Georgia heads to The Plains in search of first SEC road win

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-10; 1-5) are currently locked in a tie with South Carolina for last place in the SEC basketball division-less standings.  The Dawgs, who are 0-2 in conference road games this season, have an opportunity to grab hold of the SEC ladder and climb out of the cellar with a win in Auburn Arena on Wednesday night (coupled with a South Carolina loss at #11 Florida).

Georgia is looking up at Auburn in the standings where the Tigers sit at 2-5, both wins this season coming at home.

If these two teams can combine for more than 100 points on Wednesday I think that they should celebrate together afterwards, regardless of the outcome of the game.

The Dawgs and the Tigers aren’t just at the bottom of the conference standings; they are both producing basement-level offensive SEC statistics in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, etc.

The point is that neither team can score and the fact that both of them are shooting below 37% from the floor in SEC play is probably a major contributing factor.

Auburn’s leading scorer is junior point guard Frankie Sullivan who is the only Tiger scoring in double-digits in conference games at 11.7 points per contest.  To be fair, Georgia’s Kentavious-Caldwell Pope (15 ppg) and Gerald Robinson, Jr. (12.5 ppg) are the only Bulldogs netting more than 10 per game as well.

Auburn’s one strength – I’m not kidding, they only have one – is that they rebound the ball pretty well as a team.  The Tigers are 3rd in the SEC in both total rebounds (36.3) and offensive rebounds (13.3), giving them a huge advantage on the glass against a Georgia team that sports the second-worst rebounding margin in the league at -8.2.

Another piece of information that is of note is that Auburn beat Ole Miss – a team the Dawgs lost to in Athens –  in double-overtime 69-68 back on January 14th.

Georgia’s season has officially gone sour after back-to-back home losses to Mississippi and Kentucky, leaving the Dawgs record at an even .500 on the year.

Another road loss (especially to Auburn) could change the adjective to describe the season from “sour” to “dismal” pretty quick.

I might go so far as to proclaim that a Tiger win would mean that Georgia’s campaign had totally derailed.

Let’s hope that the week off has given Coach Mark Fox a chance to figure out a way to put another “W” in the win column.

Any other thoughts?

Final thoughts on Kentucky, I mean Calipari

Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari appeared briefly on yesterday’s “Pardon the Interruption”, an ESPN show hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

Kornheiser and Wilbon gushed over Calipari like a couple of school girls, treating him like the college basketball icon he is not.

If either of these two former reporters had any cojones they would have asked Coach Calipari to defend his one-and-done strategy that is slowly ruining college basketball by watering down the level of talent on the court.

Even better, they could have inquired about  Calipari’s recruiting successes.   I especially would have enjoyed hearing the coach explain how in his first three years on the job he signed 8 McDonald’s All-Americans – the same number that his predecessors signed over the previous 11 years!

Now, I know that people in Kentucky like their round ball – the slew of home-knitted blue sweaters in Stegeman on Tuesday were a dead give away.  I’m also aware that the Cats have a history of playing competitive basketball.

But the way that Coach Calipari has turned UK into its own little NBA factory in three years is pretty amazing.

How could he elevate a program so quickly?

I know he had problems at his previous job – Memphis – in which some players may or may not have been playing eligibly.  Coach Cal skirted out of town before Derrick Rose landed in Chicago.

I also remember him having some issues at UMASS – something about Marcus Camby receiving improper benefits around the time (1996) when the Minutemen were heading to the Final Four?  If you don’t recall this scandal, Bobby Knight brought it up at his Hall of Fame induction speech.

Calipari scooted out of town before the fire actually started, leaving another program to fend for itself amongst a sea of NCAA accusations.

In March of 2010, Slate Magazine labeled Calipari the “sleaziest coach” in college basketball, and I couldn’t agree more.

Whatever successes the Cats enjoy under Calipari will surely be vacated shortly thereafter, and I would not be at all surprised to see this program hit with some serious NCAA sanctions (soon).  The inflow of McD’s All-Americans just doesn’t add up – or, it does add up if you look at the history of the man bringing them into the school.

Another prediction – Calipari will be long gone while Kentucky weather’s the NCAA storm.

Kentucky smothers Georgia 57-44 in Athens

Let me begin by stating that work in Atlanta sure does come early on Wednesday after attending a 9:00PM EST tip-off in Athens on Tuesday – I think my preference is for the 8:00PM start, though the ESPN coverage is nice publicity for the Georgia (10-10; 1-5) program.

The game last night was entertaining for the first 15 minutes when Georgia was going toe-to-toe with the best team in the country.  Freshman Nemanja Djurisic rang up 10 points with almost 9 minutes remaining in the first half on a pair of three’s and some inside buckets.  Nemi finished the game with those 10 though, joining senior Dustin Ware as the only other Bulldog to score in double-digits (Ware led the team with 12 points).

With all the firepower on Kentucky, I never would have guessed that senior reserve Darius Miller would have been the player to torch UGA last night.  Miller led all scorers with 19 points, including a 4 for 4 performance from beyond the arc on what were mostly uncontested three-point attempts.

Coach Mark Fox kept his team in a zone defense for the entire first half, enabling Miller and his teammates to enjoy a plethora of wide open looks from the wing position.  Kentucky responded by connecting on 6 of 10 threes before the break to open up a 38-26 halftime lead.

Fox finally moved his guys into a man defense for most of the second half and the Dawgs limited Kentucky to only 19 points on just 7 of 23 shooting from the floor.

The problem, however, was that the only thing worse than Kentucky’s offense after the break was Georgia’s – the Dawgs tallied up merely 18 points on 8 of 25 shooting on field goal attempts.

Give Kentucky some credit – they defended well last night.

But give Georgia some credit too – they put on one of the worst offensive displays I have seen this season in college basketball.  The Bulldogs shot a dismal 34.5% from the floor which certainly will not get it done against a team of Kentucky’s calibre.

Georgia’s two leading scorers – Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Kentavious-Caldwell Pope – combined for just 13 total points and shot 24% on field goal attempts.  Again, offensive production like that from your team’s two best players will not work when the opposing team is Kentucky.

The entire second half was pretty much a sleeper due to extreme levels of futility from both school’s offenses.  The difference, however, was that the Kentucky players appeared to have mentally “checked out” of the game for the final 10 minutes while Georgia’s guys were still attempting to put the ball in the basket (though unsuccessfully).

The Dawgs have now lost all three of their “big” games at Stegeman this year against Cincinnati, Alabama and Kentucky.  In all three of those games Coach Fox almost stubbornly kept his team in a zone defense, enabling opposing team’s to burn Georgia from beyond the arc.  Against the Bulldogs, Cincy, Bama and the Cats all hit more three’s than they were averaging per game on the season.

I understand Georgia briefly using a zone to confuse opposing teams, but I do not understand abandoning the man defense altogether.  Good teams (Cincy, Bama, Kentucky, etc.) with good point guards ultimately start to break down zones to find wide open shooters on the wings and in the corners.

Another negative of playing primarily zone defense is that it makes it awfully hard for your team to find their block-out assignments and rebound.  The Dawgs are near the bottom of the SEC barrel in rebounding so the last thing that they need is to make the task of securing boards more challenging.

The Dawgs do not have a lot of team strengths to brag of this season, but I do feel like they play pretty good man-to-man.  Robinson has the athleticism to stick with just about any point guard, and KCP’s length and quick hands allow him to frustrate wing players.

The Bulldogs’ bigs are generally pretty useless on offense, but I think that they could hold their own in a man – at least Fox has 5 or 6 to sub in so they could afford to dish out some fouls.

Sorry for the soap box rant, but I’m getting tired of seeing our team put a position (permanent zone) against good teams where they are ultimately destined to fail.

Georgia hosts #1 Kentucky in Athens on Tuesday night (9PM)

The common perspective that a fan or an outside observer will take when previewing the Georgia Bulldogs (10-9; 1-3) showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats (19-1; 5-0) Tuesday night might probably look something like this:  Kentucky is going to blow them out.

In all honesty that prediction doesn’t seem too farfetched.

The Cats are #1 in both the AP and Coache’s poll, and they’ve already toppled college basketball powerhouses like Kansas, North Carolina and Louisville.

Kentucky is leading the SEC in both scoring (75 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.4), looking every bit like a team thats roster is peppered with McDonald’s All-Americans (which it is).  Most of the Wildcat players wouldn’t dare dream of playing for a school like Georgia, while I’d venture to say that at least a few of the Bulldogs probably aspired at some point in their early high school years to play for Kentucky.

The Cats’ frontcourt features two players – Anthony Davis and Terrance Jones – that could legitimately be starting on NBA teams next year.  Davis has been a monster in the paint through his first five SEC games, averaging 16.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and an unprecedented 5.2 blocks.

Sophomore Terrance Jones, an elderly statesman by Coach Calipari standards, is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14 points to go along with 5.6 boards.

All three of the Kentucky guards – Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – are averaging in double-figures as well through five conference games.

In his pregame press conference Georgia Coach Mark Fox spoke very highly of the Cats stating, “There’s nothing that Kentucky doesn’t do well.  They score from every position; they are outstanding defensively.  They have terrific talent off the bench – this is a team that has little if any weakness and that’s why they’re number one in the country and rolling along as they are.”

In light of the many reasons that exist to assume that Georgia will lose the game in Stegeman against Kentucky you cannot completely count the Dawgs out of this one.

Georgia has had an up and down season so far with probably a bit more down than up, but they have won games – Notre Dame and Tennessee – that make you wonder if they just might have an upset in them.  Earlier this season the Bulldogs edged out a 61-57 victory over Notre Dame in Kansas City, Missouri – the same Irish team that toppled #1 Syracuse last Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana.

Last Wednesday Georgia notched its first SEC win of the season with a 57-53 overtime win over Tennessee in Athens.  What did Tennessee do in its next game?  The Vols knocked off the #11 Connecticut Huskies in Knoxville on Saturday.

I realize that comparisons like the ones listed above are not without their logical reasoning flaws, but they do show that UGA has the “potential” to upend a highly ranked opponent.

“We’re expecting a hard-fought basketball game from a very talented team,” said senior guard Gerald Robinson, Jr., who has been playing out of his mind the last two games.  Last week Robinson filled up the stat sheet, averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals in games against Tennessee and Ole Miss.

The game plan, according to Gerald is simple: “We got to come with a high intensity basketball game for all forty minutes.”

I couldn’t agree more myself.

Dawgs fail to defend home court, losing 66-63 to Ole Miss

Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Nemanja Djurisic each had three-point looks that would have tied the game in the waning seconds, but both players’ attempts came up a little short, just like the Dawgs, and Georgia fell to Mississippi by a score of 66-63.

After trailing for the majority of the game, the Georgia Bulldogs (10-9; 1-4) mounted a furious comeback in the final minute.  UGA trimmed a twelve-point Ole Miss lead down to three and had a chance to tie but it still wasn’t quite enough.

“We can’t just play behind the whole game and expect to win,” said senior guard Gerald Robinson, Jr., who played admirably, finishing the game with 19 points, 6 assists and 5 steals (and 0 turnovers).

Robinson hit a three with 9:20 left in the first half that tied the game (for the last time) at 20 apiece.  Unfortunately Georgia wouldn’t score again for nearly 5 minutes, enabling the Rebels to open up a 30-20 advantage with 4:27 remaining before the break.  This Georgia scoring drought was the turning point in the game for Ole Miss, and the Dawgs found themselves playing uphill for the last 24 minutes.

Georgia went on a run shortly after the start of the second half, and following one of Kentavious-Caldwell Pope’s 5 three-pointers the Rebels lead was cut to 36-30.  However, Ole Miss immediately responded with an 8-0 run of their own and three minutes later they were up by a tally of 44-30.

The Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize on a career-high 25-point effort from KCP, who went over 20 points for the second time this season in a conference game.

Ole Miss’s Terrance Henry was unstoppable for most of the afternoon, scoring 24 points (an SEC career best for him) and bringing down 10 rebounds.

Robinson and Pope were the only UGA players to finish in double-figures in a game that saw Georgia once again shooting the ball poorly from the floor as a team.  The Dawgs hit just 36.5% of their field goal attempts on Saturday, which is now the 10th time this season that Georgia has failed to eclipse the 40% mark from the floor.

Senior Dustin Ware’s conference play struggles continued against the Rebels as he failed to score, missing all 7 of his field goal attempts.

Ole Miss came into the game as the SEC’s best rebounding team and yesterday was no different as they snagged 43 boards to UGA’s 32.

Following this loss Georgia falls to 1-4 in conference play with a date with soon to be #1 Kentucky on the horizon for Tuesday night in Athens.

The Dawgs were fresh off of a big home win over Tennessee on Wednesday, a team that just toppled #11 Connecticut in Knoxville yesterday.  However, any momentum that Georgia might have gained from that victory was salted away in Saturday’s defeat.

One scary thought to leave all you UGA fans with – KCP is now averaging 16.6 points per game through his first five SEC contests.  As he continues to flourish in conference play one starts to wonder if he might consider jumping to the NBA after his freshman season.  The Dawgs lose senior leader Gerald Robinson after this year, and I hope that Pope is willing to return to what’s left of this Georgia team for the 2012-2013 season.

Georgia gets Ole Miss at home on Saturday 4PM

The Dawgs will need more physical play from Nemi on Saturday

Finally – an opportunity to write about the Georgia Bulldogs in 2012 following a win!

The Dawgs victory over Tennessee on Wednesday marked their first win over a team from a major conference since beating Southern Cal back on December 17, 2011.  USC has dropped 7 of 8 games since that loss, making them an ugly 5-14 on the season.  I’m not certain where the victory over the Trojans ranks on Georgia’s 2011-2012 resume, but following the win the Dawgs proceeded to sleepwalk through a slate of games that included Mercer, Furman, Winthrop and Deleware State (with Mercer being the only team in that bunch with a winning record).

The point being that UGA didn’t exactly thrive off of the success earned in Los Angeles.

But with a new year comes new opportunity, and this Saturday that opportunity stands in the form of the Mississippi Rebels (12-6; 2-2), who are fresh off a 75-68 upset of in-state rival #15 Mississippi State.  Ole Miss’ RPI stands at a solid 41 after their win over the maroon Bulldogs (the red Bulldogs’ RPI is sitting at 108).

If Georgia fans have trouble seeing all the action on the court Saturday it could be because the Rebel players are blocking their view.  Coach Andy Kennedy’s roster doesn’t feature a player shorter than 6’4″, which is probably why he’s coaching the best rebounding team in SEC at nearly 44 boards per game.

Ole Miss has been particularly tenacious on the offensive glass where they are bringing down a conference-leading 17.5 rebounds per game.  The Rebels sport an offensive-rebound percentage of nearly 45%, meaning that they are grabbing almost half of the missed shots that they toss up.  Georgia, who ranks 11th in the SEC in defensive rebounds at just over 18 per contest, had better lace up their shoes and be ready to block out or they might get eaten alive.

The main rebounding culprits for Coach Kennedy are juniors Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway, who are averaging 11.3 and 10.7 rebounds per game, respectively (making them 1 and 2 in the conference in that category).  Buckner, who is the Ole Miss all-time shot-block leader,  has been swatting 3 shot attempts per game so far in SEC play.  He and Holloway, along with guards Nick Williams and Jarvis Summers, are all scoring in double-figures against conference competition, with Williams leading the team at 13.5 ppg.

Fortunately for Georgia Coach Mark Fox forwards Donte Williams and Nemanja Djurisic has done a nice job of picking up the scoring void left by the slumping guards Dustin Ware and Vincent Williams.  Through four SEC games, Ware and Williams are netting only 5.5 and 2.5 points per night, respectively – numbers that are well below their season averages.

Donte and Nemi have really started to solidify themselves in the paint for Georgia in conference play.  Both Williams and the Montenegro Express are contributing 9.5 points and nearly 5 rebounds for Coach Fox against SEC competition.

Georgia will be looking to carry the momentum from their win over Tennessee into Stegeman on Saturday in hopes of starting their first SEC win-streak of the year.

If the Dawgs manage to pull out a victory it sure would serve to boost their confidence heading into next Tuesday’s home matchup with #2 Kentucky.

Georgia bests Vols 57-53 in OT thriller, picking up first SEC win of 2012

In a span of what couldn’t have been more than 9 seconds, Georgia‘s (10-8; 1-3) Nemanja Djurisic blocked a shot and took the ball coast-to-coast, finishing with a running lay-up off the glass that put his Bulldogs up 52-50 with only 2:17 left in the overtime portion of the game.  If I hadn’t seen this progression of plays with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed that they had actually transpired.

Regardless though, the Tennessee Volunteers (8-10; 1-3) wouldn’t go away, and senior Skylar McBee buried a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to reclaim the lead at 53-52 with just 2:03 remaining.

The Dawgs came out of a timeout and ran a designed backdoor cut that saw Gerald Robinson, Jr. receive a pass and then immediately dish it to a slashing Donte Williams who finished the play with a basket while being fouled.  With Georgia now leading 54-53, Williams stepped up to the free throw line for a chance to finish the three-point play.

Donte missed the free throw attempt, but Kentavious-Caldwell Pope sneaked into the lane and snagged the offensive rebound.  Despite the fact that Georgia failed to capitalize on KCP’s board, Nemi was able to tie up the Tennessee defender on the rebound, giving the Dawgs the ball (because of the possession arrow) once again.

This play was absolutely huge for Georgia, who was leading by a point, since it gave them a new shot clock with only 41 seconds left in the game.  Tennessee Coach Martin forced his team to foul GR2, who calmly made both free throws, giving his team a 56-53 lead with only 27 seconds left.

After a Trae Golden miss on the other end the game was Georgia’s and the Dawgs ended up winning by a final score of 57-53.

The effort plays at the end of overtime by KCP and Nemi were indicative of the workman-like effort that Georgia gave Coach Mark Fox for 45 minutes on Wednesday night.

Sophomore Donte Williams definitely brought his lunch pail with him to Stegeman, bringing down a team-high 8 rebounds to go along with 11 points.  Williams looked comfortable playing with his back to the basket again tonight, and he’s now scored in double-figures in two straight games.

The Dawgs came into the game with some of the worst team defense statistics in the conference, yet they were able to hold the Vols to their second-lowest offensive output of the season.  UGA limited Tennessee to under 40% from the floor and just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc, while forcing the Vols into 20 turnovers.

Tennessee was led offensively by Trae Golden, who finished the game with a hard-earned 16 points.

Robinson carried the Bulldogs offensively with 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  This game certainly wasn’t one of Gerald’s better shooting performances as he finished only 6 of 19 from the floor.  However, when the game was on the line Georgia was able to count on their senior leader, who scored the game-tying lay-up with 18 seconds left in regulation as well as the two aforementioned free throws at the end of OT that helped the Dawgs pull away with the victory.

The two halves and overtime of basketball played in Athens tonight could in no way be classified as “pretty”, with both teams combining for just 4 three-pointers on 34 attempts.  I’m sure the Stegeman rims are sore after playing host to a game in which neither team broke the 40% field goal barrier.

Sometimes teams just find a way to win by grinding it out though, and that is exactly what the Georgia Bulldogs did tonight at home in Athens.

The Dawgs picked up their first win of 2012 and they no longer have a goose egg in the SEC win column.

Coach Fox and his team should enjoy this victory because they sure earned it.

This Saturday the Bulldogs get Ole Miss at home with an opportunity to get to 2-3 in conference play.