Dawgs fall to Vanderbilt 63-62 in Nashville

Three quick takeaways from last night’s game between Georgia and Vanderbilt:

1. Yes, if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope doesn’t dribble the ball off of his foot and out of bounds with 19 seconds remaining, Vanderbilt would have had to foul him, giving UGA a chance to extend its 62-61 lead. This scenario may have eliminated the ‘Dores’ chances of making a fade-way shot to win or tie the game. However, without KCP the Dawgs would have never even been in the position that they were in, so it’s difficult to assign too much blame on the young man, who finished the night with 20 points and 14 rebounds, including two monster three-pointers in the last two minutes to tie the game.

2. Vandy’s 16-0 second-half run that put them up 52-47 with just 5:35 left to play definitely played a major factor the team’s victory last night. However, once again, Georgia has failed to capitalize on an opponent’s early offensive struggles.

In last night’s game, Vanderbilt had just 5 points after nearly 13 minutes of first-half play, yet the Georgia lead was just 17-5 due to the Dawgs’ offensive ineptitude.

Similarly, in the South Carolina game last Saturday, UGA limited the Cocks to only 2 points for the first 10 minutes of the game – however, Georgia’s advantage was just 5 points (with a 7-2 lead).

And in the game against Alabama, the Dawgs held the tied to merely 6 points through the game’s initial 10 minutes, but Georgia was only able to muster a 13-6 lead.

While UGA’s defense continues to be strong, especially out of the gates, their inability to score early and put teams aways is beginning to become a major liability.

3. Georgia is not out of the woods yet when it comes to avoiding playing in the opening Wednesday round of this year’s SEC tournament. Last night’s loss to Vanderbilt put’s UGA’s SEC record at 7-8, just one game ahead of the Dores.

Georgia’s remaining schedule: Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama

Vandy’s remaining schedule: Auburn, Florida, South Carolina

Realistically, both teams could finish 8-10 in conference with Vandy holding the head-to-head advantage.

Georgia travels to Vandy, trying to get above .500 in conference

With only four conference games remaining, the 2013 SEC Basketball Tournament picture is still not yet clear. One thing is very clear, however, and that is that the Georgia Bulldogs (13-14,7-7) definitely want to avoid the 8 or 9 seeds of this year’s tournament because the teams slotted in those positions will most likely be heading towards a Friday matchup with the highly-ranked Florida Gators.

If the tournament started today, the Dawgs would be rematching LSU in the dreaded 8/9 game at 1PM on Thursday.

If UGA wants to avoid Florida, then they must find a way to win several of their last four games, starting on Wednesday night in Nashville where they will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Dawgs have not had a lot of success playing at Vandy over the past decade, registering just one win (2006) in ten attempts. For whatever reason, Georgia historically struggles with either the ‘Dores raised floor, behind the goal benches or a combination of both.

Although, this Vandy team is not the same calibre of squad that Coach Kevin Stallings has had on the floor in year’s past. This season the Commodores are 11-15 overall and 5-9 in conference play, placing them at 11th in the league. Lately though, Vandy has been improving, notching 3 wins in their past 5 games, including a 72-31 road drubbing of Missy State last Saturday.

Similarly to Georgia, Coach Stallings team has trouble scoring in SEC games, averaging only 60.4 points (to UGA’s 58.9). Vanderbilt’s offense lives and dies with the three-ball, tossing up over 22 shots from beyond the arc per game. Unfortunately for Stallings, it’s been a lot more “die” for his team than “live” with that strategy.

Vanderbilt’s dependence on the three may be related to their inability to score closer to the basket. Of all the 347 teams competing in Division I, only three have made fewer two-point field goals than Vandy’s 343 on the year.

To be fair though, UGA has only done slightly better, making 386 two-pointers, which is 325th in the nation in that category.

But in games where the Commodores are stroking it from the perimeter, they have been tough for opponents to handle. Vandy is 4-2 in SEC contests in which they make over 8 three-pointers, including a win over Arkansas – a team that recently knocked off UGA.

Georgia’s perimeter defense, which has been suspect this season, must be stronger if the Dawgs hope to steal one in Nashville. In SEC play, UGA ranks 11th in the league in three-point percentage defense, allowing teams to make over 35% of their attempts.

That effort probably won’t get it done for Coach Mark Fox’s team on Wednesday night.

Dawgs end losing streak, survive Carolina 62-54 at home

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew nothing but net from the wing on a three-pointer that tied Georgia 53-53 with South Carolina with only 10 seconds remaining, and the Dawgs would then stop the Cocks twice because of some weird officiating gaff before going into overtime (this portion of the game was extremely frustrating for anyone inside Stegeman because they were not telling us anything).

UGA then outscored Carolina 9-1 in the OT, and Georgia would leave Stegeman on Saturday evening with a much-needed 62-54 conference victory.

A loss to the Cocks would have been disheartening and difficult to overcome for a Bulldog team that held the lead in this game all the way up until the 8:47 mark in the second half, when Brian Richardson hit a three from the wing to put his team up 39-38.

Freshman Charles Mann, who chipped in 14 points for the Dawgs, had an opportunity to put his team on top when he went to the free throw line with 19 seconds remaining and Georgia trailing 51-50. But Mann choked, clanking both shots and giving USC a chance to further extend their lead.

Obviously, KCP’s three bailed Mann out and saved the day as the Dawgs took care of business in overtime.

However, the second biggest play that enabled Georgia to be in a position to win this game was made by sophomore Nemanja Djurisic. With only 52 seconds left and South Carolina leading 51-48, UGA found Sherrard Brantely wide open in the corner for a three, but the senior couldn’t knock it down. Fortunately for UGA, Neme corralled the weak side rebound, got fouled and cooly sunk both free throws, cutting the margin to just one point. If Neme doesn’t make those plays and the Cocks end up with the defensive board, Georgia would have had to foul and maybe KCP isn’t even in the position to make a game-tying three-pointer.

Neme ended up with 11 points and 6 rebounds.

All and all, this game was an extremely frustrating one to attend – both teams shot below 32% from the floor and neither squad hit more than 61% of their free throws. Georgia and South Carolina tallied up a combined 50 personal fouls, contributing to the marathon-like length of this nearly three-hour game.

All that being said, it feels a lot better knowing Georgia won.

Georgia back home to play South Carolina

Less than 48 hours after dropping a tough game to Arkansas on the road in Fayetteville, Georgia (12-14, 6-7) will have to find a way to collect themselves so that they are prepared to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (13-13, 3-10) in Athens at 2:00PM Saturday.

The Cocks are tied for second to last in the SEC with Auburn at 3-10 entering Saturday’s game. This season has not been kind to first year coach Frank Martin as his team is near the bottom in almost every team statistic in the league (other than offensive rebounds, which USC is shockingly second best at), and they have only managed to win one true road game this year.

However, Carolina is coming off of their biggest victory of the season after stunning Ole Miss at home 63-62 on Wednesday night.

If Coach Mark Fox’s team is still reeling from Thursday’s game or if they do not take the Gamecocks seriously, they could find themselves in trouble in this one.

UGA won the first game between these two teams by limiting turnovers (13) and playing strong on the defensive side of the ball, where they held South Carolina to under 36% from the floor and just 56 points.

In addition, Coach Mark Fox got a balanced scoring attack from his team with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19), Charles Mann (11) and Kenny Gaines (11) all scoring in double-figures.

Georgia must match the effort that they put forth against the Cocks in the first meeting between these two squads if they hope to come out on top on Saturday.

This game is very important for UGA because a win would set the Dawgs up with an opportunity to get back over .500 on the season next week with a game at dismal Vanderbilt and a home rematch with Tennessee.

Georgia has a chance to get another run going in Athens this weekend.

Dawgs drop another heartbreaker, fall 62-60 at Arkansas

Arkansas’s leading scorer B.J. Young, who Georgia held in check for much of the night, swirled into the lane for a lay-up to put his Razorback team up 62-60 with just 5.3 seconds remaining in the game (granted, his basket may have been courtesy of an overlooked traveling violation).

On the ensuing possession, Georgia’s Vincent Williams took the ball the length of the floor and got a decent look at the basket on a runner as time expired, but his floater drew all glass, and UGA lost its second-straight road thriller.

Anyone who watched the first half of this contest probably found themselves mildly puzzled when Georgia held a 56-53 advantage with just 2:33 left in the game. The Dawgs were awful before the break, mustering only 18 points on 4 field goals. Georgia’s best player – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – entered the locker room scoreless following the game’s first 20 minutes of play.

Yet, Georgia managed to regroup at the half despite their lackluster effort before the intermission, which they entered trailing by 10 points.

The Dawgs’ second-half comeback was aided by the fact that Arkansas star Marshawn Powell spent much of the last 20 minutes of this game on the bench due to foul trouble. However, Powell came through in the clutch for his team, scoring 7 of his 11 points with under 4 minutes remaining.

Arkansas received a monster boost from the bench in Anthlon Bell, who knocked down 5 three-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points. Before tonight, Bell had not scored a basket in the team’s previous 9 games.

This loss – on the heels of the overtime loss at Ole Miss last Saturday – has to be a crushing blow to a Dawgs team that has come so close to pulling off road upsets in back-to-back games.

Tonight’s defeat puts Georgia’s conference record at 6-7, and they are now in a three-way tie with LSU and Texas A&M for 8th place in the SEC (though UGA does hold the head-to-head advantage over both of those teams).

Coach Mark Fox’s team will need to find a way to dig deep and regroup on a quick turnaround as they play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks at 2PM in Athens this Saturday.

Dawgs set to visit Arkansas

The Arkansas Razorbacks have two different teams – their “home” team and their “away” team. At home, the Hogs have recorded a perfect 6-0 conference record, including an 80-69 upset victory over the Florida Gators on February 5th. The road has been less kind to Arkansas, where they have posted a 1-5 league mark.

Unfortunately for Georgia, the Dawgs must face the Razorbacks in Fayetteville on Thursday night.

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, a disciple of Norm Richardson, has brought back the “40 Minutes of Hell” defense to the Razorback program, and it has paid dividends. The Hogs relentless full-court pressure is generating nearly 9 steals per SEC contest, which is second in the league. In addition, Arkansas is turning teams over a conference-leading 18.6 times per game.

The Razorback defensive attack should pose an enormous challenge for a team like Georgia that has struggled to value the basketball all too often this season.

The Hogs are led offensively by sophomore guard B.J. Young and junior big Marshawn Powell. Young – a tremendous athlete – is netting 15.4 points per SEC game. Powell – last week’s SEC Player of the Week – is a tough match-up at his size because of his ability to score both close to and away from the basket, where he averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 boards in league contests.

While the Hogs have been quite stout at home, Georgia comes into this game sporting a 3-3 SEC road record, which ranks in the upper echelon of the conference in that category.

One UGA player (besides Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) who has played particularly well recently for Coach Mark Fox outside of Athens has been freshman guard Kenny Gaines. Gaines has scored in double-figures in Georgia’s last three road games at South Carolina, Tennessee and Ole Miss, averaging 12 points per contest while playing just 19 minutes per night.

As this year of college basketball continues to progress closer and closer to postseason play, the games begin to take on more of a magnitude for teams hoping to be considered for the NCAA Tournament. In ESPN’s most recent Bubble Watch, Arkansas was listed within the SEC’s group of bubble teams, meaning that Mike Anderson’s team will enter Thursday evening’s matchup knowing that they cannot afford to slip up at home against the Dawgs.

A Georgia win, though, would bolster Coach Fox’s team up into sixth place in the league, with a winnable Saturday home game against South Carolina on the horizon.

Georgia falls in OT to Mississippi

Georgia (12-13, 6-6) was just a Donte Williams alley-oop dunk away from stunning Ole Miss on their home floor in Oxford on Saturday night.

With a hair over a half of a second remaining in regulation, Coach Mark Fox drew up a beautiful inbounds play that featured Williams screening high for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. As Fox and Georgia expected, the Rebels overloaded help to a curling KCP, leaving Donte alone to glide to the rim. Neme tossed him a perfect pass and had Wiliams not been mauled by the Ole Miss defender he would have surely finished it with a game-winning flush.

Unfortunately, no foul was called.

Instead, the two teams went to overtime locked up at 70 apiece. The Rebels – up 78-74 with 1:06 left in the overtime – put the stamp on this victory on a side out play that left Murphy Holloway with the ball and no one on him as the shot clock was about to expire. Instinctively, Holloway drove to the basket and took the free lay-up, putting his team up 80-74. After a few more free throws, Ole Miss would lead 84-74 when the clock ran out.

Credit Georgia for giving a Herculean effort in a very hostile environment against one of the SEC’s better teams. The Dawgs hung tight with the Rebels in a game that featured 17 lead changes and five minutes of free basketball.

With just 3:54 remaining in regulation, the Dawgs appeared in control following a three-pointer from KCP, extending the UGA advantage to 64-56.

Marshall Henderson, who had played sparingly much of the night due to foul trouble, responded at a point when his team desperately needed him. Henderson scored the next 14 Rebel points and played a major role in getting his squad into the overtime. Henderson finished the game with 25 points, going a perfect 14 of 14 from the charity stripe.

For Georgia, Pope led the way with 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, marking his fourth double-double of the year.

Everyone contributed for Coach Fox in this game, and his team dominated a physical Ole Miss team 39-22 on the boards. Kenny Gaines and Donte Williams both reached double-digits, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Gaines, who fouled out late in this game, notched his points in just 18 minutes of play. One thing is for certain, Kenny Gaines is ready to be playing significant minutes for this Georgia team for the remainder of the season. He is looking more confident and smooth with the basketball, and I anticipate that he will continue to provide offensive support down the stretch.

The Dawgs get a bit of a breather before they hit the road again next Thursday to take on Arkansas in Fayetteville.

At this point, it appears Georgia can play with anyone in the SEC.

Dawgs make trek to Oxford to take on Ole Miss

Georgia’s five-game winning streak was snapped by Alabama in Athens on Tuesday night in a game that featured abhorrent offensive play by both teams, even by SEC standards. The Dawgs managed just 31% from the floor (to Bama’s 39%) en route to the 52-45 loss.

While Georgia’s recent run through its conference schedule did wonders to restore some confidence to a team that was badly lacking it (and it was a pretty fun ride), the Dawgs were not exactly going up against “Murder’s Row”. All of the opponents that UGA toppled – Texas A&M (twice), Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee – over that stretch currently have sub-.500 SEC records. Georgia’s most significant win of the season thus far is probably the one in College Station against an Aggie team with an RPI of 64 (the highest of any team UGA has beaten).

On Saturday night, the Dawgs will play a Mississippi Rebel team that is in the midst of one of its better seasons in recent years. The Rebels are 18-6 overall and 7-4 in the conference. Ole Miss possesses one of the most prolific offenses in all of college basketball, scoring nearly 80 points a night, which is fifth-best in the country. In league games, the Rebels are scoring more than any other team in the SEC at 74.8 a contest.

The two catalysts propelling Ole Miss’s offense are JUCO transfer Marshall Henderson and senior Murphy Holloway. Henderson is atop of the conference scoring leaders in SEC play, netting 21 points a night. He is a serious threat from beyond the arc, where he making nearly 4 three-pointers a night in league games.

At 6’7″, Murphy Holloway is Ole Miss’s version of Brandon Morris, except add 30 pounds of muscle and three years of experience. Like Morris, Holloway is comfortable handling the ball away from the basket and creating for himself. In SEC play, Holloway has been solid as a rock, scoring 13 points and hauling in nearly 8 boards a night.

Speaking of the boards, Ole Miss snags almost 14 offensive rebounds a game in conference, meaning that Georgia’s bigs are going to have to work hard to keep the Rebels off the glass in Oxford.

On paper, this game does not look like a very winnable opportunity for the Dawgs – playing a highly-efficient offense on the road does not sound like a recipe for a UGA win.

However, if Coach Mark Fox wants his bunch to separate themselves from the bottom half of SEC teams, then occasionally they are going to have to find ways to win games like this against quality opponents.

Despite Tuesday’s setback against the Tide, a win at Ole Miss could send UGA into a tie for third or fourth place in the league.

Dawgs win streak ends at five as they lose 52-45 to Bama at home

With the lateness of the last night’s tip and the earliness of the morning, I don’t have time for much of an entry. Here are three thoughts I had about the game though:

1) I felt like Georgia did not take advantage of a golden opportunity to put this game away before it even had a chance to start. Alabama started the contest shooting as badly as Georgia ended it, failing to score in the game’s first five minutes. The Dawgs could only muster a 7-0 lead, however, and after a pair of field goals by the Tide the score was 7-5 with 14:16 left before intermission (and Bama would eventually take a 25-22 advantage into the half).

2) Georgia’s offense – especially players not named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – was absolutely abysmal last evening. KCP shot 8 for 18 from the floor in this game, but his teammates combined for just 23.5% on field goals. The Dawgs did secure their second basket after the intermission until there were only 5 minutes and some change remaining in the game. While Georgia did have a fleeting moment late in this contest where it looked like they might eek another one out when they took a 41-40 lead, the Tide responded with a pair of three’s and UGA got what it ultimately deserved – a loss.

3) Considering the team’s struggles on offense last night and really the entire season, how is it that we are 24 games into the schedule and it still appears as though Fox does not have an offensive wrinkle that sets one or two players in to “all out screen mode” to free up KCP? Why not have guys like Florveous or Dixon – who are essentially offensive non-factors – screening for Pope off the ball to free him up? Or, couldn’t Fox move KCP to another spot on the floor – maybe let him run the baseline next time they see a zone for the majority of the game? The last two games teams have shown the Dawgs a lot of zone, which lets them keep close tabs on Pope so that they can jump him immediately upon receiving the ball, limiting his scoring opportunities.

Any other thoughts?

Georgia hosts Alabama on Tuesday night

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4) may feel as though they are looking in the mirror on Tuesday night when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (15-8, 7-4) in Athens.

Both of these teams have been winning conference games with their defensive efforts, where they are ranked second (Alabama) and fourth (Georgia) in team defense in league play. The Tide, especially, have been suffocating SEC foes, limiting opponents to under 57 points a night.

Another major similarity between these two squads is that each team relies heavily on its backcourt to provide offensive. The Tide’s offense runs through junior point guard Trever Releford, who is netting 14 points and nearly 2 steals a night in SEC games this season.

A final manner in which these two squads are comparable is in their struggles to score baskets – Bama gets 58.7 points per conference game to Georgia’s 58.4. If the crew at ESPNU is anticipating offensive fireworks, they might be let down with what unfolds on the court inside Stegeman.

Alabama’s leading scorer in the paint is sophomore Nick Jacobs – an Atlanta native – who is averaging 6.7 points per game this year. Interestingly, the Tide are 6-1 in games in which Jacobs scores 8 points or more, so hopefully the Dawgs can limit his touches inside on Tuesday night.

For the most part though, Bama plays a four-guard line-up. so Georgia should look to take advantage inside with their superior size.

While it was refreshing to see the Dawgs win without a field goal from leading-scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Saturday, hopefully the game against Texas A & M was more of an anomaly than anything else.

A win on Tuesday evening and Georgia could catapult themselves into a tie for third place in the league.

As a fan of this Bulldog team, I have been finding myself scratching my head in amazement over the past day or so when I think about Georgia’s recent five-game run. The thought of UGA adding another win to this run is almost surreal.

However, a victory on Tuesday night might do more than shoot Georgia further up the league standings. Another successful effort by the Dawgs could garner some national media attention, and dare I say, put Georgia on the NCAA “Bubble”.