Georgia will take on the #11 UCLA Bruins tonight in the Barclays Center as part of the consolation round of the Legends Classic. Considering that the Dawgs have yet to win a game in this tournament, it seems only fitting that they should be playing their last game in its loser’s bracket.
The Bruins arrived at this juncture via an upset-minded Georgetown team that shocked UCLA 78-70 in a game that featured the debut of blue-chip wingman Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad came off the bench (for now) to score 15 points in 25 minutes of play, but his efforts were not enough to help his UCLA team avoid its first loss of the season.
The most interesting storyline in this game (if you are a Dawgs fan) is that UCLA’s bench includes Tony Parker, a former Georgia high school basketball standout who chose the Bruins over the Dawgs during his recruiting process last spring. Parker has been coming off the bench so far this season for Coach Ben Howland, chipping in 6.7 points per game.
This UCLA team has a huge frontline – featuring the Wear brothers (Travis and David) – that is hauling in over 44 boards per game, ranking them 23rd in the nation in that category. The Wears both average double-digit scoring, though this team’s leading scorer through its first four games has been Jordan Adams (another Georgia native).
Adams, a freshman from Lawrenceville, has been netting 23.5 points per game for a Bruin team that averages over 80 points per night. The addition of Shabazz Muhammad to this offense should make them even more high-octane as the season progresses.
If Coach Mark Fox’s team has any hopes of righting the ship this year than he is going to need his star player – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – to be a little more consistent on offense. KCP has had just one game this year (Youngstown State) in which he has shot over 50% from the floor, and after last night’s 4 for 15 effort he is now connecting on just 33% of his field goal attempts through four games.
While I understand that KCP’s strength is his outside shot, he can be somewhat streaky and I would like to see him not settle for quite so many three-pointers. In his freshman season, Pope put up 56% of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc (214 in all). Although KCP hoisted up a lot of threes, I also remember him creating more of his shots off the dribble when compared to this year, where nearly two-thirds of his attempts are coming from the perimeter.
Last season, KCP shot 10 or more three-pointers in only five games; he has already put up 10 or more from beyond the arc in three of Georgia’s first four games.
Georgia’s biggest challenge tonight will be finding a way to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to the Barclays Center as they did last night against Indiana. I am sure the Dawgs’ players were disappointed in the loss to the Hoosiers, but I also think that they probably took some comfort in the fact that they hung with the nation’s top team for 30 minutes.
UCLA, on the other hand, just lost its first game of the season and will probably want nothing more than to whip UGA to get that bad taste out of their mouths. I am anticipating that the Bruins will show up to the game with a bad attitude, and the Bulldogs better not be resting on any moral laurels from last night or they could get embarrassed.