Archive for January 2017
When Derek Ogbeide’s lay-up off of J.J. Frazier’s airball was waved off by the officials with 7.8 seconds remaining, it felt like Georgia (13-8) was destined for more Saturday afternoon heartbreak. Two weeks ago the Dawgs lost in overtime at Florida, and last week UGA blew a 9-point lead in the final two minutes to Texas A&M. “Here we go again” had to be in the back of the minds of the fans inside Stegeman. Even though Georgia showed Texas full-court pressure, the Longhorns still got the ball inside to their center Jarrett Allen, who shot a potential game-tying, last-second hook shot. The ball briefly flirted with the idea of going in before eventually popping back out, and the Dawgs earned a much needed 59-57 home win that snapped a two-game losing streak.
The turning point in this game came right at the start of the second half, when Shaka Smart had his Texas (8-13) team take the floor in a man defense. The Dawgs ate it up, feeding the ball to Yante Maten, who took advantage of going against just one defender and scored 4 points during an 8-0 UGA run that erased the Longhorn’s 32-23 halftime advantage.
Georgia played pretty well defensively throughout in this one. It was the UGA offense, however, that was Jekyll and Hyde-ish on Saturday. Smart’s decision to come out in man seemed curious since his Texas team had frustrated the bejesus out of the Dawgs before the break using primarily a 2-3 zone. Georgia tried to shoot over the Longhorn zone, and that didn’t turn out too well for Mark Fox’s team as they mustered only 7 field goals prior to the intermission, none of which came from anywhere other than the paint.
But back to the second half. The Dawgs’ offense became much more efficient as Georgia started actually knocking down open shots. UGA followed up a 29% first half shooting performance by making a robust 52% of their shots after the break.
Mark Fox got key contributions from numerous players. Jordan Harris canned a pair of three-pointers. Juwan Parker, who was forcing it a bit before the break, hit two big shots from the baseline late in the game that helped preserve the UGA lead. Yante Maten, who led all scorers with 21 points, put the ball in the basket on a critical possession with less than a minute remaining to bolster the Dawgs’s advantage up to 59-56.
Georgia could have folded, but it didn’t. The Dawgs managed to hang on and found a way to win, although Frazier certainly tried his best to make it interesting on UGA’s final possession when he took a highly contested baseline runner over two Texas defenders that air balled and ultimately resulted in the previously mentioned shot clock violation.
Hopefully this game helped to restore a little of Georgia’s confidence, which had to be hurting after the drubbing that Alabama put on this team on Wednesday, because boy are they going to need it. On Tuesday night, UGA heads to Lexington to take on a feisty group of Cats that are now in the midst of a two-game losing streak of their own.
He always draws the opposing team’s best interior defender, and when he receives the ball on the block he usually gets double-teamed. When Georgia faces zone, this player constantly gets swarmed by nearby guards, or anyone for that matter, when the ball is sent into him in the paint. This player is Yante Maten, and through all this extra attention he has received on a nightly basis this season, he is still averaging just under 20 points and 8 boards a game. Maten has logged 5 double-doubles this year already, and he’s scored 30 points or more three times. The only game this season in which Maten did not eclipse the double-digit mark was against Oakland, and that was because he fouled out and played just 21 minutes.
Georgia’s lack of an outside game makes Yante’s stats this year even that more impressive. Defenses would be more hesitant to throw the kitchen sink at Maten whenever he gets the ball inside if there was even the slightest threat that he had some legitimate three-point options to kick the ball back out to on the perimeter. But alas, that is not the case for this UGA team, who is currently shooting 31.6% from beyond the arc, which ranks that an ugly 310th in the nation in three-point percentage. UGA is barely making more than 5 three-pointers a game, which is 330th in the country. Other than Jordan Harris, who’s hitting 42% of his perimeter shots, Georgia has only one other player connecting on over 35% from beyond the arc and that’s Maten (only counting players with more than 30 attempts)! That’s right, Yante is the best outside shooter on UGA this season as well, making nearly 49% of his three-point shots. If only Maten could kick it back out to himself when he faces those pesky double-teams in the paint.
Tomorrow afternoon the Dawgs will host a Texas Longhorn team that is just 8-12 overall, but they did recently snap a five-game losing streak with a buzzer beater win over Oklahoma. It should also be noted that their previous three losses came in competitive games with highly ranked Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia. Texas gets after it defensively, holding opponents to under 42% from the floor. The Longhorns have a big frontcourt that is getting 4.9 blocks per game, which is good enough for 50th in the country in that category. Texas’s 6’11” starter Jarrett Allen and 6’10” reserve James Banks have a combined 60 blocks between them. Surely Yante Maten will become quickly acquainted with both of these gentlemen shortly after 4pm Saturday.
Maten is going to once again have a lot to deal with in the paint tomorrow. Coach Shaka Smart has a plan on how to neutralize him. However, based on what I’ve seen from Maten so far this season, I don’t think it’s going to work.
After beating Vandy at home a week ago, it seemed like Georgia (12-8) had a few more games before embarking on what would be their most difficult stretch of conference play: @ Kentucky, @ South Carolina, Florida and @ Tennessee. Losing on the road to Texas A&M, a team projected to finish 3rd in the conference, in the bizarre fashion that UGA did is one thing. To get blown out at home, though, by an Alabama (12-7) team that was picked to end up 11th in the SEC is another. The Tide trounced Georgia 80-60 last night in Stegeman, and now the Bulldogs will carry a two-game conference losing streak into Lexington next Tuesday. Below are my thoughts on what went wrong last night:
Georgia is a team that prides itself on its defense, which is why the Dawgs entered last evening’s contest ranked 24th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to under 40% a night. That team didn’t show up on Tuesday, though. The rotations in UGA’s matchup zone last night were incredibly sluggish. Weak side defenders failed to shift quickly enough when the ball moved to the wing and the corners, leaving gaping holes in middle of the zone. Alabama took advantage, easily getting the ball into the paint, where the Tide scored 26 of their points. Bama came into this game with second-worst offense in league games, netting under 68 points a night; yet by halftime, the Tide had already scored 41 points, which was their highest output in a first half in conference play this year. Freshman Braxton Key, who is the only Bama player scoring in double-figures at 10.7 a night, completely had his way with the Dawgs and finished with a game-high 26 points. Riley Norris nearly doubled his season average as he scored 15 points on Tuesday, and he looked like Steph Curry doing it: hitting open three’s and dicing into the lane off the dribble.
The Dawgs effort around the perimeter wasn’t any better. The Tide hit 4 three-pointers before the break because Georgia’s zone was slow to react; the 5 three-pointers that Bama knocked down after the intermission happened because UGA looked as if it just wasn’t interested in running out. This was an Alabama team that was making less than 32% of its attempts from beyond the arc prior to Tuesday in SEC games, but the Tide sure looked comfortable from the perimeter last night as they buried 9 of 16 shots.
Devastating stretch to close out the first half
The Dawgs had a moment in the first half where they appeared ready to wake up and take control of this game. With UGA trailing 28-19 with 4:07 remaining in half, Juwan Parker hit a three-pointer and Yante Maten simultaneously got fouled underneath vying for position for the rebound. Since Georgia was in the bonus, Maten stepped to the line and hit a pair of free throws which cut the Tide advantage to 28-24 following the five-point trip.
Then the wheels came off. Bama responded immediately and went on a 10-0 run that sent their lead back up to 38-24 with just 1:27 left. About 30 seconds earlier, UGA lost its coach for the remaining 22 minutes as Mark Fox was quickly ejected for arguing a carrying call against Jordan Harris. Any hopes that Fox’s tirade might ignite his sleepy team were quickly dashed when Corban Collins hit a three-pointer with just one second on the clock, and the Tide took a 41-27 lead into the break.
Disappearing act by J.J. Frazier
J.J. has played pretty well for UGA this year, but by and large, he hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations after what he did a year ago. At times last night, I forgot that he was even on the court. Frazier, who came into yesterday’s contest netting a little over 18 points per SEC game, took just 3 shots in the first half. J.J. ended up with only 4 points, shooting an abysmal 2 for 9 from the floor and missing all 5 of this three-point attempts. Not only was his shot off, but Frazier missed on his lay ups, too. J.J. drew all glass on one of his fast break drives, which is a shot that he routinely finishes with contact.
Yante Maten led all UGA scorers with 20 points, which was impressive considering he faced double teams every time he touched the ball in the paint. But last night proved that Maten cannot do it alone, and when Frazier is held under double-digits the Dawgs are going to hard-pressed to beat anybody other than Morehouse.
The Dawgs (12-7) lost in truly bizarre fashion in College Station on Saturday afternoon. With a little over 16 seconds left, J.J. Frazier brought the ball up the court with his team trailing by a point. When the clock hit 5.6 seconds, Frazier found himself in trouble, facing a double-team near the perimeter. Fortunately, Frazier managed to find Yante Maten on the block, where he quickly turned and drew a foul going towards the bucket. At the moment, it appeared that Maten was headed to the line with a chance to put his team ahead of Texas A&M (9-9). The problem, however, was that the clock still showed 5.6 seconds. The officials gathered, discussed and determined that more than 6 seconds had eclipsed since the game clock ceased running, and they decided that the contest was over, giving the Aggies the 63-62 home win.
While this decision certainly deserves some explaining from the SEC’s league office, Georgia can hardly be that upset considering how horribly the Dawgs played down the stretch. After building up a 56-43 advantage with a little over 10 minutes remaining, UGA’s final 17 possessions resulted in 10 turnovers and a 1 for 7 performance from the floor. The Aggies full court trap press mystified Georgia and forced the Dawgs into 4 turnovers in the final 2 minutes of play. Texas A&M ended the game on a 10-0 run and stole a victory from the Dawgs in a contest that UGA led for the majority of the afternoon.
As bummed as I am regarding the loss, I’m equally curious as to whether Coach Mark Fox’s team actually has a press break offense. The A&M trap was tough, but nothing that a Division I team from a Power 5 conference shouldn’t be able to figure out. The Dawgs, however, seemed content to go the route of a broken record as they repeatedly inbounded the ball far too low and to the corner, making it incredibly easy for the Aggie defenders to trap Frazier. Not once during this nightmare of an ending did Georgia pass the ball into a player above the free throw line.
UGA’s offense over the last quarter of this game completely contrasted what it had done over the previous thirty minutes. For most of the afternoon, the Dawgs were highly efficient on offense, carving up the Aggies 2-3 zone by getting the ball to either the short corner or free throw line. Before the meltdown, Georgia hit over 46% from the floor and 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, and they had 14 team assists to just 7 turnovers. Texas A&M’s 10-0 run to end the game was payback for the one that UGA went on going into the intermission. Yante Maten and Tyree Crump hit back to back three-pointers to send the Dawgs up 39-29 at the half.
Defensively, UGA’s match up zone kept the Aggies in check. A&M made only 36% of its shots from the floor, and the team’s leading scorer, Tyler Davis, finished with just 8 points. The Aggies out-rebounded the Dawgs 40-38 and they hauled in 18 offensive boards, but when a team starts two 6’9″s and two 6’10″s that can almost be expected.
The Aggies were led offensively by Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg, who finished with 18 and 16, respectively.
Georgia had just two players finish in double-figures: Maten (19) and Frazier (11).
After committing only 6 turnovers on Tuesday against Vandy, the Dawgs returned to their careless ways, giving the ball away 17 times.
UGA now has two losses to teams with RPI’s above 100: Texas A&M (110) and Oakland (127). Both of these games will fall into the old “bad loss” category in regards to Georgia’s NCAA tournament resume, which took a major hit today in College Station.
Just a few days removed from a crushing overtime defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 4-2) collected themselves and managed to bounce back at home on Tuesday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4). Here are the keys that propelled UGA to the 76-68 home win:
Unselfish, efficient offense
Vanderbilt attempted to zone the Dawgs early in this game and UGA ate it up. Georgia did an excellent job of getting the ball into the short corners and finding gaps in the zone. When UGA players penetrated and drew extra defenders, the Dawgs opted to pass instead of forcing up highly-contested shots. Georgia dished out 16 team assists, which marks their highest total yet in SEC play. UGA shot over 45% from the floor, and the Dawgs had four starters finish in double-figures – Yante Maten and Juwan Parker led the way with 21 and 17, respectively. The Bulldogs also knocked down 40% from beyond the arc, and the majority of those three-pointers came on kick out passes from the paint. Lastly, UGA valued the basketball, turning it over just 6 times on Tuesday, which is a drastic improvement for a Georgia team that entered this contest average 16 turnovers per conference game.
Solid first half perimeter defense
Vanderbilt gets 40% of its offense from beyond the arc. The Dores came into Athens making over 40% of its three-point shots in SEC play. However, UGA held Vandy to just 1 of 9 from the perimeter in the first half, which enabled Georgia to take a 34-25 advantage into the break. Coach Mark Fox had his team in a lot of match up zone, and the Dawgs’ defenders closed out and contested nearly every Commodore three-point attempt. The second half was a different story though, as Vandy found its range and connected on 9 of 22 shots from beyond the arc. The Dores ended up with 10 three’s, which is just below their 10.8 average in SEC games, but they only made 34% of them. The Dawgs’ ability to contain Vanderbilt from the perimeter in this contest’s first twenty minutes proved crucial, and it may have been the difference in the game.
Vanderbilt, who only led for 1:35 of this game, had three opportunities to overtake the Dawgs last night. However, each time the Dores closed the gap, Georgia found a way to respond. After building up a 14-5 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the half, UGA’s offense took a breather and scored just 2 points over the next six minutes. With 7:33 remaining before the break and Vandy trailing 16-11, Yante Maten buried a big three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the UGA lead.
Vandy opened up the second half with a flurry of three-pointers, and after Jeff Roberson hit one from beyond the arc the UGA advantage had been cut to 42-39 with a little over 15 minutes left in the game. The Dawgs answered, though, as J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker hit back to back three’s, and Jordan Harris stole a lazy Vandy pass and took it the length of the floor for an electrifying one-handed dunk, putting Georgia up 50-41.
The Dores last effort to catch the Dawgs came late in the game when Riley Lachance sunk a three to trim the UGA lead to 65-60 with 2:17 remaining. Once again, Coach Fox’s team responded to the pressure, getting the ball into the hands of Yante Maten, who was fouled and made both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Parker got a steal and was immediately sent to the line, where he too hit both attempts. With just 1:25 left, UGA had a 69-60 lead that Vandy would not surmount.
J.J. Frazier had a chance to be a hero twice on Saturday, but he came up a little short each time. The first opportunity came at the end of regulation when J.J. took a last second shot from the top of the key as timed expired, but the ball didn’t cooperate, bouncing off the back of the iron and sending the game into overtime. At the end of OT, Frazier took an off-balanced shot from the corner that could have tied the game at 79 apiece, but that shot was off the mark as well and UGA lost an 80-76 heartbreaker to the Florida Gators, making it 14 straight years since they last won in Gainesville.
In some ways it was kind of amazing that the Dawgs managed to get to OT considering that they had to play the last 3:51 without their leading scorer, Yante Maten. Maten fouled out vying for position underneath with a Florida player, his team up 64-59. But without Yante on the court, the Gators were able to extend their defense so that they could key in on Frazier around the perimeter, and they limited UGA to just 3 points during this final stretch. Overtime felt like more of a formality than anything since it seemed improbable that the Dawgs could actually outplay Florida for 5 minutes without Maten’s inside presence.
But moral victories aside, this loss was also incredibly frustrating for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Georgia missed out on a chance to notch a serious NCAA tournament resume win on the road against a team with an RPI of 3. At halftime, ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz repeated almost to the point of ad nauseam how important it was that Georgia get this game.
Second, the Dawgs once again played loose with the basketball, turning it over 18 times, and it cost them: Florida converted those turnovers into 22 points. While the Gators did enter this game 18th in the nation in turnovers forced, that didn’t mean that UGA had to oblige and hand the ball over to them. The Dawgs are now averaging just under 16 turnovers a game in conference play, which is third to last in the SEC in that category.
Also, at the end of this game Georgia failed to limit the Gators to just one shot on offense. Florida collected 5 offensive rebounds over the final five and a half minutes (including OT), and they turned those boards into 4 of their final 14 points. Let’s not forget that Florida guard Kasey Hill tied the game from the line at 67-67 after John Egbunu kept Hill’s previous missed free throw alive. Derek Ogbeide led UGA with 10 rebounds on the afternoon, but he only managed 1 defensive board during this critical stretch of the game. Florida only had 6 second chance points in the entire game, but unfortunately for Georgia the Gators collected the majority of them with the game on the line.
Finally, Georgia made too many bonehead plays to walk out of this one with a win. The Dawgs committed three fouls on Florida shooters attempting three-pointers, and Canyon Barry turned two of them into four-point plays. I would wager a large sum of money that no other team in the country today surrenders more than one 4-point play in a game. I guess I have to at least credit the Dawgs for attempting to contest his shot, though, since twice on inbounds plays Mark Fox’s team left the youngest Barry wide open at the top of the key, where he buried both attempts. Barry scored a season-high 27 points on the Dawgs this afternoon, connecting on 5 of his 8 three-point shots.
This was a winnable game for Georgia. Despite Florida’s #23 ranking in the polls and their high RPI, this Gator team did not look nearly as scary as the ones that Billy Donovan fielded in the past. I was expecting 40 minutes of full-court pressure from this highly regarded Florida defense, yet for much of the game the Gators seemed content to play half court man to man, which played to UGA’s strengths. In the first half, the Dawgs pounded the ball inside and led the entire twenty minutes, taking a 1 point advantage into the break. Georgia made more than 48% of their field goal attemtps, well above the team’s season average of 44%.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the Dawgs are now 11-6 overall, and 3-2 in conference play. J.J. Frazier played well, scoring 25 points and dishing out 5 assists, but man would it have been epic if he could have sunk that shot at the end of regulation. Juwan Park, who has been getting better and better since the start of the SEC season, netted 17 points to go along with his 7 boards.
Georgia has a few days to lick their wounds before playing host to a Vanderbilt team that just lost a close game at home to Kentucky.
Mark Fox has never won a game in Gainesville. Let that sink in for a moment. Matter of fact, Fox’s UGA teams have only been victorious 3 times in their 12 meetings with the Gators overall during that same time span. The last time the Dawgs did manage to pull off a road win against Florida was during the 2001-2002 season, when now assistant coach Jonas Hayes was a player (UGA won 84-79 that day).
The fact that the Gators have been so dominant against Georgia shouldn’t be surprising, though. Florida has had considerably better talent walk through its doors over the past 15 years. I mean, the Gators did win back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007 during the Joakim Noah era. Florida regularly goes to the NCAA Tournament, while UGA has been twice since Fox set foot in Athens.
But its not just the Gators that Coach Mark Fox’s teams have struggled against. Generally speaking, Georgia hasn’t fared well against elite competition during Fox’s tenure. Over the past seven seasons, the Dawgs have compiled a 2-30 record versus what ESPN deems the RPI Top 25. Currently, Florida has an RPI of 3.
To say that Georgia has a lot of things going against itself historically as they rumble into Gainesville for a midday showdown with the Gators is an understatement.