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.