The loss to Florida was bad, but if they could just win the next five games they’d still have a chance to make a push for the NCAA tournament.
This is what I told myself as I made the five and a half hour drive from Athens to Nashville on Friday night.
That wishful thinking was crushed early in Memorial Gym on Saturday, as Georgia fell behind quickly and stayed behind, losing 80-67 to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Georgia put up another offensive dud today, shooting only 38% from the floor en route to a 67-point performance. J.J. Frazier (21) and Yante Maten (19) combined for nearly 60% of their team’s output, while the rest of the supporting cast was nowhere to be found. Kenny Gaines managed only 5 points on a 2 for 10 shooting effort, making it the 4th time in the last 5 games that he has failed to finish in double-figures.
The Dawgs’ offense is becoming increasingly stagnant as the season progresses. In the early Mark Fox UGA years, Georgia scored regularly on both cuts down the lane and backdoor cuts set up by off-ball screens. Today, Fox’s team looked completely one-dimensional, relying heavily on pick and rolls, which Vanderbilt eventually got very comfortable defending. The result: UGA scored one point more than its SEC game average of 66 points.
Get this: in conference games, the Dawgs are now averaging the least amount of points per contest in the league. Team assists, which were once a staple of Mark Fox’s teams, are now hard to come by as UGA is dishing out only 11 per game, ranking them 11th in league in the category in SEC play. The numbers don’t lie, and at this point, I think it’s safe to say that Fox does not have the talent that he had when he first came on board in Athens.
Georgia has dropped 3 of its last 4 games, and not surprisingly, it has shot under 40% in all three losses. The Dawgs have become incredibly easy to guard, especially when Yante Maten is not on the floor. Even when Yante is in the game, UGA at most has 3 viable scoring threats, assuming J.J. and Gaines are playing, and that’s just not going to cut it against decent teams.
Georgia’s defense wasn’t much better, though, as they allowed all five Vanderbilt starters to finish in double-figures. The Dores were led by Wade Baldwin IV’s 17 points as well as Damian Jones, who netted a double-double, scoring 15 to go along with his game -high 16 boards (I should mention that Maten too had a double-double). On numerous occasions the Vandy guards made passes to wide open bigs, resulting in a string of uncontested dunks. The Dores shot nearly 46% from the floor, which is a point higher than their SEC game average.
The Dawgs are now 11-0 against teams ranked outside of the RPI Top 100, and 3-11 when playing teams inside it. Georgia is 2-7 on the road this year, which is bad news considering that they travel to The Plains on Wednesday for a rematch with Auburn. Today’s loss put UGA one step closer to playing on Thursday of this year’s SEC tournament; losing to the Tigers next week would almost assure it.