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!