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.

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