Georgia holds off Jacksonville in season opener

The Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) had Kentavious-Caldwell Pope last night and Jacksonville did not, which essentially was the reason that the Dawgs were able to fend off a pesky bunch of Dolphins that would not go away.  Pope scored 9 consecutive points for UGA with under 7 minutes remaining in the game to put his team up 61-48 with 5:31 left in the contest.  From that point, the Dawgs were able to salt away the remainder of the game from the free throw line, allowing them to walk out of Stegeman with a 68-62 victory.

KCP finished the game with a team-high 17 points, but the sophomore began his 2012-2013 season rather sluggishly –  Pope did not score his first point until he connected on a free throw with 1:32 left in the first half, and his first field goal came moments later in the form a dunk after KCP intercepted an errant Jacksonville pass (1 of his 6 steals on the night).

Though Pope finished with the most points last evening, Georgia’s MVP had to be sophomore Nemanja Djurisic, who poured in 14 points to go along with a career-best 12 rebounds.  Neme seemed poised on offense – making 5 of 9 shots – though I am sure the Montegro Express would like to eliminate his 4 turnovers.

Turnovers and poor defensive rebounding were the Dawgs’ achilles heel all night.

In his post-game conference, Georgia Coach Mark Fox noted, “We did not rebound the ball well in either half.”

While the Dawgs edged the Dolphins in the rebounding column by a tally of 40-39, UGA yielded an unacceptable 15 offensive boards to an undersized opponent from the Atlantic Sun.  Fortunately for Georgia, Jacksonville was unable to capitalize on the offensive glass, scoring just 7 second-chance points.  Something tells me that the Georgia bigs may be performing a host of block-out drills this afternoon before they settle in to watch the game on the Plaines.

The Dawgs did not value the basketball last night, coughing it up 23 times to the Dolphins (who had 21 turnovers themselves) in a sloppily played first game for both teams.  The major culprit of the contest – Marcus Thornton – led both teams with a game-high 6 turnovers to go along with 4 personal fouls.  Thornton’s turnovers and foul totals last night were greater than his points (4) and rebounding numbers (4) in 16 minutes of play.

Yesterday’s win was not the prettiest of the Mark Fox era, but it was still a win.

Hopefully the turnovers and ineffective rebounding can be chalked up to simple first-game jitters.  Georgia’s freshman trio of Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris played a combined 28 minutes against the Dolphins, and at times they all looked and played very much like freshman.

The Dawgs were also playing without their most skilled big man from a year ago, Donte Williams, who Coach Fox held out of the entire game, citing that Williams needed to learn to be more “responsible” (he did note that his offense was not drug-related).

Georgia begins the season 1-0 and they are set to take on Youngstown State in Athens on Monday night as part of the Legends Classic.