Kentucky ends Georgia’s SEC tournament run

First off, a huge thank you to my friend Decatur Dawg for keeping the updates going over the past week as I completed a 108-mile section of the Continental Divide Trail in southern New Mexico.  I managed to catch the first two games via WatchESPN on my phone, and I even got to see today’s game in a sports bar in Silver City, NM, but without access to a computer I could have not written a single word about what transpired in Nashville, so I most certainly appreciate all his efforts.

This afternoon, the Dawgs put together their best half of the season en route to a 49-44 halftime lead.  Everything that could have possibly been clicking for Georgia was clicking: Kenny Gaines had 14 points on 5 of 9 shooting, Yante Maten was making every hook shot he could get up, and even seldomly used Turtle Jackson chipped in a pair of three’s.

But alas, UGA couldn’t sustain its 61% field goal shooting for ever.  The Dawgs cooled off after the the intermission, connecting on just 34% of their shots from the floor, while Kentucky warmed up, making over 55% of their tries from the field.

Oh yea, and Georgia’s star player, J.J. Frazier, went down a little over 4 minutes into the second half with a painful-looking ankle injury that resulted from him landing ackwardly on the foot of a Kentucky big on a drive to the basket.  Frazier headed to the lockerroom for treatment, and he did gut it out and return, but J.J. was not the same, moving gingerly around the court as he tried his best to play through the injury.

Kentucky capitalized while Frazier was sidelined, erasing a 62-54 UGA lead over the next five minutes.  Isaiah Briscoe, who finished with 12 points, made a layup with 8:16 remaining to give his Wildcats a 68-67 advantage. Briscoe hit a jumper with 6 minutes left to send the Wildcat lead to 74-69, capping off a 20-7 Kentucky run.  At this point, Big Blue Nation was on its feet and as loud as ever as their beloved Cats ran away with the game down the stretch on its way to 93-80 semifinal victory.

Kentucky’s Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulises lived up to their All-SEC billings, scoring 26 and 25 points, respectively.  Coach Calipari’s team was extremely protective of the ball, turning it over just 5 times on Saturday; UGA had only 12 turnovers themselves, but the Cats were opportunistic and converted them into 20 points.

Credit Coach Mark Fox and his staff for putting up such a valiant effort, especially considering his team was coming off back-to-back late night tips. Fox employed a wholesale substitution strategy throughout the first half in an effort to keep his guys fresh, and while it seemed unorthodox, for the most part it worked.  Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier led the Dawgs with 20 and 19 points, respectively.  Gaines chipped in 16 points, though he failed to convert a field goal following the halftime break.

Moving forward, it seems most likely that Georgia will be hosting an NIT game next week.  The Dawgs’ RPI should hover around 60 even with today’s loss, and they could possibly receive a small boost from Seton Hall’s Big East conference championship.  By no means is Georgia completely out of the picture regarding the Big Dance: the committee has selected teams with RPI’s in the 60s before, Georgia has a highly-respected non-conference schedule and I’m just certain that the SEC will get at least 3 teams (2 would be a complete slap to the league’s face as a Power 5 conference).

For now, UGA fans should be proud of their team and hopeful that the selection committee liked what they saw in Nashville this week.

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Bulldogs defeat Carolina 65-64 for 5th SEC win in a row; advance to Semifinals

Decatur Dawg with my third game write-up, all wins!

The Bulldogs beat NCAA “lock” South Carolina for the third time this season and JJ Fraiser put himself on the map as a national star in a thrilling one point win late Friday night in Nashville.  Hoop Dawgs fans saw a rare outburst of celebration from Coach Fox at the end as he wiped out on the floor when JJ made the game winning steal with 2 seconds left.

Georgia spent most of the first half putting on an ugly performance of offense.  Early in the half the Dawgs had a hard time just getting off field goal attempts. There was little to no rhythm, JJ was out of control and Maten could not finish.  South Carolina came out playing very physical with us and had control of the game it seemed.  Georgia’s zone defense looked lazy and the Gamecocks, led by Thornwell with 13 points, made open jumpers.

Then, somehow, the Dawgs went to halftime down only 3 points. (It looked like KPG had scored a weird dunk at the buzzer to cut the lead to one but it was waived off).  Coach Martin looked like he was having a stroke during his halftime interview.

The Cocks came out aggressive again to start the second half and it was Coach Fox’s turn to freak out as Carolina went up by 11 early in the second half.  Georgia answered though with a 9-0 run and tied the game at 47 with JJ’s coast to coast drive with 9:00 left.  JJ continued to beat the Cocks down the court but the Dawgs could not get over the hump and take the lead.  Finally, with 3:00 left Mann’s free throws gave the Dawgs their first lead 60-59.

Carolina led by 2 in the last minute when JJ Fraiser took over the game to win it for the Dawgs.  First he split a double team and delivered a sweet teardrop floater over their center to tie the game with about 20 seconds left.  Thornwell then tried to take JJ off the dribble but JJ stole the ball from him and drew a foul with two seconds left.  Fraiser was super-confident and made the first free throw for his 20th point of the game before missing the second intentionally (a nice call by Fox).

The Dawgs only had the lead for a total of 42 seconds of game time but it was enough.  The team showed real toughness and commitment.  We now get 16 hours off before we tip off with Big Blue tomorrow afternoon.