Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs’ appearance in this year’s NIT tournament was short-lived. UGA attempted to defend its home court without the services of Yante Maten and Juwan Parker, and in the end, it failed as the Dawgs fell 78-69 to Belmont. For the second straight year, Georgia will head into the offseason wondering “what if” in regards to this tournament. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for the Dawgs this March, or maybe advancing to the semifinals of the NIT is an intricate part of year 9 of Fox’s 10-year plan. Either way, UGA’s season is done as they finish 19-15 on the year (assuming we include the win over Division II Morehouse).
Tonight, Georgia struggled to cover the perimeter against a Belmont (23-6) team that entered this game hitting 10 three-pointers a night. Surely defending the outside had to be a point of focus in practice the past several days. Yet, the Bruins torched the Dawgs for 7 three’s in the first half. UGA responded by switching to man defense out of the intermission, and Belmont promptly hit 3 more from beyond the arc. Fox put his team back in its bread and butter – the matchup zone – only to see the Dawgs yield 4 more three-pointers. By the time the final horn sounded, the Bruins had knocked down a whopping 14 three-pointers, and they finished with a blistering 45% mark from the perimeter. For the Dawgs’ defense, mission not accomplished.
For a while in the second half, the Bruins simplified their offense down to an NBA-like style as they allowed Evan Bradds to back down whoever was on his side of the UGA zone until help came over and he could kick it to an open shooter. Watching the Bruins score the ball over and over again in this fashion was quite painful as a UGA fan. And Bradds had plenty of options to pass it to as he and three of his teammates finished the game in double-figures. The Bruins were led by Dylan Windler, who scored 21 points. Windler came into this contest netting just 9 a night against Ohio Valley competition, but this evening he shredded the Georgia defense and appeared to be virtually unguardable.
On the flip side, Georgia’s offense was J.J. Frazier, who led all scorers with 29 points. Frazier used his athleticism to get to the basket basically whenever he pleased, but his efforts alone were not enough this time. The rest of the UGA offense looked stagnant and almost content to stand by and watch the J.J. Frazier show. Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump each finished with 10 points, but did not shoot the ball particularly well, going 4 for 11 and 4 for 10, respectively. The Dawgs didn’t shoot it well as a team as they connected on 42% from the floor and just 23% from beyond the arc.
Georgia’s ineptness on the offensive side of the ball is why this team only led Belmont for 19 seconds on Wednesday.
Even though Maten and Parker were out, one would think that Georgia should win this game at home. The problem, though, is that other than Frazier and Ogbiede, the Bruins had better players on the court. Belmont’s players shot the ball more efficiently and ran their offense to precision. UGA’s 5 through 8 players on the roster should be at least as talented as a team from the Ohio Valley, and if that’s not the case their needs to be serious questions asked about the direction that this program is heading.