find a way to stay involved in the offense when the game is running at a slower tempo, especially against zone defenses.

As far as Gerald Robinson, Jr. is concerned, well, you can see how he prepares for games here.

On a personal note, I am stoked to be heading up to Athens for this game.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold and rainy winter day than watching Georgia play some hoops.

If you can’t make the trek to Athens, the game will be televised on CSS and available online at ESPN3.

And I know it’s early, but I noticed that Georgia is currently ranked #36 in CBS Sportsline’s RPI Ranking – this has to be the Dawgs highest RPI in years.

ESPN’s Andy Katz is plugging Georgia again with his recent article discussing how “Opportunity Knocks” for Mark Fox’s Bulldogs.