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.