Georgia edges out Kansas State a 50-46 victory

The Georgia Bulldogs, who at one point held a 35-20 advantage with 12:10 left in the game, were in a world of trouble in Manhattan as they trailed Kansas State 46-44 with just 1:24 remaining. After seeing his team’s 15-point lead completely evaporate, Neme Djurisic coolly stepped up and buried a three-pointer to put the Dawgs up by one with 1:13 left in the contest.

The Dawgs kept the Wildcats from scoring on the next two possessions, closing out the game on a pair of Charles Mann free throws to give Coach Mark Fox’s team the 50-46 road win.

In a game in which both teams shot under 40% from the floor, struggling to put the ball in the basket, Georgia squeaked out a pivotal win away from Athens to boost their record to 8-3 on the year. Even more importantly, UGA avoided a loss against a KSU team that entered tonight’s contest with a dismal RPI of 168.

The Dawgs were led offensively by Charles Mann and Marcus Thornton, who finished with 17 and 11 points, respectively.

The Wildcats leading scorer, Marcus Foster, left the game with an injury, connecting on just one field goal for a total of 2 points.

Georgia was in control for much of the game before relinquishing the lead on a three-pointer by Nigel Johnson that gave KSU a 42-41 advantage with 4:32 left.

While this victory was certainly anything but pretty, Mark Fox’s team found a way to win in a game that could have potentially derailed UGA’s postseason chances. After suffering early losses to Georgia Tech and Minnesota, Georgia has now put itself in a position in which a slightly above .500 SEC season could land them in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Georgia Bulldog basketball tidbits

The Georgia Bulldogs’ RPI received a small jolt on Sunday, moving from 21 to 18 in ESPN’s latest update, following Stony Brook’s upset of #13 Washington in Seattle.  The Dawgs coasted by Stony Brook 80-70 back on November 18th in Athens.  As the nonconference schedule winds down this week, UGA fans need to dust off their pom poms and start cheering for some of Georgia’s previous competition – even, ahem, Georgia Tech, who is currently 8-3 and boasting an RPI of 38.  The Dawgs’ RPI is being bolstered by their strong strength of schedule, which at the moment is listed as the 9th most difficult in the country, thanks in part to the two impending games that Georgia has coming up with #1 Kentucky.  While Georgia obviously needs to keep winning more than it loses if they hope to be in the NCAA tournament discussion, UGA can also benefit from solid seasons by teams like Gonzaga, Colorado, Minnesota and Seton Hall.

Another factor that is supporting Georgia’s RPI position is the fact that they do not have any “bad losses” – yet.  Had UGA not succeeded in getting by Mercer last week in three overtimes, Coach Mark Fox’s team would be lamenting a loss to the Bears, who are all the way down to 268 on the RPI scale. This week, the Dawgs have games against Kansas State and Norfolk State, who have RPI’s of 168 and 183, respectively.  Going into Manhattan on Wednesday will be a tough test for the Dawgs, and it almost seems unfair to UGA that they would be penalized for a road loss at KSU – but, such might be the case in the fickle world of college basketball should the Dawgs drop Wednesday’s contest.  Even though K-State is a Big 12 team, losing to an opponent with an RPI over 150 might be difficult for the NCAA selection committee to stomach come March.

One of Georgia’s biggest unknowns coming into this season was freshman Yante Maten, who Coach Fox inserted into the lineup immediately this season with the hopes that he might provide some scoring in the frontcourt.  However, Maten’s biggest contribution thus far has been on the defensive side of the ball, where he is blocking 2.2 shots per game, which is tied for 47th in the country.  The freshman has already tallied 4 or more blocks in three games this year, coming against Stoney Brook, Chattanooga and Seton Hall.

Georgia, though, has been getting it done as a team defensively this season as well.  The Dawgs are blocking nearly 6 shots per contest as a team, which is 18th best in the nation.  On the boards, Georgia is hauling in 41 rebounds a night, which is 21st in the country; and more importantly, the Dawgs are controlling the defensive glass, where they are grabbing a over 29 boards per game, putting them at 6th in the country in that category.

Oh, and Georgia got 2 votes in this week’s Coaches Poll.

Georgia gets by Mercer for fourth straight win

Due to some holiday traveling complications, I only managed to catch the last 4 minutes of the third overtime in Georgia’s win over Mercer last night. At that time, UGA held a 75-72 lead over the Bears before getting three-pointers from Kenny Gaines and Neme Djurisic, which basically sealed the game for the Dawgs, giving them a 86-77 victory.

I did happen to catch Coach Fox’s post game press conference in which he gave Mercer “a lot of credit”, but he also lamented his own team’s mental preparation heading into this game. Apparently, Fox was concerned that his players’ heads were still stuck in the clouds, enjoying the recent wins over Seton Hall and Colorado. So concerned was he about their mentality that during the team’s morning shoot around yesterday Fox stopped practice and placed a garbage can in the middle of the court, demanding that his guys metaphorically “throw away the last two games”. Considering that it took three overtimes to get by Mercer, I’m not sure that this strategy can be considered a complete success; although, it’s certainly entertaining to hear about.

Georgia wraps up the 2014 with a tough road assignment at Kansas State this Wednesday, the place where Fox claims to have acquired the bulk of his basketball knowledge.

If anyone has any further insights or feedback on yesterday’s game your comments would be most appreciated below.

Georgia blasts Seton Hall 65-47

Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs looked anything but rusty after a two week layoff due to final exams. In fact, the Dawgs may have put together their best game of the season against a talented Seton Hall team. Here are some quick takeaways from UGA’s impressive performance, which took place in front of a pretty decent home crowd:

1. The Dawgs’ defense was incredible

Mark Fox implemented a masterful gameplan in tonight’s win, mixing in some 3-2 zone and a little full-court pressure into his defensive sets. The result: the Pirates looked completely rattled. The Hall shot an abysmal 3 for 20 from beyond the arc, which marked their second-worst shooting performance of the season from three-point range. The Pirates entered tonight’s contest hitting almost 42% of its three-point attempts, yet against the Dawgs they could only muster a meager 15% from the perimeter. Sterling Gibbs, The Hall’s leading scorer at 17 points a game, was limited to merely 2 points. Isaiah Whitehead, who compliments Gibbs in the backcourt and nets almost 13 a game, managed just 5 points while dealing with foul trouble for much of the night. On the boards, Georgia manhandled Seton Hall, out-rebounding them 50 to 31.

2. The game’s tempo favored Georgia

Coming into this game, Seton Hall’s players preached about how they wanted to push the pace of this game and get out and run. Unfortunately for the Pirates, none of that happened. UGA dictated the pace of this game from the opening tip, which probably contributed to the fact that The Hall failed to take a lead once in this contest. Even though The Hall was meant to be the up tempo squad, Georgia tallied 16 fast break points while the Pirates had none. The Dawgs totally controlled the game, opening up a double-digit lead early that they never really relinquished.

3. Coach Fox got his best all around team effort of the season thus far

Just about everyone that Fox sent on the court tonight contributed in some way to the win. Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively, leading the way offensively. J.J. Frazier hauled in a career high 11 rebounds to go along with 6 points, 7 assists and 3 steals. Juwan Parker played his best game of the season, chipping in 9 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Yante Maten was a beast on the defensive end, grabbing 6 rebounds and blocking 5 shots.

In a game where Charles Mann and Neme Djurisic struggled, Georgia got excellent efforts from their other core players.

This win puts UGA at 6-3, and more importantly, it gives them a win against a team inside the top 25 RPI. The Dawgs have three more games before SEC play begins, and if they could manage to win all three Georgia would be positioned to make a run through the conference that could see them playing postseason basketball.

Getting to know The Hall

This evening the Georgia Bulldogs will play host to the Seton Hall Pirates in a game that will mark the first meeting ever between these two programs. At 9-1, the Pirates present the most difficult home game that UGA has had thus far into the season. The Hall currently sits at #17 on ESPN’s latest RPI ratings, providing Georgia with an excellent opportunity for a quality win and a chance to improve upon its own RPI of 45.

The Hall’s lone loss came at #11 Wichita State, another one-loss team. Seton Hall is 1-1 on the road this season, coming off of a 89-69 thrashing at South Florida this past Thursday.

The strength of this Seton Hall team is its perimeter shooting, where the Pirates are currently hitting nearly 42% as a team, which is 10th best in the nation. The Hall is led offensively by guards Sterling Gibbs and Isaiah Whitehead, who are averaging 16.6 and 12.6 points per game, respectively.

The Pirates are an athletic bunch that uses a lot of full-court press to create a helter-skelter tempo, forcing opponents into nearly 14 turnovers a night.

“We want to use our athleticism, we want to pressure them a little bit so they’re not as comfortable,” offered Gibbs at a press conference earlier this week, discussing the approach his team planned to take against the Dawgs.

Inside, The Hall is led by Brandon Mobley, a Georgia native who is scoring over 10 points a night. Mobley reiterated Gibbs’s sentiments about his team’s up-tempo style of play, saying, “We’re just going to go out there and play Seton Hall basketball – we’re going to press, we’re going to run and we’re going to get out on the break.”

Mobley’s twitter feed certainly indicates his enthusiasm about returning home for this contest:

Tonight’s game tips off at 6:00PM.

A little UGA basketball news for a slow week

While the Georgia Men’s Basketball team navigates final exams in Athens, the rest of us are left to sit around and bide our time through an incredibly slow sports week.  In fact, UGA basketball fans will have to wait another week on top of this one before getting to see their team return to action.

However, here are a few things came across/thought about this afternoon:

1. Georgia’s 64-57 win over Colorado last Sunday did not just earn them praise locally.  Jay Bilas, who has sort of become the “Kirk Herbstreit” of college basketball, threw the Dawgs this little nugget following the game:

2. Speaking of Twitter, here is the latest update on Kenny Gaines’s injured shoulder, per Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph:

3. Thankfully for UGA and the rest of the teams in the SEC not named Kentucky, the AP and Coaches Poll rankings do not carry nearly the same amount of weight in college basketball as they do in football. This week, Kentucky was unanimously voted #1 in the AP, and they received all but two of the #1 votes in the Coaches Poll, with Duke and Arizona getting one apiece. However, the Cats are the lone representative from the Southeastern Conference in both of these polls. The Florida Gators began the season at #7, but after a rocky start that has them at 4-4, Billy Donovan’s team is currently on the outside looking in. The national media’s perception of SEC basketball remains weak my friends.

The good news, though, is that the league has 5 teams in the RPI Top 50, a poll that is much more indicative of a team’s NCAA Tournament chances. Currently, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss all have RPI’s under 50. Georgia plays all of the aforementioned teams (Kentucky and Ole Miss twice), along with #26 Seton Hall, giving Mark Fox’s team plenty of chances to improve upon their 2-7 record against the RPI Top 50 from a year ago. The Dawgs RPI currently sits at 64, which kind of pleasantly surprised me considering the 5-3 record.

Georgia makes it two in a row, downing Colorado at home

Georgia’s first out of conference win against a quality team was bittersweet.

The Dawgs knocked off the visiting Colorado Buffaloes 64-57 this afternoon, but UGA lost star guard Kenny Gaines to an apparent shoulder sprain – his return timetable is unknown at this point.

The Buffs, who were picked by CBS to finish 2nd in the Pac-12 in the preseason, looked as if they were still stuck on Mountain Time in this one.  The Dawgs held Colorado to under 37% from the floor, and they limited the Buffs to just 11% from beyond the arc.  The noon tipoff clearly did not serve to enhance Colorado’s shooting.

Georgia established control of this game during the final 4 minutes of the first half, when the Dawgs reeled off 12 straight points to break a 22-22 tie, taking a 34-22 advantage into the break.  Georgia got back-to-back three-pointers from Neme Djurisic and J.J. Frazier to close out the half.

The Buffs would start the second half with a 3-minute scoring drought, meaning that Colorado went for more than 7 minutes without a point.  Asia Booker, who led all scorers with 20 points, broke the spell with a lay-up that cut the Dawgs’ lead to 38-24 with 17:02 remaining.

Minutes later, UGA would lose Gaines to injury, leaving Coach Fox without one of his top scorers.

Luckily, sophomore J.J. Frazier was up to the task, scoring 12 of his 15 points after the intermission on a perfect shooting performance – 3 for 3 from three and 6 for 6 from the line.  Georgia had another nice game from beyond the arc as a team, canning nearly 44% of its attempts.

Marcus Thornton, coming off of a 24-point game in Chattanooga earlier this week, had the pleasure of matching up with Colorado’s All-Pac 12 First Team big man Josh Scott.  At 6’10”, Scott posed quite a problem for the Dawgs inside, netting 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds.  But Thornton again played admirably, scoring 16 points and grabbing 5 boards himself.

With 8:12 left in the game, Colorado shaved the Georgia lead to 47-39 following a lay-up by Scott.  But Thornton reliably responded with a three-pointer and then a layup on UGA’s ensuing possession, stretching the Georgia advantage back out to 11 points.

The Dawgs’ free throw shooting down the stretch was critical in this victory.  The Buffs Xavier Johnson hit a three to make it a 57-51 game with just 1:07 remaining, but UGA knocked down 7 of 8 free throws in the game’s final minute, making it impossible for CU to complete the comeback.

This win was very important for Georgia’s resume as Colorado should be a team that finishes with an RPI in the Top 50.  In addition, Tad Boyle’s squad is expected to make a return trip to this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Dawgs will get a brief respite to take final exams before returning to Stegeman on December 21st to play host to undefeated Seton Hall – a team that currently boasts an RPI of 30.

Georgia’s loss to Georgia Tech may have just earned the title of “bad loss” following the Jackets loss to South Carolina-Upstate yesterday.

At 5-3, UGA needs another quality win if they hope to entertain any ideas of postseason basketball.

Dawgs rout the Mocks in Chattanooga

Coach Mark Fox benched Charles Mann to start the game on Tuesday night in Chattanooga in an attempt to send a message to his junior point guard that his play against Minnesota – a game in which Mann had more turnovers (4) than points (0) – was unacceptable.

Message received.

Mann, who did not stay off the floor for long, scored 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and most importantly, just 2 turnovers.

And Mann didn’t even turn in the best performance of the night.

Offensively, Georgia was led by Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton, who scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, in UGA’s 86-55 drubbing of the Chattanooga Mocks, marking the Dawgs’ first road win of the season.  For Gaines, tonight’s effort was a season high; Thornton’s 24 points eclipsed his personal best of 17 set earlier in the year.

Don’t look now, but Marcus Thornton is currently leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 14.7 points per game.

Georgia was incredibly efficient on offense in this contest, scoring 86 points – another season high – on a barrage of three-pointers and lay-ups.  Coming into this game, UGA ranked 328th in the nation in three-point shooting, making less than 26% of its attempts from the perimeter.  However, tonight the Dawgs hit 7 of their 11 shots from beyond the arc, with 5 of them coming from the hot hands of Kenny Gaines.

This game was tied at 10-apiece early in the first half, following a three from the Mocks’ Greg Pryor.

But Georgia responded immediately, going on a 10-0 run that gave UGA a 20-10 advantage after a lay-in by Neme Djurisic with 11:22 remaining in the half.  From that point on, the Dawgs managed to keep Chattanooga at bay for the rest of the first half, taking a 39-32 lead into the break.

After the intermission, though, the Bulldogs totally took over the game.

The Mocks cut the UGA advantage to 44-35 following a three from Duke Ethridge, but then Georgia proceeded to go on a 13-2 run that saw the Dawgs bolster their lead to 57-37 with 12:36 left.  For the rest of the night, UGA coasted, walking out of Chattanooga with the victory and snapping a two-game losing streak.

While the offense certainly stole the show this evening, Georgia’s defense was not too shabby either.  The Dawgs limited the Mocks to just 31% from the floor, and only one UTC player finished the game in double-figures.  Coach Fox used a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses that kept Chattanooga off-balance for much of the night.

The Dawgs badly needed this win as the schedule is about to ramp up a bit before the start of conference play in January.  This Sunday, Georgia welcomes a tough Colorado (4-1) team into Stegeman for an early 12PM tipoff.

Then the Dawgs have games against Seton Hall (currently undefeated), Mercer and at Kansas State.

While the Mocks are expected to finish the season in the top half of the SoCon, Mark Fox’s team desperately needs some wins against teams from power conferences.  Georgia has looked good in its wins over Stony Brook, Troy, Florida Atlantic and Chattanooga; however, the Dawgs have appeared overmatched in their losses to Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Minnesota.

Georgia should certainly enjoy tonight’s win on the bus ride back to Athens, but the Dawgs should feel as though they have something to prove in their game against the Buffaloes on Sunday.