Georgia uses late run to snatch SEC opener away from Auburn

12336179SEC openers have not been Mark Fox’s specialty during his tenure in Athens as his teams have gone a combined 2-5.  Georgia (9-4) looked overwhelmed at the start of this game, and following a tip-in by Austin Wiley the Auburn Tigers (10-3) held a commanding 33-20 lead over the Dawgs just a little over halfway through the opening twenty minutes.  The sold out Auburn Arena was rocking as this hot Tiger team, coming off a huge road win at Connecticut, seemed poised to deliver a knockout punch to a shell-shocked group of Dawgs.

But UGA hung around.  J.J. Frazier got handsy, ratcheting up a game-high 5 steals.  Jordan Harris looked like a 4-star recruit, scoring 12 points on a combination of three-pointers and drives.  Yante Maten got hit with 2 quick fouls, but managed to only accumulate 1 more over the final 30-something minutes.  Even Juwan Parker, who’s jumper has been anything but consistent this season, buried a key shot from the corner that put the Dawgs up 90-80 with only 2:31 left.

Below are two major reasons why Georgia managed to pull off this 96-84 victory on The Plains:

Switch to zone 

The Dawgs tried to play Auburn in a man defense to begin the game and that strategy was rendered ineffective pretty quickly.  The Tigers pushed the tempo early, and UGA failed to close out well on the perimeter, which led to a barrage of Auburn three-pointers.  The Tigers hit 7 of their first 11 shots from beyond the arc and held a 36-26 advantage with a little over 8 minutes left in the first half after a triple from junior T.J. Lang.

Credit Mark Fox, however, for recognizing and reacting to Auburn’s pace by putting his team into a combination of matchup, 2-3 and 3-2 zones.  The Tigers missed their final 3 shots from the perimeter heading into the intermission, and they made just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.  After hitting over 56% from the floor in the first twenty minutes of play, Auburn made only 37% of its field goal attempts following the break. UGA’s zone looks reduced the number of open shots from the outside for Bruce Pearl’s team, and it helped Georgia slow down the tempo of the game, which turned out to work very much in Dawgs’ favor.

Two-man game

In the latter quarter of this game, Georgia abandoned its typical half court offensive sets, which can become slightly rigid at times, and instead put the ball in the hands of its two playmakers. On nearly every possession, the Dawgs offense consisted of a high screen by Yante Maten for J.J. Frazier, and then those two would take it from there.  Maten, who led all scorers with 31 points, netted 10 of those in the game’s final 8 minutes.  Frazier, who poured in 27 points as well, scored 8 during the same stretch and dished out 2 of his 5 assists.  The UGA offense looked much more NBA-like than collegiate in the game’s final minutes, and Georgia closed out this contest with a  22-10 run after trailing Auburn 76-74 with 7:27 remaining.  After connecting on just 42% of its field goal attempts in the first half, Georgia almost knocked down 60% of its shots from the floor following the intermission en route to a season-high output of 96 points.

Just how good is the high school basketball talent in Georgia?

Dennis Felton’s demise at Georgia, which was briefly stalled by a miraculous tornado-driven SEC Tournament Championship in 2008, ultimately came to roost because of the coach’s inability to keep the top high school basketball talent in state.

Mark Fox was hired because he had recruited well and made a winner out of Nevada, and I suppose the thinking inside the UGA Athletic Department was that with Atlanta just a little over an hour away, Fox could start convincing some of these talented Peach state recruits to stay home and play in the Red and Black.

As a former high school basketball player in DeKalb County, one of Atlanta’s biggest school districts, I’ve always felt that this city was loaded with high-end basketball talent, as I played against a number of major Division-I commits.  For years, college basketball analysts have labeled Atlanta a “hotbed” for recruiting, but I wanted to take a more objective look for myself.  Here is what I was able to dig up:

  • According to Hero Sports, Georgia has produced the 7th highest number of Division-I basketball players this season with 225.
  • In 2015, Georgia and Wisconsin tied for 7th place among states (with 13 players apiece) in regards to the number of players on rosters of teams ranked in the  AP Preseason Top 25.
  • Georgia produced the 5th most (44) Division-I college basketball players relative to its college-age male populations, according to a 2014 Deadspin article.
  • Georgia currently has 12 players from the state ranked on the 2017 ESPN100 list of the nation’s best recruits, the most of any other state.  The next closest state to Georgia is California, which has a total of 8 players on the same list.  Considering the population differential between those two states, I’d say that the fact that Georgia boasts 4 more blue chips than Cali is quite significant.  Below are the number of ESPN100 recruits from the state of Georgia during the Mark Fox era:
    • 2017 = 12
    • 2016 = 9
    • 2015 = 6
    • 2014 = 4
    • 2013 = 2
    • 2012 = 9
    • 2011 = 6
    • 2010 = 5

Maybe the most telling statistic from all of this is that over the past 8 years the state of Georgia has put 53 players on the ESPN 100 lists, and UGA has landed 3 of them: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyree Crump and Rayshawn Hammonds.  Not including next year’s class with Hammonds, Fox will have signed one of these ESPN100 guys at a rate of just under 1 every 3 years during his time in Athens.

If a UGA basketball coach could ever manage to land one of these ESPN100 recruits every season, the Dawgs would probably be dancing nearly every March.





Georgia’s lack of a 3rd scoring option

Anyone following Georgia basketball this season has surely been privy to the comments surrounding UGA’s need to find an established third scoring option.  Many had hoped that that would be Juwan Parker, who is currently netting 8 points per contest.  As the season progresses into conference play, Parker may boost his offensive output and blast into the realm of double-digit scoring, but for this Dawgs team that increase may come at a cost.  Currently, Parker is shooting 33% from the floor and 11% from beyond the arc, numbers that aren’t that far off from his career averages heading into this season (33% from the floor and 20% from 3-point land).  For Parker to start scoring even more, Georgia will have to endure a lot more missing as well.

Others thought that the two 4-star recruits, Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump, might help to shore up the scoring load that would be abandoned by the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann.  Harris, who has worked his way into the starting lineup, is getting 5.2 points per game, but he’s still looking awful freshman-like whenever he puts the ball on the floor.  Defenders have been able to strip the ball from his hands far too easily when he drives the ball, and that problem will only get worse once conference play begins.  And Crump is barely seeing the floor.

It is safe to say at this point that Mark Fox may not get another reliable scoring option this season, and that’s a problem.  Yante Maten averaged over 24 points against the likes of Clemson, Kansas  and Marquette, and UGA still lost all three games.  Against Oakland, Maten was rendered ineffective due to foul trouble, managing only 6 points; Georgia lost again.  Whether Maten scores 30 or 6, the Bulldogs are still very beatable.

In Mark Fox’s seven years at UGA, his most successful seasons have come when his team’s scoring has been balanced.  However, in order for a team to have balanced scoring, it first has to have more than two players that can score the ball effectively.  Let’s examine Fox’s lineups throughout his tenure at Georgia in order of what I consider to be most successful to least successful, beginning with his two NCAA tournament participants:

The 2010-11 team that finished 21-12 after losing in the first round of the NCAA’s to Washington:


The 2014-2015 team also went 21-12, and they lost to Michigan State in round 1 of the NCAA’s:


Last year’s team, which ended up in the NIT, was 20-14:


The 2013-2014 campaign – another 20-14 season – resulted in UGA going to the 2nd round of the NIT:


The remaining Fox-lead teams all had losing records:




And finally, a look at this year’s current scoring numbers:


Noticing a trend?  When Fox has had only two players at most scoring in double-digits, his teams have not only failed to reach the Big Dance, but they’ve only recorded winning records once in those four seasons.  At the moment, it’s definitely looking like a two-player in double-digit kind of season for Fox, and he’s got no one to blame for that other than himself.  The Dawgs have the best guard-forward combo in Frazier and Maten that they’ve had since the 2010-2011 team that featured Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Trey Thompkins.  Unfortunately, the Frazier-Maten Express has been relatively easy for opponents to manage due to their inadequate supporting cast.

If opponents chose to double-team Trey Thompkins, he had excellent outlets to choose from in Travis Leslie, Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Jeremy Price.  Marcus Thornton could rely on Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Neme Djurisic if he felt overly pressured.

Who can Frazier or Maten kick the ball too when defenses collapse on them?  Or even worse, when one of them is not on the floor?

Dawgs fall flat in second half against Oakland

Any good feelings that Georgia (8-4) might have been harboring following their first win over a significant non-conference opponent (Georgia Tech) earlier this week were certainly crushed and flushed this evening inside Oakland’s Center O’rena in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

After building up a 37-25 advantage with a little over 5 minutes remaining in the first half, the Dawgs went on to lose 86-79 to an Oakland team that entered tonight’s game ranked 216 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings.  If the word “bad loss” as it pertains to NCAA tournament resumes were actually in the dictionary, it would be accompanied by a picture of Oakland’s incredibly dark, hardwood floor with its grossly oversized grizzly in the center.

A game that was meant to be an early Christmas present for Georgia’s Yante Maten turned into a lump of coal for the Michigan native.  Maten fouled out of the game with 6:19 left and his team trailing 71-64.  He only managed to tally 6 points and 5 rebounds while committing 4 turnovers.  The Grizzlies doubled down on Maten whenever he got the ball on the block, preventing him from establishing any sort of offensive rhythm.

J.J. Frazier, who played a fabulous first half, scoring 18 points on 7 of 8 from the floor, disappeared following the intermission.  Frazier missed all 10 of his second half attempts as he forced up shots under intensified pressure from the Oakland defenders.  He did manage 4 free throws after the break, however, and led all UGA scorers with 22 points.

Oakland jumped all over Georgia to start the second half, going on an 18-4 run that erased UGA’s 45-38 halftime advantage.  Martez Walker capped off the run with a three-pointer that sent his team up 56-49 with a little over 15 minutes remaining in the game.  Walker hit 4 three’s on the evening and finished with a career-high 30 points.

The fact that Coach Mark Fox’s team allowed an Oakland player to put 30 points on them is a testament to how poorly this team played defense tonight.  Georgia looked slow to the ball, especially in the second half, and eventually the Dawgs had to get out of their man defense and switch to zone because they simply couldn’t guard the Grizzlies straight up.  After hitting under 36% from the floor in the first twenty minutes, Oakland knocked down over 53% of their attempts in the second half.  The Grizzlies also connected on 10 of their 17 shots from beyond the arc.

The only other Georgia starters to finish in double-digits were Derek Ogbeide and Juwan Parker.  Ogbeide logged a double-double, netting 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds; 11 of Derek’s points came after the break, and he scored 4 consecutive buckets during a critical stretch in the second half that helped UGA cut into Oakland’s 61-51 lead.

Parker scored 15 points, but he committed a team-high 5 turnovers.  The Dawgs gave the ball over 19 times this evening, a problem that plagued this team tonight offensively against Oakland.

The game on Tuesday against Georgia Tech was never in doubt because Georgia had the two best players on the court.  That was not the case tonight, though, as Maten played only 21 minutes before fouling out.  Still, Coach Mark Fox’s bunch shouldn’t be losing to Oakland.  Period.

Reviewing Georgia’s 60-43 win over rival Georgia Tech

Last night’s contest between the Georgia Bulldogs (8-3) and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-4) left the rims inside McCamish Pavillion bruised and battered.  The fans that came to watch offense on Tuesday evening definitely left the arena sorely disappointed.  Neither team shot above 38% from the floor, and Tech hit only 1 for 10 from beyond the arc, compared to UGA’s 3 for 18 effort.  Georgia Tech managed just 43 points, its lowest output since being held to 41 by Clemson back in 2014.


Why Georgia couldn’t score

The Jackets ran an extended 1-3-1 zone for much of the night in an effort to limit Yante Maten’s looks inside, and to their credit, it worked.  Maten had very few opportunities where he received the ball on the block close to the bucket, and even when he did, he was immediately surrounded by multiple Tech defenders.  Maten finished the night as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, but they were hard-earned and came at the expense of a  5 for 12 shooting effort.

J.J. Frazier scored 15 points, but it certainly wasn’t one of his better games as a Bulldog.  He once again struggled with his shot, making only 1 of his 6 attempts from the perimeter.  Frazier also dished out 4 turnovers to just 2 assists.  However, he was the only UGA point guard that seemed capable of attacking Tech’s zone and drawing multiple defenders so that his teammates could get open.  Turtle Jackson, who thankfully only played 12 minutes, did the opposite as he got rid of the ball as soon as he could once it crossed half court.  Not that UGA’s offense was clicking on all cylinders last night by any means, but it went into downright stall out mode when Turtle took the helm so that J.J. could rest.

Something tells me more teams might start defending Georgia in this manner moving forward.

Why Tech couldn’t score

Coach Mark Fox employed a man defense for most of the game, which made sense considering UGA had the more talented roster.  I cannot say that I have seen a lot of Tech basketball this year, but offensively, there is not a lot there.  The Jackets’ leading scorer, Ben Lammers, was the only Tech player to end up in double-figures as he scored 10 points on a 4 for 10 night from the floor.  Lammers also had 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, which earned him “Player of the Game” honors according to the giant replay screen above center court.  Considering his team got trounced and he had just the 4th highest point total of the night, I hope that Lammers doesn’t take much solace in that meaningless award.

Tech’s other senior big, Quinton Stephens, was determined to show the world that he can in fact create his own shot off the dribble.  However, the basketball gods inside McCamish had other ideas as Stephens missed all 9 of his attempts from the floor and turned the ball over 4 times.

UGA out rebounded the Jackets by a tally of 40-31, and even more importantly, they limited Tech to only 2 second chance points.  Considering how poorly the Jackets shot it on Tuesday, Georgia’s defensive rebounding might have been the difference in this game as they permitted Tech to grab just 5 offensive boards.

Critical moment of the game #1

The first came with 7:45 remaining before the break and the Dawgs leading 19-10, following an old-fashioned three-point play by Yante Maten.  Georgia had wrestled control of this contest from the Jackets, and they appeared poised to deliver a knockout blow to the home team going into the half.  However, instead of keeping his foot on the pedal, Mark Fox opted to pump the breaks, taking Maten out 17 seconds later and then removing Frazier a minute after that.  The result: Tech went on a 6-0 run and after a pair of free throws by Josh Okogie the Jackets only trailed the Dawgs 19-16.  Georgia ended up taking a 27-18 advantage into the intermission, but it felt like they should have been up by 15 or more.

Critical moment of the game #2

With 15:22 left and UGA up 34-24, Georgia Tech decided to extend a media timeout for a planned on-court celebration of its Governor’s Cup trophy that the football team earned in Athens back in November.  I have no idea why this celebration didn’t occur at some point during halftime since the game operations people obviously knew that the football players were going to take the floor.  Apparently this commemoration did not sit well with Coach Fox’s team as they outscored Tech 13-8 over the next 8 minutes, extending the Georgia lead to 47-32, and putting this contest out of reach for Josh Pastner’s bunch.

While this game was not a thing of beauty, all and all, it was a huge win for the Dawgs.  Georgia secured the non-conference win over a Power 5 opponent that it desperately needed, and this victory came on the road, which was an added bonus.  Another thing Coach Fox’s team did was avoid a potential “bad loss” to a Tech team that currently has an RPI of 169 and no prospects of moving that number below the century mark any time soon.



Up next for UGA: Georgia Tech


The annual in-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech (6-3) has not been kind to Coach Mark Fox in recent years.  Prior to last year’s win in Athens, a game in which J.J. Frazier scored 35 points, Georgia (7-3) had lost four in a row to the Jackets.  With losses already to Clemson, Kansas and Marquette, the Dawgs are running out of opportunities for solid non-conference wins, meaning that Tuesday’s contest against the Jackets is one that Fox’s team must have.

J.J. hit 6 three-pointers when these two teams met in Athens last year.

Georgia Tech, who was projected by both SI and USA Today to finish 14th in the new 15-team ACC this year, has endured a rocky start to the season.  After needing overtime to win their exhibition game against Shorter, the Jackets won 4 of 5 to start the season.  The problem, however, was that the lone loss came at home to Ohio.  Tech has dropped road games at both Penn State and Tennessee, yet they somehow pulled off a shocker at VCU, upending the Rams 76-73 in OT.

Coach Josh Pastner did not inherit a lot to work with for his initial campaign as the Jackets’ skipper.  Tech returned just one starter this season – Quinton Stephens – and he only netted 5 points a game a year ago.  This season, though, Stephens has been getting almost 12 points and 8 rebounds a night.

The surprise of the year thus far for Pastner has to be the play of center Ben Lammers, who is leading this team in both scoring and rebounding.  After averaging just 3.6 points and 4 boards a night last year, Lammers is pouring in 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.  Lammers is an excellent passer, and at 6’10”, he can can see the whole floor when he has the ball at the top of the key, where Tech likes to run a lot of its offense.

The most talented guard on the Jackets roster has to be junior Tadric Jackson, who is scoring just under 13 points a contest.  The former 4-star recruit out of Tift County spurned an offer from UGA and wound up going to school in Atlanta instead.  This season, Tech is 4-1 in games in which Jackson has scored in double-figures; they are 1-2 in the games that he has failed to eclipse the 10-point mark.

This Tech team is not afraid to press full court defensively, which is something that Georgia has not see a lot of so far this season.  The Dawgs should definitely expect to see full court pressure on Tuesday, as Pastner will want to make it as difficult as possible for UGA to dump the ball down into Maten in the half court set.

While its unreasonable to demand another 35 points out of Frazier, Coach Fox must get better play from his senior guard.  J.J. has shot over 40% from the floor in only 4 of the team’s 10 games this year, and if Georgia hopes to sneak out of Midtown with a win they are going to need Frazier to shoot it well Tuesday night.

Georgia drops Charleston Southern 84-64 in Athens


The Georgia Bulldogs (7-3) put together what might have been their best overall effort of the season on Saturday afternoon, and the Charleston Southern Buccaneers (4-6) caught the brunt of it.  The Dawgs built up a 17-5 advantage less than 7 minutes into the first half after an old-fashioned three-point play by Yante Maten, and UGA maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the afternoon.  Finally, Georgia treated an overmatched opponent like an overmatched opponent, dominating the Bucs in just about every facet of this game.  No second half single-digit leads.  No pulling away in the latter stage of the game.  UGA took it to Charleston Southern from the opening tip, and they didn’t take the foot off the gas pedal.


Georgia ran just about everything through Maten.  Yante had 8 points before the players on the Charleston Southern bench could get situated in their seats.  Maten scored 19 points before the break and 11 after it, matching his season high of 30 points on an 11 for 13 shooting effort from the floor.  Amazingly, Yante did all of this scoring in just 22 minutes of play, and had he played his typical 32 minutes, he might have gone for 40. Maten’s ability to finish in the paint is reminiscent of former Bulldog great Jumaine Jones, who much like Yante, converted a high rate of field goals when he received the ball close to the basket.  Maten has developed the uncanny ability to take the ball up from the left side as well as he does from the right (his shooting hand).  Yante also knocked down 2 of his 3 shots from beyond the arc, one of which came from the right wing.  Normally, Maten has only taken three’s when he’s been lined up dead-on from center court; if Yante can start making three’s from other places on the perimeter, he is going to be a tough player for to continue to ignore.

But enough about Maten.  Once Charleston Southern realized that not helping defensively in the paint on Yante was a bad idea, they began to converge on him in the paint, which opened up Georgia’s perimeter players.  The Dawgs had six different players hit shots from beyond the arc, and UGA ended up making 8 of their 19 three-point attempts.

The only other Georgia player to finish in double-figures was J.J. Frazier, who netted 14 points on the afternoon.  However, Frazier converted only 4 of his 14 shots, bringing his field goal percentage down to 38% on the year.  Even more disappointing was J.J.’s effort from beyond the arc, where he connected on just 2 of his 9 attempts.  Frazier did dish out  5 assists, though, and he only gave the ball away once.


Coach Mark Fox’s team overwhelmed the Buccaneers right away with a tenacious man defense.  The Dawgs mixed in some zone as well, keeping the Charleston Southern offense off balance and limiting the Bucs to under 35% from the floor through the game’s first twenty minutes.  Armel Potter and Christian Keeling, Charleston Southern’s leading scorers, had just 2 and 4 points, respectively, going into the break, allowing Georgia to take a 46-30 advantage into the half.

Keeling led all Bucaneers’ scorers with 19 points, but Potter, who came into Stegeman netting almost 16 a night, ended up with only 9 on Saturday.

The Dawgs defense dominated this game.  Charleston Southern entered today’s contest hitting almost 46% of its field goals and over 37% of its three’s.  The UGA defenders held the Bucs to just 42% from the floor and under 29% from beyond the arc.

Credit the Dawgs for handling its business on the boards as well, where UGA allowed only 23 Southern rebounds, which was 16 under their season average.  Georgia’s effort on the glass permitted the Bucs to get only 8 second-chance points, compared to the Dawgs’ 18.