Bulldogs defang Rattlers in Athens

Georgia exploded on offense against FAMU, scoring nearly 50 points by halftime
Georgia exploded on offense against FAMU, scoring nearly 50 points by halftime
Georgia’s bench provided a major spark for the Dawgs in their 82-73 win over FAMU on Saturday night. Coach Fox got 42 points from his non-starters, with Neme Djurisic and Sherrard Brantley chipping in 21 and 9, respectively.

Djurisic’s 21 points marked a career-high in scoring for the sophomore from Montenegro, and this performance couldn’t have come at a better time for the slumping big man. In UGA’s previous five games against South Florida, Georgia Tech, Iona, Mercer and Southern Cal, Neme had scored a total of 21 points collectively. Tonight’s outbreak was long overdue, and Djurisic’s offense helped propel his team to a victory.

Georgia led the Rattlers for the entire game, with the lead generally staying above double-digits. In the first half, the Dawgs were able to sustain a red-hot shooting performance by the Rattlers, who buried 7 three-pointers before the intermission. Georgia matched FAMU from the perimeter, hitting 7 three’s themselves and opening up a 49-36 lead going into the break.

The Dawgs, however, were frigid on offense to begin the second half, mustering just 4 points in the first 8 minutes. After a pair of free throws by FAMU’s Onyekachukwu Odi, the UGA lead had been cut to only 6 points with 12:52 left.

Georgia responded immediately, though, with consecutive baskets off of offensive boards by Donte Williams and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and following another Williams lay-in the Bulldogs were back out in front 59-47 with 11:01 remaining.

The Rattlers continued to scrap and hang around, but the Georgia advantage stayed above 10 points for a majority of the game’s final 10 minutes.

The Dawgs’ 82 points marked the highest offensive output of the season by this team, surpassing the 78 points scored against Iona (though that game went into overtime – only 66 were scored in regulation). KCP and Brandon Morris both joined Neme in the double-figure scoring column, and Pope ended up just one rebound shy of his third double-double of the season.

The Rattlers were poised by guard Muhammad Abdul-Aleem, who netted 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds. While FAMU only shot 37% from the floor, their effort at the charity strip may have been their undoing, making only 12 of their 25 free throw attempts (if they hit 5 or 6 more this could have been a totally different ball game).

Senior Sherrard Brantley has now made his last 5 attempts from beyond the arc, going a perfect 3 for 3 tonight in Athens. On the season, Brantley is shooting a career-best 34.5% from the three-point line, which is much improved for a player that made only 28% of his attempts from the perimeter in his first two seasons as a Bulldog.

The win tonight over FAMU extends Georgia’s win streak to 3 games, pushing their record to 5-7. The Dawgs are winning games at home that they should be winning – Mercer, USC and FAMU. However, these victories should not be taken lightly by UGA basketball fans. Remember in November when the Dawgs were losing these types of contests to Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi.

Coach Fox’s team got out to a rocky start to begin the season, but this new lineup has the capability to win some conference games come 2013.

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Bulldogs host Rattlers in final game of 2012

Consecutive victories by the Bulldogs over Mercer and Southern Cal have garnered a smidgen of respect from ESPN’s Myron Metcalf, who writes the network’s weekly conference power rankings for the SEC. In the list that came out today, the writer had moved Georgia (4-7) out of the cellar and into the #13 slot (or second to last) – right above Missy State and just below Auburn. If Georgia could notch a win in Stegeman over the 4-7 Florida A & M Rattlers on Saturday they may see themselves climb even higher in those rankings.

FAMU came into the season with tempered exceptions, and thus far, they have been meeting them. After beginning the season with five-straight losses, the Rattlers won 3 of their next 4 before getting drilled 80-57 at Clemson on December 15th. While FAMU does score a decent number of points per game – nearly 73 – they have yet to provide much in the form of offense against any teams of substance.

The Rattlers have four players averaging in double-figures with junior guard Jamie Adams leading the way at 15.5 points a clip. Adams is a streaky shooter who is hoisting up nearly 7 three’s per game, yet so far this season he’s making only 26% of those attempts.

Coach Mark Fox has Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at his disposal, which should be enough to give UGA a significant edge over FAMU. KCP has been Georgia’s “Mr. Do Everything” this year, scoring 18.1 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Pope has already racked up two double-doubles this season, and his scoring and steals numbers have him ranked 58th and 23rd in the country, respectively, in those two categories. KCP’s improved play over the last few games has been so solid that it has landed him back on nbadraft.net’s 2013 Mock Draft, going #22 to the Chicago Bulls.

Since the team took final exams in early December, Georgia has looked like a completely different team, especially on the offensive end of the floor. During the Dawgs 2-8 start to the 2012-2013 season, Georgia looked mystified on offense all too regularly, with the team netting only 56.8 points per contest. However, during the last thee games (of which UGA has won two), Coach Fox’s younger lineup has really started to gel, averaging nearly 63 points a game in that same span.

A win over FAMU on Saturday would add a bit more confidence to a team that is trying to turn around its season.

Georgia improves to 4-7 with an afternoon win over the other USC

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played maybe his best 4 minutes and 35 seconds of offense as a Georgia Bulldog coming out of the intermission against Southern California on Saturday. KCP lit up the Trojans for 12 points during this time span, erasing USC’s 28-27 lead before Southern Cal even had time to let Coach O’Neill’s halftime speech sink in. Following Pope’s offensive barrage, the Dawgs held a 41-32 advantage with 15:25 remaining.

The Bulldogs took the lead after a KCP lay-up 20 seconds into the second half, a lead they would not relinquish. The Trojans cut the Georgia advantage to 3 points with 10 minutes left following a pair of free throws from Omar “The Pharaoh” Oraby. However, UGA quickly responded on the other end, sending the ball inside to John Cannon who was fouled and converted both free throws.

The game became a little dicey towards the end when Georgia began to lose its touch from the free throw line. The Dawgs, who had made 16 of 20 from the stripe in the game’s first 36 minutes, hit only 2 of 6 in the last 4 minutes of play. Fortunately for Georgia, the Trojan offense fell apart during the same stretch as USC missed both of its field goal attempts and committed 3 turnovers.

Strangely, Southern Cal elected not to foul during the last 35 seconds of the game, even though it was still a two-possession contest. The Dawgs obliged, ran the clock out and walked out of Stegeman with a 64-56 win.

This victory was a nice one for Georgia as a momentum-builder heading into the holiday, and it marks the team’s first winning streak of the season.

KCP was sensational in the game’s second half, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 points (on 10 of 14 shooting from the floor).

The Dawgs’ freshman starters – Brandon Morris and Charles Mann – both turned in solid performances, finishing with 10 and 9 points, respectively. Morris is looking more and more comfortable with the ball in his hands away from the basket, and he has the unique ability for a guy his size to be able to create off the dribble – Morris got 6 of his 10 points from the free throw line, due to the fact that he took the ball right at the rim for most of the afternoon.

Charles Mann peppered the stat sheet, adding 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to his final tallies. Aside from a shot he took late in the game (when he probably should have dribbled it out), Mann once again appeared cool and in total control of the UGA offense.

And last but certainly not least, I have to mention the workman’s effort put in today by big John Cannon, who netted 10 points and hauled in 7 boards against a huge USC frontline. For whatever reason, Cannon saw limited minutes in the second half, making his numbers even more impressive over just 20 minutes of play.

Other than Oraby, the Trojan offense struggled to find the basket in Athens today, hitting only 40% of their field goal attempts and just 26% from beyond the arc.

In merely a week ,this younger-looking Georgia lineup has won two of its three games, with the lone loss coming in overtime. Charles Mann and Brandon Morris have injected life into a UGA team that appeared hopeless a little over two weeks ago following a loss at Georgia Tech on December 4th.

If the law firm of Morris, Mann and Pope can continue to click offensively, this season has the potential to get interesting.

Trojans visit Athens for 1:30PM showdown with Dawgs

Saturday’s game against Southern California (4-7) will provide Coach Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs (3-7) with another opportunity to start their first win streak of the 2012-2013 season. Georgia snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 58-49 win over Mercer, completing the team’s sweep of the Atlantic Sun conference (with Jacksonville and ETSU being the other victims).

USC’s may be sporting a record of just 4-7, but to be fair, they have played the 15th hardest schedule in the country according to realtimerpi.com. The Trojans – much like the Dawgs – have struggled to score the basketball so far this year, netting only 63.2 ppg and shooting just 42% from the floor; unfortunately, USC holds the advantage of Georgia in both of those respective categories as the Dawgs are getting only 59 ppg, while connecting on under 40% of their field goal attempts.

What offense the Trojans have been able to muster this season is usually generated by senior point guard Jio Fontan, a preseason Second-Team All-Pac 12 selection who is scoring 8.5 points and dishing out a team-high 5.4 assists per contest. Coach Fox will need solid perimeter defense from freshman point guard Charles Mann if the Dawgs hope to slow down the USC attack.

Luckily for Fox, Mann has been starting to come into his own right in front of our eyes over the past few games. Prior to the matchups with Iona and Mercer, Mann had been playing only 13 minutes per game; against the Gaels and the Bears, Mann logged a whopping 62 minutes! Suffice to say, the freshman guard has certainly responded positively, averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 assists over this recent two-game span.

Georgia basketball fans have definitely had plenty to be frustrated with in regards to the start of this season: a 3-7 record, an offense that has looked overly methodical and mundane, etc., etc. However, the performances from this team in its last two games has offered a tiny sliver of hope.

In the tightly contested overtime loss to Iona, Fox deployed a younger, quicker lineup that provided a much more exciting brand of basketball. On Tuesday, that younger brand beat a Mercer team that was projected by many to win the Atlantic Sun this year.

It almost feels as if the worst is behind this team – that they bottomed out – and now the Dawgs might be on a more upwards-trending trajectory.

A win over USC on Saturday would provide a lot more support to those feelings.

Mercer comes to Athens for a pre-noon tip

The Georgia Bulldogs (2-7) will look to avoid their second four-game losing streak of the season when they play host to the Mercer Bears (6-5) in Athens on Tuesday in a contest with a bizarre 11:30am tip-off. I, for one, will be working and unable to attend – hopefully we can rely on the analysis from a commentor or two that will be making the trip to Stegeman for the Brunch Time start?

Mercer’s 6-5 record is a bit misleading, considering they were playing without their star player – Langston Hall – for the team’s first six games (two of which were wins over Division III opponents Sewannee and Oglethorpe). Hughes, a junior guard from Atlanta, is regarded as the best all-around player in the conference, notching 9 points, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals in five contests this season. When Hall was sidelined, Mercer won just 1 of its 4 games against Division I teams; since Hall’s return, the Bears are 3-2, including a 61-56 road win at Florida State on December 2nd.

Several weeks ago I presented a report on the efficiency of the UGA basketball roster, player by player. Just to recap, efficiency is a statistic that rewards players for points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, while penalizing them for missed field goals and free throws as well as turnovers. To be fair, I stretched each player’s efficiency-per-minute over a period of 40 minutes (as if they had played the entire game). Here is what the Bulldogs’ efficiency numbers look like through 9 games:

KCP 21.4
D. Williams 17.5
Cannon 17.4
Morris 16.7
Dixon 15.9
Thornton 11.1
Mann 9.8
Djurisic 8.5
Florveus 6.2
Brantley 5.5
V. Williams 4.8
Gaines 2.5

Coach Mark Fox’s “most efficient” starting five (assuming two guards, two forwards and a center), according to these numbers, should be:

PG – Charles Mann; SG – KCP; SF – Brandon Morris; PF – Donte Williams; C – John Cannon

Georgia fans can point to the Bulldogs’ success so far this year against the Atlantic Sun (Jacksonville and ETSU) for a minutia of silver lining going into this match-up.

The Dawgs have already lost to Georgia Tech this season, so Tuesday’s game gives UGA an opportunity to avoid being third-best in the state.

Iona outlasts Dawgs in OT to win 81-78

The good news for Georgia basketball fans is that the Dawgs played their most exciting and inspiring game in nearly a month, since the team traveled to Brooklyn and went toe-to-toe with Indiana and UCLA on consecutive days.

The bad news, however, is that the Bulldogs’ effort was not quite good enough to beat a 3-4 Iona team (now 4-4) in Athens.

Coach Mark Fox can certainly take away some positives from this game, especially the fact that two of his freshman – Brandon Morris and Charles Mann – set career bests in scoring, chipping in 12 and 18, respectively. Unfortunately, Morris and Mann’s performances were not enough to overcome a wretched team effort from the free throw line.

After making 4 of 5 from the charity stripe in the first half, Georgia proceeded to connect on only 16 of their next 32 free throw attempts. Even more appalling was the fact that UGA hit only 6 of their last 17 shots from the line in the game’s final 6 minutes (including the overtime).

Despite all of the team’s struggles from the stripe, UGA had a final shot at redemption when Neme Djurisic stepped to the line with an opportunity to tie the game at 79-apiece with 4 seconds remaining in overtime. Neme made the first and then left the second short, solidifying the Gaels’ road victory.

Djurisic’s inability to come through in the final seconds for his team was pretty much icing on the cake of yet another poor performance by the sophomore from Montenegro. Neme finished the game with only 4 points (no field goals) and 3 rebounds, turning the ball over a team-high 5 times.

Freshman Brandon Morris, who continues to get better, took advantage of his starting power forward position due to a sidelined Marcus Thornton and chipped in 12 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly, Morris gives Georgia a more versatile lineup that can run the floor, and I would hope that yesterday’s effort means that the freshman will keep taking more minutes away from Djurisic as the season progresses.

Iona got out to a quick start, relentlessly pushing the ball at a torrid pace that enabled them to build a 23-11 lead nearly halfway through the first half. Georgia, however, clawed their way back into the game and actually went into the intermission with a 37-36 advantage following a halfcourt shot by Kentavious-Caldwell Pope.

In the second half, Fox played a much quicker lineup to match the Gaels’ tempo, employing Kenny Gaines and Tim Dixon for a combined 20 minutes. The Dawgs played well at the faster pace, building a 48-41 lead with 13:09 left in the game.

That lead didn’t last long though, and Iona’s Lamont Jones – who scored a game-high 25 points – carried his team to the 81-78 victory.

After the game, Fox expressed that he felt that Georgia played Saturday’s game with a “very awkward lineup”. I guess I am confused as to what was awkward about it? Was it the fact that the younger, more athletic lineup was scoring better than any team he has had on the floor this season? Or maybe he missed the team’s usual slew of shot-clock violations?

I know Marcus Thornton’s knees are bothering him again and I do not wish harm upon anyone, but I hope that even as he begins to heel that both he and Neme will see less minutes throughout the season.

This Georgia team is now 2-7, with little hope of having a 10-win season. The time for Brandon Morris, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines is now, because Fox is going to need these three seasoned and battle-tested by next year if he hopes to avoid a similar debacle.

Georgia takes on Iona in Athens on Saturday

The Georgia Bulldogs (2-6) return to action on Saturday after nearly a two-week layoff from the hard courts to take on the Iona Gaels (3-4) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Georgia’s lackluster start to the 2012-2013 season earned them the esteemed position of “bottom rung” in the latest SEC Conference Power Rankings by ESPN. Considering this team’s first month of basketball I’d say that this week’s ranking was well-deserved, since the Dawgs’ only victories thus far have come over Jacksonville and East Tennessee State (both of whom possess losing records).

Despite the rather big hole that Georgia has dug themselves into, this holiday schedule does provide UGA with an opportunity to right the ship before they open up SEC play at #5 Florida on January 9th (eeek!). If Georgia were able to notch victories in their next five games – all of which are at home – the Dawgs could take a winning record into the conference schedule.

Though Iona is rolling into Athens with a 3-4 record, Georgia need be concerned about the Gaels because of their ability to score the basketball, something UGA has not shown a prowess for yet this season. Iona is netting nearly 79 points per game, and they have eclipsed the 90-point mark twice already this season. Georgia, conversely, has yet to crack 70 points in a game this year.

The Gaels run with a four-guard offense and they will look to push the basketball at every opportunity. Iona gets over 50% of its scoring from senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones and junior Sean Armand, who contribute 21.7 ppg and 19.9 ppg, respectively, ranking them 7th and 29th in the nation in points per game. Jones creates his points off the dribble, while Armand is a lights-out shooter, knocking down a robust 48% of his attempts from the three-point line.

If Georgia sleepwalks into the start of this game, as they have done in previous contests this season, they could find themselves trailing the Gaels by a wide margin. The Gaels buried Wake Forest 94-68 on November 17th, and they just lost an 81-73 heart-breaker to Rutgers last Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Iona should be unfazed by the confines of Stegeman Coliseum, and this team is highly capable of extending Georgia’s losing streak to three games.

As far as the Dawgs are concerned, I’d really just like to see something different, either offensively or defensively (or both). Before the Georgia Tech game, I highlighted the fact that UGA might benefit from playing a bit more up-tempo, considering the ineffectiveness of their halfcourt game. Hopefully this layover has given Coach Mark Fox some time to implement some press looks that could serve to move the ball up and down the court quicker. With athletes like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris, I see no reason why Georgia cannot attempt to play with a little more urgency.

Before this season began, Coach Fox expressed his excitement about working with and coaching this group of Bulldogs. Now, it’s time for his team to show us why.