Georgia smothers Aggies in 52-46 win

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4) edged the Texas A & M Aggies 52-46 in Athens on Saturday in a game that lasted nearly two and a half hours, featuring 47 total fouls.

Anyone at the game yesterday that was hoping to see some offense surely left Stegeman a little disappointed. Both of these teams entered the game ranking 3rd and 4th in the SEC in team defense in conference games. Although, in a game where Georgia shot 32% from the floor and the Aggies managed to make only 24% of their field attempts, it was hard at times to decipher if we were watching really good defense or inept offense (or a little of both).

However, the Dawgs did secure the win – their fifth in a row – and even more impressively, Georgia won with out a single field goal from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. For the first time in his career at UGA, Pope failed to convert a shot from the floor. KCP, who was blanketed by Elston Turner for the entire game, managed only three field goal attempts, and he was just able to reach 10 points by the grace of 10 shots from the line. Fortunately for Pope (and the Dawgs), he was perfect from the line, helping him extend his double-figures scoring streak to 23 games on the year.

KCP’s inability to find shots on Saturday may have been a product of his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, where he held the Aggies leading scorer – Elston Turner – to just 2 field goals on 14 tries. Similarly to Pope, Turner scored the majority of his 13 points (9) from the free throw line.

For Georgia, the offensive stallion of the night was Nemanja Djurisic, who paced UGA with 13 points.

The Dawgs opened up a wide margin early in this game, building an 11-1 lead a little over five minutes into the first half following a Neme jumper. Georgia maintained its advantage for much of the half, taking a 25-16 lead into the intermission.

After the break, UGA pushed its lead to 30-18 with 15:45 remaining following a pair of free throws from Pope.

However, A & M point guard Fabyion Harris, who led all scorers with 17 points, ignited a ferocious Aggie run by hitting three shots from beyond the arc, and after a pair of free throws from J’Mychal Reese the Georgia lead had been cut to 35-32 with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

With the Dawgs teetering on the brink of collapse, senior point guard Vincent Williams buried a three-pointer on the other end, shooting the UGA lead back up to 38-32.

Sherrard Brantley would then hit a three from the wing with 7:02 remaining, and Georgia was back on top 43-32.

From this point UGA was able to salt away the rest of the game from the free throw line, where Georgia shot an impressive 25-32 on the night (78%).

Other than some last-minute shenanigans from the officiating crew in the waning seconds, the Dawgs cruised to the 52-46 victory for the most part after the Brantley three-pointer.

Credit Vincent Williams though, who scored 7 points in 16 minutes, and for the second-straight game made a clutch shot for his team late in the second half.

After the game, Coach Mark Fox praised his team for becoming just that – a team. He pointed out that everyone chipped-in in some way on Saturday, and he really sounded proud of the way this Georgia squad enjoys playing with one another.

Winning 6 of 7 games can do that for a team.

Georgia looks to make it five in a row at home against the Aggies

After a pair of successful road wins at South Carolina and Tennessee over the past week, the Georgia Bulldogs (11-11, 5-4) will find themselves in unfamiliar territory on Saturday: home.

The Dawgs – one of the SEC hottest teams at the moment – will be playing host to the Texas A & M Aggies, the team that Georgia beat back on January 26th, marking the beginning of this four-game winning streak. In that game, UGA rode Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 22 points en route to a 59-52 victory. The Aggies’ star player, Elston Turner, managed 19 points, but it took a 5 for 14 shooting night from the floor to get to that total.

Since the loss to Georgia, the Aggies have been playing some inspired basketball as well, winning two of their last three games. One of those wins came on Thursday night in a 70-68 home upset of #21 Missouri. The lone loss during the Aggies’ recent three-game stretch came in overtime to the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday.

Tomorrow’s game in Athens has the potential to be an influential game in the conference, considering that these two teams are just a game apart in the SEC standings. With the added depth to the league, Saturday’s game provides Georgia with a chance to further separate itself from the middle of the pack; conversely, the Aggies will be looking to entrench themselves deeper into the center of the SEC standings.

Fans attending and watching the game in Stegeman tomorrow should be treated to a pretty good defensive display. In league play, Texas A & M and Georgia rank 3rd and 4th in the conference allowing just 60.7 and 63.2 points per game, respectively. The Aggies basically play a pressure man defense for 40 minutes, so UGA must be strong with the ball and not let their offense get pushed too far outside of the perimeter.

With the way Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been playing over the past five games, I would not be at all surprised to A & M shading help to KCP’s defender for much of the game.

Pope has been nothing short of spectacular over the Dawgs’ run, averaging nearly 22 points and 7 rebounds a contest during these past 4 games.

Georgia hasn’t won five SEC games in a row since 2001.

Twelve years later, Coach Mark Fox’s team has a chance to do it again.

Georgia wins its third conference road game, downing Vols 68-62 in Knoxville

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope must not want to relinquish last week’s SEC Player of the Week award because after tonight’s 24-point performance in Knoxville he is well on his way to claiming it again.

Pope played magnificently on Wednesday night for his team, burying 5 of 7 three-pointers – all of which came when Georgia’s lead was just 5 points or less.

In the game’s final two minutes, with Tennessee trailing by only 3 points, KCP was as poised as ever. The sophomore calmly scored 5 unanswered points, including a clutch three-pointer with a Vols’ defender in his face to put Georgia up 66-58 with only 51 seconds remaining. Those points were the nail in UT’s coffin, and the Dawgs would head back to the locker room (singing all the way) with a 68-62 SEC road victory – their third of the season.

While KCP was the main storyline for the Bulldogs on Wednesday, Georgia also got significant contributions from guards Vincent Williams and Kenny Gaines, who chipped in 10 and 12 points, respectively. Both of these guys also made big field goals down the stretch with less than 4 minutes left that helped the Dawgs maintain their advantage over Tennessee (Gaines’s baseline jumper at the 2:37 mark served to ease the memories of his back-to-back first-half bank shots).

Even though Tennessee’s star players – Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes – managed to score 17 and 16 points, respectively, the UGA defensive pressure for much of the night was quite strong. The Dawgs held the Vols to just 3 of 11 shooting from beyond the arc, and they forced Coach Martin’s team into 13 turnovers (11 of which came in the first half).

Georgia began the game white-hot, nailing 7 of their 13 three-point attempts before the break. On the evening, the Dawgs finished with 11 three’s, their highest output of the season from beyond the arc.

The victory this evening puts the Dawgs’ overall record at an even 11-11, and they have now gone over the .500 mark in SEC play with a 5-4 record. This win is UGA’s fourth in a row in league play, which is something that hasn’t been done since 2003, under coach Jim Harrick. Something tells me that Coach Fox’s team managed this streak legitimately, though.

Georgia is tied with Arkansas for six place in the conference, and with the way this team is playing and improving a 10-win SEC season does not sound nearly as out of the question as it might have a month ago.

Dawgs look to stay hot in Knoxville

The last time a Georgia Bulldogs (10-11, 4-4) basketball team won four consecutive Southeastern conference games was during the 2002-2003 season, which ended in turmoil for the Dawgs when coach Jim Harrick was forced to resign amid rampant cheating allegations. That season’s team, led by superstar Jarvis Hayes, pulled itself from postseason consideration, a postseason that might have featured a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

On Wednesday night, Coach Mark Fox’s team will be looking to put together a similar SEC win streak when they take on the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

The Vols (11-9) have gotten out to a slow start in conference play at 3-5, but much of that can be attributed to the challenging schedule that they have played thus far. Much like Georgia, Tennessee was dealt an SEC slate that began rather top-heavy, playing Ole Miss and Alabama twice as well as traveling to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky – UT beat Bama at home, but lost all of the other aforementioned games.

Tennessee has been tough at home this year, winning 3 of 4 league games and notching significant out of conference wins over #14 Wichita State and Xavier.

The Vols are a big, physical group, led by mammoth sophomore Jarnell Stokes, a 6’8″ (270 pound) forward who sets the tone inside for a Tennessee team that is fourth in conference play in rebounding at 36 a game. Stokes, who averages 12.6 points and 9.6 boards in league contests, has already tallied 5 double-doubles in his first 8 games.

On the perimeter, Georgia will have to find a way to contain junior wingman Jordan McRae, who is putting together a phenomenal junior campaign. In conference play, the Midway, Georgia native is scoring a whopping 17.3 points on 43% shooting from the floor. Most likely, McRae will guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and vice versa, which should provide fans with an intriguing match-up on both ends.

While Georgia has struggled to put up points in SEC games, averaging only 58 a night, the Dawgs are improving offensively. Though UGA has attempted a league-low 356 field goals through eight games, the Dawgs are making nearly 44% of those shots, which is fourth-best in the conference. Even more impressive has been Georgia’s outside shooting, where the Bulldogs are connecting on over 37% of their attempts from beyond the arc (3rd in the league).

At the center of Georgia’s offense stands last week’s SEC Player of the Week – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – who has been nothing short of spectacular for Coach Mark Fox thus far. When gazing over the conference-only statistics, it’s hard to find a list that doesn’t have KCP’s name somewhere near the top. Pope is second SEC games in scoring (17.6) and steals (2.3). He is third in the field goal (51%) and free throw (86%) percentage categories, and KCP ranks fifth in three-point (43%) percentage as well. Pope even finds himself among the league leaders in rebounds with 5.5 boards per SEC contest. At the risk of gushing over the young man, I think it is safe to say that he is living up to his preseason First-Team All-SEC billing.

Georgia’s success away from Athens in SEC games this season can be directly attributed to Pope, whose calming presence on both the offensive and defensive ends has given this team the lift it has needed to win on the road.

KCP is providing veteran leadership to a young team, and amazingly, he himself is just a sophomore.

Dawgs topple Cocks 67-56 for third-straight conference win

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope took care of the first half, Kenny Gaines handled the second and the Georgia Bulldogs (10-11; 4-4) cruised out of Columbia with a 67-56 SEC road victory – their second of the season. In fact, today’s win over the Gamecocks marks the first three-game conference win streak for the Dawgs since February of 2004.

After exchanging the lead 13 times in the first 20 minutes, South Carolina took a 30-29 advantage to the locker room at the break. Pope carried Georgia through the first half, scoring 16 of his game-high 19 points prior to the intermission.

KCP was limited in the second half, however, mustering only 3 points. His three was rather timely though, putting the Dawgs up 59-49 with 4:35 remaining in the game.

Georgia played like a bunch of veterans in the Colonial Life Center on Saturday, fending off the Cocks on multiple occasions in the final 20 minutes. Carolina erased an 8-point UGA lead after Bruce Ellington finished a three-point play with 10:51 left, cutting the Georgia advantage to just 46-44. The Dawgs responded instantly with a Donte Williams jumper and then a three from Vincent Williams, expanding the UGA lead to 51-44.

Carolina would close the gap once again though, trimming the Georgia margin to just 4 points with under seven minutes to play. Georgia answered the Cocks’ run though with three-pointers from Sherrard Brantley as well as the aforementioned three from KCP that gave the Dawgs a 10-point advantage with a little over 4 minutes remaining.

Not to sound like a broken record, but I cannot stress how impressive and mature Georgia’s second half performance was this afternoon. The Dawgs played sloppily before the break, turning the ball over 9 times. Georgia cleaned things up after the half, giving it away only 4 times in the game’s final 20 minutes.

Coach Mark Fox got great offensive production from his bench today with Kenny Gaines and John Cannon chipping in 11 and 8 points apiece.

Freshman Charles Mann, who went down with a shoulder injury late in the first half, played rock-solid for the Dawgs, netting 11 points to go along with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.

Georgia was red-hot from the floor in Columbia, making almost 59% of their field goal attempts and over 46% of their three’s. The Dawgs’ 67 points ties the team’s best SEC offensive outburst of the season, matching the 67 that they put up against LSU back in January.

South Carolina had three players finish in double-digits – Michael Carrera (16), Bruce Ellington (14), Brian Richardson (12) – but for the most part the Gamecocks struggled to score, hitting under 36% from the floor.

The win over Carolina puts Georgia at 6th place in the conference (for the moment) with a 4-4 record. This young UGA team is learning to close-out games, and they appear to be improving each week.

With 4 wins in the past 5 games, Georgia may be one of the hotter teams in the SEC.

Dawgs look to stay hot in Columbia this Saturday

This Saturday’s slate of college basketball games offers fans some pretty intriguing match ups – #14 Miami @ #19 N.C. State, #16 Ole Miss @ #4 Florida and #1 Michigan @ #3 Indiana.

Somewhere much further down the prestige ladder lies the game in Columbia, South Carolina, which features the Gamecocks hosting the Georgia Bulldogs (9-11, 3-4). While this game is virtually irrelevant to most college basketball observers, it should carry a huge amount of weight amongst UGA supporters.

The Dawgs, who began conference play 0-3, have stormed back over the past several weeks, winning 3 of four games. Georgia has put themselves in a position to reach a .500 record in the SEC with a win over the Cocks on Saturday.

South Carolina is on the heels of an embarrassing 75-36 drubbing at the hands of the mighty Florida Gators, and the Cocks will no doubt be looking to exact some revenge on the Bulldogs this Saturday. Fortunately for Georgia, they will be facing a Gamecock team that has yet to find much of an identity.

First-year Carolina coach Frank Martin has been dealing with the growing pains of starting two freshmen bigs – Michael Carrera and Laimonas Chatkevicius – as well as trying to win with his star player – Bruce Ellington – slumping. Ellington, a junior who has been the face of this program’s basketball team for the past few years, has been struggling mightily over the past five games, averaging just 8.4 points and hitting only 16 of his 54 field goal attempts.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, on the other hand, has been surging offensively during the Dawgs recent hot streak. Over the past four games KCP is netting 20 points and nearly 8 boards a night. Even more impressive is that fact that Pope has been putting up these scoring totals while taking just 12 shots per game. While I appreciate KCP’s patience and his ability to “let the game come to him”, considering the collective offensive options on this Dawgs’ team I think I would rather see Pope take a few more field goal attempts each game.

As far as SEC road games go for Georgia, Saturday’s match-up with the Gamecocks presents a fairly winnable opportunity. While winning in Columbia is certainly not a given, playing at South Carolina looks a lot better than playing at Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee or Alabama right now.