Poor shooting leads to UGA loss

I don’t know about anyone else, but coming into this week I was optimistic that the Dawgs might sweep their two conference games – Vandy at home and Auburn on the road.

Unfortunately, I think that the UGA men’s basketball team might have been thinking the same thing, which ended up allowing them to get upset 59-54 by Vanderbilt in front of the largest student crowd of the season.

Coach Mark Fox’s team was playing its second straight game without Kenny Gaines.  However, considering that the Commodores currently have just seven scholarship players on their roster, Gaines’s absence is no excuse when playing at home.

UGA looked lost on offense, hitting only 27% of their field goals and going 4 of 17 from beyond the arc.  As a team, Georgia only compiled 3 assists – the lowest total of the Mark Fox Era.

The only Georgia player who managed to bring his game to Stegeman on Wednesday was sophomore Charles Mann, who scored 20 points on a 5 for 10 shooting performance from the field.  The other starters – Donte’ Williams, Marcus Thornton, Brandon Morris and Juwan Parker – shot a combined 4 of 26 on field goal attempts (15%). 

Vanderbilt did not have a spectacular shooting night, but the ‘Dores did knock down their three-pointers, making 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.  

Rod Odom, who led Vandy with 16 points and hit 4 three’s, hit several of his shots from the perimeter at very timely moments.  With Vanderbilt’s lead at just 36-33 and 7:59 left in the game, Odom buried a three that pushed the Commodore advantage to 6 points.

Later in the half, Georgia trailed again by only 5 points until Odom sunk another monster three that gave the ‘Dores a 44-36 lead with 3:25 remaining.  This shot from Odom was a real dagger as UGA never managed to get closer than 4 points, which didn’t happen until only 15 seconds were left on the clock (following a three-pointer from Charles Mann).  

Vandy knocked down 14 of 19 free throws in the game’s final minutes and walked out of Athens with the 59-54 victory.

This loss was extremely deflating considering Georgia’s excellent start to SEC play, and it essentially negates UGA’s road win at Missouri.  

Now Georgia must hit the road this Saturday and try to steal one back at Auburn – a team that is still searching for its first conference win.  While the Tigers are struggling this season, winning away from home is tough no matter who the opponent is in league games.

The Dawgs are 10-9 overall and 4-3 in the conference, and a winning record for the season now appears a lot more difficult to achieve.  Without an above-.500 finish, UGA will have a difficult time being selected for any post-season tournaments (namely, the NIT).    

Who knows what Georgia’s mindset was entering last night’s contest, but I am thinking that they might have been just as guilty as I was of looking ahead to a 6-2 SEC mark.  

 

 

Short-handed Georgia loses at #14 Kentucky

When teams go into Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats, they typically like to be at full strength. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Georgia (10-8; 4-2) on Saturday as Coach Mark Fox’s squad played without the services of Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker. Gaines, who was dealing with a deep leg bruise, is one of UGA’s leading scorers at 12 points per game, and the freshman Parker has already started a handful of games this season.

Georgia got down big in the first half after a relentless 13-0 Kentucky run that ran the score up to 25-10 following a Derek Willis layup with 5:46 remaining before intermission. At this point, it appeared that the Cats were on the verge of delivering a knockout blow and putting the game out of reach.

To the Dawgs’ credit however, UGA fought back. Brandon Morris scored 8 of his team-leading 15 points over the next 5-plus minutes, and Georgia went into the break trailing Kentucky 34-22.

While Georgia was unable to reclaim the lead in this game, they did get to within 6 points after a pair of free throws from Charles Mann trimmed the UK advantage to 37-31 with 16:19 left int he game.

Eventually, Kentucky’s talent became too much and the Cats pushed the lead out to 63-39 following a 12-0 run. With only 6 minutes remaining in the contest, Coach Cal’s team would cruise for the remainder of the game, earning the 79-54 victory.

Despite the fact that UK seemingly ran one 7-footer into the game after another, Georgia still battled strongly on the boards, out-rebounding Kentucky by a count of 35-32.

Kentucky’s strategy on Charles Mann – which was basically to have him facing pressure from the moment he received the ball under his own goal – served to wear down the sophomore, who only just 9 points on a 1 of 9 shooting performance from the floor.

Other than Morris, the only UGA player to score in double-digits was Marcus Thornton, who finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds while shooting just 2 of 10 on field goals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I will say this again: if Thornton could ever start finishing consistently around the rim he would score 15+ points a night.

To be fair, it was a tough shooting night for the entire Bulldog team as they connected on less than 33% of their field goals. In addition to the poor shooting, Georgia committed 20 turnovers inside Rupp, a credit to the Cats’ defensive intensity.

Kentucky had four players finish in double-figures in scoring with freshman Aaron Harrison leading the way with 15 points.

The bottom line is that UK’s lineup and bench is full of McDonald’s All-Americans and four-star recruits, and Georgia’s roster doesn’t include either of those. When Kentucky is this talented it is difficult for a team like UGA to hang around for 40 minutes, especially when playing without the services of one of their leading scorers.

The silver lining in all of this is that the Dawgs managed to split conference games again this week, and if they can continue to produce similar results they should end up with a winning SEC record.

Georgia gets Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday – a team that will be coming off of its first conference road win, following a 66-55 victory at Texas A&M.

Dawgs take down Gamecocks 97-76 at home

Neme Djurisic brought a new haircut and a hot hand to Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday night when his Georgia Bulldog team took on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Neme shot a perfect 9 for 9 from the floor (including 3 three-pointers), leading all scorers with a career-high 22 points. The junior from Montegro started fast, scoring 9 of UGA’s first 11 points.

Georgia was too much for Carolina on offense on Wednesday, making over 50% of their field goals. From beyond the arc, UGA hit 10 of 17 attempts – a season-high on made three-pointers for this team.

The Dawgs led by double-digits for much of the night, taking a 45-34 advantage into the intermission. Coming out of the half, Georgia went on a 19-8 run which helped bolster their lead to 64-42 following a Djurisic three. From that point, UGA was basically able to coast to the 97-76 victory, pushing their SEC record to 4-1 on the season.

In addition to Neme, UGA had four other players – Marcus Thornton (12), Kenny Gaines (14), Charles Mann (10) and Brandon Morris (11) – finish in double-figures in scoring.

Georgia entered this game with the 5th best rebounding margin in the conference at +5.0 per game. The Dawgs won another rebounding battle on Wednesday night, besting the Gamecocks by a tally of 35-25.

South Carolina was led offensively by Sindarious Thornwell, who topped all scorers with 23 points.

Both teams struggled to move their feet on defense tonight as they racked up a combined 59 fouls, which caused the game to take an extremely long time to wrap up.

Since losing to Florida on January 14th, Georgia has won consecutive basketball games at home to Arkansas and South Carolina.

The schedule gets a bit tougher from here though, starting out with a road trip to Lexington this Saturday where Georgia will take on the Kentucky Wildcats (who are also 4-1 in league games).

Georgia edges out Arkansas in OT

The Georgia Bulldogs proved that they can win in the SEC even when their star point guard is having an off day.

Charles Mann struggled mightily on Saturday against the Arkansas Razorbacks, dealing with foul trouble for most of the afternoon. Mann, who finished with 9 points, shot 2 of 10 from the floor, committed 5 turnovers and didn’t even score a field goal until there was 7:56 remaining in regulation.

The Dawgs stepped up in the absence of their leader and won this game with effort. Georgia was ferocious on the boards, grabbing 56 rebounds – 24 of which came on offense, leading to 22 second-chance points. UGA’s points on the offensive glass were huge in a game when Georgia managed to shoot only 31% from the field.

Things were beginning to look bleak for the Dawgs when the Hogs opened up a 41-34 lead with 15:57 left in the game and Charles Mann on the bench with 3 fouls. Georgia stepped up its defense over the next 12 minutes, holding Arkansas to just 2 field goals and 7 points. UGA reclaimed the lead for the first time in the second half on an athletic finish from Brandon Morris that put Georgia up 49-48 with 3:19 remaining.

Mark Fox’s decision to not bring Charles Mann back into the game at this point confused me, but I especially couldn’t believe that Fox didn’t bring Mann in when UGA had the ball with 52 seconds left in a tie game. Freshman J.J. Frazier held his own – scoring 5 points on an 0 for 6 shooting performance – but give me Charles Mann with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game at the end.

Fortunately, the Dawgs played strong defensively and forced overtime with the score knotted at 52-apiece.

Georgia jumped on the Hogs quickly in overtime, taking a 59-52 lead with 2:22 remaining after an old-fashioned three-point play from Mann.

The Dawgs held on for the 66-61 home win, pushing their conference record to 3-1.

Kenny Gaines led all scorers on Saturday with 15 points, but the player of the game – in my opinion – was junior Marcus Thornton. Thornton produced the first double-double of his collegiate career, scoring 11 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. He consistently kept balls alive on the offensive glass, and if he could ever start finishing better around the rim he might start scoring 15 points every night.

After two weeks of SEC play Georgia is in a three-way tie for second place with a home game against South Carolina on the horizon.

Gators hand Dawgs first SEC loss of the season

For the Georgia Bulldogs to have a chance of beating the #7 Florida Gators in Gainesville for the first time in 11 years, Coach Mark Fox needed his guys to play a flawless game on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, UGA’s performance was quite flawed.

Florida’s defensive pressure overwhelmed Georgia from the opening tip, forcing the Dawgs into 12 first-half turnovers. In addition to the carelessness, UGA couldn’t buy a basket, making just 31% of their field goals before the intermission.

The Dawgs’ leading scorers heading into this contest – Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – were each held without a field goal in the game’s first 20 minutes – a recipe for disaster for this team. Mann and Gaines combined for only 1 point and 7 turnovers prior to the break.

Florida, conversely, was red hot, canning 50% of their shots, which allowed them to open up a 36-16 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

The Gators were in cruise control for pretty much the remainder of the game, albeit a mini-run by UGA that cut the Florida lead to 45-31 after a Marcus Thornton layup with 11:38 left in the game. UF answered quickly though, going on a 13-1 run that ran the score up to 58-32 with 5:44 remaining; Florida ended up winning 72-50, remaining unbeaten in conference games.

Georgia actually held a 6-4 lead after a Brandon Morris layup with 15:34 left in the half, but the Gators responded immediately with a 13-0 run over the next five minutes that gave them a 17-6 lead – Florida never really looked back.

The Gators were led offensively by Michael Frazier’s 21 points, which came from primarily beyond the arc, where he knocked down 5 three-pointers.

Georgia got 13 points from Juwan Parker off the bench, and Marcus Thornton chipped in another 11 points. For the most part, UGA’s offense wasn’t much to write home about, with Mann and Gaines scoring a combined 12 points on 4 of 15 shooting from the floor.

After a hot start, Georgia received some grounding on Tuesday from the Gators, who may be the best team in the SEC.

The Dawgs must rebound quickly from this loss and get ready to defend home turf against the Arkansas Razorbacks this coming Saturday.

Charles Mann SEC Award and #7 Florida looming

First off, congratulations to sophomore Charles Mann for being named the SEC Player of the Week for his performances in Georgia’s wins over Missouri and Alabama. Mann averaged 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the victories, and his 18 free throw attempts against the Tide were the 4th most in UGA history for a single game.

As the Dawgs prepare to take on the #7 Florida Gators on Tuesday night, I would like to point out a couple interesting tidbits surrounding the game:

1. Florida will be playing without leading scorer Casey Prather for the second straight game. Prather, who is averaging 17 points per game this season, is still dealing with pain and swelling in his bruised right knee.

2. The Gators have won 24 games in a row in Gainesville at the O’Connell Center, tying a school record. Remember that just last Wednesday Georgia went on the road and ended Missouri’s 26-game home winning streak.

3. Speaking of the O’Connell Center, UGA has dropped the last 11 meetings inside that facility. The last time Georgia managed to upend Florida in Gainesville was on January 19, 2002 when Jarivs Hayes poured in 23 points en route to the 84-79 Dawgs’ victory.

How does everyone see this game playing out?

Defense and free throws lead Georgia to its best SEC start in Mark Fox Era

Georgia (8-6, 2-0) spent the first month of the season near the bottom of the conference in team defense, which makes the Dawgs’ performances this week against Missouri and Alabama all the more shocking. In a span of four days, UGA held the Tigers (56) and the Tide (58) to season-scoring lows during regulation play.

The Dawgs limited Alabama to under 37% shooting from the floor, and matched a season-high of 10 blocks – five of which came from senior Marcus Thornton.

Trevor Releford, who finished with 17 points, failed to convert a basket until finally scoring a lay-up with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. The 6′ Releford found it hard to create offense against a much bigger Charles Mann for the game’s first 20 minutes.

Coach Mark Fox once again got an incredible effort from his team as they out-rebounded the Tide by a count of 41-32. The Dawgs were aggressive all afternoon, snagging 14 offensive rebounds, which led to 10 second-chance points.

Offensively, Georgia struggled to find the basket initially against an athletic Alabama zone. The Tide actually held a 10-7 advantage with less than 9 minutes left before intermission before Kenny Gaines knocked down a three to tie the game at 10-apiece.

Gaines was sensational in the game’s first half, burying 4 three-pointers en route to scoring 16 of his career-high 22 points. His offense sparked a 19-8 UGA run that enabled the Dawgs to take a 34-23 lead into the break.

After shooting 44% from the floor in the first half, Georgia only managed 4 field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes, hitting just 19% of their shots.

Bama managed to cut the Dawgs’ advantage to just 3 points with 7:57 remaining following a Trevor Releford lay-up, and it seemed as though the Tide were poised to take control of the game.

Amazingly, Georgia found most of its second-half offense from the free throw line, where the Dawgs scored 23 of their 32 points after the intermission. UGA entered Saturday’s game shooting just 64% from the charity stripe, yet Georgia was able to convert nearly 71% of their attempts against Bama, which ultimately aided them in holding on and securing the 66-58 victory.

Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines carried the Bulldogs with 22 points each, going a combined 17-21 from the free throw line.

Saturday’s win completes an unbelievable first week in conference play for the Dawgs, and Georgia is currently one of four teams still undefeated in SEC play.

On Tuesday, UGA travels to Gainesville to take on another one of those teams – #10 Florida – in a game that could leave the winner in sole possession of first place in the league.

Who saw this coming a week ago?

Dawgs host Alabama in first SEC home game of the season

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-6, 1-0) are two days removed from pulling one of the bigger upsets of the week in the world of college basketball with their win at #21 Missouri on Wednesday.

Now UGA will see just how well they can handle success after their best victory of the season.
And if the Dawgs haven’t put the Mizzu game out of their minds come Saturday, they could find themselves in trouble when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Athens this afternoon (7-7, 1-0).

Both teams won their conference openers, and they have very similar regular season records thus far. Alabama’s record is a little misleading though, considering they have played a much more difficult schedule than UGA up to this point. CBS Sportsline ranks the Tide’s schedule as the 9th hardest in the country, compared to Georgia’s SOS of 189.

Bama has lost close games (by 9 points or less) to #6 Wichita State, #16 Duke, Oklahoma, UCLA and Xavier.

In addition, the Tide possess arguably the best backcourt in the conference, led by All-SEC point guard Trevor Releford – who is scoring over 18 a game – and Retin Obasohan, who nets 13 points per night.

Georgia’s Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines will certainly be challenged on the perimeter by Releford and Obasohan. This matchup in the backcourt could dictate which team leaves Stegeman tonight with its first SEC loss of the year.

Dawgs shock Tigers in Columbia

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-6, 1-1) won an emotionally inspired game against #21 Missouri on Wednesday night, just a day after their head coach attended the funeral of his late father.  

In my opinion, this win was by far the best road win of the Mark Fox Era – the next best being a road win at Starkville two years ago in which UGA upset then-ranked #20 Mississippi State.

Last night’s game seems bigger, though.

UGA came into this contest 0-6 in contests away from Athens, and Mizzu held the nation’s longest-running home win streak at 26 games, which Georgia snapped.

The Bulldogs played with more effort last night than we have seen all season, out-rebounding the Tigers 43-34 and limiting them to under 40% from the floor as a team.  Mizzu’s star point guard, Jordan Clarkson, came into the game netting more than 19 points per game – yet the Dawgs were able to hold him to just 12 points on a frustrating 4 of 14 shooting performance.

While Charles Mann led the way with 18 points, Coach Fox also got double-digit scoring efforts from Nemanja Djurisic, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris, who chipped in 16, 11, and 10, respectively.

Mann relentlessly attacked the basket all night, and he scored the go-ahead bucket in the lane with 39 second left in overtime, putting his team up 65-63.  The Dawgs got a stop on the next possession, and they managed to hit enough free throws to escape Columbia with the 70-64 upset.

Neme, much like in the win over Western Carolina, seemingly took over on offense late in the game.  After scoring 9 points on all three’s in the first half, Djurisic went scoreless for the next 20 minutes.  However, Neme came alive in overtime, scoring the Dawgs’ first 7 points, including a monster three-pointer that tied the game at 63 apiece with a 1:44 remaining.

Probably the most amazing aspect of last night’s win was the fact that UGA was able to overcome another atrocious performance from the free throw line, where the team made only 13 of 26 attempts.  Had Georgia been more efficient from the charity stripe, they would have put this game away in regulation.

Regardless, this victory could not have come at a better time for a team that appeared to be fading towards the end of 2013.  

Georgia gets Alabama at home on Saturday, and the biggest question now is whether they can match last night’s effort on a consistent basis as they continue their march through the 2014 SEC schedule.

Dawgs drop another one on the road, fall 73-55 to GW

As Coach Mark Fox’s backcourt goes, so goes Georgia (6-6).

And things did not go very well for the Dawgs on Friday night in the nation’s capital against George Washington (12-2).

Sophomores Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines combined for just 19 points on 7 of 21 shooting from the floor, leaving UGA without many scoring options on the road against a quality opponent. Other than a spectacular performance off the bench by reserve Cameron Forte – who tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds in only 13 minutes of play – Georgia had only one other player eclipse the double-digit mark in scoring (Mann ended up with 11 on the night).

While the Dawgs certainly did not play at an extremely high level for the first 20 minutes, the game was tight heading into the break, with the Colonials leading 28-23. However, Coach Fox’s team could not overcome their carelessness with the basketball, turning it over a total of 20 times in Friday’s contest. George Washington capitalized on UGA’s sloppiness in the second half, converting 14 points off of Georgia turnovers.

The Colonials pushed their advantage out to 39-29 with 16:15 remaining in the game following a Kevin Larsen free throw. Georgia failed to cut the lead below double-digits for the rest of the night, and GW cruised to the 73-55 victory.

George Washington was up by as much as 21 points after a pair of free throws from Maurice Creek with 3:24 left, but then Coach Mike Lonergan pulled in the reigns for the game’s waning minutes by emptying his bench to give the backups some charity time.

Kethan Savage led all scorers with 18 points, and his teammate Maurice Creek chipped in 15 as well.

Sadly, UGA only held the lead once in this game – for about 26 seconds following a bucket from Marcus Thornton. But then GW’s Maurice Creek cruelly snatched it right back for his team, knocking down a jumper to put them up 8-7 with 16:13 remaining in the first half.

As conference play approaches, Georgia has still yet to win a game against an opponent from a larger basketball league, dropping contests to Georgia Tech, Temple, Nebraska, Colorado and George Washington. UGA’s ineptness when playing against these bigger schools does not make this season’s SEC schedule seem very inviting.