Strong second half helps UGA beat Gardner-Webb in Athens

After a shaky first half that was plagued by a slew of fouls for each team, the Georgia Bulldogs got it together after the break to outlast the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs 77-59 in Athens on Friday night.

The opening half was not a thing of beauty for Coach Mark Fox’s team.  The Dawgs struggled to defend the perimeter well as they allowed the GW guards to consistently get into the lane and to the rim, where the Runnin’ Bulldogs buried 13 of their 17 attempts from the stripe.  On offense, UGA endured one of its patented scoring droughts, going nearly 6 minutes without a field goal following an exciting fast break dunk by Yante Maten.  By the time J.J. Frazier connected on a layup with 8:30 left in the half, his Georgia team trailed the visitors 20-18.  Georgia’s offense did pick it up a bit heading into the break, and UGA took a 40-37 advantage into the intermission.

The Dawgs played primarily zone in the second half, clamping down on the GW guards on the outside.  After shooting nearly 39% in half number one, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were held to just 25% from the floor following the break, and they managed only 22 second-half points.  UGA forced GW into 19 turnovers, which led to 28 points for Georgia, a key factor in this victory for Coach Fox’s bunch.  The only GW players to finish in double-digits were David Efianayi and LaQuincy Rideau, who scored 15 and 11, respectively.

Yante Maten led all scorers with 16 points, and he added to his stat line with 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists.  The only other UGA players to end up in double figures were Frazier and Mike Edwards, who netted 10 apiece.  J.J. played somewhat tentatively again on offense as he attempted just 6 shots; he did create 4 steals and dish out 6 assists, though.  For whatever reason, Frazier has been less assertive this season compared to last.  It’s possible that J.J. is still adjusting to being the team’s premier guard after playing alongside Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines for the first three years of his career.  But even with both Mann and Gaines gone, Frazier is averaging less field goal attempts per game so far this year, taking 10.8 per contest compared to the 12.1 he put up a year ago. At some point, Frazier must force the issue a bit on offense as this team will have trouble navigating its SEC schedule if J.J. is tied for 4th on the team in field goal attempts as he was tonight against GW.

Coach Mark Fox got excellent scoring off his bench on Friday with Mike Edwards, Pape Diatta and Jordan Harris getting 10, 9 and 7, respectively.  Edwards did a great job of making himself available in the lane when Maten faced double-teams, which occurred regularly this evening.  Diatta, who scored 7 of his 9 before the break, also hauled in 6 rebounds, making for an incredibly productive 16 minutes.

The Dawgs shot over 48% from the floor against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, and they are now hitting nearly 44% from the field on the season, compared to the 42% that UGA shot last year.

Georgia gets another tune up on Wednesday when they play host to Morehouse, then the Dawgs get another crack at a Power 5 conference opponent when they take on Marquette next Sunday in Athens.

 

 

Kansas tops Georgia 65-54 in finals of CBE

The turning point in the game…

After trailing Kansas 35-25 at the break, the Bulldogs made a run at the Jayhawks at the start of the second half.  Yante Maten hit a three-pointer and Derek Ogbeide got a stick back, and less than a minute in UGA had trimmed the Kansas advantage to just 5 points. The Jayhawks responded with a three and a tip-in of their own, and with 17:35 left Kansas had already restored its double-digit halftime lead and sucked the air out of any thoughts of a UGA comeback.   Instead, the Dawgs went into drought mode and allowed over 8 minutes to surpass before they would get another bucket.  By the time Maten hit a jumper with 9:36 remaining, his team was down 52-36.

Maten shines…

Yante was obviously unfazed by the gloss of playing the #5 team in the country.  The junior led all scorers and rebounders with 30 points and 13 boards, respectively.  Maten dominated the paint for much of the game, controlling the blocks and grabbing 8 offensive rebounds,which enabled him to score on a number of second chance stick backs.  Defensively, Maten and the other UGA bigs were a force as well – the Kansas posts accounted for only 5 of their team’s 64 points on the evening.

But he couldn’t do it all by himself…

While Maten certainly enjoyed a monster game in the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, the rest of the Georgia team, by and large, struggled.  Yante shot 48% from the floor en route to 30 total points; everyone else in a red jersey combined for a total of 24 points and 22% from the field.  J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker were particularly cold on Tuesday.  Frazier notched just 2 points, going 1 for 10 from the floor and o for 6 from beyond the arc.  Parker had only 5 points, hitting 2 of his 9 attempts from the field and missing all of his three-point attempts.  Freshman Jordan Harris, who had put together two consecutive decent games coming into this one, looked overwhelmed against the Kansas backcourt, committing a team-high 4 turnovers and scoring just 2 points.

The silver lining…

Georgia fans should be encouraged by the fact that the Dawgs lost by only 11 points to the #5 Jayhawks, considering that J.J., who entered the game averaging nearly 19 points a night, netted only 2 points.  Frazier had been responsible for more than a quarter of UGA’s scoring load in the first 4 games, so it seems reasonable to expect the Dawgs to struggle when he is off (like last night).  If J.J. makes half of his three-point attempts on Tuesday, this game would have been much tighter down the stretch.  Coach Mark Fox’s team definitely showed a certain toughness in hanging around with the more talented Jayhawks, despite not getting any production from its best guard.  Credit the Dawgs’ defense, which held Kansas to under 39% from the floor and basically kept them sort of in the game.

 

 

Balanced UGA effort carries Dawgs into finals at CBE Hall of Fame Classic

Coach Mark Fox had the ball exactly where he wanted it with his team up by 3 and under a minute to play – in the hands of senior J.J. Frazier. Frazier ran the shot clock down before attempting a long three over the outstretched hands of George Washington’s Yuta Wanatabe.  Frazier’s three-point attempt caromed off the rim and into the hands of Derek Ogbeide, who couldn’t complete the put back.  However, Papa Diatta snared Ogbeide’s miss and put it up and in while getting fouled, which allowed him to complete an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Dawgs up 77-71 with only 35 seconds remaining.

George Washington (3-1) failed to convert not the ensuing possession, and J.J. Frazier buried a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.

Diatta picking up the slack for Frazier on that critical possession late in the game was reflective of the total team effort that Coach Mark Fox got from his squad in its 83-71 victory on Monday night in Kansas City.  Yante Maten fouled out of the game with 4 minutes remaining and UGA (3-1) leading by 2 points, but this young Georgia team held strong and stepped up big in the absence of its best post player.  Maten and Frazier posted 18 points apiece, but UGA got 5 or more points from six different players, including 11 points and 8 rebounds from Ogbeide.  Juwan Parker, who scored all 9 of his points in the second half, just missed a double-double as he hauled down 11 rebounds.

J.J. scored 9 points in the game’s first 6 minutes, only to go the next 23 minutes without any baskets before hitting a three-pointer to put his team up 58-57 with 11:42 left.  Coach Fox had to feel refreshed knowing that this bunch could hold their own when its star player was struggling offensively, especially against a quality opponent like George Washington.

In addition to the balanced scoring, UGA earned this victory in large part due to its second-half defensive adjustments.  The Colonials shot over 40% from beyond the arc in the first half, taking a 36-35 advantage into the break.  With a little over 10 minutes remaining and GW up 57-55, Coach Fox put his team in a matchup 3-2 zone in an attempt to limit the Colonials looks from the perimeter.  The move worked to perfection as GW hit just 1 of their final 5 three-pointers, and the Colonials were held without a field goal for nearly 5 minutes before Watanabe hit a jumper to break the spell.

Tyler Cavanaugh led all scorers on the night with 24 points.

The Dawgs out rebounded the Colonials 39-31, with 5 UGA players securing 5 or more rebounds in this one.  Georgia also dished out 16 team assists, while only turning the ball over only 7 times.  Tonight’s effort definitely showcased some of the depth that Coach Mark Fox highlighted about this team coming into the season.

This victory also sets up a potential marquee matchup with the #5 Kansas Jayhawks, assuming they get by the UAB Blazers.

 

 

Dawgs top Paladins 84-78

Georgia earned its second victory of the week on Thursday night in front of a sparse Stegeman crowd as they managed to defeat the Furman Paladins 84-78.  Here are some observations:

Maten and Frazier again the difference

At this point, the only thing separating UGA from being a mid major program are #1 and #30.  Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, who were both selected to ESPN’s top 100 college basketball players list this week, are already in midseason form.  Maten continues to showcase the ability to score from just about anywhere other than the corner three-point line.  On Thursday, he notched 27 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  Frazier, who had been somewhat timid offensively in the first two games this season, looked like vintage J.J. against Furman: driving to the basket and bouncing off defenders en route to layups, and stopping quickly off the dribble to get his three-point shot.  Frazier led all scorers with 28 points – 12 of which came from beyond the arc.  He and Maten accounted for nearly 70% of Georgia’s offense against the Paladins.

UGA clamped down when it needed to

Furman did not come into Athens to play the role of pre-conference tune up.  The Paladins led Georgia 58-57 with 7:13 remaining in the game after a jumper by Kris Acox, and they looked confident enough in themselves to pull off the upset.  However, UGA’s Juwan Parker stepped up big and responded for his team down the stretch, hitting a cutting Mike Edwards on a break that ended in an exciting dunk.  Parker scored the Dawgs’ next two field goals, knocking down a pair of jumpers that put UGA up 66-59 with just 4:16 left.  Georgia pushed its advantage to 69-60 following a pair of free throws from J.J., and the Dawgs never looked back.

 

 

Freshmen continue to see limited minutes

Jordan Harris played 15 minutes on Thursday night.  He had to be shocked.  Whenever the substitution horn buzzed, he would constantly glance over his shoulder, assuming that his time was up.  But Fox stuck with Harris down the stretch, and the freshman played well.  He scored once on a beautiful drive down the left side of the lane, and Harris also knocked down an open jump shot.  Tyree Crump, however, played just a mere 5 minutes against the Paladins.  Crump scored on his only shot, spinning off his defender from the baseline and finishing at the bucket; he was yanked out 15 seconds later after the first dead ball. I don’t know what Coach Mark Fox’s plans are this year in regards to his usage of either of these talented freshmen, but if they aren’t seeing the court much now, I can’t imagine their playing time increasing once conference play begins.  Maybe he is easing them into his rotations.  Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable enough with them to give them more time on the court.  My hope is that he’s leaning towards the former.

Georgia earns first win of the season against UNC Asheville

A couple of Bulldogs squared off inside Stegeman on Monday night, and Georgia had to show the ones from Asheville that this town wasn’t big enough for the both of them.  The Dawgs rode their stars, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, to the team’s first win of the 2016-2017 season.  Maten and Frazier scored 19 and 18, respectively, combining for nearly two-thirds of UGA points in this 60-46 victory.  This might be a common theme of the season.

Much like the Clemson game, though, Frazier began the night a little tentative.  After hitting a three several minutes into this contest, Frazier wouldn’t score again until he connected on three free throws with a little under 5 minutes to go before the break.  Georgia struggled in the first half to make shots against the Asheville half-court trap zone.  Before J.J. hit those aforementioned free throws, the Dawgs were locked up at 22-22 with 4:22 left.  The shots from the charity stripe invigorated Frazier, though, as he netted 8 points in the final four minutes to spark Georgia to a 33-26 halftime lead.

Coach Fox’s team shot the ball a bit better in the second half, but the Georgia defense (or possibly Asheville’s inability to make open shots) was responsible for this win.  The Dawgs  held the other Bulldogs to under 34% from the floor, and Asheville shot an abysmal 4 for 22 from beyond the arc.  Ahmad Thomas led all UNC Asheville scorers with just 13 points.

Overall, however, this win was a sort of underwhelming.  Georgia had superior size and talent, yet the Dawgs led by merely 5 points with under 10 minutes remaining in the game.  After turning the ball over 15 times last Friday at Clemson, UGA gave it away another 17 times on Monday (6 of them coming from Maten).

While it’s hard to gauge much from these early preseason games in regards to predicting the course of the season, especially considering Fox’s prolific subbing patterns, Georgia still doesn’t have anyone who looks like they can be a reliable scorer outside of Frazier and Maten.  Juwan Parker started the night well, making 2 of his first 3 shots, but he ended up shooting 4 of 12 by game’s end.  He took two more shots than J.J., yet he scored half the number of points.  Tyree Crump went 0 for 5, and Turtle Jackson and Papa Diatta each missed both of the shots that they put up.

Freshman Jordan Harris did knock down a three-pointer, making him 1 for 1 on the season from the field.  However, he was quickly removed during the next TV timeout, giving him only 3 minutes of court time on the night.

Tonight’s game and Thursday’s contest against Furman are both considered “Host Games” as part of next week’s CBE Classic in Kansas City (the outcome of the games does not affect UGA’s travel plans to Missouri).  After Furman, UGA has a game with George Washington in the first round of the CBE next Monday, with a potential matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks looming Tuesday.  Even though it’s only a week away, it’s hard to imagine this Georgia team on the same floor as #7 Kansas right now.

Clemson smothers Georgia in season opener

The strength of this Clemson Tiger team last season was its defense, and coach Brad Brownell road that defense on Friday night to a 74-64 victory in the season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs.  All night long, the Tigers pushed the Dawgs away from the basket, using a strong man-to-man to stymie the UGA offense.  Clemson held Georgia to under 43% from the floor, and they turned the Dawgs over 14 times inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers jumped on Georgia from the start, opening up a 21-9 lead less than 10 minutes in following a three-pointer from Avry Holmes.  Clemson star forward Jaron Blossomgame picked up two fouls early and sat for much of the first half, but guard Game DeVoe picked up the slack in his absence, knocking down two three’s before the break en route to 12 first half points.  The Tigers held J.J. Frazier to just 3 points prior to the intermission, which enabled them to head into the break with a 40-30 advantage.

The Dawgs closed the gap in the second half after Turtle Jackson hit a pair of three-pointers to cut the Clemson lead to 51-48 with 10:18 remaining in the game.  The Tigers jumped on Georgia immediately out the ensuing timeout though, going on a 12-2 run that was capped off by an old-fashioned three-point play by Donte Grantham, putting his team up 63-50 with 7:43 left.  This stretch by Clemson took the life out of the Dawgs, and Clemson kept UGA at bay for the remainder of the night.

DeVoe led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points, and Blossomgame chipped in another 13.

Yante Maten carried the Dawgs on the night, scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, posting his first double-double of the season.  Frazier was the only other UGA player to finish in double-figures, scoring 11 points; however, it took him a 5 for 13 shooting effort to get there.

Clemson’s defense definitely exposed a huge question mark that Georgia will have to address at some point this season: who will score other than Frazier and Maten?  Other than Derek Ogbeide’s 9 point-effort on a 4 for 5 performance, most of the other UGA players struggled.  Most noticeably among them being Juwan Parker, who shot an abysmal 3 for 10 from the floor. Coach Mark Fox must get offensive output from some of his role players, but I’m not sure Parker is a viable option.  He certainly has enjoyed shooting it from the perimeter during his time at Georgia, but unfortunately for the Dawgs Parker has made just 19% of his attempts from beyond the arc.  At some point, someone – either Parker or Fox – needs to decide that that’s not a productive shot for this team.

Teams are going to continue to overload their defense on Frazier this year, just like the Tigers did tonight.   Coach Brownell had his guards stick with Frazier even when he didn’t have the ball in an effort to force the four other UGA players on the court to beat them, and, for the most part, it worked.

Coach Mark Fox’s team will get a chance to earn its first win of the year on Monday night in Athens when they play host to the Bulldogs from Asheville, North Carolina.

Georgia-Clemson Preview

A couple of NCAA Tournament hopefuls will be squaring off on Friday night when Georgia travels to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers.  For now, UGA is in the “First Four Out” category of ESPN’s Preseason Bracketology, while Clemson was no where to be found.  Although, any bracket predictions being made before the season has tipped off should be taken lightly.

The strength of this Tiger team last year was its defense.  A rangy bunch, Clemson ranked first in the ACC last season in blocked shots at 5.2 per game, and they were third in fewest points allowed at 64.5 per contest.  Last year, UGA was plagued in numerous games by long stretches of offensive ineptitude, a weakness that Coach Mark Fox’s team must eliminate if they want to play into late March this year.

A year ago, the Dawgs manhandled the Tigers in Athens 71-48.  UGA was led by seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who combined for 35 points to carry Georgia to the home win.  In that game, UGA limited Clemson superstar Jaron Blossomgame to just 5 points, which was almost 13 under his average.

Fast forward to 2016.  Georgia no longer has Gaines or Mann, and they once again will have to take on a Tiger team led by Jaron Blossomgame, a preseason First Team All-ACC selection.  Blossomgame is currently projected by NBADraft.net to go #17 in their 2017 Mock NBA Draft.  At this point, Georgia doesn’t have any players in that Mock.

This contest should present both a formidable challenge and an opportunity for UGA junior Yante Maten.  In the exhibition game last week, Maten had his way against the inferior competition from Fort Valley, Georgia.  Against Clemson, Maten will have his hands full dealing with a potential NBA first-round draft pick in Blossomgame.  That being said, there should be an NBA scout or two inside Littlejohn on Friday; Yante will have a chance to show them what he can do while going head-to-head with a probable prospect.

Friday’s season opener at Clemson could definitely have selection implications in March.  Coach Mark Fox’s team has the possibility of earning a quality win that could boost its NCAA resume, and we’re not even halfway through November.

About that new mural inside of Stegeman

img_0058

One of the renovations that Georgia fans will quickly notice as they enter Stegeman Coliseum this season to cheer on the Dawgs is the new wall-to-wall mural that sits above the scoreboard, hovering over the student section.

The artwork features former UGA stars from the men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with several former gymnasts (disclosure: I cannot name any current or former Gym Dawg, so apologies for that).

Going from left to right, the first two men’s basketball players, Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Jarvis Hayes, both seem like excellent choices.  Even though KCP and Jarvis only played two seasons each in Athens, they both made immediate impacts in the scoring column while donning the red and black.  Jarvis was named First-Team All-SEC both years, and KCP made it once.   KCP is currently in the midst of building a solid NBA resume, while Hayes played 7 seasons in the league before moving on to greener pastures.  Hayes also led probably the most talented UGA basketball team since the early 80’s during the 2002-2003 season, although that team’s campaign was cut short due to Jim Harrick running amok.

By choosing KCP and Hayes for the graphic, UGA covered both the early and recent 2000’s, meaning that an obvious choice for the third and final former Dawg would be someone from the pre-high-speed internet era.  But the people behind this renovation decided to immortalize Marcus Thornton instead (me thinks Mark Fox had some input into this).  Nothing against Marcus, he had a solid senior season, averaging over 12 points and 7 boards a game en route to a All-SEC Second-Team selection.  But is he really who UGA fans think of when they recollect on former Georgia basketball greats?

Here are some other names I might have considered:

Dominique Wilkins

‘Nique is definitely the most obvious choice.  I mean, he is 4th on the all-time UGA scoring leaders list, even though he played just three seasons.  Wilkins was a First-Team All-SEC selection twice, and he was named a Second-Team All-American two times as well. A nine-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer, the Human Highlight Film also ranks 13th on the league’s all time scoring leaders.  For you young bucks, here’s a clip of some of Nique’s best dunks (#6 is particularly nasty):

 

Vern Fleming

Vern Fleming might be less of a household name than Dominique, but his accomplishments while at UGA were remarkable.  A two-time All-American and First-Team All-SEC selection, Fleming ranks third on Georgia’s all-time scoring leaders.  He also captained the Dawgs’ 1983 Final Four team, which still marks the deepest a Bulldog team has advanced in the Big Dance.  After Georgia, Fleming played 11 years in the NBA.

Alec Kessler

Kessler ranks 2nd among the Dawgs’ all-time scoring leaders, and he was named an All-American in 1990.  Kessler was also twice named to the All-SEC First-Team, though his four-year NBA career was much less glamorous than his time in Athens.

Overall, I like the idea of the artwork, I’m just questioning some of it’s content.  Any thoughts?

Welcome back Georgia basketball

The Georgia Bulldogs returned to the hard courts for the first time since galavanting this summer throughout Spain, where UGA won all of its exhibitions.  In tonight’s exhibition game, the Dawgs played host to the Fort Valley State Wildcats, a team hailing from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).

The Wildcats were undersized and overmatched, and the Dawgs dismantled them inside Stegeman by a count of 94-38.  Even though this game meant nothing in regards to the win-loss column, Mark Fox’s team definitely showed up with a sense of purpose defensively, holding Fort Valley to under 25% from the field.  UGA subbed at an incredible rate, even for Fox, yet for the most part everyone who came in entered the game prepared to work on the defensive end.  The Wildcats had managed just 2 points after nearly ten minutes of game time had eclipsed.

Offensively, Georgia was led by Yante Maten, who looked like a man among boys on Thursday.  Maten scored a game-high 19 points on an array of hooks and dunks, and he even added a three.  After being selected to the preseason All-SEC Second Team, Maten certainly appears poised for a big junior season.

UGA’s other star, senior J.J. Frazier, who was a All-SEC First Team selection, scored only 9 points.  However, Frazier played sparingly, and he did have a nice stretch in the second half when he buried a series of three-pointers.

Both Maten and Frazier are two of Georgia’s known commodities, though.  Tonight, fans headed to Stegeman to see some of the new Bulldog players as well as some of last year’s returning sophomores.  The biggest surprise on the night had to be the play of freshman guard Tyree Crump, who comes from the same hometown as Kirby Smart: Bainbridge, Georgia.  The rumors circling around Crump after the trip to Spain were that he could get hot from the perimeter, and the freshman did not disappoint on Thursday.  Crump actually missed his first two attempts from beyond the arc, prompting Fox to sub him out. However, before a stoppage of play could occur, Crump knocked down a pair of three’s to get himself in the scoring column.  He hit two more three-pointers in the second half, and Crump also scored on a nice drive off the dribble.  Kenny Paul Geno and Juwan Parker may have started this game, but do not be surprised if Crump doesn’t play himself into one of the starting spots as the season progresses.

But in the end, it’s important to remember that tonight’s game was merely a surface-level look into this year’s UGA basketball team.  The Dawgs played a ton of guys, and their opponent resembled nothing of what the competition will look like next Friday when Georgia opens at Clemson.  Coach Fox does have two bonafide stars at his disposal in Frazier and Maten, though, and he appears to have a deeper bench than in years past.