Georgia’s Yante Maten, who had missed over 9 minutes in the first half and had just 2 points well into the second, chose an opportune time to come alive in the Dawgs’ match up with the California State-Fullerton (CSF) Titans. Maten broke a 43-43 tie with a free throw and just 6:25 remaining; he then proceeded to score 10 more of his 15 points over the next 4-plus minutes in what turned out to be a key 12-6 UGA run that was capped off by a three-pointer by Yante from the top of the key. With its biggest lead of the game, Georgia managed to salt away this contest from the free throw line to secure the 64-57 win, which pushed UGA’s record out to 4-0 overall.
Coming off a 24-turnover effort against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last Sunday, the Georgia offense once again look rather pedestrian. For much of the night, the Titans ran a zone that extended out beyond the three-point line in an effort to hamper UGA’s ability to get comfortable and pound the ball inside to its bigs. Georgia’s guards seemed content to either dribble the ball or pass it around the top of the Titan zone, which resulted in numerous turnovers and hurried looks as the shot clock melted away. In the first half, UGA shot under 31% from the floor and turned the ball over 11 times, and that carelessness led to 11 points for CSF, who held a 27-21 lead at the break.
Georgia’s inability to get into its offense against extended pressure is disconcerting. Last night’s game exposed just how much the Dawgs are going to miss J.J. Frazier, who would have blown by the Titan perimeter players and attacked the basket, which after a few times would have forced them to retreat out of the zone. UGA doesn’t have a guard this year that can put a defense on its heels, and it’s certainly the glaring weakness of this team thus far.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Dawgs offensively as they cleaned up their act somewhat after the intermission. Mark Fox’s team shot the ball much better in the second half (58%) and they only gave the ball away 4 times. A major catalyst for Georgia’s second half resurgence was Turtle Jackson, who scored 14 of his career-high 16 points following the break. For the fourth consecutive game, Jackson hit 2 shots from beyond the arc, and his second three-pointer was particularly important for UGA as it brought the Dawgs to within 1 with a little over 10 minutes left to play (nearly wiping out a 37-31 CSF advantage).
Georgia put forth a fairly strong defensive effort on Thursday, especially in the second half when Mark Fox put his team into several different zone looks. After a layup by CSF’s Davon Clare that gave the Titans a 39-35 lead with 10:40 left, Georgia held Fullerton without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes before Kyle Allman buried a three-pointer to make it 49-48 Georgia with 2:47 remaining. Other than the fact that UGA allowed Allman to net 34 points, the Dawgs kept the Titans in check for much of the night as they limited them to under 36% from the field. The Bulldogs bigs did an excellent job on the defensive glass as they yielded just 5 offensive boards to the Titans and only 2 second-chance points.
UGA will take on the San Diego State Aztecs in the second round of the Wooden Legacy in what will easily be the Dawgs’ biggest challenge of the year to date. SDSU, who destroyed Sacramento State 89-52 in the first round, is a veteran-laden team that will get after Georgia defensively in a way the Dawgs haven’t seen yet this season. Even though the Bulldogs are 4-0 on the year, they will have to play better than they have been if they want to advance in the winner’s bracket of the Wooden Legacy tournament.