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!