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.