Mark Fox may be feeling the heat

Coming into this season, I tried to avoid ramping up talks pertaining to the length of tenure that Coach Mark Fox may or may not have as the head basketball coach at the University of Georgia. I felt like such commentary might put a damper on a season that had yet to begin, even though some questioning of Fox’s ability to lead this UGA team certainly seemed deserving.

For starters, how did a team with the SEC Player of the Year in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope manage to finish with a sub-.500 record?

Or, why is it that Georgia has had just one winning season in Fox’s four years as head coach?

Under Fox, the Dawgs have reached the NCAA tournament once, though arguably that might have happened with or without him considering the talent he inherited in Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie.

While I may have resisted to mention Fox’s vulnerability in regards to remaining the Dawgs’ skipper, other media outlets did not shy away from putting CMF on their preseason “Coaches on the Hot Seat” lists:

NBC Sports, Athlon Sports and Yahoo Sports all listed Fox as a candidate that could potentially be ushered out the door at season’s end.

After 11 games this year already it appears that Fox is going to need a major turnaround in conference play to salvage his job. Though Georgia is 6-5 on the season, the Dawgs have yet to beat a team from a power conference, losing games to Georgia Tech, Temple, Nebraska and Colorado – this does not bode well for SEC play.

In CBS Sportsline’s RPI rankings, UGA currently sits at #271 in the nation – the lowest ranked team from a power conference. The Dawgs schedule thus far has been far from daunting – #303 in the country according to the same poll – which makes their barely above .500 record even more troubling.

As recently as December 5th, Daniel Karpuc of wrote an article – Top 10 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat – identifying the coaches that were in the biggest trouble in terms of stability after the first month of the season.

Guess who Karpuc pinned down as the coach with the hottest seat? I will give you a hint: he spends a majority of his time inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Karpuc cited Fox’s amazing records at Nevada, but then he went on to say that since Fox came to Georgia “the success has faded” and he is now “on the clock”.

I will be the first to admit that I was fully onboard with Mark Fox’s hiring, and I was excited to see what he would bring to the program heading into the 2009-2010 season.

However, I am going to need to witness a major change in the direction of this year’s team before I can feel comfortable with CMF leading the Dawgs into the 2014-2015 season.

Colorado too much for Georgia, beat Dawgs 84-70

The Georgia Bulldogs’ (6-5) five-game winning streak was abruptly snapped by the #21 Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder Saturday night.

The Dawgs managed to hang around for the game’s first 10 minutes, trailing by a score of 23-18 with 10:12 left before intermission. Unfortunately, that five-point margin did not last long as the Buffs jumped out to a 42-24 lead with 4:10 remaining before the break, following a 19-6 Colorado run.

Georgia’s Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann both hit three-pointers over the next four minutes, allowing UGA to trim to the Buff lead to 46-35 going into the half.

Colorado’s first-half 19-6 run virtually sealed UGA’s fate on Saturday. Georgia did get as close as 57-49 after a Brandon Morris three with 10:05 left in the game, but the Buffs responded immediately with a 7-0 run, taking their advantage back to 64-49 following an old-fashioned three-point play by Askia Booker.

Morris’s three ended up being the only time that Georgia was able to cut the Colorado lead to under double-digits in the game’s final 27 minutes. The Buffs cruised to the 84-70 victory with all five of their starters scoring in double-figures.

The Bulldogs were led offensively by Neme Djurisic, Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris, who finished with 12, 12, 11 and 11 points, respectively.

A major factor as to why Colorado was able to keep the Dawgs at bay for much of the night once they had opened up their lead was the Buffs uncanny ability to unconsciously knock down shots from the free throw line, where the team finished a perfect 26-26 on the evening. Comebacks are hard enough to facilitate in college basketball, and they are nearly impossible when the opposing team shoots well from the charity stripe.

Georgia, on the other hand, struggled once again from the line, making only 9 of 18 attempts. Saturday night’s contest marked the 6th time this season that UGA has shot below 65% from the free throw line. On the season, UGA is hitting just under 66% of its free throw attempts as a team, which puts the Dawgs at 275th in the nation in that statistical category.

After a month of basically playing a SoCon schedule – Lipscomb and Gardner-Webb excluded – Georgia appeared a bit overwhelmed by Colorado’s length and athleticism on the glass, where the Buffs out-rebounded UGA by a tally of 34-22.

Yesterday’s game was Georgia’s last of 2013, and the Dawgs have just under a week to prep for another difficult road game next Friday at (11-1) George Washington.

Happy New Year!

Georgia uses late surge to power past Western Carolina

(Sorry for the late post – I had to head to a holiday event immediately after exiting Stegeman yesterday)

Georgia completed its run through the Southern Conference on Saturday, finishing with a record of 3-1 after taking down the Western Carolina Catamounts 65-63 in Athens. At this point in the year, it’s hard to determine whether UGA’s success against the SoCon is meaningful or not, since App State (3-8) and Chattanooga (4-8) haven’t exactly gotten out to the best starts. Even Davidson – Georgia’s only SoCon loss – is sitting at just 4-8 on the season.

Regardless, the Dawgs narrowly escaped yesterday from a Western Carolina team that led for all but the final two minutes of the second half. Nemanja Djurisic waited until the end of the game to score his only field goals on the day – an NBA-range three-pointer that put UGA up 61-58 with 1:25 remaining, and then a driving lay-up on the ensuing possession to break another tie, giving the Dawgs a 65-63 advantage with only 50 seconds left on the clock.

The Catamounts refused to go away though, and Tom Tankelewicz (try saying that three times fast) evened up the score once again, knocking down a pair of free throws with just 20 ticks remaining.

Fortunately for Georgia, Charles Mann was able to draw contact on his a drive on UGA’s final possession, and the sophomore calmly buried both free throws to finalize the 65-63 Bulldog victory.

While Mann did knock down the game-winning shots from the line, he struggled for much of the afternoon from the charity stripe, finishing with 5 makes on 11 attempts. As a team, UGA only hit 24 of 38 free throw attempts, leaving a lot of points on the table.

The Dawgs had their hands full trying to contain Carolina’s senior point guard Trey Sumler, who led all scorers with 21 points. Sumler showed an ability to score both off the dribble and from the outside, where he connected on 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.

Georgia’s leading scorer on the afternoon was sophomore Kenny Gaines, who quietly put together a 17-point effort, which included going 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Gaines’s shooting performance yesterday was a nice rebound from his previous two games against Lipscomb and Gardner-Webb, where he went only 1 of 8 from three-point land.

This game should leave UGA fans both relieved and concerned. The Dawgs are on a five-game win streak, but they failed to win any of the last three contests by double-digits, making me wonder just how much better Georgia is than Lipscomb, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina.

UGA’s schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher starting next Saturday when Georgia travels to Boulder to take on the #20 Colorado Buffaloes. Then, the Dawgs start 2014 with another road trip on January 3rd, taking on a 10-1 George Washington team before opening up SEC play at #23 Missouri on January 8th.

Georgia scrapes by Gardner-Webb

Thursday’s midday matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs (5-4) and the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs (6-7) was played before nearly 5,000 Athens-Clarke County elementary school students – let’s just hope that the youngsters didn’t pick up too many bad habits.

The Dawgs were a mess on offense, hitting less than 39% of their field goal attempts and committing a season-high 19 turnovers. The poor shooting may have just been an anomaly since UGA has been pretty efficient from the floor on the year, connecting on 49% of their shots on the season.

The turnovers, however, are more disconcerting considering the opponent, coupled with the fact that point guard Charles Mann led the way with 6 on the day. Mann, who returned to practice Monday after missing the game against Lipscomb with a bone bruise, looked rusty this afternoon, making only 2 of his 9 field goal attempts to go along with his high turnover rate.

Georgia began the game slow, failing to secure a point until nearly 5 minutes had elapsed. The Dawgs’ initial sluggishness continued to hinder Coach Fox’s team for the remaining 35 minutes as UGA could not put Gardner-Webb away.
Georgia took a 21-12 lead into the intermission, only to see the 9-point advantage disappear following a lay-up by Naji Hibbert (who led Webb with 14 points) that cut the UGA lead to 24-22 with 16:37 left in the game.

The Dawgs pushed their advantage to double-digits after a Marcus Thornton dunk, putting his team up 34-24 with 12:30 remaining. However, the Runnin’ Bulldogs responded yet again, closing Georgia’s lead to just one point after Hibbert finished an old-fashioned three-point play at the line with 6:32 left in the contest.

While Charles Mann struggled for much of the afternoon, the sophomore did make some key plays following Hibbert’s basket that enabled UGA to pull away from the other Bulldogs. Mann connected on an old-fashioned three-point play of his own, and then immediately stole the ball and was fouled. After hitting one of two from the line, Georgia’s lead was back out to 42-37 with 5 minutes to go in the game.

Freshman Juwan Parker scored 7 of his team’s final 16 points, and the Dawgs escaped with a 58-49 home win over Gardner-Webb. Parker made his first career start today and he answered the call, carrying his team with 12 points and 9 rebounds.

While most of today was frustrating for UGA basketball fans, Georgia can take away a few positives from this victory: the Dawgs held Webb to under 31% from the floor, and UGA dominated the glass by a margin of 46 to 27.
I would like to chalk Georgia’s lackadaisical performance up to the long layoff due to final exams, but this Bulldog team only beat a 4-6 Lipscomb squad five days ago by 9 points.

UGA does not look as though they are playing to the level of their competition, but rather that they are about on par with the competition.

Georgia started slow last season, losing early games to Youngstown State, Southern Miss and Iona before rallying behind SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to finish 9-9 in the conference.

Without KCP, I wonder if this team has what it takes to generate a similar turnaround.

Competition about to get a lot tougher for Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs (3-4) have three glorified tune-ups remaining on their schedule – Lipscomb, Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina – before they enter the meat of the 2013-2014 season.

Before the start of SEC play, the Dawgs must play two very difficult out-of-conference opponents on the road.  On December 28th, UGA visits #21 Colorado to take on a 9-1 Buffs team that took down #6 Kansas just last week.

Georgia’s first game of 2014 will come against another 9-1 team – George Washington – that has wins over Miami, Maryland, Rutgers and #20 Creighton.

UGA’s initial SEC slate has them away from Athens for two of the first three games, with match-ups at #24 Missouri and #19 Florida (and a home game against Alabama sandwiched in between).

Coach Mark Fox’s team should reach .500 tomorrow in Stegeman when they take on a 4-5 Lipscomb team that was projected to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Sun Conference.  Georgia should eclipse the .500 mark by beating both Gardner-Webb (“The other Bulldogs”) and Western Carolina later this month.

The question, however, is how long UGA can remain above .500 once late December/early January rolls around.



Dawgs best Mocs 87-56 in Athens

The Georgia Bulldogs continued their stampede through the Southern Conference, dismantling the UT-Chattanoonga Mocs in Athens on Monday night 87-56, marking the beginnings of UGA’s first win streak of the 2013-2014 season.

While tonight’s win does improve the Dawgs to 3-1 against the SoCon and 3-4 overall (yes, Georgia has yet to beat a team from outside the SoCon), anyone who watched this game could clearly see that Chattanooga did not offer up much resistance.

In the first half, the Mocs implemented a press that seemingly failed to cover anyone near the opposing basket, which Georgia attacked willingly. UTC cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 17-9 on an Eric Robertson three-pointer with 13:02 left before intermission, but this moment was as close as the Mocs would get to catching up.

Rather, UGA exploited the porous UTC press and scored on a flurry of wide-open dunks and lay-ups. After nearly 10 minutes of play, Georgia had reeled off a 25-8 run, taking a commanding 42-17 lead following a J.J. Frazier lay-in with 3:27 remaining in the half.

For the remaining 20-plus minutes, Coach Mark Fox played a slew of various lineups as his Bulldogs cruised to an 87-56 home victory.

Georgia had three players finish in double figures with Neme Djurisic, Juwan Parker and Kenny Gaines scoring 14, 11 and 10 points, respectively. UGA had a total of 13 players record points on the night, giving a lot of guys the opportunity to get some regular season minutes.

Offensively, Georgia shot over 50% from the floor en route to scoring a season-high 87 points as a team.

Coach Mark Fox got another solid defensive effort out of his team, limiting the Mocs to just 56 points on under 30% shooting from the field – though, one cannot help but wonder if the Dawgs improved defensive play over the past two games is a credit to this team’s effort or just a case of facing offensively-challenged opponents.