UGA Basketball Recruiting Update

Mark Fox has one more scholarship to offer for the 2012 recruiting class, and it looks like he might be tapping into some of his prior Nevada connections in an attempt to land a four-star gem.

Meet Winston Shepard – an athletic 6’8″ wing who can create offense off the dribble and run the floor well.  Shepard hails from Henderson, Nevada, and he has narrowed his list of potential schools to Georgia, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, UTEP and UNLV.

ESPN.com ranks Shepard at #68 on their coveted 2012 ESPNU 100 list.

Being that UGA is the only school on the young man’s list that is located East of the Mississippi River, it seems likely that Fox is the main hook keeping the Dawgs in the running for Shepard…or possibly the allure of starting immediately in the SEC?

Yellow Jackets Use Big Second Half to Topple Dawgs 68-56

“We’re not tough enough or good enough in any area”, said Georgia Bulldog (4-5) Coach Mark Fox following his teams’ 68-56 loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Wednesday night.  The Dawgs dropped their fourth straight game last night, and they did it in similar fashion to their other four losses this season.

Georgia took a 29-25 advantage into the intermission after a first half that featured some pretty stifling UGA defense and an offensive explosion for Gerald Robinson, Jr.  GR2 came off the bench to score 16 of his team-high 20 points before the break, repeatedly beating Tech defenders down the court on self-made fast breaks.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs though, every basketball game includes a second half, which is where Georgia has been particularly awful in games that they have lost this season.  Guess what?  Wednesday night was no different…

Georgia Tech opened the first 10 minutes of the game’s second half with a 21-7 run.  During this same time span, the Dawgs made just 2 of 12 field goals and committed 6 turnovers.  As a fan, it is becoming almost unbearable to watch this team open up the second half – I’m seriously considering watching only the first 20 minutes of every SEC game this season and then imagining the rest.

Another game-changer from last night’s debacle was that Coach Mark Fox once again opted to move his team into its extended 3-2 zone after the intermission.  Similarly to the Cincinnati game, the Georgia zone failed to cover the perimeter, allowing Georgia Tech guard Jason Morris to roam free and score all 15 of his points (a team high) in the second half.  Morris knocked down a pair of threes after the break, the second of which put the Jackets up 51-39 with just 8:13 left, all but sealing the Tech victory.

Someone might want to remind Coach Fox that an extended 3-2 zone is not very effective when two of the guards defending the perimeter are merely 6′ tall.  In my opinion, this UGA team is much better off in a man defense from here on out.

Georgia was once again unbelievably inefficient on offense, shooting under 35% from the floor as a team and committing 5 more turnovers than assists.

The Dawgs bigs were utterly overwhelmed by the Jackets, losing the rebounding battle 34-30 and getting outscored in the paint 34-14 (with most of UGA’s inside scoring coming off of GR2 drives).  Georgia’s forwards combined for just 8 points on 3-13 shooting, and that number is including a three-pointer by senior Connor Nolte, who could be considered a wing by outside observers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, touted as a prolific outside shooter, continues to miss from the outside.  On Wednesday, KCP made just 3 of his 12 attempts, bring his field goal percentage to a lackluster 38.6% on the young season.

At this point, I have seen more than enough of this Georgia basketball team to see that this is going to be a VERY LONG season.  This Dawgs’ team can’t shoot the ball, and they are almost nonexistent in the paint.

The problem, however, is that the team you are watching stumble through these second-half meltdowns is the product of two Mark Fox recruiting classes.  Remember folks, Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price were all brought in by Dennis Felton.

For the record, I want Coach Mark Fox to be the guy that turns Georgia basketball into a successful program.  But right now things aren’t looking so good this year, or in the immediate future.  Next season’s lineup should feature KCP, Vincent Williams and the same cast of unproductive forwards, who I don’t envision improving that much during their stints in Athens.

The Dawgs have nearly 10 days off to take final exams and attempt to find some semblance of an offense before playing on the road at Southern Cal on December 17th.

Let’s hope that these guys test better than they shoot.

Rivalry Week: Jackets Visit Dawgs

This movie was playing in theatres the last time Georgia Tech...

The year was 1976…A hot, young actor by the name of Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the classic western, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  A band by the name of Hall & Oates was climbing the Billboard charts with their new hit single, “Sara Smile”.  Yours truly had not quite been born yet…

Do you know another reason why 1976 was a significant year in American history?  It marked the last time that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-4) won a basketball game in Athens, Georgia.

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-4) have not experienced a ton of success on the hard courts over the past thirty-something years, but one thing has remained a constant during that same time period – the Dawgs do not lose to their in-state rivals inside of Stegeman Coliseum.

Tonight’s game features two teams teetering on the brink of .500, in a state that is brimming over with high school basketball talent.  If Coach Mark Fox and Brian Gregory want to stick around at their respective programs, they are going to have to do a better job of keeping the local talent in state.

The Dawgs are looking to stop a three-game losing streak, with the most recent loss coming at home last Friday night to the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Tech is on a little two-game skid of their own, following back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Tulane.

The strength of the Jackets’ lineup resides in its backcourt, where they are led by juniors Glen Rice, Jr. and Mfon Udofia.  Rice and Udofia lead the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg and 11.9 ppg, respectively.  Both players can hurt opposing defenses off the dribble, or from the outside where they are each connecting on over 33% of their three-point attempts.

Slowing down the Georgia Tech guards is certainly a must for the Bulldogs if they hope to be successful tonight.

However, defense has not been what’s been ailing the Dawgs so far this season.  UGA’s Achilles heel this year has been its atrocious second-half play.  Coach Mark Fox must find a way to keep his team focused after the intermission so that they can avoid the second-half offensive droughts that have plagued his team this season.

In Georgia’s four losses to Cal, Xavier, Colorado and Cincinnati, the Bulldogs were outscored in the first 10 minutes of these game’s second halves by a grand tally of 84-31.  Frankly, that statistic is embarrassing.

I think that there is a great chance that the Bulldogs could head into the break of tonight’s game leading the Yellow Jackets.  The question, however, is can they bring any intensity out of the locker room to finish out the game?

Cincinnati Tops Georgia 57-51

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-4) lost their third game in a row on Friday night, blowing a nine-point first-half lead to the Cincinnati Bearcats.  This game was similar to the losses to both Xavier and Colorado – Georgia played a decent opening half only to fizzle coming out of the break.

In Friday night’s contest, the Dawgs‘ offense was anemic following the intermission, scoring only 8 points in over 13 minutes of play.  The Bearcats capitalized on the Georgia drought, scoring 19 points during the same time span to take a 40-38 lead.  After two incredibly lucky offensive possessions by UGA, which included Dustin Ware being fouled on a fade away three-pointer with the shot clock expiring and Marcus Thornton scoring on a self-pass, Georgia went up 43-40.

Unfortunately, Coach Mark Fox kept his team in a 3-2 zone that left Dion Dixon wide open, allowing him to bury 3 three-pointers and also the Dawgs.  After Dixon’s onslaught from the perimeter, Georgia trialed Cincy 49-43 with only 2:44 left – the Dawgs were unable to overcome this last burst of offense by the Bearcats.

Dixon wasn’t the only Bearcat hurting Georgia from the outside on Friday night – Sean Kilpatrick, who lead all Cincy scorers with 22 points, knocked down 3 of his 4 threes in the game’s second half.  The Dawgs were unable to rotate their zone to Kilpatrick in the corner, where he stood and shot uncontested three after uncontested three.

Fox’s game management in the last 5 minutes was certainly difficult to understand.  With the game tied at 43-43, Georgia had Dustin Ware, Vincent Williams, Nemanja Djurisic, Donte Williams and Marcus Thornton on the floor – in other words, they didn’t have either of their only two players (KCP or GR2) on the court who could create their own shot.  Fox stuck with this group for the next 2 minutes, and they amassed 2 turnovers and 2 missed field goals, while Cincy built up a 49-43 lead.

Interestingly, Coach Mark Fox opted not to call a timeout to get his best scorers back into the game for some key possessions, and it might have cost his team an opportunity to come away with a win on Friday night.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played brilliantly in the first half, scoring 13 points and creating 3 steals on defense.  Once again though, KCP went missing after the break, failing to score until he hit a meaningless three with 10 seconds left in the game.

Georgia shot their typical 36% from the floor, connecting on only 2 of 14 from beyond the arc.

Cincy shot nearly as bad as the Dawgs from the outside, but when the game was on the line in the second half the Bearcats made the shots that counted.

Georgia Looks to Rebound Against Cincinnati on Friday

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-3) are looking to stop a two-game skid when they play host to the Cincinnati Bearcats (4-2) on Friday night at 7:00PM in Stegeman Coliseum.  After jumping out to a 3-0 start this year, the Dawgs have lost 3 of their last four games, with all the losses coming away from Athens.

Defensively, things haven’t actually been as bad as they have seemed to the observing eye for the Bulldogs.  Coach Mark Fox’s team is limiting opponents to only 41.1% from the floor, resulting in merely 61.6 points per game.  Georgia’s rebounding margin is sitting at just -1.6, even though it has felt like they have been dominated on the glass consistently this season – actually, the Dawgs have only been out-rebounded in 3 of their 7 games.

On the offensive side of the ball though, the picture is not so glamorous.  When compared to the rest of the Division I programs, Georgia stacks up pretty low offensively.  Seriously folks, brace yourselves because these numbers might floor you.

As a unit, the Dawgs are shooting a lackluster 38.4% from the field, putting them in a three-way tie with Bethune-Cookman and Drexel for 309th place in the country in the category.  From beyond the arc, UGA is connecting on just 30.1% of its threes, knotting them up with Duquesne and USC Upstate for  257th in the nation in three-point shooting.

Lastly, Georgia is averaging only 15.1 free throw attempts per contest, placing them in a tie with Hartford at 313 in the land.  UGA opponents have been shooting 8 more free throws per game than the Dawgs.  These staggering charity stripe numbers really expose just how little presence Georgia has in the paint.

At this point, one of two things has to happen for Coach Fox’s team: either the guard trio of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware steps their game up and plays lights-out for the remainder of the season, shouldering the entire scoring load; or, Georgia’s bigs get more productive inside.

Maybe the fact that this game against the Bearcats is being played in Athens, where the Dawgs are 3-0 on the year, will be a good omen for UGA.

Cincinnati came into the season ranked #21 in the country, their first preseason basketball ranking since 2003.  Since then, however, the Bearcats have been upended by both Presbyterian and Marshall, which should give Georgia fans a sense of optimism going into this game.

The leader of the Cincy team is senior big man, Yancy Gates.  Gates, who checks in at 6’9″ and 260lbs, leads the Bearcats in both scoring and rebounding with 14.2 ppg and 9.3 rpg, respectively.

KCP will need to be aware of Cincinnati’s second-leading scorer, sophomore Sean Kilpatrick.  Kilpatrick is a good outside shooter who is averaging 13.8 ppg and knocking down over 46% of his three-point attempts.  He’s the Bearcats most dangerous outside threat, and KCP has to stick close to him to prevent Kilpatrick from getting too many good looks.

The game against Cincinnati will mark Georgia’s second this season against a Big East opponent – the other being Notre Dame (a team Georgia beat).

I will be interested to see what kind of crowd shows up to The Steg, considering the major football event occurring in Atlanta on Saturday.

Through 7 games this season, the Bulldogs have looked incapable of scoring on too many occasions.  Friday night will give this team an opportunity to right the ship and start putting the ball in the hoop more consistently.