Dawgs drop SEC opener to the Crimson Tide

Georgia Bulldog (9-6; 0-1) Coach Mark Fox put his team in a zone defense for the entire first half in the hopes of encouraging Alabama (12-3; 1-0) to take more shots from the outside.  Alabama, who came into the game shooting just 27.2% from beyond the arc, responded by lighting Georgia up for 6 three-pointers before the break.

Freshman Trevor Lacy was responsible for 3 of the Tide’s first-half threes, and he tallied 17 of his game-high (and career high) 19 points before the intermission.  He had been making only 26.7% of his three-point attempts entering the contest, yet on Saturday night Lacy ended up hitting 3 of his 4 perimeter shots.

The Tide used the outside shots to surge ahead of Georgia, taking a 38-26 lead into the break – a lead which could have easily been 38-23 had it not been for a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Bulldog senior guard Dustin Ware before the half (his only points of the game).

The Dawgs did not let up after halftime though, using a mixture of zone and man defense that enabled Georgia to go on an 11-4 run that brought the score to 52-48 with 9:18 remaining.  Unfortunately, this run seemed to wake up the more talented Alabama team who then responded with a 12-2 run of their own, extending their lead to 64-50 with just 5 minutes left.  At this point the game was out of the Dawgs’ reach and Bama coasted to a 74-59 victory in Athens.

The Bulldogs had a tough night shooting from the perimeter, connecting on just 4 of their 17 attempts.   Georgia must shoot the ball better from beyond the arc (especially at home) if they hope to pick up some conference wins this season.

Alabama crushed Georgia on the boards (as to expected), out-rebounding the Dawgs by a tally of 35-20.

The lone bright spot for the Bulldogs was the play of freshman Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, who finished the game with a season-high 22 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor.  This game marked KCP’s first SEC contest and he certainly rose to the occasion, almost single-handedly keeping his team in the game for most of the night.  Pope continues to be active on the defensive end of the court as well, picking up 4 steals against the Tide on Saturday.

The rest of Georgia’s guards struggled to be productive in the conference opener.  Gerald Robinson, Jr. ended up with 11 points but it took him 15 field goal attempts to reach that total.  In Robinson’s defense though, I do think he feels a need to push things a bit on the offensive end since he doesn’t have much to work with in the paint.

Vincent Williams and Dustin Ware, who both played well throughout December, combined for just 3 points (all Ware’s) and 2 assists against the Tide.

The highlight of the Dawgs’ defensive effort had to be the fact that they were able to hold Alabama star forward JaMychal Green in check most of the night, limiting him to only 8 points and forcing Green into 9 turnovers.

Despite the final score you have to give this Bulldog team credit for coming out and playing competitive basketball against one of the better teams in the conference for nearly 32 minutes.  I had extremely tempered expectations for this team prior to the start of SEC play, but after Saturday night’s game I feel like the Dawgs could pick up as many as 6 conference wins.

Sadly though, Georgia is on the road for both its games next week against Florida and Vanderbilt.  Florida got thumped by Tennessee yesterday which means that the Dawgs will most likely be taking on a rather upset Gator team in Gainesville on Tuesday evening; and Georgia is rarely successful when playing on the raised court in Nashville.

I fear that by this time next week the Dawgs will have an SEC record of 0-3.