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.

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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.