Georgia struggles once again to put away a lesser opponent

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s (TAMCC) Joseph Kilgore tried to tie the game at 68 with a last-second three-point attempt, but fortunately for Coach Mark Fox’s sanity he missed, which was surprising considering Kilgore basically made everything he tossed up in the second half as he scored 20 of his game-high 22 points.

In a game in which Georgia held leads of 19-2 and 27-8, the Dawgs found themselves once again fighting for their lives against a mediocre mid-major team late into the second half.  The Islanders came into the season without the services of its senior point guard Ehab Amin, who averaged over 18 points a game last year as well as leading the nation in steals.  I shudder to think what the outcome of today’s contest might have been had Amin not been injured.  TAMCC, a team that Ken Pomeroy deems to be 256th in the nation, nearly upset Mark Fox’s team with three freshmen in its starting lineup.

UGA got it’s third win of the season to push its record to 3-0 on the year, but it was not pretty.  In todays’ 68-65 victory, the Dawgs turned the ball over 24 times in a game that featured a combined 43 turnovers by both teams.  TAMCC capitalized on the Dawgs’ carelessness as they ended up with 28 points off of the UGA mishaps.  After shooting only 25% prior to the intermission, the Islanders hit nearly 60% of their attempts in the second half.

Even though we are just three games into the young season, it’s hard to determine this Georgia team’s identity.  At first glance, the Dawgs look like a team that should be able to dominate the paint night in-night out with its imposing frontline of Yante Maten, Rayshaun Hammonds and Derek Ogbeide.  For some reason though, UGA is struggling to take advantage of its bigs.  Today, many of Georgia’s turnovers were a result of sloppy entry passes; when the ball did make it in there, UGA’s big men struggled to get the ball up to the glass.

Yante Maten led the way on offense with 19 points to go with 13 rebounds for his 3rd double-double in as many games, but his effort was overshadowed by his game-high 7 turnovers.  The TAMCC Islanders swarmed Maten whenever he received the ball inside, and Yante did not handle the pressure well.  Maten either was indecisive, which resulted in him being double- and triple-teamed, or he tried to force passes through the lane that had no business being attempted.

Compounding UGA’s problem of not being able to force its will in the paint on offense is the Dawgs’s proclivity for putting up shots from beyond the arc at a high rate.  Georgia has taken over 20 three-pointers in each of its first three games, and that feels like far too many perimeter shots for a team that is shooting just 31% from long range.  The Dawgs shot 23% from the three-point line this afternoon; Tyree Crump made only 1 of his 8 attempts.

Aside from Maten’s 19 points, the only other Bulldog to finish in double-figures was the freshman Hammonds, who netted 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers.  Had Fox not been able to sign Hammonds, this team might have struggled to end the year with a winning record.  The UGA freshman is clearly Georgia’s second most important player, and he may eventually become the go-to guy in crunch time this season as he seems to be the best player on this squad at creating his own shot.

Georgia got all it could handle earlier this week from USC Upstate, a team that Pomeroy ranks 280th.  I wanted to label that game as an early season anomaly, but after watching today’s contest I’m starting to worry that it’s closer to the norm than I could have possibly anticipated.  Mark Fox lauded this year’s team as his deepest and most talented yet, but so far they haven’t played that way.  Georgia heads out to California this week to take part in the Wooden Classic.  Their first round opponent, Cal State-Fullerton, is another mid-major opponent, but they will be better than anyone UGA’s faced thus far.  Should the Dawgs get by CSF they will most likely see the the defensived-minded San Diego State Aztecs in the second round, where Fox’s team could be in store for quite the reality check.

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Georgia squeaks by USC Upstate

The USC Upstate Spartans’ scheme on Tuesday was rather simple: (1) get up as many three-pointers on offense has humanly possible and (2) sit in a packed in zone defense and force the opposition to beat them from the outside.

On Tuesday night, the Spartans, a team that had shot over 30 three’s in its first two games, hoisted up 36 attempts from beyond the arc.  To be fair, Upstate started and played with four guards for pretty much the whole game, which is probably also why the undersized Spartans were content to play zone against the Dawgs to try to minimize Georgia’s size advantage in the paint.

Unfortunately, UGA played an undisciplined game offensively, and it almost resulted in a horrific home loss.  I suppose the Dawgs got jealous of the outside shots that Upstate was taking, and they just couldn’t resist shooting a few themselves as Mark Fox’s team put up 22 three-pointers in this contest (making  only 5 of them).  Shooting three’s was exactly what Upstate wanted Georgia to do; it’s why they played zone for most of the night.  For whatever reason, UGA seemed reluctant to pound the ball into the paint and punish the smaller Atlantic Sun team, and rather, the Dawgs obliged the Upstate game plan.

Georgia’s futility on the offensive side of the ball almost cost them dearly as the Spartans took their first lead of the game with 13:02 left on a three by Deion Holmes.  Upstate would lead for nearly the next 8 minutes until Rayshaun Hammonds seized momentum back for the Dawgs when he knocked down a corner three to put his team on top 60-59.  The freshman scored on a fast break on the ensuing possession, which gave UGA a 62-59 advantage with 3:39 remaining.  Georgia managed to slowly pull away from that point, and they would end up with the 74-65 home win.

Hammonds had another solid outing as he netted 13 points and nabbed 7 boards.  William “Turtle” Jackson also finished in double-figures as he scored a career high 13 points to go along with 4 assists.  Turtle has now hit 4 three-pointers through two games, and he’s looking like the team’s most consistent outside threat in the early going.

Georgia’s defense wasn’t the problem in this one as the Dawgs held Upstate to 65 points, which marked its lowest output of the season.  UGA limited the Spartans to under 37% from the floor and just 27% from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs played primarily man defense with Coach Fox mixing in some 2-3 and matchup zones.  For the most part, though, Georgia followed the scouting report and contested the perimeter to make it more difficult for USC Upstate to get clean looks.

UGA jumped on Upstate early as they started the game with a 13-2 run that was capped off by a three-pointer from Yante Maten, who notched his second double-double in as many games as he scored 22 points and grabbed 14 boards.  Coach Fox’s offense went moderately stagnant over the next 16 minutes as they settled for too many outside shots, which enabled the Spartans to go into the intermission trailing by a scored of 34-30.

The Dawgs came out of the break and took their first five shots from inside the paint; UGA made 4 of those attempts and found themselves up 42-33 after a Mike Edwards layup with over 17 minutes left in the game.  Georgia didn’t stick with this strategy of going inside, though, and Fox’s team made only 1 of their 9 second half three-point attempts.

The Spartans had four players end up in double-figures with Mike Cunningham and Malik Moore leading the way with 16 points apiece.

The Dawgs return to action on Sunday to continue this early season stretch down Murder’s Row as they play host to Texas A&M – Corpus Christi inside The Steg at 1pm.

 

Dawgs coast to 79-54 win over hapless Bryant

For nearly 12 minutes, the Bryant Bulldogs had the look of a team that did not fly all the way from Rhode Island just to lay down for Mark Fox’s team.  With 8:25 left before the break, Bryant trailed 22-13 after leading scorer Adam Grant (24 points) connected on a three.  That was the closest the other Bulldogs would get for the remainder of the evening, though, as Georgia went on an 18-4 run to finish out the first twenty minutes of play that enabled them to take a 40-17 lead at the half.

This run was fueled by 8 points from junior guard William “Turtle” Jackson, who poked his head out and notched all 11 of his points before the intermission (9 of which came from beyond the arc).

Georgia’s man defense suffocated Bryant on Friday as they held the Bulldogs to just 17% from the field for the first half (they finished the night slightly above 25%).   UGA used its superior length to make Bryant uncomfortable, which led to a lot of hurried shots form the outside by the Bulldogs.  Bryant attempted an astounding 31 shots from the three-point line, yet they connected on just 8 of them. However, it was hard to blame the smaller Bulldogs for looking for points from the perimeter as the Dawgs swatted 10 of their shots on the night, with Yante Maten and Nicolas Claxton leading the way with 4 and 3 blocks, respectively (one of Claxton’s rejections was so forceful it shot up into the 4th row of the lower level).

While the Dawgs primarily played half court defense for the majority of the night, Fox did provide a glimpse of a full-court press that could (and should) be employed more down the road: Mike Edwards defended the ball and then trapped on the side where the ball was inbounded.  The result: one steal and a deflected pass. With Edwards’s size and athleticism, this spot on the press could be a nice little defensive niche for him.

Offensively, I loved the sets where Maten received the ball at the high post.  He would give it to the guard on his side of the court, screen on the ball and then work into a little two man game as he rolled off the pick.  Maten had a solid first outing as he notched a double-double and scored a team-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds.  Georgia consistently pounded the ball inside to Maten where he took advantage of the helpless Bryant defenders.

Probably the biggest bright spot of the night for Coach Fox was the play of freshman Rayshaun Hammonds, who netted 17 points and snagged 7 boards.  He looked good doing it, too.  Hammonds scored effortlessly close to the basket, and he had several nice buckets from the wing in which he took his defender off the dribble; and he made a three-pointer.  Hammonds could potentially be a key contributor to replacing J.J. Frazier’s points from a year ago.

While UGA fans and players obviously shouldn’t read too much into a win over an opponent that ESPN ranked 298th in the country before the season, it was nice to see Georgia throttle a team that was clearly less talented. I’ve definitely taken in more than a few early season games in which it took nearly 30 minutes for the Dawgs to put away an inferior mid-major team.  Tonight, that was not the case.  Georgia shut this team down early and walked away with a 79-54 victory, which makes the Dawgs a perfect 1-0 on the year.

Dawgs blast Valdosta State in exhibition game

170924_MBB_Team_0297_108In the spirit of exhibition games, this post will not delve too much into the play-by-play or statistics from UGA’s scrimmage tonight with the Valdosta State Blazers.  I mean, how much can be gleaned from a game against a Division II opponent? Not to mention that Mark Fox, as he tends to often do, subbed players in and out at a torrid rate.  However, that being said, there were definitely a few takeaways from this evening’s 112-74 shellacking of VSU for the fan base to consider, so without further ado, here they are:

The Dawgs frontcourt seems imposing.  The Dawgs triumvirate of Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds, all of whom are 6’8″, will create a lot of mismatches this season.  Maten, who was coming off of a 33-point effort in last Sunday’s loss to Michigan State (don’t worry, also just a scrimmage), had his way underneath with the Blazers scoring 24 points and nabbing 10 boards. This was my first look at the freshman blue-chip Rayshaun Hammonds, who also notched a double-double with 17 points/10 rebounds, and color me impressed.  He’s got good size to him, he’s explosive around the basket, and he even knocked down a three-pointer.  Hammonds and Ogbeide, who had 17 points, will both benefit a lot this season inside as opposing defenses key in on Maten.

Georgia may have several players that can score from beyond the arc. Historically, Fox has not built his teams at UGA around having 3 to 4 guys who can knock it down from the perimeter, but this year may be different.  Keep in mind, once again, that it was just an exhibition, but the Dawgs had 6 different players connect from the outside on a night in which they made 7 of 23 from three-point range.  If Georgia can force teams to play them tight around the perimeter that will really open things up inside for both Maten and Ogbeide.  Not to mention that scoring from beyond the arc has been trending in college basketball for several years now, and it would be nice to see UGA following suit.

UGA is really going to miss J.J. Frazier.  I realize that I’m not providing anything insightful with this statement, but after watching tonight’s game it had to be said. It wasn’t just that J.J. poured in over 18 points a night for Georgia, but it was how he did it. Frazier could get into the paint off the dribble from just about anywhere on the court.  His quickness coupled with his ball-handling skills kept opposing defenses on their heels, and his penetration opened things up for his teammates. Turtle Jackson doesn’t have that same skillset.  He brings the ball up the court and then either passes to the wing or immediately hands it to a big at the top of the key.  Turtle doesn’t threaten the other team’s backcourt the way J.J. did, and that could be a problem that handicaps this team offensively when they start taking on more stout competition.

The regular season gets underway next season as the Dawgs host the Bryant Bulldogs from Smithfield, Rhode Island inside Stegeman Coliseum.