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.

7 thoughts on “Kentucky smothers Georgia 57-44 in Athens

  1. I started thinking last year that if Ware could consistently put up 10-12 points a game that it would completely change the dynamic leading to more wins. I assumed however that his 12 points would not be leading the team.

    Also I think that having the defense hold Kentucky to their lowest point total of the season is an outstanding accomplishment. My frustration is with the offense. It was painful to watch KCP and GR2 combine for 6-25 (24%) on their home court.


    1. The second half defense was good, but it also looked to me by Kentucky’s body language that they were pretty much coasting and not feeling threatened by Georgia in the least.


  2. that was some seriously ugly basketball that went down in the Steg. S Carolina’s upset of Bama puts us at last in the conference. Big battle with Auburn coming up after a week off — that is a must win if we want out of the cellar.


  3. I think we stay in a zone for the first half for two reasons: 1. to avoid getting all the bigs in foul trouble early (and having to play Dixon and Cannon), and 2. Neme generally plays the Ole defense in the paint. Fox had to hope that Ky would not hit outside shots, but they did. I just hope at this point that we can win a few games and keep out oif the cellar.


    1. I agree with you that Fox was hoping that the Cats wouldn’t hit outside shots, but Kentucky shoots over 48% on field goals (21st in nation) and over 37% on three-pointers (62nd in nation).

      They are a really good outside shooting team that can torch a zone (as they did in the 1st half).

      Maybe I’m biased, but I personally have a strong distaste for zone defense and always prefer man – lace up your shoes and go out there and make life as difficult as possible on the guy you are guarding at all times.

      At this point it’s obvious that Georgia isn’t going to notch too many check marks in the old win column…why not let these young guys go out and learn how to play tough man D so that they will be more prepared next season?


      1. Nemi just can’t hang with SEC 4 guys in man defense though. He gets driven on every time and more times than not he gets beat to the rim. We’d either have to bench him and start Thornton or Donte’ at that spot or stick with him and go more zone. Nemi has been a very pleasant surprise this year and has been one of our better rebounders and physical players this season.


      2. Agree with you on the zone defense….with our lack of shooting touch, our best chance to win some tough games will be by creating some easy baskets with good defense. As stated by others, this will also help our rebounding weakness. We have had some good success when we’ve employed some presses. I hope to see that increase going forward.


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