Dawgs Top Irish 61-57, Take 3rd Place at CBE Classic

With the game locked up at 53-53 and less than 5 minutes remaining, Georgia was set to inbound the ball with only 4 seconds left on the shot clock.  Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Notre Dame’s Scott Martin fouled Georgia’s Gerald Robinson with just one tick left on the shot clock, giving the Dawgs a fresh 35 and a chance to inbound the ball from the sidelines.  On the ensuing play, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope buried a three-pointer from the wing off of a Dustin Ware assist, putting his team up 56-53 with just 3:45 left in the game.

Georgia played strong man defense in game’s final minutes, holding the Irish to just one field goal in the last 4 minutes – which came on an uncontested three-pointer with only 4 seconds remaining in the game.  The Bulldogs were only 5 of 9 from the free throw line down the stretch, but the points were enough to help Georgia secure a much-needed 61-57 win over Notre Dame on Tuesday night.

After a first half that featured several lead changes, the teams went into the break with UGA leading 31-29.  The Dawgs came out hot out of the intermission though, and they were able to open up a 49-40 advantage.  Notre Dame answered with a 13-4 run that knotted the game up at 53-apiece before KCP’s big three-point field goal.

KCP, who scored 5 points in the final 4 minutes, led the Bulldogs in scoring with career-high 16 points to go along with 4 rebounds.

The Dawgs put on their best shooting display of the season, knocking down 12 three-pointers on 26 attempts.  Georgia was also able to out-rebound the bigger Notre Dame squad by a count of 30 to 25.  KCP was the only Bulldog to finish in double-figures, but Coach Mark Fox did get 7+ points from six different players.

The Bulldogs’ bigs frustrated Notre Dame’s star player Tim Abramaitus to only 6 points (16 below his season average), limiting him to just 1 field goal on 12 tries.  The Georgia defense as a whole was pretty stifling on Tuesday night, holding the Irish to below 35% from the field and just 19% from beyond the arc.

Notre Dame spent much of the night on the charity stripe, hitting 21 of their 28 attempts.  Georgia, however, didn’t even get to the line until there were just 5 minutes remaining in the game.  The Bulldogs ended up going 5 of 11 from the line, overcoming a rather lopsided margin of free throw attempts.

Coach Mark Fox shook up the starting lineup prior to the game, inserting Vincent Williams and John Florveus into the starting five.  Williams responded by turning in a solid performance at the guard position, scoring 8 points (on 2 threes) and dishing out a pair of assists.

The Dawgs improved to 4-1 on the season after tonight’s win, and Coach Mark Fox’s team should enjoy a hard-earned victory over a Big East team.  After getting shelled by Cal on Monday 70-46, Georgia was still searching for a win over a quality opponent after underwhelming victories against Wofford, Bowling Green and South Dakota State.  This win over the Irish should give the Dawgs confidence moving forward as they prepare for a road trip to #12 Xavier this Friday night.

Happy Thanksgiving and Go Dawgs!

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The Battle for 3rd Place at the CBE Classic

Any fans who happen to show up for the undercard game tonight between the Georgia Bulldogs (3-1) and the Notre Dame (4-1) Fighting Irish will be treated to a matchup of two teams coming off sound drubbings from Monday night’s opening round.  The Bulldogs were smacked by Cal 70-46, while the Irish got run off the court 87-58 by the #21 Missouri Tigers.

The Dawgs actually played Notre Dame early last season in the Old Spice Classic, losing a heart-breaker in double overtime.

Since that game last year, UGA has lost its best two players to the NBA, while the Irish return preseason All-Big East Second Team power forward Tim Abromaitis.  Abromaitis leads Notre Dame in scoring with 22 points per contest, and he’s bringing down 8 boards a game as well.  The versatile 6’8″ big scored 25 points in last season’s win over the Dawgs, knocking down 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.

As a team, the Irish are very strong from beyond the perimeter, where they are hitting over 40% of their three-point shots.  Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has been getting extremely balanced scoring so far this year, with five players averaging in double-figures.  The Irish play with a rather big lineup, starting four players that stand at 6’5″ or taller (two 6’8″ and one 6’9″).

All of Notre Dame’s strengths – shooting, rebounding, experience – have been major weaknesses for the Bulldogs so far this season.  The Dawgs are hitting only 38.4% of their field goal attempts, and the picture doesn’t get any prettier for Georgia from the three-point line where they have made below 24% of their shots.  The Bulldogs’ rebounding margin, which has been historically positive in the Mark Fox era, sits at -4.2 through four games this year.

Even though the back-up guard position at Georgia does not garner much attention nationally, I’d like to take a look at the current situation in regards to the Dawgs’ backcourt reserves.  I realize that Sherrard Brantley transferred to UGA with the reputation of being a “sharp shooter”, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that the young man has completely lost his touch.  Brantley is making less than 18% of his shots from beyond the arc so far this year, connecting on just 3 of 17 attempts – he has taken one less three-pointer than starter Dustin Ware, who is averaging more than 10 minutes per game than Brantley.

At this point, I’d much rather see Vincent Williams playing more minutes than Brantley in the reserve guard role.  Williams isn’t a great shooter, knocking down only 20% of his field goals.  But guess what?  Neither is Brantley, who sports a field goal percentage that resides in the mid-teens.  Williams at least gives Coach Mark Fox an intense defensive effort, and he’s averaging 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals in just 9.5 minutes of play.

Georgia is beginning to establish itself as a team that struggles from both the inside and outside, which leaves one to wonder how they might possibly beat a team from a major conference.

Prior to the Cal game, I let foolish UGA optimism lead me to predict that Georgia might actually be able to hang with the Bears for 40 minutes.

After last night shellacking, I am not as confident about Georgia’s chances against a bigger, more experienced Notre Dame team.  Even though the Irish were handled by Missouri on Monday, something tells me that they have the personnel to correct their mistakes and respond with a much better performance tonight.

Cal Whips Georgia 70-46 in CBE Classic

Georgia‘s (3-1) rebounding and shooting woes continued on Tuesday night in Kansas City, as the Bulldogs were blown out 70-46 by a superior California Bear team.

Believe it or not, the Dawgs actually held a 25-22 lead over Cal with 5:16 remaining in the half following a lay-in by Nemanja Djurisic.  However, Georgia proceeded to miss their last six shots before the break, allowing the Bears to open up a 36-25 lead after a 14-0 Cal run.

As if that weren’t enough, the Bears continued to throttle the Dawgs by pushing their lead up to 53-29 with only 10 minutes left in the game.  That’s right folks – Cal went on a 31-4 run over 14 minutes to bury the Bulldogs quickly in the second half.

Georgia’s Donte Williams and Gerald Robinson sat out most of the first half due to foul trouble, which is upsetting considering that Williams is definitely establishing himself as the Dawgs’ only inside presence.  For what its worth, Williams did have 6 points and 3 rebounds in limited time, and he’s really starting to improve in the paint.

The Dawgs’ shooting so far this season has been nothing short of horrific, and Tuesday night was no different.  Georgia shot just 33.3% from the floor and connected on only 4 of their 19 attempts from beyond the arc.  This game marked the second time this year that the Bulldogs have made less than 40% of their field goals, a trend that will surely result in an awful season for this team if it continues.

Cal out-rebounded UGA by a tally of 35-25, another trend that is slowly becoming a trademark of this Bulldog team.

Gerald Robinson looked out of control from the start, picking up two quick fouls and finishing the game with just 9 points before fouling out.  He struggled to stay in front of Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez defensively, allowing the senior to finish the game with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

It’s hard to take away anything positive from a 24-point drubbing, but for the game’s first 15 minutes Georgia looked like a real basketball team.  The Dawgs were trading buckets with the Bears, and they didn’t appear to be intimidated by going up against a more experienced, ranked opponent.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started off the game red-hot, canning two threes en route to a quick six points.   Unfortunately, he immediately cooled off, finishing the game with 10 points to lead the Dawgs in scoring.

In the end however, Cal looked like a team that deserved its ranking, and this team will most likely be accepting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament come March.

Georgia, on the other hand, looked more like Wofford, Bowling Green or South Dakota State – take your pick.