How will they replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s scoring? Where will the offense come from? Surely they cannot win as many games after losing the SEC Player of the Year to the NBA draft…
These concerns were the consensus question marks surrounding Coach Mark Fox’s team heading into the 2013-2014 season from just about every major media source that previews college basketball. This year’s team was picked to finish somewhere around 10th or 11th in the SEC before the season began.
Sophomores Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines had different ideas.
Georgia’s backcourt combined for 44 of UGA’s 69 points today in Baton Rouge, hoisting the Dawgs on their backs and carrying their team to a critical 69-61 road win against LSU.
The UGA duo played lights out on Saturday with Gaines scoring 20 points for the 4th time in the last 7 games. The sophomore was white hot in the first half, connecting on all four of his three-point attempts.
The entire Bulldog team was hitting shots before the intermission, making over 52% of their attempts from the floor. The problem wasn’t UGA’s shooting, though, it was their ball security. Georgia committed 13 first-half turnovers, yet they still managed to take 30-28 lead into the break due to some poor LSU shooting.
The Dawgs held a 21-18 advantage over the Tigers with 11:24 left before the half after a three from J.J. Frazier. Georgia remained stuck on 21 points for nearly 6 minutes until Kenny Gaines hit a three to reclaim a 24-22 lead. During that 6-minute drought, UGA committed 5 turnovers, and the only thing that kept them in the game was the fact that the Tigers could not find the rim.
In the second half, Charles Mann took over, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points and snagging 7 of his game-high 10 rebounds (yes, Mann secured his first double-double of the season in probably the most important game of the year). Mann basically did what he does best: he got the line, where he made an incredible 12 of 14 attempts.
Georgia held an 11-point lead with less than 8 minutes left, and they were barely challenged for the remainder of the game other than a very brief LSU spurt that saw the Tigers cut the UGA advantage to 65-59 after an Anthony Hickey three-pointer. Charles Mann immediately buried a pair of free throws that shot the lead back to 8 points, and Georgia notched its 12th conference win of the season.
As far as LSU’s offense is concerned, the Tigers were led by Andre Stringer’s 22 points.
LSU’s leading scorer – Johnny O’Bryant – was a non-factor, mustering only 5 points while committing 5 turnovers. Coach Fox had a masterful game plan for JOB, doubling down on him at almost every opportunity. O’Bryant appeared flustered with the UGA defense, which held him to a season-low in scoring in conference play.
For Georgia, this victory was absolutely enormous.
The Dawgs finish the year 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the SEC, giving them the 3-seed in next week’s conference tournament.
Georgia will get the winner of the Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt/Mississippi State game in the quarterfinals round on Friday night.
The NCAA selection committee may or may not have UGA on its radar, but after winning 8 of their last 10 games to close out the regular season the Bulldogs are making themselves harder and harder to ignore.