The Georgia Bulldogs dropped their fourth consecutive game on Tuesday night, losing a hard-fought battle with the #11 UCLA Bruins. Despite the fact that the Dawgs are in the midst of a losing streak, as a fan, I am much more encouraged by what I saw transpire in Brooklyn over the past two days.
Last week, Georgia appeared outmatched in both of its games against Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi. However, Coach Mark Fox was able to reach his team and demand more before the games in New York, which saw the Dawgs go toe-to-toe with the #1 and #11 teams in the country (Indiana and UCLA, respectively).
Last night’s game against UCLA was the first time this season we have seen Georgia play patiently on offense, working the ball inside and back out until they found the best shot. Fox’s team dished out 15 assists to just 10 turnovers, marking only the second time this year they have been on the plus side of that differential (reminiscent of Georgia’s first two teams under CMF).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did not attempt a shot until less than 7 minutes remained in the first half, yet at the time his Bulldog team was leading 22-14. KCP, who had been pressing a bit lately, allowed the game to come to him on Tuesday, finishing with a team-high 16 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
Despite Pope’s improved play, he did commit a costly turnover on a critical possession in which Georgia trailed UCLA by 3 points with less than a minute remaining. The Bruins trapped KCP at the top of the key, and Kentavious fell awkwardly to the ground while attempting a pass against his body to the right side of the court. Unfortunately for UGA, the Bruins’ Norman Powell made one of the ensuing free throws, giving his team a two-possession advantage that the Bulldogs were unable to overcome.
UCLA played last evening’s contest without regular starter David Wear, which opened the door for freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad to make his first collegiate start. Muhammad took advantage of the opportunity, responding with a game-high 21 points.
Georgia’s scoring was more balanced against the Bruins than it has been all season, with three players – Donte Williams, Neme Djurisic and John Cannon – finishing with 8 points.
Though this Bulldog team is clearly a work-in-progress, if they can bring the same effort and intensity that they played with in Brooklyn to all of their games I think that this bunch may win more games than people might have predicted seven days ago.