On an afternoon which the University of Georgia honored members from the school’s 1983 Final Four basketball team, the current Bulldogs put on a performance that fans are probably trying their best to forget.
After an exciting first half that saw Mississippi State take a narrow 36-35 lead into the break, both offenses came out flat to start the final twenty minutes. With 7:38 remaining in the game, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a free throw that cut the State advantage to just one point at 52-51.
It was at this exact moment that MSU guard Jalen Steele decided that he wanted to win the game, making three shots from beyond the arc on consecutive possessions. Steele’s last three-pointer during this span put his team up 62-51 with only 5 minutes left, ensuring that the Maroon Dawgs would secure the road win and start out the SEC season 2-0.
KCP, who looked as if he was going to have a monster game after scoring 14 points in the first half, was unable to convert on any of his 6 field goal attempts after the intermission – a sure recipe for disaster considering he is UGA’s only real scoring threat. Pope made a pair of free throws, finishing the game with a team-high 16 points.
The Dawgs put up a herculean effort on the glass, winning the rebounding margin by a count of 44-37. What was particularly impressive was Georgia’s success on the offensive boards, where they brought down 17 rebounds.
Once again, however, it was the team’s shooting that ultimately led to their demise. UGA shot under 33% from the floor and just 59% from the free throw line on 32 attempts. In his post-game interview, Coach Mark Fox seemed unable to explain his team’s inability to perform from the charity stripe in games other than the players need to take more responsibility.
I wish that Fox has spoken more about his substitution strategy after the game, because I left Stegeman perplexed as to why starter Brandon Morris only played two minutes in the game’s second half. Morris, who ended up logging just 11 minutes in this one, scored 4 points before the break on two nice moves that he made off the dribble, and he appeared to be raising Georgia’s energy level. Yet, Fox chose to leave him on the bench for 90% of the second half.
The Dawgs 0-2 start to conference play is troubling because today’s game was considered by most to be one of their easier home games. On Wednesday, Georgia heads to #10 Missouri for a game that could get rather ugly in a hurry (a la last week’s Florida game).