Dawgs drop Missouri for 3rd straight win

The Georgia Bulldogs certainly did not display any of the same sluggishness today that plagued them at home against Auburn and South Carolina.  The Dawgs came out of the gates firing, knocking down 5 of 9 three-pointers in the first half, which enabled Mark Fox’s team to take a 41-23 advantage into the break.

Missouri’s offense, or lack there of, was another contributor to the large halftime margin.  The Tigers’ backcourt was undisciplined, content with taking quick, off-balanced shots from the outside.  Mizzu appeared to have zero purpose offensively, which led to a 25% shooting performance from the floor heading into the intermission.

Georgia cooled off after the break, making only 2 of 13 from beyond the arc, but the Tigers remained cold as well.  The Dawgs boosted their lead to 53-27 with 13:47 remaining after an athletic tip-in by Cameron Forte, but the game sort of stalled after that play.  Both teams combined for only 10 points over the next 7 minutes, and UGA coasted to a 68-44 home win.

While Georgia only shot 39% from the floor in this one, the Dawgs did move the ball quite well on offense, dishing out a season-high 18 team assists.

Neme Djurisic, who has turned into a source of instant offense over the past two games, led all scorers with 14 points.  The only other Bulldogs to finish in double-figures were Cameron Forte and J.J. Frazier, who scored 10 points apiece.

While this game may have lacked some of the dramatic flair of the past two wins at Bama and Ole Miss, it was refreshing to see Mark Fox’s team absolutely dominate a lesser opponent, taking them out of the game before it could even really start.

With LSU’s home win over Ole Miss this afternoon, UGA finds itself in a three-way tie at 10-6 for 4th place in the SEC; though, LSU would get the 4th seed in the conference tournament if the season ended today since the Tigers own tie-breakers over both the Dawgs and Rebels.

Today’s victory over Missouri marks Georgia’s third straight win, and it sets the Dawgs up for what has to be the biggest home game in ages as undefeated (for now) #1 Kentucky rolls into Athens on Tuesday night.

An upset of the Cats would give UGA a realistic change of earning a double-bye in the SEC tourney, while a loss most likely assures them of the 5th or 6th seed.

Dawgs get 5th SEC road win in Oxford, enhance NCAA Tournament Resume

Marcus Thornton, who has not quite been himself offensively since returning from a concussion that saw him miss two games, appeared to be on track for another lackluster performance Wednesday night in Oxford.  The senior had just 2 points at the half as he struggled to finish around the basket against the Mississippi Rebels.

However, when his team needed him down the stretch, Thornton delivered.  With 5 minutes remaining in the game, Ole Miss had cut the UGA lead, which had been 12 points only a few minutes earlier, to 56-53 following a pair of free throws from Jarvis Summers.

Georgia desperately needed a bucket on its next possession, and thankfully Thornton managed to secure an offensive rebound and a stick-back to give his team a two-possession advantage.  Thornton finished the game with 18 points, but most impressive was the fact that he netted 12 of those points in the game’s final 5 minutes, carrying the Dawgs to an absolutely huge 76-72 SEC road victory.

Thornton also snagged a game-high 13 rebounds, giving him his 5th double-double of the season.

The Rebels’ defensive strategy in this one was to play heavy zone so as to force Georgia to beat them from the outside.  Considering that the Dawgs had been frigid from beyond the arc over the previous four games, hitting just 17 of its past 71 three-point attempts (24%), one could hardly blame Andy Kennedy for his plan of action.

Unfortunately for Ole Miss, though, UGA was locked in from the perimeter on Wednesday evening, connecting on 11 of 23 from  beyond the arc. Both Kenny Gaines and Neme Djurisic made 4 three’s apiece, rendering the Rebels’ zone ineffective.  Gaines led all scorers with 22 points, and Djurisic chipped in 17 to go along with 6 rebounds.  Gaines and Djurisic each hit a three-pointer in the second half that changed the score from a two-possession to a three-possession game, helping to keep the Rebels at bay.

Not only was Gaines on offensively, but the junior did a solid job of defending Stefan Moody, who entered last night’s contest as the leading scorer in the SEC through conference games at nearly 19 points a night.  Now, Moody did finish this game with 19 points, but 7 of them came in the game’s final minute of play with Georgia holding a commanding lead.  Before this game, Moody was near the top of the league in three-point percentage, making almost 40% of his attempts; yet, Gaines limited him to just 2 thee-pointers on 11 shots from the outside.

The win over Ole Miss puts UGA in a tie with LSU for 5th place in the conference with both teams sitting at 9-6, though the Tigers hold the tie-breaker over the Dawgs (since UGA let an 8-point lead escape in overtime in Baton Rouge).  For Georgia to finish in the top four of the SEC standings and earn a bye all the way to Friday of the conference tournament, a multitude of things have to go UGA’s way.  Unless Texas A&M just collapses and loses home games to both Auburn and Alabama, it seems unlikely that Georgia will be able to get past them in the standings.  Ole Miss and LSU play each other this weekend in Louisiana, and the winner of that contest will have the inside track on one of the top spots.

If Georgia could win out, meaning victories over Missouri, Kentucky (grabbing my collar as I type) and Auburn, the Dawgs probably would find themselves playing on Friday in the conference tournament.

Right now, though, the Dawgs need to only focus on Missouri – a team that is dead-last in the SEC with a 2-13 record – so that they avoid any more home letdowns (see recent games against Auburn and South Carolina).

Georgia upends Bama in overtime for 8th conference win

Cameron Forte could not have picked a better moment to make his first collegiate shot ever from outside the paint.

With his team down 65-64 and fighting for its NCAA Tournament lives, Forte buried a jumper off of a spin move from the corner to send the Dawgs up 66-65 with only 6 seconds remaining.

Credit freshman Yante Maten for hustling back on defense just in the nick of time to send Retin Obasohan’s last-second layup attempt into the 19th row behind the goal.  Alabama did get one last look, but Rodney Cooper failed to get his shot off before the clock expired, and Georgia snuck out of Tuscaloosa with a much-needed SEC road win.

What this win lacked in beauty it certainly made up for in grittiness.  The Dawgs played the entire overtime without Marcus Thornton, who fouled out before the end of regulation play, and they lost Charles Mann to fouls with 1:38 remaining in the overtime.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well in this contest, with both teams finishing just under 38% from the floor.  The offense was incredibly sluggish in the first half, especially when the score remained locked in at 19-11 (Georgia’s advantage) for over 3 minutes.  Bama only hit 4 field goals through the first 17 minutes of the game, but UGA was nearly as inept on offense, which ultimately allowed the Tide to tie the game at 24-apiece going into the break.

Georgia was led offensively by Neme Djurisic, who scored 14 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  The Dawgs’ late-game hero, Cameron Forte, chipped in 8 points as well as a team-high 10 boards.

Charles Mann netted 13 points, but unfortunately he turned the ball over 5 times, and he was particularly flustered by Bama’s full-court jump press.

Even though J.J. Frazier missed a pair of layups late in the game, his return was critical to this win as the sophomore provided 8 points of offense in addition to his 3 assists.  Frazier is this team’s best ball-handler, and his presence certainly makes UGA’s offense more dynamic.

Alabama was led offensively by Retin Obasohan, who scored 6 of his team-high 16 points on a pair of clutch three-pointers in the waning moments of regulation play.

This win puts Georgia at 17-9 overall and 8-6 in the conference, where they are currently tied for 5th place with LSU.  After back-to-back sickening home losses to Auburn and South Carolina, the Dawgs stepped up and got a win tonight in a game that may have saved their season.

UGA has three days off before they hit the road again to take on Ole Miss in Oxford, where the 10-4 Rebels will certainly be looking to avenge a January 20th loss to Georgia.

Dawgs lose 2nd straight game at home, falling to South Carolina

UGA played arguably its worst first half of the season tonight against South Carolina, and yet the Dawgs had a chance to win this game late in the second half.

After trailing 41-23 at the break, Georgia tied the game at 51 apiece with 4:31 left in the game after a pair of free throws from Yante Maten.

Georgia failed to secure defensive rebounds down the stretch though, and in the end, these lapses ended up doing them in. Mindaugus Kacinas tipped in a missed jumper to give his team a 53-51 lead with only 3:38 remaining.  On the ensuing possession, UGA held the Cocks from scoring on another jump shot, but Kacinas was there once again for the offensive board, which he promptly kicked to teammate Tyrone Johnson.  Johnson immediately buried a three-pointer, giving Carolina a 56-51 advantage.

The Gamecocks secured offensive rebounds on 2 of their next 3 possessions, which led to 3 free throws and eventually a 64-58 road victory.

For Carolina, this win marks just its third SEC road win in nearly three and a half seasons.

Georgia failed to lead once in this contest, and they quickly found themselves down 19-4 less than 10 minutes into the game.  The Dawgs shot just 33% from the floor before the break, and their defense was nonexistent.  In the first half, UGA yielded 7 three-pointers to the Cocks, enabling them to go into the intermission with 41 points – an incredible offensive outburst for a team that entered tonight’s game averaging just 58 points per SEC contest.

Georgia was led offensively by Charles Mann, whose 17 points were instrumental in helping the Dawgs mount a comeback.  However, Mann didn’t get much support as Kenny Gaines was the only other UGA player to finish in double-digits with 11 points.

After laying an egg at home against Auburn last Saturday, I expected the Dawgs to come out with a little more fire than they showed this evening.  Georgia started this game incredibly flat, digging themselves into a huge hole that they ultimately couldn’t escape from.

Coach Mark Fox has to be wondering what kind of damage his team has done to its NCAA tournament resume – something that looked rock solid a week ago.  The Dawgs are now 16-9 overall and 7-6 in SEC play, but they are falling fast in the conference’s standings.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has four SEC wins this season and two of them have come against UGA.

Blemishes now abound on Georgia’s schedule, with losses to SC (2), Auburn, Georgia Tech and Minnesota.  For Coach Fox, it might be time to start hitting the panic button as his team appears to be spiraling downwards, losing 4 of its past 6 games.

Marcus Thornton, who carried this team during the first half of this season, is averaging just 7.5 points a night since returning from his injury, failing to finish in double-figures in any of the last four games.

The Dawgs hit the road Saturday, traveling to Tuscaloosa where they will take on Alabama, a team that is currently 5-7 in league play.  With an RPI of 76, Bama does not offer UGA the opportunity for a quality win; however, a loss to the Tide could certainly be looked upon as another bad loss.

Depleted Dawgs hope to hold off South Carolina

J.J. Frazier took a whack to the noggin in the second half against Auburn last Saturday, and apparently he will miss tonight’s game against South Carolina as he deals with concussion symptoms and what Coach Fox called a “fracture to his orbital bone in his face”.

The problem for Georgia is that Frazier has been their second-leading scorer in conference games at 11.5 points per contest, knocking down nearly 2 three-pointers a game.

Now the Dawgs, who are still without two-guard Juwan Parker – though Fox hinted last weekend that he could be back soon – will be forced to play the Gamecocks with an ultra-thin backcourt.

With the loss of Frazier, UGA only has one regular contributor – Charles Mann – who can bring the ball up the court.

Enter Brandon Young, a 5’10” sophomore point guard who played his high school ball at the Marist School in Atlanta.  To say this guy has played sparely for Coach Fox would be quite the understatement, considering Young has seen the floor for a grand total of 16 minutes in his two seasons in Athens (with only 4 minutes of play this year).

However, without Frazier’s ball-handling services, Young will likely see action tonight as a Kenny Gaines-Taylor Echols backcourt may have trouble dealing with pressure.

Georgia lost the first meeting between these two teams back in January, falling to the Gamecocks 67-50 in Columbia.  Senior Marcus Thornton didn’t make the trip for that contest as he was dealing with concussion symptoms, and it seems that the Dawgs will be playing Carolina short-handed once again.

After Georgia’s devastating home loss to Auburn last Saturday, UGA can ill-afford another bad loss on its NCAA Tournament resume.  With an RPI of 105, South Carolina definitely fits the bill as a “bad loss”, and the Dawgs already have one “bad loss” to Frank Martin’s team this season.

Should they drop another one to the Cocks, UGA’s NCAA dreams may begin to vanish.

Georgia drops one at home to Auburn

After Auburn graciously tossed the ball the length of the court and out of bounds with 1.8 seconds left, Georgia had one last look at the rim, trailing the Tigers 69-68.  Unfortunately, the Dawgs couldn’t get the ball in to anyone close to the basket, which ultimately led to Neme Djurisic shooting an off-balanced airball from the corner of the court.

Auburn won the game and erased any good mojo that UGA might have been feeling after their win in College Station earlier this week.

Actually, this loss is going to sting the Dawgs down the road, considering Auburn entered Stegemen with just 3 SEC wins before 2:00PM.  Georgia has now dropped games to Georgia Tech, Minnesota, South Carolina and Auburn, all of which are considered “bad losses” as far as the NCAA selection committee is concerned.

After sleepwalking on offense for the first 30 minutes of this game, UGA managed to build a 9-point lead with just 5:08 remaining.  But the Dawgs defense was unable to stop the Tigers, allowing Auburn to connect on its final 5 field goals.  The Tigers scored 21 points in the last five minutes, almost as many as they scored in the entire first half (29).  Georgia’s offense failed them for the first three-quarters of this contest, but it was its defense that let them down in the end.

The Dawgs were led by Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who scored 18 and 14 points, respectively.

Bruce Pearl’s backcourt carried his team this afternoon, with K.T. Harrell and K.C. Ross-Miller combining for 38 of their team’s 69 points.

Georgia had one of its best performances of the season from the free throw line, hitting nearly 86% of its attempts.  However, the good shooting from the stripe did not translate over to the field, where the Dawgs made only 37% from the floor and just 21% from beyond the arc.

This loss puts UGA’s SEC record at 7-5, which sits them at 4th in the conference – for now.

Georgia has South Carolina coming into Athens on Tuesday, and they simply cannot afford another letdown.

Why is Georgia still being projected as just an 8-seed?

Heading into today’s game against the Auburn Tigers this afternoon, Georgia finds itself sitting comfortably in the RPI standings with a rating of 20.  If in fact the RPI is the baseline indicator for how the NCAA selection committee picks and seeds its bracket, then one would presume that UGA would be projected to be a 5- or 6-seed at this point in the year.

But that’s not the case.  In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, Joe Lunardi still has Georgia slotted as an 8-seed.  The network’s other college basketball guru, Eamonn Brennan, who orchestrates Bubble Watch each year, included this nugget about the Dawgs in his latest writeup:

“But every passing week of solidity gets Mark Fox’s team closer to its seeming No. 8-seed destiny.”

CBS’s Jerry Palm currently has Georgia pinned as a 9-seed.

These projections, though, don’t jive with where the committee has seeded teams that finished the year with RPI’s of 20 in the past.  Below are the last four teams to end the year with an RPI of 20 along with the seed that they were given in the tournament:

2014 – Cincinnati RPI 20 – 5-seed

2013 – Butler RPI 20 – 6-seed

2012 – Vanderbilt RPI 20 – 5-seed

2011 – Vanderbilt RPI 20 – 5-seed

So as far as this year’s UGA team is concerned, what gives?  Is this year’s Georgia squad being punished for UGA basketball’s historical lack of prestige?

Dawgs pick up a 62-53 road win in College Station

In last Saturday’s win at home against Tennessee, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann combined for 11 turnovers.

Tonight in College Station it was pretty clear that UGA’s veteran duo was looking to make amends.  In a critical possession late in the game with Georgia leading by 4, Mann made a heady fake that drew Gaines’s defender towards the top of the key, leaving Kenny wide open in the corner.  Mann found Gaines, who promptly buried the three-pointer, sealing the UGA victory.

Gaines, who hadn’t finished in double-figures in three games, led all Georgia scorers with 15 points.  Mann chipped in 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and maybe most importantly – zero turnovers.  Charles Mann has not lived up to preseason expectations so far this year, but his play tonight helped to carry his team to a win.

After coughing the ball up 20 times to the Vols in Athens, Georgia committed just 7 turnovers against the Aggies, who gave it away 13 times themselves.

The Dawgs began the game shooting it well from beyond the arc, hitting 4 of their first 9 three-pointers.  However, over the next 30 minutes UGA would hit only 2 of 15 from the perimeter, and were it not for the improved ball security and a 75% mark from the line, the outcome of this contest may have been different.

The Aggies were led offensively by Alex Caruso and Daniel House, who scored 20 and 14, respectively.

Georgia showed an incredible amount of poise down the stretch in this game.  Things were looking bleak for the Dawgs when A&M tied the game at 43-apiece on a bucket by Caruso with 10:13 left – Kenny Gaines was on the bench with 4 fouls and the Aggies were already in the bonus.  But Georgia showed a lot of composure, going on an 8-0 run that found them with a 51-43 lead following a layup by Cam Forte with 6:46 left.

Tonight’s win was huge for Georgia, lifting their SEC record to 7-4 and 16-7 overall.  The Dawgs are fourth in the league standings (for now), and they will take on Auburn this Saturday inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Speaking to a courtside reporter after the final horn, an utterly hoarse Mark Fox, who spent nearly the entire second half hollering at the officials, could barely muster, “We just defended.  We defended and made our free throws.”

CMF deserves a tall glass of water after this one.

Georgia snaps losing streak with win over Vols

Georgia managed to overcome 20 turnovers on Saturday to eek out a 56-53 home win over the Tennessee Volunteers.  The Dawgs were careless from the opening tip, committing 5 turnovers in the game’s first 5 minutes, and the sloppiness persisted throughout the afternoon.

UGA appeared in total control after J.J. Frazier hit a three to put his team up 51-42 with only 7:16 left in the game.  But Georgia couldn’t close the door, and after handing the ball back to the Vols on consecutive possessions the Dawgs found themselves leading by just 3 points with 30 seconds left.  Tennessee actually had a chance to tie the game in the waning moments, but Josh Richardson’s three point attempt glanced off the side of the backboard and time expired.

Fortunately, Georgia shot the ball very well on Saturday, hitting 55% from the floor and nearly 44% from beyond the arc.  Due to the turnovers, Tennessee took 18 more field goal attempts than the Dawgs – if Georgia had had an off shooting day they would have likely lost this one.

Frazier, Neme Djurisic and Charles Mann all finished with 10 points.  Frazier scored all his points after the break, and his 3 three-pointers were crucial in helping the Dawgs build a lead in the second half.

Kenny Gaines had just 7 points, making only 3 of his 9 shots.  Gaines (5) and Mann (6) combined for 11 of the team’s 20 turnovers, which is not exactly the type of ball security Coach Fox expects from his veteran backcourt.

This win marked Coach Mark Fox’s 100th as UGA’s coach, and it broke a two-game SEC skid. Marcus Thornton played well in his first game back, scoring 8 points and nabbing 4 rebounds.  Since Tennessee stayed in a zone the entire 40 minutes, Thornton never really got the opportunity to set up on the block and receive the ball.  However, Thornton did not show any signs of rust, and he had a couple of nice finishes around the rim.

The Dawgs are now 15-7 overall and 6-4 in conference, tying them with LSU for third place.  UGA’s next game is Wednesday night at Texas A&M, a team that has won 7 of its last 8 SEC games.  One of the Aggies’ three losses came at home to Kentucky, where they pushed the Cats to double-overtime before falling 70-64.

Georgia’s definitely going to have its hands full in College Station.

Georgia’s upset bid at Kentucky comes up short

The Georgia Bulldogs had two moments in tonight’s game against the #1 Kentucky Wildcats in which they could have easily laid down and given up.

The first one came right out of the gates, when the Cats opened up an 11-1 lead before this game was even 4 minutes old.  At this point, Kentucky had made more field goals than UGA had even attempted.  Yet, Georgia got 5 quick points from Neme Djurisic and found itself trailing 11-6 with 15:11 to go before the break.

Another point in this game when I thought UGA might be finished was during the initial minutes right out of halftime.  Kentucky, who held a 42-27 lead at the intermission, went up by 18 points after a three-pointer by Andrew Harrison.  But the Dawgs responded with an 11-3 run that saw them cut the score to 50-40 following a layup by Kenny Gaines with a little over 15 minutes remaining.

Georgia actually had a chance to get within a possession with a little over 9 minutes left in the game after Yante Maten buried a jumper from the top of the key, cutting the Kentucky lead to 56-49. The Cats then went scoreless for over 4 minutes, but UGA couldn’t capitalize, turning the ball over once and missing two field goals and a free throw.  Eventually, UK’s Devin Booker broke free on a break for a layup that put his team up 58-49 with 5:44 remaining.

The nail in the coffin came when Karl-Anthony Towns hit a hook shot with only 1:36 left to send the Cats up 65-58.  Kentucky would end up winning 69-58 by the time the final horn sounded.

For so many reasons, Georgia, who entered this game as a 19-point underdog, had no business making this a two-possession game in the contest’s closing minutes.  For one, Kentucky has nearly as many McDonald’s All-Americans as UGA has scholarship players.  Second, the Dawgs were on the road once again without their leading scorer and rebounder, Marcus Thornton.

And even though UGA’s backcourt of Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier combined for only 20 points, making only 5 of their 22 attempts from the floor, Georgia still hung around in Lexington and made this one competitive.

The Dawgs’ frontcourt shined on Tuesday, with Neme leading his team with 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  Yante Maten played arguably his best game of the year, scoring 13 points and grabbing 9 boards – just missing his first career double-double.

Kentucky was led offensively by Andrew Harrison, who netted 23 points on the night.

All silver linings aside though, Georgia’s SEC record now stands at 5-4, putting them in a tie with Tennessee for 4th place in the league.  The Dawgs will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday when they host the Vols in Athens for a noon tip.

Let’s hope that Marcus Thornton is cleared to play because UGA is back in a “must win” situation.