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.