Georgia ends 2015 on a high note

A week long hiatus from the hard courts didn’t seem to faze Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldogs (7-3) on Tuesday.  Granted, UGA’s opponent, Robert Morris (2-11), might have been the weakest opponent on Georgia’s schedule thus far, a schedule that ESPN deems the most difficult in the nation (at the moment).

The Colonials came into Athens determined to play nothing but zone defense on Tuesday night, and the mission was accomplished as they avoided manning Georgia for the entire 40 minutes.  The Dawgs looked well-prepared though, dishing out 23 assists and shooting nearly 55% from the floor.

UGA was led offensively by Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, who scored 20 and 17, respectively.  Georgia’s scoring was fairly balanced on Tuesday with four players chipping in 6 or more points.  The Dawgs’ passing was sublime as they patiently moved the ball in and out of the Colonial zone, attacking the weak spots with a purpose.

Georgia was in control for the majority of this contest, keeping Robert Morris at bay by double digits for much of the night.  However, the Colonials did try to make it interesting after Elijah Minnie buried a three that cut the UGA lead to 44-39 with 15:35 left in the game. The Dawgs responded with a 10-3 run, though, which was punctuated by a hook from Houston Kessler that gave Georgia a 54-42 advantage with 10 minutes remaining.  UGA managed to coast for the rest of the game to secure the 79-67 win, its 4th in a row.

Georgia entered tonight’s contest 7th in the nation in team field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 36% on the season.  Coach Fox’s team turned in another strong effort this evening, holding the Colonials to below 38% from the floor, which makes them yet another team that UGA has held under its season average in that category.

All and all, Georgia had a pretty solid preseason, taking a 7-3 record into conference play.  Coming into this season, UGA knew that it would be challenged to replace Marcus Thornton, who was a second team All-SEC player at the end of last year.

Yante Maten has filled in and then some in Thornton’s absence, netting nearly 16 points and 8 rebounds through 10 games.  Maten’s offensive game is becoming increasingly dynamic as he can now score with both his back to the basket and on jumpers outside the paint.

If Georgia can continue to get productivity from at least two of its three guards – Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines or J.J. Frazier – on a nightly basis, the Dawgs should be able to win more games than they lose this year in the Southeastern Conference.

But Georgia has a tough test in its SEC opener, taking on the Florida Gators in Gainesville this Saturday.  As stout as UGA’s non-conference schedule has been so far, the competition is definitely set to ramp up for this bunch of Dawgs come Saturday.

 

 

 

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Georgia 71, Clemson 48

Due to holiday travels, I was unable to catch this game other than checking the score on my phone. Look forward to seeing everyone’s analysis of the game in the comments below.

Dawgs top Tech 75-61, ending GT’s win streak

“Just like the football!”

Saturday’s crowd at Stegeman got a chance to serenade the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with a cheer that hasn’t been used since Brian Gregory took over as the Tech coach.

The Dawgs (5-3) rode an incredible offensive performance by J.J. Frazier and turned in another solid defensive effort en route to a 75-61 win, snapping a four-game losing streak to their in-state rival.

Frazier was unconscious on Saturday, scoring a season-high 35 points, which included a 6 for 9 effort from beyond the arc.  His second three of the second half put UGA up 51-43, capping off an 18-9 run during the first 5 minutes after the intermission.

Georgia led by double-digits for much the remaining 15 minutes – the closest Tech got was when Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a pair of free throws to make is 66-59 Dawgs.  By that point though, it was a little too late for Brian Gregory’s team.  Frazier rattled off the next 8 free throws he took, making it impossible for the Jackets to mount any type of late comeback.

UGA’s defensive flustered Tech, holding them to under 40% from the floor.  The Jackets entered the game making nearly 47% of their field goal attempts, but strong post defense from the Georgia bigs really took Tech out of its offense.  In the second half, the Jackets managed only 6 points in the paint.

Charles Mitchell, who Mark Fox recruited when he decided to leave Maryland two years ago, entered the game averaging 14 points and almost 13 rebounds per night, recording a double-double in every contest this season.  However, on Saturday Mitchell failed to convert a single basket, leaving the game with 1:36 left with 0 points and just 4 rebounds to go along with his 4 fouls.

Yante Maten, who just missed scoring 20 points for the 5th time in as many games, was a big factor in Mitchell’s inability to get going offensively.  Maten played composed post defense, recording 3 blocks while picking up just 3 fouls.  Maten also netted 17 points, teaming up with Frazier to score almost 70% of UGA’s points.

Georgia trailed the Jackets 34-33 at the half after a sloppy 20 minutes by the Bulldogs that saw them give it away 9 times.  However, Coach Fox must have preached ball security in the locker room during the break because the Dawgs only turned it over 2 times in the second half.

Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines combined for only 12 points on 3 of 13 shooting from the floor, but luckily Frazier brought enough offense to cover the three of them this afternoon.

After a long layoff due to final exams, it was nice to see Georgia lead for nearly 75% of this game. UGA appeared to be playing at a higher energy level than the Jackets, with the Dawgs seeming quicker to every lose ball.

Georgia will continue its ACC slate on Tuesday when they play host to the Clemson Tigers (7-4), a team that has already dropped games to Alabama and South Carolina.

 

 

Much like football, defense has been better than offense for UGA basketball team

The UGA basketball season is currently on a mini-hiatus as the team works through final exams before returning to Stegeman next Saturday to play host to in-state rival Georgia Tech.

Although Georgia’s 4-3 start to the 2015-2016 season has felt somewhat slow and underwhelming, the Dawgs are actually positioned pretty well in regards to their RPI, which at the moment is a respectable 43. Granted, we are not even halfway through December, so any RPI talk at this point is probably still a bit premature.

However, Coach Mark Fox and his team are being rewarded for playing a strong out of conference schedule thus far, and ESPN’s RPI analysis deems Georgia’s schedule the 4th hardest in the nation.  More importantly, it appears that UGA has avoided the dreaded “bad losses” that have plagued this program in the past under Fox.  Even though Georgia dropped games to Chattanooga (56), Seton Hall (32) and Kansas State (52), all three of those teams should go on to win more than they lose this season – especially, Chattanooga, who just might take the SoCon this year.

But, Georgia is not without its issues, particularly on offense, where the Dawgs rank 249th in the nation in scoring at 70 points per game.  Fox has to hope that his team’s inability to put the ball in the basket is merely just some early season kinks that need to be worked out, or else the Dawgs could struggle to remain above .500 this year.

UGA is shooting a lowly 42% from the floor as a team, which puts them at 227 in the country in that category.  If Georgia is going to continue to miss this many shots, than they must get better on the offensive glass, where the Dawgs are averaging less than 10 boards a night (265th), so that they can at least get a few more second chances.

Georgia needs to look no further than guards Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier for the answer to the team’s low field goal percentage.  Yante Maten, Kenny Gaines, Mann and Frazier take the lion’s share of the Dawgs’ shots from the floor, nearly 75% to be exact.  Unfortunately for UGA, Mann and Fraizer are making under 33% of their attempts (Maten and Gaines are connecting on over 49% of theirs).  Georgia’s primary ball handlers must become more efficient on the offensive side of the ball.

While the Dawgs have been hard to watch at times when they’ve possessed the ball, Georgia has been playing really strong defense.  Coach Fox’s team has limited the opposition to under 38% from the floor this year, which is 28th best in the nation.  Additionally, UGA has held every opponent this season to a lower field goal percentage than what that team is averaging on the season.

Until the ball starts going in the hoop more often, Georgia will have to continue to ride its team defense to keep them in games.

 

Short-handed Georgia hangs on for the win

No Kenny Gaines? No problem.

At least not for tonight.

Despite not having Gaines on the floor against the Winthrop Eagles (6-2) due to a minor knee injury, Georgia (4-3) turned in one of its better offensive performances of the season.   The Dawgs only shot 38% from the floor, but they dished out a season-high 17 assists.  Coach Fox had to be pleased with his team’s unselfishness as well as their ability to hit the open cutters tonight.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Yante Maten finished his fourth straight game with more than 20 points, scoring 24 this evening to go along with 12 rebounds, giving him his second double-double of the season.  The game definitely seems to be slowing down for Maten, who appears to be bursting with confidence on offense, scoring consistently on his mid-range jumpers and hook shots.

Maten was not the only double-doubler, though, as little J.J. Frazier managed to snag 10 boards in addition to his 15 points.  He did have another tough night from the floor, however, hitting only 4 of his 14 attempts.

Charles Mann was the only other Bulldog to end up in double-figures, scoring 14 points on a 2 for 8 shooting performance.

UGA’s offense is much more effective when the ball is moving, and players are moving without the ball.  When the Dawgs start relying more on creation off the dribble from Frazier or Mann is when things start to get a little stagnant.

Georgia jumped out to a double-digit lead and maintained it for much of the first half, largely due to the fact that Winthrop only had 5 field goals through the game’s first 15 minutes of play.  With 4:23 left before intermission, UGA held a commanding 29-14 advantage.

In the second half, though, the Eagles found their range from beyond the arc, knocking down 6 of their 12 three-point attempts.  Roderick Perkins, who scored 14 points, nailed a three with 7:53 remaining that cut the UGA lead to 57-51.

Over the next minute, Georgia made 6 straight free throws, bolstering their advantage back into double-digits. The Dawgs were able to keep the Eagles at bay for the latter stretch of the game, giving UGA the 74-64 home win.

While Winthrop is far from a powerhouse, they were picked to finish near the top of the Big South Conference before the start of the season.  More importantly, Georgia avoided a potentially bad loss in a game in which they were playing without their leading scorer.

The Dawgs have 11 days off before returning to Stegeman for the yearly matchup with Georgia Tech, a team that UGA hasn’t beaten in four years (or since Brian Gregory took he reigns).  The Jackets have already knocked off Tennessee and Arkansas this year, so Georgia had better be at full strength on December 19th if they hope to be competitive in this one.

 

Dawgs relinquish halftime lead, lose to Kansas State

J.J. Frazier’s last-second desperation shot looked like it was in fact tipped in front of the rim by a Kansas State (6-1) defender.  However, the ball still just barely glanced the rim, so either his shot was going to be an air ball, or it might have barely glanced the front of the rim.

Either way, Georgia lost 68-66 to the Wildcats, a team that Sports Illustrated projected to finish last in the Big 12 heading into the season.  For Georgia (3-3), dropping a game at home that they controlled for much of the first half has to be frustrating.  Once again, UGA shot the ball well – 45% – and lost.

The Dawgs went up 42-37 with 15:50 left in the second half after a jumper from Yante Maten. For some reason, though, over the next 9 minutes Yante didn’t attempt a single field goal.  To make matters worse, Kenny Gaines took just two shots during the same time frame, hitting one of them, before knocking down a pair of free throws that dropped the KSU lead to 56-55 with 6:16 left.  The Dawgs failed to get the ball to their two hottest players during a critical stretch in the second half, and the Wildcats capitalized by taking the lead.

Maten and Gaines, who finished with 20 and 17 points, respectively, have established themselves as Georgia’s best offensive players.  Yet, for a major chunk of the second half of this game, they took a combined two field goal attempts.

The Dawgs have to do a better job of recognizing that Maten and Gaines demand touches, especially in the latter part of a close game.

Coach Fox’s team had far too many second half possessions that ended with Frazier, who made only 3 of his 10 shots, hurling up a rushed shot to beat the shot clock.

Georgia’s defense held the Wildcats to under 40% from the floor, but UGA once again struggled to limit second chances as they allowed Kansas State to pull down 16 offensive rebounds.  Defensive rebounding has been a hallmark of Mark Fox coached teams at Georgia during his tenure, but this year’s team seems to be struggling when it comes to holding teams to just one shot.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber enjoyed balanced scoring from his team tonight in Athens, with four players finishing in double-figures.

Coach Fox’s team has played two power conference teams this year – Seton Hall and Kansas State – and they are 0-2.  If the Dawgs cannot find a way to be successful against these bigger schools it could turn out to be a long SEC season for Coach Fox’s team.

 

 

 

Georgia edges Oakland 86-82

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2-3), who are strangely from Detroit, Michigan, gave the Georgia Bulldogs (3-2) a scare on Tuesday night in Athens.  With 1:13 left in the game, Oakland’s Max Hooper buried his 7th three of the night to tie the game up at 80 apiece.

The Dawgs remained poised, though, hitting their final 6 free throws (Mann, Maten and Frazier), and they managed to hold on for the 86-82 home win.

UGA has had no shortage of tough mid-major competition early this season, and Oakland showed itself to be another worthy adversary.  The Golden Grizz entered the season projected to finish 2nd in the Horizon League, and they are led by the league’s Preseason Player of the Year Kahlil Felder, who lived up to that billing this evening in Athens.  Felder proved to be a difficult match up all night for the Georgia guards as he scored 23 points to go along with his 5 assists. He and Hooper combined for 10 of the team’s 11 three-pointers, and Oakland connected on nearly 38% of its attempts from beyond the arc as a team.

The Golden Grizz actually boasted a commanding 20-11 lead over the Dawgs midway through the first half, following  a pair of free throws from Felder.  Georgia, however, picked up the tempo on offense and managed to cut the Oakland lead to 37-34 at the break.

The Dawgs were led offensively by J.J. Frazier, who scored a season-high 23 points to go along with his 6 assists.  Frazier had been mired in a shooting slump over the past 3 games that saw him connect on just 19% of his field goal attempts; but, J.J. found his stroke on Tuesday night inside Stegeman, hitting 9 of his 15 shots.

Yante Maten, who appears to be developing into a reliable scorer right before our eyes, followed up his 21-point effort against Seton Hall last Saturday with another 21-point game tonight in Athens.  Maten is starting to find some consistency in both his midrange jumper as well at the free throw line, where he sunk 9 of his 10 attempts.   He also snagged 9 rebounds, just missing his second double-double of the season.

Though Charles Mann’s start to the season has been a little up and down, he had a nice bounce back game tonight, scoring 15 points to go along with his 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.  Even more importantly, Mann committed just 2 turnovers this evening (he came into this game averaging nearly 4 per contest).

Probably the biggest surprise of the night for Georgia was freshman Michael Edwards, who scored a career-high 14 points to go along with his 6 rebounds.  Edwards kept running the floor and getting into the paint, and his guards rewarded him, leading to several easy dunks and layups for the big man.

After posting back to back sub 30% shooting efforts, UGA has seemingly found some offense over the past week.  In the loss to Seton Hall, the Dawgs shot nearly 47% from the floor, and they made almost 53% of their attempts tonight against Oakland.

Maten’s newfound offense is starting to open up better looks for the UGA backcourt triumvirate of Mann, Gaines and Frazier, who shot a combined 58% from the floor on Tuesday.

Coach Mark Fox has a few days to get his team ready to host a revenge-hungry 5-1 Kansas State team whose lone loss this season came at North Carolina back in late November.