Dawgs look to bounce back against Hogs on Wednesday in Athens

The fact that the Arkansas Razorbacks are 16-7 on the season and 4-4 in conference play is a true testament to the coaching abilities of first-year skipper Mike Anderson.  Anderson, who took the job after a successful five-year run at Missouri, inherited a team that needed to find a way to score without last season’s leading scorer, Rotnei Clarke.

Clarke led the team with 15.2 points per game last year before deciding to transfer for Butler for his senior season.

To add insult to injury (literally), the team’s second leading scorer from a year ago – Marshawn Powell – went down after just two games this year with torn knee ligaments.

Powell, who was expected to carry a large portion of the scoring load, was off to a phenomenal start before his injury, averaging 19.5 points and 6 boards.

Despite these horrific personnel losses, the Hogs are in a position to play themselves into an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with quality wins over Michigan, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

Arkansas plays an intense brand of pressure defense, which is customary of a Mike Anderson-led team.  Anderson’s style of play has been characterized as the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball”, with his team pressing and pushing the ball for the majority of the game.  Whether UGA will be able to handle that kind of full-court pressure or not will dictate the outcome of tonight’s game.

The Hogs are first in the conference in three-point percentage defense, limiting opposing SEC teams to just under 25% from beyond the arc.  The Arkansas defenders also have very active hands which is probably why they lead the conference in team steals with over 9 per contest.

The bulk of the Razorback offense comes from its backcourt trio of B.J. Young, Julysses Nobles and Mardracus Wade, who are averaging 13.0 ppg, 12.4 ppg and 10.2 ppg, respectively.

Fortunately for Georgia the Hogs’ major weakness is their lack of a strong inside game due to the fact that they are playing without Marshawn Powell.  Arkansas is down near the bottom of the SEC (along with Georgia) in both rebounding and rebounding margin, meaning that UGA‘s bigs have a chance to secure a rare win in the rebounding battle.

For the Dawgs, whatever goals they carried into this season have probably been scrapped off the table by now.  The new plan for Coach Mark Fox’s team for the remainder of the year should be to play the role of “Bubble-Burster” in games like this one, and to look for opportunities to improve in nearly every facet of the game.

Georgia has the lowest number of turnovers of any SEC team in conference play, yet with a team field goal percentage of only 35.3%, all those missed shots start to resemble turnovers.  I would be much more encouraged about next season if Georgia could manage to get itself out of the cellar in regards to this statistical category.  If the Dawgs could find a way to knock down 45% of their shots from the floor from here on out they could possibly end up at 40% on the year in SEC games.

Small goals.

Former UGA basketball signees abound in college basketball today

Over the past few years the Georgia Bulldogs Men’s basketball team has had a number of signees transfer to other schools for various reasons.  The five players that have left the program in the last three years – Zac Swansey, DeMario Mayfield, Ebuka Anyaorah, Daniel Miller and Cady Lalanne – would actually make a pretty decent starting five at a mid-major program.

Here is what these guys have been up to since leaving Athens:

Zac Swansey (Senior PG)

Swansey presumably left Georgia in search of playing time after losing the starting point guard job to Dustin Ware during the 2008-2009 season.  He ended up with the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles where he has excelled at running this team’s offense over the past two seasons.  Swansey, a preseason All-Ohio Valley Second Team selection, is currently averaging 7.7 points, 6 assists and 2.4 steals per game, and his assists and steals numbers have him ranked  17th and 13th nationally in those two categories, respectively.

Demario Mayfield (Sophomore G)

Mayfield played just one year under Coach Mark Fox before deciding to take his talents elsewhere.  The 6’5″ sophomore from Royston, Georgia landed a starting role on the Charlotte 49ers of the Atlantic 10 conference.  This season Mayfield has really come into his own, netting 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest.

Ebuka Anyaorah (Junior G)

Like Mayfield, EA left Georgia after his freshman season, which was also Coach Fox’s first year as the Bulldogs’ head coach.  Anyaorah played a year of JUCO basketball before signing with the North Carolina Central Eagles, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.  EA starts for NCCU and he is averaging just under 10 points per game.  His best game of the season thus far came against East Carolina when he went for 25 points; EA also scored 14 and 13 against Wake Forest and North Carolina State, respectively.

Daniel Miller (Sophomore C)

The 6’11” sophomore originally signed with Dennis Felton, but decided to leave in the off-season after Felton had been fired and Fox was given the head coaching job.  Miller transferred to in-state rival Georgia Tech where he is enjoying a nice second season under Coach Brian Gregory, scoring 7.7 points per game to go along with 6.3 boards.  In the Jackets win over the Dawgs in Athens this season, Miller dropped 10 points and snagged 9 rebounds.  He scored most of his points on an array of hook-shots and short jumpers, and he looked more skilled offensively than any big wearing the red and black.

Cady Lalanne (Freshman F-C)

Lalanne was Coach Mark Fox’s first commit as the UGA coach, but due to his test scores and deficient high school course work he was deemed a non-qualifier by the SEC, meaning that he could not attend Georgia.  After sitting out a season, Lalanne – ranked the No. 21 power forward coming out of high school by Rivals.com – signed on with UMASS, joining DeMario Mayfield in the A10.  The 6’9″, 250-pound Lalanne was named to the 2011-2012 A10 Preseason All-Rookie Team, and before suffering a broken foot in January he was certainly living up to the hype.  In his first 14 games of college basketball, Cady was ultra-productive in the paint for the Minutemen, averaging 6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 14.9 minutes of play per game.  Losing Lalanne back in 2010 probably hurt the UGA basketball program more than was expected at the time, since he surely would be the Dawgs’ most significant inside presence this year.

I’m glad that all of the five aforementioned players were able to move on to successful basketball careers after departing the Bulldogs.  However, it is a shame that they weren’t able to develop into the players that they are today in a Georgia uniform.

Vols get hot in 2nd half to down Dawgs 73-62 in Knoxville

Tennessee reserve Jordan McRae made a free throw to complete an old-fashioned three-point play that was part of a 13-4 Volunteer run that shoved the proverbial nail in Georgia‘s (10-12; 1-7) coffin with 3:25 left in the game.

After the Dawgs had pulled with 1 point following a Kentavious-Caldwell Pope jumper, Tennessee responded by making 4 of their next 6 field goal attempts (2 of them coming from beyond the arc).  The Vols lead ballooned to 61-51, allowing them to coast through the final minutes to a 73-62 home victory.

The Dawgs came out and competed from the opening tip, leading for most of the first half in front of a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena.  Georgia built its lead up to 27-19 after a Dustin Ware three-pointer, but Tennessee closed the gap and actually took a 30-28 advantage into the intermission.

Georgia reclaimed the lead to start the second half, and they actually increased it to 41-34 after a Nemanja Djurisic lay-up with 14:42 remaining in the game.  Tennessee’s Trae Golden and McRae each buried shots from beyond the arc that helped to wipe out the UGA advantage, however.  Golden led all Volunteer scorers with 16 points, matching his total from the last time these two teams met in Athens.

The Bulldogs’ leading scorer on the night was KCP, who finished the game with 16 points as well.  However, the resurgent hot-hand of senior Dustin Ware was the storyline offensively for the Dawgs.  Ware scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, and he finished the game making 6 of his 7 field goal attempts (including 3 of 4 from three-point range).

As a team UGA shot the ball very well from the perimeter, knocking down nearly 47% of their attempts.  Throughout the game it felt like Georgia was having a good shooting night, yet in the end they wound up connecting on only 36.4% from the floor (barely above their SEC season average).  I suppose after the 15-point first half on Tuesday night against Auburn 28 points can probably look like an offensive explosion.

Coach Mark Fox’s technical at the end of the game, after a no call on a Neme lay-up, was probably the result of a whole lot of built up frustrations regarding the course of this season more than anything else.

Credit the Bulldogs for competing and playing hard tonight.  Honestly, they just don’t have the players to win a conference game like this on the road.

If there is a silver lining to take away from today’s SEC action it is that South Carolina lost to Kentucky, giving Georgia hope of avoiding sole possession of the conference’s last place position.

Dawgs travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee

When Georgia (10-11; 1-6) and Tennessee (10-12; 2-5) met earlier this season in Athens the Bulldogs emerged victorious in a low-scoring overtime battle.  The win was Georgia‘s first SEC victory of the year, and it offered a glimmer of hope to this team’s season with a home game against Ole Miss on the horizon.

The Rebels turned the glimmer off, and Kentucky and Auburn smothered and stomped on it.  The Dawgs are neck-and-neck with South Carolina for the worst conference record with a 1-6 mark.  Tonight Georgia will be coasting into Tennessee riding a three-game losing streak and a couple fumes.

The Vols’ season, however, is not lost, despite a less than lofty 2-5 SEC record.  Tennessee was recently brutalized at Kentucky 69-44, yet they now get to enjoy a pair of home games against the two conference bottom-feeders – UGA and USC.  The Vols have a great opportunity in front of them to boost their SEC record to one game short of .500.

Couple the Kentucky loss with the two winnable games on their plate and I would say what Georgia is going to encounter in Knoxville tonight is a nasty, yet inspired, bunch of Volunteers.

And Tennessee is one team that does not need to be any nastier.

The Vols play intense, physical man defense and they hit the glass tenaciously, probably why they are second in the conference in team defense (limiting team’s to 60.4 ppg) and rebounding (37.6 rpg).  Tennessee’s starting forwards – Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes – resemble NFL defensive ends.  Maymon has been playing particularly well as of late, averaging 14.3 points and 10 rebounds over his past three games.

Sophomore point guard Trae Golden – a native of Powder Springs, Georgia – scored 16 points in the losing effort against the Dawgs in Athens.  He has really been in a funk over the past four games since these two teams met, shooting just 20% from the floor and scoring only 6 points per contest.  Georgia’s Gerald Robinson, Jr. needs to get after Golden defensively so as not to allow him to break out of his slump against the Dawgs tonight.

Coach Mark Fox doesn’t have a whole lot to be pleased about lately regarding this team, but if there is one area where the Dawgs have shown improvement it has been in their team defense.  In Georgia’s first three conference losses, the Dawgs allowed Bama, Florida and Vanderbilt to all eclipse the 70-point mark on the scoreboard.

Since those games however, UGA has only allowed one team – Ole Miss – to net more than 60 points.  The Dawgs have climbed up to 7th in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing teams 65.1 points per game.

Granted, it’s hard to say if these defensive numbers are solely because of Georgia’s effort.  The Dawgs are now the worst shooting team in the SEC at 35.2% from the floor in conference games.  I suppose it is very possible that Georgia’s nightly ensemble of bricks clanking off the rim could be lulling opposing offenses to sleep, taking away their will to score.

Either way, as cliché as it sounds, for Georgia to pull off the upset tonight and get their first conference road win they are going to have to continue playing sound man defense and they MUST start to hit some shots.

I do not have a whole lot of closing thoughts, but before wrapping this thing up I’d like to toss Kentavious-Caldwell Pope a bone.  I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but in several of Georgia’s games this year the Peachtree TV announcers have criticized the freshman’s defense, citing that Coach Fox wants to see improvement in this area of his game.

I can’t say that I understand these criticisms, nor do I think that they are warranted.  In nearly every game I have seen Pope play I have been extremely impressed with his defensive stance (especially considering he’s 6’5″) and how active his hands are as well.  Furthermore, KCP is now tied for second in the SEC with Arkansas’s BJ Young in steals at 2.0 per game.

In regards to the game, I got nothing else to say.

Maybe Georgia will surprise me.

Abysmal shooting performance sinks Dawgs at Auburn

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-11; 1-6) shot 13 of 52 from the floor on Wednesday night against Auburn.  Again, the Dawgs took 52 field goal attempts, yet made just 13 of them.

As you might have guessed based upon this bit of information, Georgia did not come away from Auburn Arena with a win.  Rather, they sputtered and stumbled their way to another conference loss, falling to Auburn 59-51.

The Dawgs offense was horrific as they attempted to attack the Auburn zone by swinging the ball around the perimeter and hoisting up three-pointers.  Even though this strategy wasn’t working for Georgia, it didn’t stop them and by the end of the game the Bulldogs had taken 22 shots from beyond the arc (connecting on just 6 of them).

Coach Mark Fox’s team looked as if they had never encountered a zone defense before tonight, which is odd considering how much zone the Dawgs have played this season (don’t they see this in practice?).

Despite Georgia’s horrendous performance they were still within reach late in the game due to an equally ineffectual offensive effort by Auburn.  The Tigers weren’t much better than the Dawgs from the field, making only 33.3% of their attempts.

The Bulldogs cut the Tiger lead down to 51-49 with only 52 ticks left following a Gerald Robinson lay-up off of a nice dish from Kentavious-Caldwell Pope.  Unfortunatley, Auburn came out of a 20-second timeout and executed a beautifully designed set play that ended with Kenny Gabriel scoring a basket and getting fouled by Marcus Thornton.  Gabriel made the free throw too, putting his team back up by 5 which all but secured the win for the Tigers.

Varez Ward and Kenny Gabriel were the scoring leaders for Auburn, finishing with 17 and 13, respectively.

Georgia actually got out to a decent start in this game, opening up a quick 5-0 lead to begin the first half.  The Tigers let nearly 7 minutes go by before they converted their first points of the game on a pair of free throws from Ward.  Auburn didn’t notch a field goal until Frankie Sullivan’s three-pointer with 10:45 remaining before the intermission that cut the Dawgs’ lead down to 9-7.

Georgia failed to capitalize on the Tigers’ early struggles and with 7:57 left in the half Auburn jumped ahead 12-10 on a three from Ward.

The Tigers completed a 22-3 run that helped them open up a 22-10 advantage with under 3 minutes remaining.  This stretch of basketball took the life out of the Bulldogs and signified the “point of no return” for Georgia in this game.

The only UGA players that performed at a level worth mentioning are Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Donte Williams.  GR2 led the Dawgs with a team-high 14 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists.  Williams chipped in 9 points and 3 blocked shots, and he hauled in a game-high 8 boards.

Georgia is now 1-6 in the conference and clearly the worst team in the league.

The Dawgs head to Knoxville on Saturday night to take on a Tennessee team that Georgia somehow beat in Athens a few weeks ago.  Since that win however, the Bulldogs have dropped three straight SEC games.

Tonight’s loss leaves me wondering A) how bad can things get this year? and B) what direction is the program heading in?