Georgia ends 2011 with an underwhelming 58-51 win over Delaware State

Georgia (9-5) came away from Friday’s contest with Delaware State (4-7) with a win, but similarly to the Winthrop game on Tuesday, it didn’t come easily.

The Bulldogs got off to another dreadful start, making just 2 of their first 9 field goals attempts and with 12:58 left in the half they trailed the Hornets 14-4.  Georgia reclaimed the lead on a Dustin Ware three-pointer that put them up 20-19 with only 6:11 remaining before intermission.

The highlight of the afternoon came just before the half when Kentavious-Caldwell Pope launched a shot from beyond half court that beat the buzzer and drew nothing but nylon, putting his Bulldogs up 32-29 heading into the break.

Luckily for Georgia, Delaware State went frigid in the second half, connecting on less than 27% of their field goal attempts.  The Dawgs weren’t much better on offense after halftime, making only 37.5% of their shots from the floor and turning the ball over 7 times – probably a big reason why the Hornets were able to hang around for most of the afternoon.

The game seemed in hand after KCP buried a three from the corner to put Georgia up 52-46 with only 4:28 left, but then the freshman managed to turn the ball over on UGA‘s next possession and then proceeded to foul Delaware State guard Casey Walker on his ensuing three-point attempt.  Fortunately Walker, who led the Hornets with 16 points, only made 2 of the 3 free throws.  Georgia’s Gerald Robinson, Jr. iced the game on the Dawgs’ next possession by scoring on a nice drive through the lane, and the Dawgs pulled away for a 58-51 victory.

GR2 didn’t score a single point until the 16-minute mark in the second half, and he finished the game with just 8 points to go along with only 1 assist.

Dustin Ware led all Georgia scorers with 15 points, and if it weren’t for his 3 three-pointers before the break the Dawgs could have really been in some trouble going into the second half.

Sophomore Donte Williams had one of his more productive games a Bulldog, scoring 12 points and bringing down 9 rebounds.

All and all, the Dawgs didn’t give the few thousand fans that showed up to Stegeman Coliseum much to be excited about before the start of conference play.  Once again, Georgia struggled to put away a team (at home) from a mid-major conference with a sub-.500 record.

At this point, it has become painfully clear that even the worst teams in college basketball can come into Athens and hang with the Bulldogs if Georgia plays the game at a slow pace.  Without any post players that can consistently score on the block, the Dawgs’ offense is at a huge disadvantage when trying to create points in the halfcourt set.

I strongly believe that it would behoove Coach Mark Fox and his team to start integrating more press into the game plan in an attempt to speed up the tempo – Fox has been subbing players in and out at a torrid pace this season, so one would assume that this team could handle the rigors that come with applying full-court pressure?

Georgia won its fifth-straight game today and improved to 9-5, but the last two games have left me especially worried about the daunting slate of SEC games looming in the Dawgs’ immediate future – Alabama, (at) Florida and (at) Vanderbilt.

The Dawgs open SEC play at home against Alabama on Saturday January 7th.  The Crimson Tide are a big, physical athletic bunch that feature All-SEC bigs JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell – this is basically the same Alabama team that beat Georgia TWICE last season (and that was when Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie were still donning the Red and Black).

Coach Mark Fox has seven days to come up with a game plan for the Tide, and I am hoping with all hope that it involves relentlessly pushing the ball up the court.

Dawgs host Hornets in last non-conference game of the season

The Georgia Bulldogs (8-5) will play their last game of the year on Friday, taking on the Delaware State Hornets (4-6) in Athens at 2:00PM.  The only other meeting between these two teams was on November 28, 2007 in Stegeman with Georgia winning the game 58-47.  The Hornets have not had much success against SEC teams in their storied history, posting an all-time record of 0-9 versus the Southeastern Conference.

The Georgia men’s basketball team kicked off 2011 with a stunning home upset of then-ranked #11 Kentucky – oh, how much things can change in year!

After surviving a scare on Tuesday to Winthrop, the Dawgs are searching for their fifth-straight victory before embarking upon the 2012 SEC schedule, which starts on January 7th when the Alabama Crimson Tide pay a visit to Stegeman Coliseum.

Delaware State’s rocky start to the season got a whole lot rockier when leading-scorer Tahj Tate was suspended from the team indefinitely on December 7th for what Coach Greg Jackson described as “conduct detrimental to the team”.   The freshman was averaging 15.4 ppg prior to the suspension, and his Hornet team has dropped two in a row in his absence to Delaware and Tennessee State.

In DSU’s 59-55 loss to Tennessee State on December 17th, the Hornets played without Tate as well as fellow starters Jay Threatt (PG) and Kendall Gray (C).  I was unable to locate any news on either players’ injury status due to the fact that there just isn’t much interest in DSU Hornet basketball on the interweb.  However, I would venture to guess that both players could possibly return to the court on Friday since they have had over two weeks to heal.

Assuming that Threatt and Gray play today, Delaware State’s defense will certainly be the greatest benefactor.  Last year, Sports Illustrated named Jay Threatt as one of the top 16 impact defenders in college basketball.  This season the senior point guard is currently 7th in the country in steals with 2.78 per game.  The 6’10” freshman – Kendall Gray – has been altering a lot of shots in the paint, where he is sitting at 7th in the nation at 3.4 blocks per contest.

Despite the Dawgs‘ lackluster defense against Winthrop on Tuesday and the fact that the competition level has taken a dip over the past four games, Georgia’s offensive numbers have been rather staggering.  Throughout this current win streak, UGA is connecting on 49% of its field goal and three-point attempts.  The Bulldogs have been operating efficiently on offense, sporting a stellar 1.49 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Georgia’s offense works best when the game is played uptempo with Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Vincent Williams pushing the ball down the court.  The Dawgs opened up a 48-35 lead on Winthrop in the second half when they started pressing the pace of the game.  However, the Eagles were able to claw back into it after Coach Mark Fox substituted and the Dawgs went back to a halfcourt set.

Playing halfcourt basketball does not suit this Georgia team since they have virtually zero inside scoring threats.  This team is most productive when the guards are moving the ball up and down the court quickly.

Nemanja Djurisic played the best game of his career on Tuesday, scoring 17 points and pulling down 9 boards.  Hopefully he can build on that game and become a consistent scoring threat for the Dawgs heading into conference play.  However, he is more of a pick-and-pop forward that scores better away from the basket, as opposed to playing with his back to the goal on the block.

When Georgia plays a halfcourt style of offense, opposing defenders can stick closer to Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Dustin Ware, limiting their open looks.

Coach Mark Fox and his team need to embrace the theme of playing uptempo, making it their identity as they head into conference play.

Georgia overcomes late deficit to top Winthrop in overtime

Things were looking rather bleak for the Georgia Bulldogs (8-5) when they were trailing the Winthrop Eagles (4-9) 75-71 with just 15 seconds remaining in the game.  Winthrop forward Matt Morgan stepped up to the free throw line, where he had recently knocked down four straight shots.  Morgan made the first attempt but missed the second, leaving the door slightly open for the Dawgs.

Georgia capitalized on the ensuing possession with senior Dustin Ware burying a three-pointer from the corner, cutting the Eagles lead to just one point.

Winthrop only made one out of two from the line on their next possession, bringing the lead to 76-74 with only a little over 6 seconds left.

Luckily for Georgia, Gerald Robinson only needed about 3 seconds and some change.  The senior guard flew down the court and scored the tying lay-up with 2.4 seconds on the clock – he was moving so fast it looked as if he might continue on up into the section where I was sitting behind the Bulldogs’ basket.

Once overtime began, Georgia started playing defense like they had in their previous three victories.  Offensively, the Dawgs connected on 11 of 15 free throws, enabling them to escape on Tuesday night with a 92-86 victory (Georgia’s highest scoring output of the season).

The Dawgs came out of the gates with almost zero intensity and found themselves trailing Winthrop 9-2 in less than 4 minutes of play.  “We didn’t feel like we were playing very hard in the first half,” said Georgia Coach Mark Fox after the game.

If not for Nemanja Djurisic’s 13 points before the break, there is no way the Dawgs would have been able to take a 34-30 lead into the half.

After the intermission, Georgia stormed out of the gates and opened up a 48-35 lead over the Eagles with 14:27 remaining, following a Connor Nolte runner.

But Winthrop, or Andre Jones I should say, was not to be denied.  Jones, the Eagles leading scorer, was at first unguarded, and then eventually became unguardable.  The senior carried his team with 33 points and nearly put Georgia away all by himself.

Coach Mark Fox, who seemed rather displeased with the fact that his team allowed an opposing player to score more than 30 points, commented after the game, “Our defense really failed us in the second half.  We shot 65% in the second half and we got outscored by four – that shows you how bad we played defense.”

Georgia’s offense was very successful against the Eagles on Tuesday night with the Bulldogs shooting nearly 55% from the floor and over 38% from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs saw four players – Djurisic, Ware, KCP and GR2 – finish the game in double-figures.

Robinson led all UGA scorers with 22 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists (to only 2 turnovers).  Gerald never gave up on this game, relentlessly pushing the ball down the court to preserve time and score quick baskets.  Robinson’s senior leadership was exemplary at the end of the game and it definitely enabled Georgia to push the contest to overtime.

Djurisic set career-highs in both points and rebounds, finishing with 17 and 9, respectively.  Nemanja was extremely active on the offensive glass, and though he only secured 3 o-rebs he did an excellent job of getting his hands on the ball and keeping it alive.

Dustin Ware, along with GR2, played a vital role in the Bulldogs‘ comeback, scoring 8 points in the final 5 minutes of regulation.  Ware ended the game with 20 points, with 15 of them coming after the intermission.

Kentavious-Caldwell Pope scored a quiet 18 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.  When Fox watches the game film today he may regret not putting KCP on Winthrop’s Andre Jones defensively instead of the Eagles’ other guard Reggie Middleton, whom Pope limited to just 9 points on 3 of 17 shooting from the floor.

UGA fans will probably look at the headlines from this game and lament the fact that the Bulldogs had to go to overtime to beat a 4-8 Winthrop team at home in Stegeman.  However, my ride home to Atlanta as well as my general mood last night would have been significantly worse had Georgia not pulled off the comeback.

The Dawgs had a full-game lapse defensively but they were still able to walk away victorious, extending their current win-streak to four games.

Georgia gets Winthrop at home Tuesday night

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-5) return to the court Tuesday night to take on the Winthrop Eagles (4-8) of the Big South Conference.  The game in Athens will mark the Eagles fourth consecutive road trip, losing the last two to Clemson and Western Michigan.

Winthrop lost their top two scorers from a year ago to graduation, and this year’s team is built around a backcourt that features  seniors Andre Jones and Reggie Middleton.  Jones is the Eagles leading point-getter at 18.3 per game, while hitting nearly 40% of his three-point attempts.  Middleton, a preseason All-Big South Second Team selection, is the only other Eagle scoring in double-digits at 12.0 ppg – he also leads this team with 3.3 apg.  Similarly to Georgia, Winthrop has struggled to establish any sort of offense in the paint, with Jones and Middleton providing almost 49% of the Eagles’ offense.

The Bulldogs – unlike Winthrop – have been thriving lately, riding a three-game win streak into Tuesday night’s game in Stegeman.  Coach Mark Fox’s team has been hitting on all cylinders over the past three games, both offensively and defensively.

In the wins over Southern Cal, Mercer and Furman, the Dawgs have hit just under 47% from the floor and from beyond the arc Georgia has been on fire, making 23 of their last 42 three-point attempts.  Not only has UGA been shooting the ball well, but they have been protecting it too, dishing out 38 team assists to only 25 turnovers.

Complementing the Dawgs’ recent offensive surge has been their lock-down team defense, limiting the last three opponents to a combined 36% shooting from the field.  Georgia’s defense has been opportunistic as well, creating 20 steals during the current win streak.

A big reason for the Bulldogs’ recent successes as of late can be attributed to the much-improved play from seniors Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Dustin Ware, who are averaging 16.7 ppg and 10.3 ppg, respectively, over the past three games.  GR2 has played under control, racking up 11 assists to just 5 turnovers, and he’s finally starting to look a preseason All-SEC Second Team selection.

Since being benched in favor of Vincent Williams, Ware has excelled in his role off the bench, knocking down 9 of his last 12 three-point attempts.  Dustin, who is in dire need of a “heat check”, may have played his way back into Coach Fox’s starting five.

Georgia will be looking to extend their win streak to four games on Tuesday, which would be their longest of the season.

Georgia’s defense smothers Furman in 64-50 win

Rarely used Georgia Bulldog (7-5) reserves Matt Bucklin and Elliot Long played the final 2:14 for the Dawgs on Friday night, a sign that the game was well in hand late in the second half.

Actually, this game was really only close at the beginning due to the fact that all games must begin with a 0-0 score.

The Paladins started the game in a zone defense in an attempt to make Georgia play halfcourt offense.  The Dawgs responded by scoring on their first four possessions, opening up a 9-5 advantage less than 4 minutes into the half.  Furman, who never led in this game, tied the score at 9-9 only to have Georgia respond with a 9-0 run of their own, taking an 18-9 advantage following a Donte Williams dunk (one of many) on a backdoor cut.

The Dawgs took a 34-23 lead into the break behind 11 first half points from senior Dustin Ware.

Furman was able to get as close as 43-36 after a Jordan Loyd three-pointer with 12:20 remaining in the game, but for most of the second half the Paladins trailed the Dawgs by more than double digits.

Georgia’s defense was lights-out on Friday, limiting the Paladins to under 33% from the floor and forcing them into 14 turnovers.  The Dawgs capitalized on those Furman turnovers, converting them into 17 points.  Senior Brandon Sebirumbi was the only Paladin to score in double figures, finishing the game with just 10 points (6 of which came off of free throws).

Kentavious-Caldwell Pope led all Georgia players with 17 points, but I felt like senior Gerald Robinson, Jr. was the MVP for the Dawgs on Friday night.  In just 24 minutes, GR2 scored 13 points and dished out five assists.  Robinson looked calm and controlled with the basketball, and his drives facilitated offense for both himself and his teammates.  Since regaining his starting job, GR2 is now averaging 17.5 ppg over the past four games.

Maybe there is something to Coach Mark Fox’s strategy of benching his senior guards in favor of Vincent Williams?  Dustin Ware, who has come off the bench the past three games, has been on an absolute tear from beyond the arc where he has made 9 of his last 12 attempts.

Donte Williams finished with 10 points, making it his third game this season in double figures.

Despite the four-game losing streak in the middle of Georgia’s schedule, it is very apparent that this team has improved tremendously since the home opener against Wofford.  The Dawgs’ guards are playing terrific right now, and if the “law firm” of Pope, Robinson, Williams and Ware can continue to execute Georgia will continue to win.

The Dawgs have now won three straight and they will take some momentum into the holiday weekend before returning to the hardcourt next Tuesday when they play host to Winthrop.

Happy Holidays and Go Dawgs!

Furman visits Athens to play Georgia at 7PM Friday night

Friday night’s game between the Georgia Bulldogs (7-5) and the Furman Paladins (4-6) should be extra special for reserve forward Connor Nolte.  The Bulldogs‘ senior wing played his first two years of college basketball for the Paladins, where he started 15 games in two seasons.

Nolte is coming off of one of the better games of his career at Georgia, scoring 11 points and going a perfect 3 for 3 from beyond the arc – the timing couldn’t be better for a match-up with his former school.

At this point, one would assume that Connor is satisfied with his decision to transfer to UGA – he’s seen a full season of SEC competition, played in an NCAA tournament game and is slowly making himself a consistent role player on this year’s Bulldog team.

Furman was projected to finish last in their half of the Southern Conference, and they are currently on pace to fulfill that prophecy as they are out to an 0-2 start in SoCon play.  The Paladins have beaten just one team with a winning record this year – the Columbia Lions.

However, Furman’s sluggish 6-5 start is somewhat misleading as the team had to play its first 9 games without senior forward Bryson Barnes, who was dealing with eligibility issues.  In his first two games back, the Atlanta native is averaging 18 ppg and 8 rpg, including 26 points in a win over Western Kentucky last Saturday.

The Paladins are fresh off of a 75-71 road loss to Presbyterian, a team that won at Cincinnati back on November 19th.

Joining Barnes in the paint is fellow senior big man Brandon Sebirumbi, who stands at 6’9″ and weighs 230 pounds.  Sebirumbi is averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, but his offensive numbers have been significantly better since Barnes returned to the lineup.  In the last two games, he is scoring 15 points per contest now that he has another scoring threat on the opposite block.

Furman’s strength in the paint is definitely the biggest concern for the Bulldogs on Friday night.

Georgia seems to be most successful this season when they are pushing the ball up and down the court.  Without much of an inside presence, UGA’s halfcourt offense has been rather ineffective (and at times very hard to watch).

The Dawgs‘ guards – Gerald Robinson, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, Dustin Ware and Vincent Williams – should be in all out run mode on Friday night, looking to press the tempo at any opportunity.

The Bulldogs are 3-1 this year when making more than 40% of their three-point attempts, with the lone loss coming in the game at Colorado (a game that UGA let slip away in the second half).  Georgia’s success on the court is dependent upon their ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc.

The game against the Paladins marks the last one before Christmas as well as a chance for UGA to extend its win streak to three games.  Hopefully Coach Mark Fox can keep this bunch focused so that they can continue to build a little momentum from that win over USC last Saturday.

Dawgs Drop Bears 72-58

Gerald Robinson, Jr. carved up the Mercer defense for most of Tuesday night, pouring in 20 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists, leading his Georgia Bulldog (7-5) team to a 72-58 win over the Bears in Stegeman Coliseum.  GR2 scored 12 points after the intermission, driving past the Mercer defenders as if their feet were stuck in mud.

It wasn’t all roses for Coach Mark Fox’s team on Tuesday though.

UGA‘s leading scorer Kentavious-Caldwell Pope picked up two quick fouls to start the game, making the Dawgs Pope-less for nearly 15 minutes in the first half.  Georgia was sluggish offensively from the start, connecting on just 3 of their first 15 shot attempts and trailing the Bears 16-8 ten minutes into the game.

Georgia‘s role players really picked up the slack in KCP’s absence, with Vincent Williams and Connor Nolte scoring 6 points apiece before the break.

Georgia came out of the halftime with a lot of intensity, going on an 14-3 run to begin the first five minutes of the second half.  The Dawgs’ man defense was tenacious for most of the game, and with only 8:39 remaining Georgia held a 57-38 lead over Mercer.  The Bears were unable to get the lead down to single digits again, and the Bulldogs picked up their 6th win of the season.

The Dawgs’ defense held Mercer, a team averaging 70+ points a game, to under 60 total points for the first time this season.

Mercer was led offensively by sophomore guard Langston Hall, who finished the game with 16 points – the only Bear to score in double-figures.  The Dawgs struggled to contain Mercer big man Daniel Coursey in the first half, allowing him to net 8 points in the paint before the intermission.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Coursey picked up his 4th foul early in the second half, sending him to the bench and reducing Mercer’s inside presence.

Williams and Nolte both finished the game with 11 points (tying a career high for Connor), providing Georgia with some much-needed scoring on a night that saw KCP end the game with only 8 points on 3 of 10 shooting from the floor.  Vincent Williams has really developed into a steady player for Coach Fox, and his field goal and three-point percentages are quite stellar, sitting at 51.4% and 38.9%, respectively.

The Dawgs had another nice shooting night from the perimeter, canning 8 of their 18 three-point attempts.

Most importantly, Georgia won the rebounding battle 41-34, with 16 of them coming on the offensive glass.  Donte Williams and KCP led the Dawgs with 8 and 6 boards, respectively.

Those of you who had the opportunity to see the game were treated to a couple of offensive moves by Bulldog players that may never be duplicated again from now until the end of time.  In the first half, Georgia forward Marcus Thornton crossed over a Mercer defender from the wing, drove to the basket and finished with a smooth lay-in over another defender.  Despite Thornton’s struggles offensively so far this season, I do appreciate his efforts at securing loose balls in the paint on both offense and defense.

The other offensive anomaly came in the first half as well, when rarely-used freshman forward Tim Dixon banked a jumper in off the glass from about 18′ out (unfortunately for Tim his second shot attempt of the game touched only glass).

All and all though it was another nice win by this Georgia team.  The Bulldogs get Furman in Athens on Friday night, giving them a chance to extend their win-streak to three games.

Georgia returns to Athens to take on Mercer

Tonight the Georgia Bulldogs (5-5) will take on the Mercer Bears (7-4), a team that the Dawgs had to rally to beat in Macon a year ago.  In last season’s game between these two squads, the Bulldogs overcame a late-game deficit to walk away with a 56-53 victory.

Despite losing their top three scorers from last year’s team, this group of Mercer Bears has learned how to score the basketball, averaging nearly 71 points per game.  The Bears enjoy shooting the three ball, tossing up almost 21 attempts from beyond the arc, where they are making just under 34% of those shots.

Mercer is fresh off of a tough 80-77 overtime road loss to 9-1 Seton Hall, which I imagine can only add extra motivation to the Bears hopes of stealing a win tonight in Athens.

The Bears leading scorer is sophomore Langston Hall, who is pacing his team with 13.4 ppg and 3.9 apg.  The former Chamblee High School standout is tall for a point guard at 6’4″, and he has a nice little stroke from the outside, where he is hitting over 36% of his three-point attempts.

In the paint, Mercer is led by senior Justin Cecil and junior Jakob Gollon, who are averaging 11.5 ppg and 10.7 ppg, respectively.

The Bears share a common opponent this season with the Bulldogs – South Dakota State.  Mercer lost to the Jackrabbits 74-61 in Macon back in November, one week after Georgia had beaten SDSU 72-61 in Athens.

The Bulldogs are returning to Stegeman after a 63-59 come-from-behind victory at Southern Cal last Saturday night, and I am interested to see how this team handles a little bit of success.  The game tonight against Mercer is by no means a pushover, and if the Dawgs fall back into some of their bad habits that have haunted them this season – scoring droughts, lackluster perimeter defense and poor rebounding – things could certainly get interesting in the Steg.

In Georgia’s victory over USC, the Bulldogs were only able to secure 3 offensive rebounds.  The main thing that I would like to see tonight (besides a UGA win of course) is a little fire and a lot more effort from the Dawgs’ bigs in attacking the boards after Georgia’s field goal attempts.

Georgia Leaves LA with 63-59 Victory

The Georgia Bulldogs (5-5) did something on Saturday night that they haven’t done this season – they came from behind to win a game (it was the team’s first true road win of the year as well).

After heading into the break tied at 25-25, Southern Cal (4-7) outscored Georgia 22-14 ten minutes into the second half, opening up a 47-39 lead over the Dawgs.  The Bulldogs responded with a 12-4 run of their own, and after a Dustin Ware three-pointer the game was knotted up at 51-51 with just 4:38 remaining.

Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, who scored a career high 21 points on Saturday (as well as leading his team with 5 rebounds), showed a lot of maturity at the end of the game.  Pope committed a costly turnover with just over a minute left that resulted in a USC basket, cutting the Georgia lead to only one point.  On the ensuing possession however, he calming knocked down a huge three from the wing, putting his team up 60-56 with just 43 ticks left on the clock.  KCP also made a pair of clutch free throws with only 19 seconds left, keeping Southern Cal at bay and allowing Georgia to walk away with the 63-59 win.

The game was an overall excellent effort by the UGA basketball team, and it was refreshing to see the Dawgs play with so much heart after a series of underwhelming performances.

The guards carried Georgia on Saturday, combining for 57 of the team’s 63 points.  Pope and Ware both hit 4 three-pointers (Ware was 4-4), and the team finished 9 of 13 on their attempts from beyond the arc.  Defensively, Georgia’s guards were able to limit USC’s leading scorer, Maurice Jones, to just 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting from the floor.

Gerald Robinson, Jr. played one of his better games of the season, netting 17 points and committing merely 1 turnover.

The only negative to take away from the game was that the inside players were again invisible on Saturday night.  Georgia’s bigs combined for just 6 points, and they were outrebounded by a tally of 35-23.  UGA was almost nonexistent on the offensive glass, where they finished with only 3 boards.

I was happy to see Coach Mark Fox keep KCP and GR2 on the floor for nearly the entire game, playing his guards for 39 minutes and 36 minutes, respectively.

This game ended Georgia’s four-game losing streak, and it gave them their first true road victory of the season (as well as their first win over a Pac-12 opponent this year).

The Dawgs have four home games over the holiday break, and an opportunity to bolster their record to 9-5 heading into conference play.

After watching last night’s win, I’m thinking that this team may steal a few SEC games that they are not supposed to this season.

Dawgs Visit Trojans

When the Georgia Bulldogs (4-5) meet the Southern California Trojans (4-6) on Saturday night, fans should enter the Galen Center with tempered expectations in regards to either team’s offensive production.  The Dawgs are scoring 59.4 ppg to USC’s 53.7 ppg, ranking the teams 315th and 340th in the nation, respectively.  Georgia is in the midst of a four-game losing streak and still searching for its first true road victory.  Southern Cal is on a two-game losing skid of their own, while looking to find points from a young lineup featuring a junior, two sophomores and two freshman.

The Trojans leading scorer is sophomore point guard Maurice Jones, who stands at just 5’7″ and paces Southern Cal with 15.1 ppg and 3.1 apg.  The little guy is hoisting up over a quarter of the team’s field goal attempts, and he’s been rather successful beyond the arc, where he is knocking down nearly 36% of his three pointers.

On the inside, Southern Cal Coach Paul O’Neil gets his scoring from junior Aaron Fuller and Sophomore Dewayne Dedmon, who are pouring in 11.7 ppg and 7.0 ppg, respectively.  Dedmon is a load at 7′ tall and 250 lbs, probably why he leads the team with 7.0 boards per contest.  Both of these bigs are physical inside, so Georgia’s slew of skinny forwards need to be prepared to bang in the paint on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs’ second-half lulls (specifically in the first 10 minutes after the break) have been the team’s Achilles heel so far this season.  UGA has taken leads into the intermission in a number of games this year, only to come out with a futile second-half effort.  If the Dawgs could somehow learn to play for a full 40 minutes, they may actually take a few conference games this season (as well as the one in Los Angeles).

In light of these observations, I have a few suggestions for Coach Mark Fox and his staff:

1. Georgia cannot afford anymore scenarios where the lineup does not consist of either Gerald Robinson, Jr., Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, or both players at once.  College basketball games today consist of 8 television timeouts to go along with team timeouts and a designated halftime.  GR2 and KCP are both conditioned well enough to play for nearly the entire game, and for the Dawgs’ offense’s sake they may need to from here on out.  These two Bulldogs are providing over 44% of Georgia’s scoring, and it’s pretty evident that they are the only players on the team with the ability to create their own shot.  The UGA offense has been atrocious so far this year, but some of the most disturbing lapses have come when both GR2 and KCP were on the bench.

2. Coach Mark Fox must resist the temptation to switch his team into a long-term 3-2 zone, especially in the game’s second half.  Zones are meant to provide a brief defensive look to confuse a team’s offense, but by no means should they be used more heavily than a man defense (unless the team is Syracuse, who runs the 2-3 zone to perfection).  In Georgia’s losses to Cincinnati and Georgia Tech, UGA surrendered a barrage of wide open threes to both teams due to the zone’s inability to rotate to the open shooters.  The Dawgs are not a talent-laden group, but they have been playing fairly stout man-to-man defense this season – Fox has to make that their staple defense for 40 minutes.

To the Bulldogs credit, they are navigating through the nation’s 16th hardest schedule without the star power from a year ago.

I honestly believe that this game represents a winnable opportunity for Georgia if they can correct some of the mistakes that have plagued them in second halves this season.