Ware’s Dawgs Sink Jackets 73-72

From the twitter account of ESPN’s Andy Katz – “Georgia with late possession win over rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta. That’s the type of win road win UGA should have to be taken seriously.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

After sleepwalking through the first half of last night’s game against Georgia Tech (4-4), the Dawgs (6-2) woke up behind a barrage of Dustin Ware three-pointers to secure Georgia‘s first win at Alexander Memorial Colesium in 10 years.

Ware hit 7 of his 9 three-point attempts last night and finished with 21 points along with 6 assists, including the game-winner that put his Dawgs up 73-70 with just 18 seconds remaining.

Georgia Tech had the ball with 11 seconds left and an opportunity to tie the game, but Glen Rice, Jr. elected to take the lay-up instead, cutting the Georgia lead to 73-72 with just 6.8 seconds remaining in the game.

The Dawgs then in-bounded the ball to Gerald Robinson, Jr. – GR2 is so fast with the ball that he nearly got away from the Tech defenders and ran out the clock himself.  However, he was fouled with just 4.5 seconds remaining and managed to miss both free throws – the only silver lining here is that there were only 2.8 seconds left after the Jackets were able to run down his second miss and call timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Brian Oliver elected to throw a hail mary pass that was intercepted by Georgia’s Travis Leslie  and the game was officially over.

The importance of Georgia‘s sharp perimeter shooting cannot be stated enough.  Sherrard Brantley had his best game to date as a Dawg, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc and finishing with 9 points.  Brantley hit back-to-back three’s during a crucial stretch in the second half, giving Georgia‘s its first lead at 48-47 with 12:10 remaining. He then answered a Brian Oliver three on the ensuing possession to put the Dawgs back on top 51-50 at the 11:36 mark.  With both Travis Leslie and GR2 dealing with foul trouble, Brantley was thrust into the difficult role of guarding Tech’s Iman Shumpert in the second half.   Brantley stepped up and did a nice job with Shumpert, limiting him to just 7 points in the second half (and maybe wearing him down – Shumpert had to sit the game’s final minutes dealing with leg cramps).

The Jackets started the game with a 2-3 zone that stymied the Dawgs on offense for a majority of the first half.  The Dawgs shot just 40% from the field and turned it over 5 times – Trey had 3 of those first-half turnovers and just 6 points.  Thompkins struggled to find offense against the Tech zone, with defenders collapsing on him every time he touched the ball.

The Dawgs had a seven-minute stretch in the first half in which they scored only one field goal, enabling the Jackets to build a 31-21 lead with just 2:17 left before the break.

Fortunately for Georgia, they played pretty tough defense which kept the game within reach – trailing 35-29 at the half.

The second half was a different story.

Ware and Brantley buried a combined six three-point shots, forcing Paul Hewitt to put his team in a man-to-man defense.  Georgia Tech’s Paul Oliver and Daniel Miller were no match for Thompkins, as Trey torched the Jackets for 15 second-half points – he finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds.

In the second half, the Dawgs shot an improved 48.4% from the field, and they made 7 of 11 from beyond the arc.

It is also worth noting that Georgia only turned the ball over TWICE in the second half, and just seven times in the game.  This shows a lot of maturity from Fox’s team, committing only seven turnovers playing on the road in a hostile environment.

And how about the resiliency of this Dawgs team?

When the Jackets went up 70-65 following a dunk by Daniel Miller with only 2:14 left in the game, it looked as if this one was slipping away.

But Gerald Robinson calmly guided his team’s offense and fed a beautiful entry pass to Trey – Thompkins finished the play plus the free throw to bring Georgia within two.  Following a nice Georgia defensive stand, GR2 took the ball to the basket and finished an amazing left-handed finger-roll, tying the game at 70 apiece.  And then (as we all are well aware) came the GR2 dish to Ware for the big three that gave Georgia the win.

So in the game’s final two minutes, Robinson led the Dawgs with 2 assists and a field goal.

Gerald Robinson finished the game with 11 points and 6 assists, and at this point, it looks like GR2 might be unguardable off the dribble.  When teams show Georgia zone in the future, I’d really like to see GR2 become a little more selfish in attacking the zone himself.  It’s obvious that he likes getting his teammates involved in the offense, but I think his penetration will force teams to play more man against Georgia.

This was a great win for Georgia for so many reasons – beating the in-state rival, beating an ACC team, winning on the road, recruiting, etc.

After going 0-11 in true road games last season, Coach Fox’s team is now 2-0 this season in games played at the opponent’s venue.

Watching the Dawgs take this game, and then getting to listen to the Tech fans grumble about Paul Hewitt all the way to the car made this event well worth the $30 I paid for the ticket.

And finally, Coach Mark Fox’s team has now won two in a row against the Jackets.

So I ask you Dawgs fans: Who runs this state?

Rivalry Week

The last time Georgia (5-2) won at Alexander Memorial Colesium was exactly 10 years ago plus one day – December 6, 2000.   You know what happened later that month?  A Florida State offensive coordinator by the name of Mark Richt was hired as the Bulldogs’ head football coach.

So it’s been a while since the Dawgs have taken one in Atlanta.

On Tuesday night, UGA will go up against a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket (4-3) team that has gotten out to a shaky start – losing badly at both Kennesaw State and Northwestern (not exactly basketball powerhouses).

However, the Jackets are 3-0 at home – albeit those wins came against Charleston Southern, Albany and Niagara – and this is a rivalry game, so it’s safe to say that Mark Fox’s team will get Tech’s best shot.

This Georgia Tech team is smaller than some of Coach Paul Hewitt’s past teams, essentially starting four guards along with 6’11” freshman center Daniel Miller (who transferred to Georgia Tech from Georgia).  Brian Oliver is listed as a forward, but the 6’6″ sophomore plays more of a wing position and takes a majority of his shots from beyond the arc.

They are a quick team that does a good job of stepping into the passing lanes and creating turnovers.  Tech is currently leading the ACC in both steals (11 per game) and turnover margin (+5.43).  At the risk of sounding cliche, the Dawgs better be careful with the basketball or they could dig a hole for themselves early in this game.

Despite the Jackets lack of size, they do aggressively get after the offensive glass, averaging nearly 15 offensive rebounds per game – which is tied for 25th in the nation and tops in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Georgia needs to do a much better job of defensive rebounding on Tuesday night than they did in the second half against UAB last Friday (in which the Dawgs surrendered 11 offensive rebounds to the Blazers).

On offense, Georgia Tech has been putting up a lot of outside shots – nearly 21 three-point attempts per game.  Unfortunately for Paul Hewitt, his Jackets are currently pulling anchor in the ACC in both field goal (40.2%) and three-point percentage (26.2%).  Tech hasn’t played a game in a week, so it will be interesting to see how the time off effects their strokes.

The Jackets, similarly to Georgia, have two players that can and will play the point guard position – junior Iman Shumpert and sophomore Mfon Udofia.  Shumpert is the leader of this team, and he’s a smooth ball-handler that nets 13.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.0 apg and 2.9 spg – he does it all for Coach Hewitt.  Both Shumpert and Udofia (9.1 ppg) like to attack the basket off the dribble and can get into the paint and score.

Sophomore forward Brian Oliver leads his team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.4), and he’s the best outside shooter – knocking down 35.7% from beyond the arc on the season.  Fellow sophomore Glen Rice, Jr. is the other Tech starter averaging double figures at 11.1 points per game.

Tuesday night’s game will not be Gerald Robinson, Jr.’s first rodeo against the Jackets.  In 2007, GR2 paced his Tennessee State Tiger team with 24 points in a 99-85 loss to Georgia Tech, and in 2008 he led the Tigers with 16 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in a 63-58 loss to the Jackets.

However, this time against the Jackets GR2 will be bringing the SEC Preseason Player of the Year (Trey Thompkins) and the Elevator From Decatur (Travis Leslie) with him.

I’d like to see Robinson be a little more selfish with the ball when Shumpert is guarding him (which could be often) – GR2 has the ability to take him off the dribble and possibly force Iman into some cheap fouls.

Last week’s win over UAB was the first time this season that Jeremy Price and Trey Thompkins each scored in double figures – Price had 14 and Trey finished with 20.  The Georgia wings fed the ball inside early and often, allowing these two wide-bodies to dominate the smaller UAB bigs.  I’d like to see a similar game-plan on Tuesday night – Tech doesn’t have the size inside to match up with Georgia’s bigs and hopefully Coach Fox has his guys ready to exploit it.

Georgia’s bench played strong for Coach Fox against the Blazers, out-scoring them 13-3 with Sherrard Brantley contributing 8 points.  Fox is going to need more big minutes out of Brantley, Chris Barnes, Connor Nolte and Marcus Thornton on Tuesday – being on the road in a raucous environment means there is a possibility that some of the Georgia starters could land in foul trouble (Jeremy Price).

ESPN college basketball analyst (and quasi-Georgia basketball fan?) Andy Katz said earlier this morning that “Georgia may finally be turning the corner“.

Winning at Alexander Memorial on Tuesday would certainly reaffirm his statement.

This is a monster game for Coach Fox’s Dawgs – playing their in-state rival on the road will be a heck of a challenge.  The AJC’s Jeff Schultz says “this may be as important a game as Tech plays all season” – Hewitt’s job could be on the line.

Tickets are still available for this showdown.

The last time I was on the Georgia Tech campus was Saturday November 28, 2009 – that was a good night.

I’m hoping to see the basketball team do something they haven’t done in a decade – win at Georgia Tech.

Dawgs Close Out UAB 66-64

Who gets the game ball for the Georgia Bulldogs (5-2) in their win over UAB (6-2) on Friday night – Colby Pohlmann or Gerald Robinson?  Pohlmann was the UGA trainer responsible for getting GR2 back to the locker room for an apparent IV to treat Robinson’s apparent cramping legs with 2:09 left in the game.

Robinson returned to the game with 1:02 remaining, which was amazing considering he looked as though he could barely walk just minutes before that.  Even more amazing was the fact that he drove and scored on a beautiful lay-up on the Dawgs’ most critical possession, putting his team up 64-61 with only 14 ticks left.  Next, GR2 proceeded to secure the rebound following a UAB three-point attempt, and then knocked down two free-throws to put Georgia up 66-61 and essentially seal the game.

So I guess GR2 (13 points and 5 assists) deserves most of the credit for securing the Dawgs win, but I just felt like Pohlmann’s efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Mark Fox’s team came out Friday night hitting on all cylinders on both offense and defense, building up a 16-4 lead on 8 of 12 shooting from the field in the game’s first six minutes.  There was also a noticeable difference in the Dawgs‘ defensive effort, as Georgia stymied UAB with its man pressure.

Georgia built up a 43-32 lead as the team’s went into the break, but once again came out flat to start the second half, and in less than three minutes UAB only trailed Georgia 45-42 following a 10-2 run.  Is it possible that this Georgia team prefers close finishes?

The main source of frustration in the second half was the Dawgs‘ inability to secure defensive rebounds.  Georgia won the rebounding battle on Friday night 37-27, but UAB did grab 11 of their 16 offensive rebounds in the game’s second half.  The Blazers finished the game with 18 second-chance points, 14 of which came in the second half – these second-chance points really kept UAB in the game.

Georgia road their big men in this one, getting 34 of their 66 total points from Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price.  Thompkins looked a lot more like his old self, hitting outside shots and turnaround jumpers – he finished with 20 points and 9 boards including a big basket with 1:55 left to give his Georgia team a 60-59 lead (a lead that they would not relinquish).

There was a very scary moment near the end of the game where Thompkins hit floor very hard following a defensive stand, but after the game Trey said, ““I just landed on my hip.  I’ll be alright.”

Thank goodness!

This was one of Price’s better games offensively, as he finished with 14 points on 6 of 11 field goals.  Price used a variety of up-and-under post moves along with his size advantage to dominate the UAB bigs inside.  He also knocked down a pair of ultra-clutch free throws to put the Dawgs up 62-59 with 1:06 remaining.

The Dawgs’ bench was also a nice source of production for Coach Fox on Friday, outscoring UAB’s bench 13-3.  Sophomore transfer guard Sherrard Brantley scored 8 points in just 14 minutes of play, including a pair of three-pointers.

Georgia shot the ball much better on Friday night, hitting 50% from the field and knocking down 7 of 9 from the charity stripe.

On a personal level, I’m glad that Georgia doesn’t have to go up against UAB point guard Aaron Johnson ever again – he was tough.  Johnson, who is unbelievably quick, was able to penetrate into the lane on nearly every possession – he finished with 14 points and 3 assists.

UAB forward Cameron Moore led the Blazers with 20 points, and guard Jamarr Sanders added 16.

And a reminder that there are still tickets available for the Georgia Tech game next Tuesday night – it would be cool to have a lot of Dawgs’ fans in the stands of Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Back to the UAB game – what did everybody think?

Georgia Opens Up December With UAB

The good news for the Georgia Bulldogs (4-2) is that they have only two games in December that will require their undivided attention – UAB (6-1) and Georgia Tech.  Their other five non-conference opponents – Arkansas State, High Point, Mercer, Charleston Southern, Eastern Kentucky – should basically serve as glorified tune-ups before the Dawgs get into their 2011 SEC schedule.

The bad news is that Georgia plays UAB and Georgia Tech one after the other, leaving little room for error.

On Friday, Georgia will play host to a UAB team that was predicted to finish 8th in the Conference USA coming into the 2010-2011 season after losing their top scorers from last year – Elijah Millsap (16.1 ppg) and Howard Crawford (11.8 ppg).

Despite the modest expectations, Coach Mike Davis’s UAB Blazers have gotten out to a hot start, winning 6 of their first 7 games – including a 70-65 overtime win against the Arkansas Razorbacks.  The Blazers only loss was a 69-66 heart-breaker on the road at Arizona State – the Sun Devils hit a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to win the game.

And in case you missed it, UAB whipped Georgia last year in Birmingham 72-56 (the same day the football team lost to Kentucky in Athens – not a good day for UGA sports).

The reason for UAB’s strong start this season has a lot to do with their veteran backcourt, led by seniors Aaron Johnson and Jamarr Sanders.  Point guard Aaron Johnson currently leads the nation with 9.0 assists per game (he is 4th all-time on UAB’s career assist leaders list), and he sports an impressive 2.74 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Johnson is lightening-quick, and he can definitely get into the lane to create his own shot (9.6 ppg).

Coach Mike Davis is a fan of his point guard as well, praising him after the Blazers 59-53 win over Jacksonville State on Wednesday – “”Aaron (Johnson) is playing so hard, with so much energy right now, it’s unbelievable. If there’s a point guard out there who is better, I want to see him. I’m talking about an overall player, the way he can score, pass the ball, play defense, the way he takes charges. If we can get everyone playing that way, we can be a good team.”

The match-up between the Dawgs‘ Gerald Robinson, Jr. and UAB’s Aaron Johnson should be fun to watch – don’t blink though, or you might miss something.  Both of these players like to attack the teeth of the defense and put defenders on their heels.

Jamarr Sanders is more of a catch-and-shoot guy, netting 15.3 ppg while shooting 34% from three-point range.

The UAB frontcourt is very athletic, featuring a pair of 6’8″ bigs – junior Cameron Moore and sophomore Ovie Soko.  Moore not only leads the Blazers in both scoring (18.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg), but the big fella can stroke it from the outside, knocking down 59.3% from the field and 64.7% from beyond the arc.  Soko, who hails from London, England, is contributing 12.4 points and 7.1 boards per contest – not bad for a Brit.  Both of these guys are more effective on offense when facing the basket (vs playing with their back to it).

One of the keys to this game will be the Dawgs‘ perimeter defense, which has not been impressive through the team’s first 6 games.  Georgia currently ranks last in the SEC in three-point percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot over 42% from beyond the arc – shooters are loving the view over the Dawgs‘ defenders.

Georgia must do a better job of contesting outside shots, and that needs to start with UAB because this team can (and will) put it up.  As a team, the Blazers are hoisting up nearly 22 three-point attempts a game, connecting on almost 37% of them.  If Georgia isn’t prepared to get a hand in the face of these UAB shooters, the Dawgs could be in for a LONG night (see the Mississippi Valley State game).

Offensively, the story behind the three-point line has also not been very pretty for the DawgsGeorgia is shooting just 28.6% as a team from beyond the arc, which ranks dead-last in the SEC.  The Dawgs are making an SEC-low FOUR three-pointers a game, which is a big reason why they currently rank 10th in the conference in scoring at just 69.7 ppg.  If Mark Fox could just get 2 or 3 more three-pointers a game (from say, Dustin Ware, Sherrard Brantley or Trey Thompkins) it would do wonders for the Dawgs‘ scoring average – not to mention it would force opponents out of their zone sets.

I watched the Blazers beat Middle Tennessee State 76-71 in November, and UAB played man defense nearly the entire game.  Mike Davis only plays six or seven guys (four starters average over 31 minutes per game), but they are physical and athletic and really get after teams.

It will be interesting to see if Davis keeps his team in a man defense against the Dawgs, who looked mystified against the 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone looks that they saw last week at the Old Spice Classic.

Georgia basketball fans (myself included) were pretty down in the dumps following the Dawgs‘ performance in the tournament in Orlando last week – blowing a 12-point halftime lead against Notre Dame, and then back-to-back lackadaisical efforts against both Temple and Manhattan.  This Georgia team, according to several ESPN analysts, was supposed to be the best in years and primed for a breakout season – last weekend they didn’t look like a team worthy of such high praise.

However, I am a firm believer in Coach Mark Fox and I expect to see a much better effort this Friday against UAB.  Something tells me that Fox has not been happy with the team defense thus far either, and I think we will see a big improvement tomorrow night (especially in the paint).  With Trey back on the practice court this week,  the offense should start to run more smoothly and not look quite as forced (as it did in the Old Spice Classic).

The Dawgs have a chance to go on a nice little run here in December, and there is the possibility of getting to 11-2 before opening up SEC play in January.

It starts tomorrow night with the UAB Blazers.