I do not think that any Georgia basketball fans expected the Dawgs to take a one-point advantage into the half after the performances by this team last week.
However, Coach Mark Fox’s team showed up in Brooklyn poised and ready to challenge the #1 Indiana Hoosiers on Monday night, limiting Indiana to just 4 first-half field goals.
The Dawgs’ 30-29 halftime advantage was even more surprising considering that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – the team’s leading scorer – did not find the bucket until connecting on a three-pointer with 3:05 remaining before intermission. KCP scored 6 points before the break, finishing the game with a team-high 14 (tied with Vincent Williams) despite shooting a dismal 4 for 15 from the floor.
The Hoosiers seemed content with launching up shots from the perimeter in the game’s first 20 minutes, which enabled Georgia to keep things interesting for longer than most expected. However, Coach Crean clearly directed his team to attack the basket after the break so that they could put pressure on the Georgia bigs.
UGA actually extended the lead to 38-34 with 15:44 remaining following a lay-up by Nemanja Djurisic until a TV timeout occurred that clearly woke up the sleepy Hoosiers. After the short rest, Indiana went on a decimating 30-9 run that left Georgia down 64-47 with only a few minutes left in the game.
Jordan Hulls, who had been relatively quiet all night, nailed 3 three’s during this stretch, helping to put away this pesky Bulldog team.
Kudos to the Dawgs for playing their best game of the season by far, and against the nation’s best team at that. Even though the Dawgs were once again out-rebounded – tonight by a tally of 35-21 – they seemed far more intense on the defensive end as a whole when compared to the team’s first three games.
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket during the first half. The problem was that for Indiana this was unusual, but for Georgia it was more or less par for the course. The Dawgs hit 34% of their field goal attempts this evening in New York, just 3 percentage points lower than their season average.
The Dawgs showed a lot of class and heart tonight in a hard-fought loss to a much more talented Indiana team.
But moral victories aside, this game highlighted a lot of the same offensive issues that have plagued this team since the start of the season. Georgia does not have a post player that can accept the basketball on the block and score (consistently), and they certainly do not have any pure shooters on the roster (KCP included).
Hopefully the Dawgs can bring the same energy to the consolation game tomorrow night versus the loser of the UCLA-Georgetown match-up.