Gators wallop Dawgs 70-48 in Gainesville

If you had told me before tonight’s game that Florida’s Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton would be held without a field goal until less than 5 minutes remained in the first half, I would have speculated that the Dawgs were giving the Gators all that they could handle.

Apparently Florida is a pretty deep team though, and despite the slow start for Billy Donovan’s backcourt in this one his Gator team was able to find scoring from other sources.

After falling behind 7-0 right off the bat, the Dawgs were able to crawl back into the game and only trailed Florida 13-9 following a heady off-the-backboard-self-pass-basket by Nemanja Djurisic.  Djurisic’s first-half offensive production, which included 10 total points, was critical to keeping the Bulldogs from being blown out before the intermission.

Florida reserve guard Mike Rosario scored 7 unanswered points to open up an 18-9 Gator lead with 9:44 left in the half.  Then freshman sensation Bradley Beal went nuts from beyond the arc, knocking down 3 (of his 4) threes prior to the break which opened up a 33-13 Gator lead.

Thankfully Nemi was able to sink 2 open three-point attempts that enabled the Dawgs to head to the locker room trailing 35-21.

Florida was on cruise control for most of the second half though, increasing their lead to 47-26 with 16:53 remaining in the game, following an Erving Walker three-pointer.

Georgia did make one last push at the Gators late in the game, and they were able to trim the margin to 56-43 after Dustin Ware knocked down his second shot of the half from beyond the arc.  The Bulldogs 10-4 run, however, was probably aided more by Florida’s lack of interest at that point than by Georgia’s own play.

Whatever the case, the Dawgs’ success was short-lived and the Gators closed out the game with a 14-5 run, securing a 70-48 victory along with their first conference win of the season.

The game never really felt that close and aside from Nemi Djurisic, who finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds, most of the Georgia players looked overwhelmed and out-matched in Gainesville on Tuesday night.

Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal led the Gators with 17 points apiece, and sophomore big Patrick Young snagged 10 rebounds to go along with 8 points.

Georgia shot their typical 37% from the floor against Florida, and they were an abysmal 1 for 9 from the free throw line.  The Gators, on the other hand, hit 50% of their field goal attempts and made a stellar 15 of 18 free throws.

The result from Tuesday night’s game should not have come as a shock to many UGA basketball fans.  Along with being 0-2 in SEC play, Georgia has now dropped 10-straight contests at Florida, dating back to 2002.

As ESPN announcer Jimmy Dkyes mentioned 42 times on Tuesday night, the Dawgs are too thin inside and should be hurt by the lack of an inside game (thanks for the keen insight).  Despite the obviousness of Dykes’ comments, he is absolutely right and tonight’s game was just another example of how limited Coach Mark Fox’s team looks when playing against stronger opponents.

At Vanderbilt on Saturday.


Georgia hits the road to take on Florida Tuesday night

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-6; 01) and the Florida Gators will both be searching for their first conference win of the season when the two teams square off in Gainesville on Tuesday night.  The Gators should be in a particularly nasty mood after suffering a 67-56 loss at Tennessee on Saturday in their first SEC game.  Couple that with the fact that Georgia hasn’t won at the Stephen C. O’Connell center since 2002 and it should be pretty clear that the Dawgs have quite a challenge awaiting them.

The 56 points that Florida put up in Knoxville was their worst offensive output of the season and highly uncharacteristic of this Gator squad that has been scoring at a torrid pace so far this year.  Florida ranks 6th in the nation with nearly 84 points per game, and they have been deadly from behind the arc where they are sinking just under 41% of their three-point attempts (11th in the country).  The Gators are basically a well-oiled machine on offense, dishing out 17 team assists per contest (9th in the nation) and sporting an assist-to-turnover of 1.47, tying them for 6th in the country in that category.

All five of coach Billy Donovan’s starters are scoring in double-figures, but the strength of this Gator team resides in its backcourt, which may be tops in the SEC.  Junior Kenny Boynton has gotten out to a phenomenal start this season, leading his team with 19.1 ppg and making over 45% of this three-point attempts.

Senior point guard Erving Walker has been his usual self, scoring 13.4 ppg to go along with 5.1 apg.  Despite Walker’s small stature (5’8″) he is very good at driving the ball to the basket and drawing contact.

As if it wasn’t enough that Florida brought back the duo of Boynton and Walker this season, they also added a freshman sensation in guard Bradley Beal who is scoring 14.1 ppg and hauling down over 5 boards per contest.

Georgia Coach Mark Fox should have his team in a man defense for most of Tuesday since this hot-shooting Gator team would no doubt feast on the open looks that come against zone defense.  The Dawgs’ will need to be physical and relentless on the defensive end if they hope to hang around in this game.

UGA is 1-2 in true road games this season, and Tuesday’s contest will mark the first SEC game away from Athens for the young Kentavious-Caldwell Pope.

Any thoughts on how Georgia can pull this one out?

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.

Georgia opens up SEC play with Alabama on Saturday night

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-5) begin their 2012 Southeastern Conference schedule on Saturday in Athens against the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-3).  This Alabama team is going to look nothing like the slew of small-conference foes that meandered through Stegeman Coliseum (and almost won – see Winthrop game) over the December holiday break.

Rather, the Tide are an athletic, physical bunch that should contend for the conference title.  This Bama team is almost identical to the one that beat Georgia twice last season, when the Dawgs frontcourt featured Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price.

Alabama coach Anthony Grant has always been known for preaching defense, and his team this year has bought in hook, line and sinker.  The Tide play a smothering man defense that has them peppering the national team defensive rankings in nearly every category that counts – yielding just 55.6 points per game (9th) and holding opponents to 36.4% (6th) from the floor and 25.9% on three-point attempts (5th).

The Tide have already held four opponents this season under 50 total points, with two of those victims being Maryland and Georgia Tech (a team the Dawgs lost to earlier in the year).

Alabama’s star power resides in its frontcourt where they feature senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell.  Green, a preseason All-SEC First Team member, has been slowly working his way back into the Tide’s rotation after suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out of the team’s wins over Oklahoma State and Jacksonville.  He did play 22 minutes in Bama’s win over Georgia Tech earlier this week, and he should be ready for even more minutes against the Dawgs on Saturday.  Green is a load to handle in the paint, and he leads this team in scoring with 15.3 points per game.

The high-flying Tony Mitchell (All-SEC Second Team selection) plays alongside Green on the block where is netting 15.1 points and bringing down a team-leading 7.4 boards per contest.  He’s generally regarded primarily for his athleticism, but Mitchell can actually be quite effective from the perimeter where he’s knocking down nearly 35% of his three-point attempts.

Sophomore point guard Trevor Releford has done an excellent job of running Coach Grant’s offense this season, contributing 12.4 points to go along with 3.4 assists.  Georgia’s Gerald Robinson, Jr. has been in a bit of a defensive funk lately, and he’ll need to snap out of it by tomorrow in order to slow Releford and this Alabama offense down.

The Dawgs are riding a five-game win streak into Saturday’s conference match-up, albeit it came against fairly weak competition.  However, Georgia’s offense has improved dramatically since the start of the season when 8-minute scoring droughts were regular occurrences.  Over the past three games, the Bulldogs are shooting 47.4% from the floor and nearly 39% from beyond the arc.

Freshman Kentavious-Caldwell Pope has had a pretty successful first half of the season, leading the team with 14.1 points to go along with 5.3 rebounds per game.  The real season starts now though, and Georgia desperately needs KCP to continue to play at a high level as the Dawgs navigate their way through what should be a challenging SEC schedule.  I am interested to see how Pope handles the intense defensive pressure of a conference game, especially on Saturday where he will be facing maybe the best defense in the SEC.

On paper Georgia does not stack up well against the Tide, who are loaded with talent and firepower.  However, this Alabama team does like to press and push the tempo after missed field goal attempts, which could in effect serve to help the Dawgs stay competitive in this game.  Georgia’s lack of an inside presence has made their halfcourt offense unproductive, and the Dawgs are clearly at their best when the guards are running the court and scoring in transition.

Bama does not shoot the ball well from the outside – just 27.2% on threes – so don’t be surprised if Coach Mark Fox mixes in some zone defense to entice the Tide into putting it up from beyond the arc.

The atmosphere should be a little more raucous inside Stegeman on Saturday night compared to December since football season is over and the students should be back from winter break.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to expect from Coach Mark Fox’s team in their first conference game.  Earlier in the season the Dawgs struggled to score to start the second half, though recently they have been sluggish out of the gates.  At times Georgia has pushed the ball up the court relentlessly, while at others they have fumbled through halfcourt offensive sets for minutes on end.

The season starts in Athens on Saturday – what does everyone think?

Charles Mitchell – Georgia’s last shot at a legitimate big man for 2012

Winston Shepard of Findley College Prep (68 on the “ESPNU 100” for 2012) in Henderson, Nevada has narrowed his list of schools down from six to five, and unfortunately for Coach Mark Fox, Georgia was not one of them – he’s now only considering San Diego State, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, UNLV and UTEP.

Fox has one scholarship to give for the 2012 class, at this point I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Miller Grove’s Tony Parker is not going to choose UGA over Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Memphis, Georgetown or UCLA.

Assuming Parker goes out-of-state, that leaves Wheeler’s Charles Mitchell as the last coveted forward in the 2012 class that is on Georgia’s radar.  The 6’7″ (250lb) Mitchell is listed as a four-star prospect on (three-star on, and he’s entertaining offers from Georgia as well as Cincinnati, Texas, Florida State, Maryland, Tennessee, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Seton Hall and DePaul.

Apparently Mitchell had a very strong summer in which he trimmed down physically and improved his overall agility, boosting him into a number of 2012 recruiting Top 100 lists.  The young man isn’t planning on making any official visits to schools until mid-January, or even as late as February.

I don’t know where Georgia ranks among his plethora of scholarship offers, but I do know that he looks like the kind of player that could make an instant impact in Athens next season.