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.