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.