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?

10 thoughts on “Defense and free throws lead Georgia to its best SEC start in Mark Fox Era

  1. I share your sentiments- could not see this coming.Some thoughts: Fox gave his best players major minutes. Gaines is getting better-playing more relaxed. Brandon has more upside-still developing. Thornton had his best game -still missing layups(2 for 9), but playing tough underneath. Still have trouble with the press. Four guys going for rebounds is a new thing and it works! Hard to understand those first 12 games-almost like Fox treated them as preseason. Those losses will hurt at selection time if we have a good year. He played 11-12 guys a game. He already knew his best players. Many of those losses could easily have been wins if we played our best guys major minutes. Still, a great start for SEC play


  2. Thornton was an absolute beast on defense yesterday and I agree with the radio crew’s pick of him as player of the game despite the missed layups (Neme missed at least 3 chippies too which I attribute to the incredible in the paint pressure by Alabama’s bigs–they play big-time defense folks and always have under Anthony Grant). We won because our defensive intensity matched theirs. I had said before we played our first game and when people were wondering where our points were going to come from that we’d win our share of games if we could just get to the point where we took pride in our defensive play and consistently hung tough. That’s why Thornton is in the lineup–he does those things. Lack of those attributes is also why Forte is playing less. Hopefully, he’ll get the message and become a decent defender and another scoring option off the bench. Right now, it doesn’t look like the guy could guard my house, but I’m hopeful he’ll get the message.
    Anybody else wonder if Fox has lost all confidence in Fraizer? It seems that he often assigns the point duties to Morris whenever Mann has to come off the floor.


  3. Great win!! I think we have a decent shot on Tuesday. It all depends on us continuing to rebound, not turn it over, and make free throws. I’ll admit it’s hard to see us win in Gainesville. When was the last time we won there? I can’t recall us winning in a long time. Overall, I’d give us 30-40% chance to win. I’d agree with the other comments on Thornton. If he cleans up things around the rim he can be a 12 a night guy with 8 boards. Plus, the dude can D people up.

    As for Fox and the minutes, I like what he’s doing playing his best players and no one else but it is puzzling why it took that long to figure it out. Nevertheless, I’m glad he figured it out!!!!

    How a week can change things!!!


  4. Florida will be tough, and much will depend on the officiating crew. We got to the line yesterday at a rate we’re unlikely to see in Gainesville. I’ve noticed some crews call almost every touch, while some allow quite a few if bodies don’t bang. We got a number of steals/loose balls because this crew was allowing us to get our hands around the ball without blowing every reach-in. The boys’ new attitude and toughness has made for a good week. However, a blowout to the Gators will put some tarnish on it. A game where UF has to fight for every point will say much about our consistency. It was nice to see lines of people hustling to the coliseum. I’d love a strong showing Tuesday to keep the good vibes going.


  5. I never thought it was possible for Thornton to play so tough and physical inside. If he can keep this up we actually have a pretty nice combination with two big guys that block shots inside (counting Donte here) and two scoring guards.


    1. Thornton has never had the wheels to play confidently and aggressively inside before this season. I knew we would be very happy to have him IF he had healed properly for this season. And the best part is that we have him for next year as well (as long as he decides to stick around should he graduate this year).


  6. Wow – I thought we had no inside game. Of course, we were playing Bama, who really doesn’t have much on the inside, but still. . .

    Tuesday night looks like a bad match-up for us, but at least the last couple of outings give us some hope. If we keep up with the defense and make this into an ugly game, then we’ll have a puncher’s chance at it.


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