As basketball seasons progress, teams generally begin to develop an identity – a style of play that gives them an advantage so that they can win consistently.
After Georgia’s sixth win in a row on Saturday afternoon in Athens, it’s beginning to look like the Dawgs identity might be on the defensive side of things. For the sixth time in as many games, UGA held its opponent under 60 points in regulation, with Mercer being the only team to eclipse that barrier due to an additional 15 minutes of play. Against Norfolk State, Georgia played a stout man defense that carried them to a 63-50 victory. Credit Mark Fox for getting his guys to come out and give such a strong effort against a team without a lot of name recognition.
Coming into today’s contest, UGA ranked 30th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding the opposition to less than 38% a game. This afternoon, the Dawgs limited the Spartans to just 29% from the floor, an effort that will surely move them up even further in the rankings for that category.
Georgia’s defensive performance was much needed considering the Dawgs’ leading scorers struggled to find offense in this one. UGA’s top offensive contributors – Marcus Thornton, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – finished with 4, 10 and 9 points, respectively. While Mann shot a dismal 2 of 8 from the floor, he did record a double-double, nabbing 10 rebounds to go along with 4 assists.
Sophomore J.J. Frazier picked up the slack on offense though, scoring a career high 20 points in 25 minutes of play. Frazier shot lights out, knocking down 7 of 8 overall, including a 4 of 5 performance from beyond the arc. When Norfolk’s Jeff Short hit a three to bring the Georgia lead to 38-34 with 13:32 remaining in the game, Frazier was a catalyst in helping to keep the Spartans at bay, grabbing a rebound and going to coast to coast for the layup to put UGA up 42-34. On the Dawgs’ ensuing possession, Frazier buried a three-pointer to give his team a 45-34 advantage with a little over 11 minutes left – Norfolk State failed to recover from this second half Georgia run.
Frazier has now scored in double-digits in five games this season, and it seems as though it is only a matter of time before Coach Fox inserts him into the starting lineup in place of Juwan Parker, shifting Charles Mann to the 3-position.
Today’s win brings the Dawgs’ record to 9-3 on the season, and it marks the end of non-conference play. Next week, UGA kicks off its SEC schedule with a pair of difficult games against Arkansas and LSU, both of whom have RPI’s below 30. Georgia looks to move to 8-0 at home on the year when they take on Arkansas Tuesday night in the conference opener, and then they will travel to Baton Rouge over the weekend for a Saturday night tip-off against Louisiana State.