For the second straight year, Coach Mark Fox and his team will begin the season with a losing record.
After digging themselves into an 84-77 hole with 1:57 left in overtime, Georgia, despite some acrobatic three-pointers from Turtle Jackson and J.J. Frazier, was unable to close the gap before the final moments expired, and the Chattanooga Mocs escaped Athens with a 92-90 victory.
Although, the Dawgs spent a greater part of the evening trying to claw their way back into this game. Georgia trailed the Mocs for the first 30 minutes of this contest before a Frazier layup put the Dawgs up 53-52 with over a little over 10 minutes remaining in regulation. UGA briefly appeared as though they might have finally taken over this one after a tip-in by E’Torrian Wilridge sent them up 64-59 with just 6:39 left.
But the Mocs wouldn’t go away, and a few minutes later the game was locked up at 66 apiece following a jumper by Casey Jones. On the next possession, Jones buried a three-pointer that gave his team a 69-66 advantage.
The Dawgs failed to contain Jones, who along with teammate Jonathan Cook, scored 23 points to lead the Mocs.
Coach Mark Fox’s team has to be somewhat embarrassed that they allowed two Chattanooga players to finish with 20-plus points on Friday. Although, UGA didn’t seem too particularly interested in playing much defense last night anyhow, especially on the perimeter where the Mocs connected on 40% of their three-point attempts (12 in all). Despite Chattanooga’s effectiveness from the outside, Coach Fox kept his team locked in a zone defense, permitting a plethora of open looks from beyond the arc for the visitors. For whatever reason, CMF didn’t feel comfortable enough with this group to allow them to play man defense on Chattanooga.
The Dawgs also yielded 15 offensive rebounds to the Mocs, which led to 14 second chance points. Last year, UGA finished 2nd in the SEC in defensive rebound percentage at 71%; however, last night they grabbed just 57% of the potential defensive rebounds. The difference? No Marcus Thornton.
Not to harp too much on one performance, but Georgia has another glaring problem: Nemanja Djurisic’s graduation has left them with just two shooters – Kenny Gaines and Frazier – and when one of them fouls out (Gaines), Georgia’s offense becomes a lot easier to defend. Frazier hit 4 of his 8 three-point attempts and ended up being UGA’s leading scorer with 22 points to go along with his 8 assists. Gaines knocked down 3 three’s himself, but he dealt with foul trouble all night, tallying 12 points before fouling out with with 5 minutes remaining.
Gaines and Frazier combined to shoot 78% from the foul line, while the rest of the Dawgs managed just 58% from the stripe. If one were to peruse the annals of college basketball, I cannot imagine that many teams have taken 45 free throws in a game and managed to lose. But, UGA missed on 17 of those attempts, which ultimately led to their demise on Friday.
Senior Charles Mann, a preseason All-SEC selection, finished the night with 17 points, but he committed a team-high 7 turnovers, a problem that has plagued him for much of his UGA career. Mann also missed 6 of his 16 free throw attempts, leaving precious points on the table. Out of his 8 trips to the stripe, Mann connected on both free throws just twice, and at some point, those one-point efforts to the foul line start to feel like mini-turnovers.
If there is any silver lining to be taken from this disappointing loss it is that Chattanooga is a sound basketball team, and they were selected by numerous media outlets as a potential contender to win the SoCon this season.
Georgia has to regroup and prepare for another home game next Friday against Murray State, and from the looks of the giant plastic brace attached to the sling around Derek Ogbeide’s shoulder, I would say that Georgia should be ready to play once again without its starting center.