Georgia tops Auburn for second-straight SEC victory

Is it possible for a team to shoot under 30% from the floor and below 60% from the free throw line and still be in a position to win late in a game?

Yes.

Auburn proved it on Wednesday night inside Stegeman Coliseum, where they mustered just 28.3% on field goal attempts to go along with a 15 for 27 performance from the charity stripe. Despite the fact that Auburn had only two field goals nearly 10 minutes into the second half, the Tigers still had the ball down by merely one basket with a 1:34 remaining in the game.

Auburn’s leading scorer – Frankie Sullivan – missed a jumper, which Kentavious Caldwell-Pope corralled and flung out to Sherrard Brantley ahead of the break. Brantlely blew the lay-up, but fortunately for Georgia KCP hustled down the court and tipped in his teammate’s miss, giving his team a 50-46 lead with 1:07 left.

Pope made a pair of free throws two possessions later that put UGA up 53-47 with only 31 seconds on the clock.

KCP – I mean, Georgia – would end up winning the game 57-49 over Auburn, the team’s second-straight conference win.

Pope was the undeniable hero on a night when both teams looked anemic on offense. KCP finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.

The Dawgs could have put this contest away much earlier, yet they apparently decided to be polite and match Auburn miss for miss from the free throw line, where Georgia managed to make only 15 of 26 shots (just slightly better than the Tigers). UGA also committed 16 turnovers, which has become pretty much par for the course this year.

Freshman Charles Mann had a nice game, chipping in 10 points and 6 assists and making an amazing skinny-post catch and basket with 20 seconds left that extended the Georgia lead to 55-49.

The rest of the Bulldog team put on performances that were rather forgettable.

The Tigers had three players – Frankie Sullivan, Allen Payne and Chris Denson – score in double-digits, contributing 13, 13 and 12 points apiece, respectively.

For Georgia, Wednesday night’s win may not have been aesthetically pleasing, but it did serve to bolster the team’s overall record to 9-11, and UGA is now 3-4 in SEC play. The Dawgs, who started out 0-3 in league play, have won 3 of their last four games, positioning themselves somewhere in the middle of the conference standings.

This Georgia team may not “wow” people or earn much in the form of style points, but they are winning basketball games.

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Georgia and Auburn lock-up in Stegeman on Wednesday night

The Georgia Bulldogs are part of a five-way tie that exists within the SEC for teams with 2-4 conference records. This week, the Dawgs will have the opportunity to play two of those teams that are residing in the same logjam – Auburn and South Carolina.

Considering that Georgia’s schedule strength is currently ranked 33rd by ESPN’s RPI tool, this week’s games should appear more welcoming for a Dawgs team that has played an intense SEC slate thus far.

The Dawgs and the Tigers are coming off of contrasting Saturday experiences. Georgia snuck up on Texas A & M and walked out of College Station with 59-52 road victory, while Auburn lost a 63-61 heartbreaker at home to #16 Ole Miss (declaimer – Ole Miss shot 4-17 from the free throw line). The loss to the Rebels marked Auburn’s fourth in a row after beginning SEC play with back-to-back wins. The Tigers have a road date with #17 Missouri slated for this Saturday, meaning that Georgia should be ready to deal with an Auburn team that will be playing with a sense of urgency in order to avoid its fifth-straight loss.

Auburn is led by its seniors – point guard Frankie Sullivan and 6’10” big man Roy Chubb – who are both averaging in double-figures, with Sullivan topping all Tiger scorers at over 15 points per SEC game. Chubb, a native of Peachtree City, is fifth in the league in rebounding at 9 boards a night.

The Tigers have not defended well in conference games, yielding over 72 points per contest, which is fortunate for a UGA team that has trouble putting the ball in the bucket – remember, the Dawgs are dead-last in offense in league games at 56.7 points per night.

Georgia’s scoring problem might have something to do with the fact that the team is only hoisting up just 45 field goal attempts per SEC game, which is worst in the league. The reason for the Dawgs’ low number of attempts: turnovers and a lack of presence on the offensive glass.

While Georgia only coughed the ball up 12 times against the Aggies, they are still averaging over 16 giveaways a night in league games. On top of that carelessness, when the Dawgs do manage to put up a shot, they rarely give themselves a second chance – UGA is snagging a conference-low 8.5 boards per SEC contest.

A win over Auburn would move Georgia into a tie with Tennessee for seventh place in the SEC. It would also move the Dawgs’ records – both overall and conference – one step closer to .500.

After a strong showing last Saturday against the Aggies, I am anxious to see how this UGA team handles a little bit of success.

Dawgs steal road game in College Station

The Georgia Bulldogs had the ball, leading 52-48 with only 2:37 remaining, on the verge of blowing a lead over Texas A & M that had blossomed as high as 17 points at one point in the game’s second half.

The Dawgs’ fearless leader – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – received the ball on the wing, shook off a defender and calmly buried a three-pointer that sent his team up by 7 points.

Georgia wasn’t completely out of the woods yet though, leading 55-52 with less than a minute to play. In another critical possession, Charles Mann missed on a floater with 27 ticks left, but thankfully UGA big man Donte Williams was there for the tip-in that put Georgia up 57-52, icing the Bulldog win with only 26 seconds remaining.

As aforementioned, UGA held a 48-31 lead with less than 10 minutes to play. However, over the next 8 minutes the Dawgs went just 2 for 9 from the floor and turned the ball over to the Aggies on 3 possessions. Yet when the wheels were coming off, Georgia’s leaders took charge and made the necessary plays to allow the Dawgs to walk out of College Station with a 59-52 conference victory.

If you are a UGA basketball fan, then you can’t help but like this team. Earlier in the week, Georgia put up a solid fight in a losing effort to the #7 Florida Gators, a team that had beaten the Dawgs by almost 40 points a week earlier in Gainesville.

Tonight’s road victory against A & M shows that these guys have definitely not given up on the season.

The Aggies’ backcourt played well, with Elston Turner and Fabyon Harris scoring 19 and 13 points, respectively.

But the player that stole the show in College Station on Saturday night was KCP, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 2 steals. When the Dawgs were teetering on the brink of total collapse, Pope nailed a clutch three-pointer that was critical in his team’s victory.

This win puts Georgia at 2-4 in league play, and it provides them with a very realistic chance of getting to .500 in the SEC by this time next week with upcoming games against Auburn and South Carolina.

As long as KCP is donning the Red and Black, Georgia should be a competitive basketball team.

Georgia traveling to College Station to take on the Aggies

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-11; 1-4) were dealt a nasty hand in the beginning section of their Southeastern Conference schedule, playing two games against Florida as well as a road contest at Missouri (all of which the Dawgs lost).

However, the next stretch of games appears to be more favorable for UGA, although a majority of those games will be played away from Athens. Georgia’s next three opponents – Texas A & M, Auburn and South Carolina – have a combined conference record of 5-10. If the Dawgs still have any plans of getting this season back on track, now would be the time to do it.

The Aggies’ (12-6; 2-3) SEC basketball debut got out to a roaring start with consecutive wins over Arkansas and Kentucky (in Rupp). Since then, though, things have not been nearly as rosy for A & M, who enters tonight’s game with Georgia riding a three-game losing streak, including a 58-54 defeat at the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

The Dawgs effort against the #7 Gators on Wednesday night in Athens showed me that while this team still does not possess much in the form of a half court offense, they do still have some fight left in them. However, for Georgia to be successful in College Station later this evening they must find a way to score in the half court.

This Aggies team is long and they play strong man defense, something that the Dawgs have withered against all too often this season. In conference play, A & M is limiting opponents to under 60 points a game, which is third in the SEC. They have also been extremely effective on the glass in league play, boasting a +8.4 rebounding margin and hauling in nearly 13 offensive boards a night.

The Aggies’ offense runs through its backcourt, where they are led by senior Elston Turner and junior point guard Fabyon Harris. This tandem is one of the better ones in the SEC, with Turner leading the way at 15.5 points per contest. He is dangerous from the perimeter where he is making 40% of his three-point attempts. In the win over Kentucky, Turner dropped 40 points on the Cats, including 6 three’s.

Harris, though small in stature, pushes the ball well for A & M and he is netting just over 10 ppg.

While Georgia has played some stout competition thus far in conference games, the Dawgs’ biggest enemy in SEC play has been themselves. Through five league games, UGA is giving the ball away nearly 18 times a night. The Dawgs’ inability to value the basketball has amplified their offensive futilities, leading them to a league-low 56.2 points per SEC game.

Basically, Georgia has to clean things up. They also must become more effective when they have the ball – the second half against Florida brought back painful memories of earlier games this season against Youngstown State and Southern Miss, which featured UGA swinging the ball around the perimeter until a desperate shot went up with the shot clock expiring.

Coach Mark Fox’s team has a chance to steal a road conference win this evening, but they will need to play a lot smarter in order to do it.

Thee quick takeaways from the Florida game

I am not going to have time for a full post due to how late it was last night when I returned to Atlanta from Athens, coupled with the fact that I need to be at work in less than an hour. However, here are three things from last night’s game that stuck out in my mind on the drive home (please comment or add to them below):

1. Even though Florida ended up winning 64-47, the Georgia Bulldogs deserve some credit for showing up Wednesday night ready to go toe-to-toe with the best team in the conference. Considering how badly the Gators whipped the Dawgs down in Athens, it would have been very easy for UGA to come out tentative in this game. Yet, Georgia appeared poised and fairly aggressive for the first twenty minutes, taking a 27-24 lead into the halftime break.

2. When Florida wants to shut a team down, they can look pretty dominant doing it. Coach Billy Donovan obviously was not happy with his squad’s first-half play because the Gators came out of the locker room a team possessed for the final twenty minutes. Nearly twelve minutes into the second half, Georgia had managed to turn the ball over 5 times and they had only mustered 4 points (on 1 field goal). The Dawgs’ offense looked miffed against the Florida pressure, either coughing it up, or just swinging the ball around the perimeter until someone could hoist up a last-second, fall away three to avoid a shot clock violation.

3. Florida is just a lot more talented than Georgia. When you see the Gators up close and in person, and then you look at what Georgia has on the floor, it’s not even a fair comparison. This Florida team is one of the better ones that Billy Donovan has put together in recent years, and they look like a squad that could go very deep into this year’s NCAA tournament.

Dawgs set to rematch Gators in Athens on Wednesday

Whatever celebration the Georgia Bulldogs (7-10; 1-3) enjoyed following the win over LSU on Saturday night most likely ended when they peered at the schedule and noticed that the #7 Florida Gators were up next.

The Dawgs’ first contest with the Gators – a 77-44 drubbing in Gainesville – seemed horrific for UGA at the time, but looking at Florida’s SEC resume thus far it appears the beating was business as usual for the Gators. Florida (14-2; 4-0), who is easily the top team in the conference, might be the best team in all of college basketball right now.

Need proof? Check out the 83-52 whipping Coach Billy Donovan’s put on #17 Missouri last Saturday on ESPN3 in the “Replay” tab.

In the Missouri game, Florida employed the same full-court, relentless pressure that flabbergasted the Dawgs a few weeks ago. The Gators’ defense has been scary-good through their first four SEC games, holding opponents to a conference-best 48.8 points per night. In those same games, Florida’s average margin of victory has been nearly 27 points a game, also tops in the league. When looking at the Gators’ team statistics in conference play, it appears that they are either first or second in just about every category – field goal percentage, turnover margin, rebounding, assists, etc.

Georgia, on the other hand, can be found near the bottom of the list in nearly every aforementioned category. The biggest concern for Coach Mark Fox at this moment should be his team’s inability to take care of the basketball. Through four SEC games, UGA is now tied with Vanderbilt with 17.3 turnovers per game, which is worst in the league. In the first game between these two teams Georgia gave it away 19 times – if the Dawgs cannot become stronger with the ball then Wednesday night’s match-up could quickly evolve into another 30-point beat-down.

Georgia’s backcourt has got to start defending the perimeter better as well, since they are currently allowing SEC opponents to make nearly 43% of their three-point attempts (also worst in the conference). Florida, who is knocking down an SEC-best 8.8 three’s per game, canned 12 from beyond the arc the first time these teams met. The Dawgs cannot afford to allow the Gators to reel off big chunks of points from the outside with Georgia’s ongoing scoring issues.

Realistically, UGA needs to play a completely flawless game just to have a chance to hang around on Wednesday against the #7 team. Florida may not take the Dawgs too seriously, considering how badly they mistreated them down in Gainesville. If the Gators do sleepwalk into Athens, then maybe Georgia can keep themselves in the game.

One thing is for sure, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will need to be a lot more assertive this time against Florida than he was the last. In the O’Connell Center, KCP only put up one shot through the game’s first 12 minutes. By the time Pope reached the scoring column on a lay-up with 8:06 left in the first half, Georgia was already trailing 19-6.

Dawgs pull away from Tigers for 67-58 conference victory

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s body language last night gave the impression that he was tired of all the losing and REALLY wanted a win – hand-clapping between possessions, celebrating with teammates during timeouts, etc.

Though KCP finished with a game-high 22 points, his defense may have been the ultimate reason that Georgia (7-10; 1-3) wound up on top on Saturday.

With the Dawgs up 61-56 and less than 90 seconds remaining, LSU had the ball and a chance to make it a one-possession game. Pope would have none of it however, taking the ball from the Tiger guard for his 6th steal of the evening. On the ensuing possession, Vincent Williams was fouled, made both free throws and UGA found itself leading 63-56 with only 50 seconds left. At this point, the game was out of reach for the team from Baton Rouge, and Georgia would walk out of Stegeman with a 67-58 win – their first SEC win of the season.

LSU came into this contest with a bit of a turnover problem – giving it away nearly 18 times a game in conference play – and Saturday was no different as the Tigers handed the ball to the Dawgs 21 times. UGA capitalized on LSU’s carelessness, converting those turnovers into 19 points.

In his post-game conference, Coach Mark Fox praised his team’s defense, which limited LSU to just 36% from the floor. The Tigers’ 58 points marked their second-lowest offensive output of the year thus far.

The UGA bigs had trouble containing Johnny O’Bryant III – who ended up with 16 points and 14 boards – but Georgia did manage to corral the LSU backcourt for much of the game.

For Georgia, the only other player to score in double-digits was junior Donte Williams, who chipped in 14 points, 5 rebounds and a blocked shot in what was definitely his biggest game of the year.

While getting off the snide and securing that first SEC win must feel really good to this UGA team, the game with LSU was not played flawlessly. Once again, Georgia struggled mightily to handle a full-court press, turning the ball over 16 times last night. The Dawgs host the #10 Gators in Athens on Wednesday in a game that will certainly feature a lot of full-court pressure from Florida.

The victory over LSU puts UGA in a four-way tie at 1-3 with South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Georgia has a very difficult week ahead of them with the aforementioned match-up with the Gators and then a road trip to College Station to play Texas A&M. However, if the Dawgs could steal one of those games, they could put themselves in a position to get back to .500 since the next two would be against Auburn and Carolina.

Funny how a win can serve to restore hope.