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?