Georgia’s trip to Charlotte ends in a loss to Michigan State

Just five days after being invited to the dance, Georgia was abruptly forced to leave.  March Madness can be cruel in that way.  A five-month long season can come to an end in the span of a couple of hours.

Such was the case for the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday in Charlotte.

Everything started off so well.  The Dawgs made 3 of their first 6 shots from the floor, and after a pair of free throws from Marcus Thornton, UGA led 11-5 with 14:23 to go in the first half.

Unfortunately, this lead was the biggest and only one that Coach Mark Fox’s team would own on the afternoon.

From that point, everything began to fall apart for UGA.  The Dawgs turned in their worst defensive performance of the season, in my opinion.  Georgia looked mystified in defending Michigan State screens, unable to decide how they wanted to attempt to stop it.

The result:  State either scored easy dunks when the post player slipped the screen, or one of the MSU guards was left wide open for a three, a shot that the Spartans did not struggle with on Friday, hitting 7 of 18 from beyond the arc.

In addition to their ineffective half court defense, Georgia refused to get back on misses and turnovers, which led to 19 fast break points for the Spartans (UGA had just 8).

Speaking of turnovers, the Dawgs had 10 at the break to go along with a team field goal percentage of just 28% – all of which enabled Michigan State to take a commanding 35-22 advantage into the intermission.

However, despite the Dawgs’ sloppy play, they still had their chances in the second half.  Twice Georgia possessed the ball down 39-37 with under 14 minutes to play and a chance to tie or take the lead, but all the Dawgs could muster were three  misses and a turnover.  MSU then put together an 8-2 run that boosted the score up to 47-39, in favor of the Spartans.

But credit Mark Fox’s team for fighting till the very last second, as they have all season.  Even though UGA trailed by 12 points with less than 90 seconds remaining, the Dawgs continued to attack the basket and draw fouls.  Georgia cut the Spartan lead to as low as 66-63 with only 21 seconds left, but Tom Izzo’s team stepped up and connected on its free throws, earning the 70-63 victory.

In its biggest game of the season, UGA failed to convert, hitting only 33% of its field goals and just 28% from beyond the arc.    Charles Mann played strong, leading the team with 19 points, and Kenny Gaines chipped in 15 points in just 20 minutes of play.

Marcus Thornton finished with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 boards, but he did not have his best game.  Offensively, Thornton looked similar to a version of himself from his sophomore year, unable to finish near the bucket, where he made only 2 of 8 shots.  He also struggled to defend State’s Brandon Dawson, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half.

Neme Djurisic and J.J. Frazier had tough games as well.  Neme hit just 2 of his 9 attempts from the floor for 7 points, and J.J. failed to knock down a single field goal, turning in a goose egg in the stat sheet.  In the last several games, Frazier has begun attempting more shots from inside the lane, which haven’t led to many buckets, possibly due to his small stature.

UGA ends the season 21-12 after the second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.

I found it shocking when they flashed on the screen that this year was Michigan State’s 18th consecutive tournament appearance, a feat that seems unimaginable to a UGA basketball fan, pure fantasy.  Playing in the NCAA Tournament is something that happens for Georgia every five or six years, but for Tom Izzo’s teams, it’s an expectation.

Coach Mark Fox and his staff I’m sure would love to create similar expectations in Athens.

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6 thoughts on “Georgia’s trip to Charlotte ends in a loss to Michigan State

  1. Bummer. I could only watch the first 10 minutes or so — Thornton started strong, running the high post like Chris Daniels. But the missed chip shots were already starting to pile up, and then Conspicuous Cameron did two dumb things in a row, and I had to go.

    We did some good things this year, but as ever we’re too thin for more than one front line player to have an off game against a good team. I’d like to see JJ coming off the bench next year so we can have a functional second unit, Mann back at point, and Juwan get healthy so we can finally figure out who he is. And I’ll remember Thornton and Djurisic fondly as lunch pail Dawgs.

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  2. As bad as it was the Dawgs fought hard until the bitter end! I was proud of the spark they showedmin the last minute! JJ Frazier made one of their bigs look really bad when he pinned his weak trash against the backboard as the Dawgs were making their last minute effort. I thought the run that MSU had right before the end of the first half was critical. We had made a nice run to get the score to a manageable score but their run put them up double figures at the half! Their bigs played pin and spin on the boxes all day and we could not stop them! Our D looked clueless. Our seniors will be missed, but we will be back! Who knows, this may be Foxes 1st game in a run of 18! That stat is incredible! Go Dogs1

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  3. Dawgs played hard as they have all season. Would’ve been sweet to complete the comeback but Sparty was too tough.

    Next year should be good with Mann and Gaines leading the way, Maten and JJ with another year, and the rest of the cast that played this year.

    What does our recruiting look like? Any big guys coming in?

    Congratulations to Coach Fox and his team for a good year, and one he can build on.

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    1. I posted a link at the end of my reply to our commit list. We have one big guy coming in. I’m hoping the recruiting changes, but who knows? It seems like the 5 star guys stay away from SEC schools other than UK, UF. or some guys come from JUCO schools. If Fox does not step up recruiting I think this will be his celing – 1st or 2nd round of NCAA and done. Still Fox has done an awesome job coaching the guys up the last 2 years.

      https://rivals.yahoo.com/uga/basketball/recruiting/commitments/2015

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  4. Great recap as usual, hoopdawg. It was an emotional roller coaster yesterday. We were saddled with foul trouble–the 4th against both Marcus and Charles were questionable….and Kenny played well but was definitely not 100%.

    I am really proud of the team and even the fans. I do not recall a game outside the state of Georgia where we have had as many fans. I loved the fact that even though things looked hopeless at the end, we kept pressing forward and almost made some magic.

    Congrats to CMF and the team–especially the seniors. It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

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  5. Thanks for keeing this blog going this year – really enjoyed it. Personally, I compare this season w/ Felton’s 07-08 year where we made the tournament after an electric SEC tournament. I think Fox needs to elevate from this season and while next year will have it’s challenges as we lose 2 guys inside(Thorton & Djurisic); we have 3 of our top scorers coming back. Ultimately for Felton, things fell apart w/ several guys getting kicked out of school. Let’s hope Fox can keep the momentum. At this point, the goal is NCAA tournament; I know easier said than done but while the SEC is down we need to get it done. Where we lacked in my opinion is having guys knock down the 3; as you said we were less than 30% from 3 pt territory. What I saw is Mich St playing good D; when that happens you need to have guys who can hit the 3. The other problem that we have a lot of ? marks for next year at the post. Still a lot of kudos goes to Fox for getting this group this far. I am still puzzled at how we struggle to recruit the big AAU guys out of Atlanta. The big question for me is will Fox keep trudging us along and get us to the NCCA’s every few years with 3 star guys; or does this mark a “new era” for Fox and his recruiting?

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