Georgia thrashes Temple 84-66 in Athens

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-2) have just two losses on the season: one to a San Diego State team with an RPI in the low 50s that just knocked off #12 Gonzaga, and the other to a mediocre UMass team.  At the time, the game against the Minutemen seemed to have exposed a host of weaknesses harbored by Georgia on both the offensive and defensive ends.  Now, however, that loss seems more like an anomaly.

Today, the Dawgs played probably their most complete game of the season in UGA’s utter domination of a Temple Owl squad that rolled into Athens sporting a lofty RPI of 11.  This game was Temple’s first regular season game ever inside the state of Georgia, and I’m pretty sure the Owls aren’t eager to come back anytime soon after what transpired inside Stegeman on Friday. Georgia’s defense, which has become the strength of this team, set the tone early with an aggressive man-to-man approach.  The Owls had no answer for the UGA pressure as Temple seemed content to stand around and play isolation basketball for much of the first half.  The Owls’ strategy might have been more effective if they had a few NBA prospects on their roster, but unfortunately for Temple coach Fran Dunphy they do not, and all that happened was his team was forced into a lot of hurried looks.

After jumping out to a 7-2 lead with just under 16 minutes left before the intermission, Temple scored only 2 points in over the next 8 minutes and found themselves down 19-9 with 7:23 remaining.  The Owls shot less than 31% from the floor prior to the break, and they quickly became the victims of a blowout as they entered the half trailing Georgia 43-24.

Temple shot the ball better in the second half, but the Dawgs still limited them to under 40% from the field on the afternoon.  Georgia is now 44th in the nation in team field goal percentage defense, where they are holding opponents to just 39.7% from the floor.  Temple’s Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston, Jr. entered this contest averaging a combined 33 ppg; today they scored only 15 on a combined shooting effort of 6 for 26.  The only Owl that provided Georgia with any trouble was Obi Enechionya, who scored 27 points (21 of them coming from beyond the arc).

Just like in the Tech game, Georgia’s frontcourt dominated the glass, out-rebounding Temple by a tally of 32-18.  UGA is now 38th in the country in rebounding margin as they are snagging over 7 more boards a night than their opposition.

As good as the defense was on Friday, the Georgia offense was not to be outdone.  Coach Fox’s team deliberately pounded the ball inside from the start, and Georgia got 34 of its 80 points in the paint.  Yante Maten was unstoppable as he posted another double-double in which he scored 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds.  Maten also did a phenomenal job of handling the Temple double-teams as he patiently found his teammates when the Owl defenders approached him.  Georgia reversed the ball around the perimeter consistently this afternoon, which resulted in the Dawgs getting several easy dunks on beautiful entry passes from the top of the key.   Georgia shot over 47% on its field goal attempts, and UGA had 14 team assists; they now have 31 in the past two games.

Young Nicolas Claxton played his best game yet in Athens as he just missed a double-double on a 14 point, 9 rebound effort; Claxton had several dunks that were unfairly cruel to the Stegeman rims.  Hopefully Claxton has finally shown Fox that he is ready to take over the majority of Mike Edwards’s minutes.

After building up the large halftime advantage, Georgia coasted unimpeded for most of the afternoon.  Midway through the second half, Temple threatened to close the gap when they cut the UGA advantage to 54-40 with 10:53 left on a tip-in by De’Vondre Perry.  Maten missed a jumper on the next possession, but Rayshaun Hammonds kept it alive on the glass and eventually Claxton came down with the offensive board and was fouled.  After making the first free throw, he missed the second, but Maten snared the offensive board and wound up at the line himself where he promptly buried both free throws.

On the ensuing UGA possession, Turtle Jackson sunk a three-pointer from the wing, and then he canned another jumper from the baseline the next trip down that bolstered the Georgia advantage back up to 62-43 with 9:19 remaining.  This response by Georgia had to be demoralizing for Temple, and it felt like the game was over at this point.

SEC play begins on New Year’s Eve in Lexington as the Dawgs have the daunting task of taking on perennial league powerhouse, Kentucky.  However, Georgia should be riding a nice wave of momentum into that contest after back-to-back impressive performances against Georgia Tech and Temple.  This is also the earliest in the season that the Dawgs have played Kentucky in a while, and that’s definitely a positive for Georgia.  Coach John Calipari’s teams at Kentucky typically don’t play their best basketball until around the time the SEC Tournament approaches as it takes the young squads time to learn how to play with one another.

If UGA ever had a chance to steal a win inside Rupp Arena, this is it.  Wouldn’t that be a nice way to end 2017?

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UGA improves to 8-2 overall with 80-59 win over Georgia Tech

It was over when…

Georgia had a poor stretch of play with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game in which they turned the ball over on 4 consecutive possessions.  Prior to this run of sloppiness, UGA held a 59-45 advantage over the Jackets.  Despite the Dawgs’ willingness to give the ball away, Tech failed to capitalize; they got it down to 59-50, but then Georgia started attacking the rim again and getting to the free throw line.  With 4:50 left, Yante Maten capped off an 11-3 run with a pair of free throws to make it 70-53 in Georgia’s favor.

Welcome back offense

After taking the day off last Saturday in Amherst, Georgia’s offense came back to life on Tuesday night in Athens.  Other than the aforementioned stretch of turnovers, the only other real moment of struggle for the Dawgs offensively came right at the start of the game when the Jackets showed a little junk press in which their guards trapped the ball-handler.  Georgia seemed a bit caught off guard by the full-court Tech pressure, and after a few hurried shots, the Jackets had built up a 7-3 lead.  But that didn’t last long as UGA took a 20-17 advantage on a Juwan Parker three-pointer less than 9 minutes into the contest, and the Dawgs would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game.

Honestly, it was hard to believe that this UGA team was the same one that I watched play just a few day ago against UMass, in a game in which Georgia failed to establish any sort of offensive rhythm.  Against Tech, Georgia’s offense was  firing on all cylinders.  Jackets’ Coach Josh Pastner started his team off in a 1-3-1 zone in the half court set, and UGA did an excellent job of attacking the soft spots in the zone.  Both Turtle Jackson and Juwan Parker had nice drives in which they attracted multiple defenders and then found Derek Ogbeide underneath for several easy baskets.  Maten made a beautiful pass from the elbow to a cutting Rayshaun Hammonds, who finished with an uncontested dunk.  I loved seeing Hammonds, who ended up with 11 points, slide into the lane when Yante received the ball on the high post – hopefully the Dawgs will run more of this action going forward as it is a great use of Hammonds’ size.

Pastner’s most confounding coaching move of the game though had to be his decision to play Maten one-on-one.  I only remember one UGA possession in which Yante was doubled on the block.  Pastner has to regret how he attempted to defend Maten because the SEC POY torched the Jackets for 24 points on a 9 for 13 shooting effort.  Yante hit an uncontested three-pointer and then a jumper from just inside the arc on the subsequent possession that made it 36-32 UGA with under a minute before the break.  It almost felt like Tech had done zero prep on Maten, because anyone who’s watched the senior play this season knows that Yante needs to be doubled in the paint, and he should not be left alone at the top of the key, where his jumper is quite lethal.

Georgia’s offensive numbers were downright gaudy: 58% from the floor, 47% from 3PT and 17 team assists.  Following the intermission, UGA shot a scorching 71% from the floor.

No second chance points for Jackets

To be fair, Georgia only got 6 second chance points themselves, but that was because the Dawgs just weren’t missing shots.  Tech, however, finished with only 5 second chance points, and that was due to Georgia’s bigs successfully limiting the Jackets to just one opportunity per trip down the court.

The Dawgs definitely appeared more alert defensively last night than they were against UMass on Saturday.  Georgia contested nearly all of the Jackets’ three-point attempts and held them to just 2 of 13 from that range.  Leading scorer Josh Okogie scored 21 points, but he had a hard time getting there as he made only 5 of his 16 shots.

The only player that UGA couldn’t hold down was senior point guard Tadric Jackson, who did most of his damage in the first half, where he scored 13 of his 17 points.  Similarly to other opposing point guards this season, Jackson faced little resistance from Georgia’s backcourt and got the ball into the lane with relative ease.  At this point, the Dawgs really don’t have a guard that can lock down a strong ball-handler, and I’m not sure who on this UGA roster can fill that role.

Concluding thoughts

This win had to be a huge relief for Coach Fox, his team and the UGA fan base.  After last weekend’s debacle, I’m sure everyone was a little on edge coming into this rivalry game.  Considering that Tech had an RPI of 235 as of Tuesday, Georgia had little room for error as a loss to the Jackets might have pulverized any NCAA Tournament hopes that the Dawgs were harboring.  But credit UGA – they cleaned up both sides of the ball and won easily for the second year in a row against their in-state rival.

Georgia returns to action this Friday with a great RPI opportunity when they host the Temple Owls (RPI 10).

Dawgs still searching for right mix on offense

Coach Fox has been notorious during his tenure at UGA for playing a lot of guys.  At times, the scorer’s table can resemble a busy street in New York City with the amount of foot traffic that Fox sends through.  Prior to this season, Fox boasted that this year’s team might be his deepest yet.  Through 9 games, he has 10 players averaging double-digit minutes (nearly 11 with Jordan Harris just missing the cut at 9.6).  In the current AP Top 25 poll, only 7 teams – Wichita State, UNC, Texas A&M, Seton Hall, Virginia, Arizona, and Texas Tech – have 10 or more players averaging more than 10 minutes a night.  Is Georgia’s depth comparable to that of Villanova, Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky or any of the other 14 ranked teams? Obviously not. The Dawgs aren’t as deep as the 7 teams listed above either.  So why does Fox continue to play so many guys?

Play time is over for Georgia.  The Dawgs have Georgia Tech at home on Tuesday and then another home game against a tough Temple squad Friday.  After that, UGA has 8 days off before the open of SEC play, which happens to be against Kentucky in Lexington on New Year’s Eve.  If Georgia thought UMASS looked explosive on offense following the Dawgs’ 11-day rest for final exams, wait till they see what the Cats have in store for them the night before 2018 starts. Fox needs to settle on an 8 or 9 man rotation so that only his best players are seeing the court.

One useful stat to think about when pondering who Georgia’s top contributors are is “Points per 40 minutes” as it gives consideration to how productive players are being with the minutes that they have been given.  I stretched out UGA’s points, rebounds and assists to 40 minutes for each player, and some of the results were surprising:

Points per 40 minutes:

Yante Maten 23.8
Tyree Crump 19.1
William Jackson II 17.0
Teshaun Hightower 13.5
Juwan Parker 13.2
Derek Ogbeide 12.6
Rayshaun Hammonds 12.3
Mike Edwards 11.5
Nicolas Claxton 10.9
Isaac Kante 9.1
Jordan Harris 7.3
Connor O’Neill 6.7
E’Torrion Wilridge 4.4
Christian Harrison 0.0
Pape Diatta 0.0

Rebounds per 40 minutes:

Nicolas Claxton 11.9
Yante Maten 11.8
Derek Ogbeide 10.9
Rayshaun Hammonds 8.1
Mike Edwards 7.7
Teshaun Hightower 6.2
Isaac Kante 5.7
Juwan Parker 5.5
Jordan Harris 5.2
E’Torrion Wilridge 4.4
William Jackson 3.1
Tyree Crump 2.7

Assists per 40 minutes:

Teshaun Hightower 5.8
William Jackson II 5.5
E’Torrion Wilridge 4.1
Tyree Crump 3.0
Pape Diatta 2.9
Rayshaun Hammonds 2.6
Yante Maten 2.3
Juwan Parker 2.3
Jordan Harris 2.2
Derek Ogbeide 1.5
Mike Edwards 1.2
Nicolas Claxton 0.3

Those numbers above make it pretty clear that both Tyree Crump and Teshaun Hightower deserve more minutes.  Fox’s resistance to play Crump is bizarre, especially considering he’s a 35% three-point shooter on a team that ranks 297th in the nation in made 3PT shots per game at just over 6 a night.  Turtle Jackson has been lights-out from the perimeter, where he has been hitting more than 44% of his attempts.  He and Crump should be on the floor more together so that Georgia can stretch opposing defenses and open things up more on the inside for Maten.

 

I have one more facet of Coach Fox’s decision-making that I want to call into question before stepping down from my soapbox, and that is his use of freshman Rayshaun Hammonds.  Yesterday, Hammonds spent the majority of his time on offense standing on the wing, where he would look to either dump the ball inside to Maten or move it back to the top of the key.  At 6’8″, Hammonds is a potential matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.  UMASS had a smaller defender on the freshman all afternoon, but not once did he head to the block to post up.  I kept waiting for Fox to make an adjustment to the offense to exploit this UMASS weakness, but it never happened.  Georgia regularly has Maten receive the ball at the free throw line – why not have Hammonds slide down to the block when this occurs?  Or keep Maten on one block, and let Hammonds occupy the other when Ogbeide or Edwards has the ball at the top of the key.  UMASS couldn’t afford to help on Hammonds in this scenario because of Maten’s presence on the opposing block.  Hammonds is projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and Fox has to find a way to get him more involved in this team’s offensive scheme because Maten cannot be the only option inside.

Quick reaction to Georgia’s 72-62 loss to UMASS

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-2) got a big-time reality check in Amherst on Saturday courtesy of the Massachusetts Minutemen (6-5).  After building some momentum heading into final exams with wins over St. Mary’s, Marquette and Winthrop, Georgia laid an egg and suffered a 72-62 loss to a .500 team with an RPI of 183.  The Dawgs’ NCAA Tournament hopes took a hit this afternoon as this one definitely qualifies as a “bad loss”.

UMASS went all Clubber Lang on Georgia from the start, jumping out to an 8-0 lead that quickly blossomed to 13-2 and then 24-7.  The Dawgs appeared disinterested in guarding the perimeter as they allowed the Minutemen, a team averaging 7.6 three’s a night, to hit 8 three-pointers in the first half (and finish with 12 on the night).  Luwane Pipkins, who scores a little over 18 ppg, was unstoppable in the first half as he scored 12 points on an array of three’s and off-balanced shots.

UMASS’s offensive onslaught left the Dawgs a bit shell-shocked, and in turn Georgia tried to press to much offensively to catch up, which led to a handful of bad looks by Coach Fox’s team.  Yante Maten, who finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds, scored 14 before the break on a 7 for 12 shooting performance; the rest of his team made only 3 of their 19 attempts from the floor.  The result: Georgia trailed 43-24 at halftime.

The Dawgs opened up the second half with a 12-5 run that cut the UMASS lead to 48-36.  Even better, Georgia found themselves in the bonus with over 15 minutes remaining in the game.  The Dawgs appeared poised to work themselves back into this one.  However, UGA only attempted 8 free throws for the remainder of the afternoon.

Even though the Dawgs were down by double-digits or more for nearly 37 minutes of this game, the real dagger came with a little under 8 minutes remaining.  At the time, UMASS led 60-47 until Pipkins buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with the shot clock expiring to push the Minutemen advantage to 63-47.  That shot seemed to take the air out of any hopes that Coach Fox’s team might have held regarding a late-game comeback.

Heading into this game, Georgia seemed to be on the up and up, which is probably why I feel like I have so many questions regarding what transpired today inside the Mullins Center.  I will sit them below:

Why did Jordan Harris, who has been used sparingly at best so far this season, play 17 minutes in the second half?  Harris shot a woeful 1 for 8 from the floor, yet Fox stuck with him for nearly the entire half.  Mark Fox’s substitution patterns are typically rapid and ongoing, but Harris somehow managed to avoid leaving the floor despite playing rather poorly.  The only reason I can see for Fox keeping him on the court is that he felt Harris needed the exercise.

-Why was Yante Maten assigned the task of defending Rashaan Holloway?  At over 300 pounds, Holloway was an absolute load to deal with in the paint.  He used his width to pound Maten inside as he scored 12 points in just 21 minutes of play (the big fella had to deal with some foul trouble).  Derek Ogbeide, who only had 1 personal foul, played only 2 minutes after the intermission.  It seems to me that he would have been more suited to bang with the mammoth Holloway, and Yante might have been less winded down the stretch if hadn’t had to work so hard on the defensive side of the ball.

-Why was Tyree Crump left on the bench?  Tyree Crump is a scorer, pure and simple.  Georgia shot under 36% from the floor today, and they desperately needed an offensive spark from the bench.  Crump even went so far as to provide that spark late in the second half when he entered the game and sunk consecutive three-pointers to make it a 10-point game.  UGA got a steal on the next possession and Crump turned it over trying to force a pass into the lane, which resulted in him being promptly yanked by Coach Fox. Tyree finished the game with 8 points in just 10 minutes.  I’m not sure what Crump does that irks Fox so much, but he’s going to need him on the floor to put the ball in the basket this season or Georgia’s going to lose more games that it shouldn’t.

-Why did freshman Teshaun Hightower only log a minute of play?  Hightower seemed to be establishing himself as a reliable backup point guard to Turtle Jackson prior to the 11-day layoff, but he barely saw the floor in this one.  The freshman’s strengths seem to be defense (because of his length at 6’4″) and his willingness to attack the basket, both qualities that could have been used against UMASS today.  He air-balled a three-pointer from the corner in the first half and then never saw the court again.  I kept waiting for him to return in the second half as I thought he could push the action on offense and take advantage of Georgia being in the bonus, but that never happened.

If anyone has answers or responses to any of my aforementioned questions, please comment below.

3 biggest surprises for UGA basketball

Everyone – UGA coaches and fans – knew that this year’s basketball team would feature a strong frontcourt led by preseason SEC Player of the Year selection Yante Maten.  Complementing Maten on the block would be junior big Derek Ogbeide and highly-touted incoming freshman Rayshaun Hammonds.  Even though Hammonds is just a freshman, he was such a big recruit that it was expected that he would start and contribute immediately, and so far he’s pretty much lived up to the billing: 9 ppg and 5.8 rpg.

The big unknown for this team heading into this season was how it would replace the seemingly irreplaceable J.J. Frazier, who led the Dawgs in scoring last year with nearly 19 points a night and served as the on-court leader of Georgia basketball for the past several seasons.  While Frazier’s presence on the floor is certainly missed, Fox has had several players step up and assume key roles on this team, and those individuals’ play has enabled UGA to get out to a 7-1 start.

So without further ado, here are the three biggest surprises thus far for the UGA basketball team:

Turtle Jackson

Anyone who tells you that they expected Turtle to play at the level he’s playing at this season is lying to your face.  I’ll be the first to admit that I had my reservations as to whether Jackson would be capable enough to run this team, and I’ll also admit that I was completely wrong.  The offense has a different feel to it when Turtle is on the court compared to when he is not; the Dawgs have more purpose when he is at the helm.  Turtle’s numbers have been eye-popping when you look at what he’d done in Athens prior to this season.  Through 8 games, Jackson is averaging 12.5 points and 4 assists (to just 2 turnovers); compare that to his first two years as a Dawg where he netted 1.6ppg and 4.1 ppg, respectively.  Not only is Turtle this team’s floor general, but he’s also established himself as the most consistent outside weapon as he is hitting over 40% of his three-point attempts.  With the amount of attention that Maten garners in the paint, he needs teammates to stretch the court from beyond the arc to open things up on the inside, and so far, Turtle is playing that role.

Nicolas Claxton

The 6’11” Claxton has seen his role on this team increase as the season has progressed, and now it’s to the point that he has become the first big off the bench for Coach Fox.  Claxton is incredibly active defensively, where he consistently alters shots, as well as on the offensive glass.  In only 12 minutes a game, the freshman has been extremely productive, netting nearly 4 points and 4 boards a night to go along with 1.5 blocks (he leads the team with 12 total).  To say that Claxton is a step up from Houston Kessler off the bench is the understatement of the year.

Teshaun Hightower

Like Claxton, Hightower’s playing time has been mixed this year.  He only played 3 minutes against Corpus Christi and did not leave the bench when the Dawgs played Cal State-Fullerton, but ever since the win over Saint Mary’s Hightower has logged double-digit minutes.  Like Claxton, Teshaun has made the most of his time on the court where he’s getting 4 ppg, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in under 12 minutes a contest.  His main strength seems to be his willingness and ability to attack the rim, something that Georgia desperately needs as that was definitely J.J.’s role last year.  Hightower is also an aggressive defender, and if he maintains that mentality Fox will certainly find more minutes for him down the road.

Georgia beats Winthrop 87-82 for its 3rd win in a row

uga-basketball-winthropGeorgia’s (7-1) offense was highly efficient over the last 4 minutes of Tuesday night’s game as they got points on 7 of their final 8 possessions.  The Dawgs were able to score consistently when they needed to down the stretch, and that played a critical part in this team being able to escape with a 87-82 win over Winthrop (5-4) last night.

With the game knotted up at 74 apiece, freshman Rayshaun Hammonds broke the tie with a three from the top of the key that made it 77-74 UGA with 3:20 remaining.  The Dawgs scored their next 6 points in the paint on baskets by Mike Edwards, Yante Maten and Turtle Jackson, and those buckets turned out to be enough to keep the Eagles at bay.

Georgia’s strong play at the end of the game was a stark contrast to its play towards the end of the first half.  The Dawgs shot just 2 of 11 from the floor and committed 3 turnovers during the final 7 minutes before the break.  Despite leading 17-5 early on and holding leads of 7 to 9 points for much of the first half, UGA went into the intermission with just a 40-38 advantage.

Winthrop actually took and held the lead for significant chunks of time in the second half.  This game featured 10 lead changes, and it wasn’t until the aforementioned three-pointer from Hammonds and the subsequent run that followed it that Georgia was able to really take control of this one.  This contest definitely had the potential to be a huge letdown for the Dawgs following big wins at Saint Mary’s and Marquette, so credit UGA for taking care of business inside Stegeman and avoiding what certainly would have been a bad loss.

Georgia’s biggest issue on the night was carelessness as the Bulldogs gave the ball away 16 times, which led to 22 points for the Winthrop Eagles.  When Georgia wasn’t giving the ball to Winthrop, they played pretty sound offense: 53% from the field, 53% from 3PT line and 17 assists.  Georgia’s success from beyond the arc might have been the difference in this one with Maten and Turtle Jackson hitting 3 each, and Hammonds knocking down 2 triples.

Maten and Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks had quite the back and forth battle on offense on Tuesday night.  The Eagles made a couple of defensive decisions regarding Maten that turned out to be quite costly: they left him open for 3’s from the top of the key, and they tried to play him one-on-one in the paint.  Yante took full advantage of both of those coaching choices and scored 25 points and grabbed 11 boards for his 4th double-double of the year.

Winthrop’s Cooks netted a game-high 31 points himself (22 of them coming after halftime).  At 6’8″, Cooks was a matchup nightmare for Georgia due to his ability to get into the lane off the dribble; he only made 2 of 11 from the floor prior to the break, but he found his rhythm once the second half kicked off.

Georgia began this game extending its man defense to the perimeter to limit Winthrop’s looks from the three-point time, and it worked for about 16 minutes as the Eagles had just 1 triple. However, Winthrop, a team that entered this game making nearly twelve 3’s a night, buried 3 shots from beyond the arc during the final 4 minutes of the first half; they finished the game with 8 three-pointers on a 42% shooting effort.

UGA’s perimeter defense continues to be a soft spot for this team.  The Dawgs’ backcourt has had trouble keeping opposing teams from driving by and getting into the lane for easy baskets.  Tonight, Winthrop carved Georgia up for 40 points in the paint, which is far too many considering UGA’s size advantage compared to the Eagles.

The Bulldogs ended up with four other players – Jackson (14), Mike Edwards (11), Rayshaun Hammonds (10), Derek Ogbeide (10) – in double-figures along with Maten.  Turtle had a game-high 7 assists to go long with his points.

The Dawgs have a 10-day layoff during Final Exams before returning to action on December 16th when Georgia travels to take on UMass.

 

Georgia basketball wins another important game away from Stegeman

Just moments before the kickoff of yesterday’s SEC Championship game, Rayshaun Hammonds grabbed a rebound off a miss by Marquette’s Markus Howard, and then he calmly sunk a pair of free throws to secure a quality road win (73-66) for the Bulldogs in their victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles (5-3).

I should probably mentioned that William “Turtle” Jackson made 4 straight from the charity stripe prior to the 2 by Hammonds, and Turtle’s were incredibly important because Howard did connect on a three with 33 ticks left to make it a one-possession game at 69-66, Georgia.

The Dawgs won the game, in my opinion, during the following two stretches:

  1. After building up a comfortable 23-15 lead with just over 6 minutes left in the half, Georgia appeared to have taken control of the game and poised to go into the locker room with a sizable advantage.  Marquette started to get hot, though, and went on a 13-4 run that included three-pointers from Howard and Andrew Rowsey, whose shot put the Eagles up 28-27 with 1:03 left before the break.  Rowsey hit another triple to give Marquette a 31-28 advantage with 19 seconds remaining.  The Dawgs, however, immediately seized the momentum back on the following possession when Teshaun Hightower awkwardly dumped the ball off to Nicolas Claxton who quickly buried a three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to lock the game up at 31 apiece heading into the intermission.
  2. Late in the second half, Georgia took a commanding 43-36 lead following the most powerful dunk that Mike Edwards has most likely ever done.  The Dawgs looked as though they had taken control of the game, but once again, Marquette responded, this time with a 12-4 run that was capped off by another Rowsey three that put his team up 48-47 with under 10 minutes remaining.  But UGA wouldn’t wither, and Yante Maten, who led his team with 13 points, hit an enormous jumper from the corner to put the Dawgs up 56-55 with 5:03 left. Hammonds scored on the ensuing possession on a dish from Derek Ogbeide, and a minute later Hightower hit a pair of free throws, and again UGA had wrestled back the momentum as they were now up 60-55 with 3:09 remaining.

Another big factor in this UGA victory was the Dawgs’ defensive intensity, which obviously must have been a point of emphasis from the coaching staff following Georgia’s win against Saint Mary’s, a game that featured zero defense.  The Dawgs held Marquette to just 35% from the floor and limited the Golden Eagles, who entered the game hitting over 38% of their 3PT attempts, to 33% from beyond the arc.  The Georgia guards frustrated the Big East’s leading scorer, Andrew Rowsey, into a 4 for 15 shooting effort, which led to 15 points, well below his season average (23.7ppg).

The only chink the Bulldogs defensive armor was that they couldn’t managed to contain Markus Howard, who spent half of this contest on the bench dealing with foul trouble.  Howard picked up two quick fouls to start the game and sat for the next 13 minutes before entering with a little over 6 minutes remaining in the half, only to pick his 3rd foul.  The effect: Howard had to sit for the first 7 minutes of the second half.  When Howard was in the game, though, he was highly productive as he scored a game-high 29 points in just 20 minutes of play.  The most disconcerting thing about Howard’s performance for Georgia had to be how easily he got the ball into the lane and to the rim, similarly to Saint Mary’s point guard, Emmett Naar, who dropped 21 points on the Dawgs in Fullerton, California.  So far this season, UGA’s backcourt has struggled to keep better point guards from punishing them in the lane, and that could be a problem once the Dawgs hit conference play because there are a number of good PGs in the SEC.

Other than Maten, the only other UGA player to finish in double-digits was Turtle, who scored 11 points to go along with 7 assists.  Tyree Crump ended up with 9 points on a 3 for 6 shooting effort from beyond the arc, and he may have wound up in double-figures, but he only played 10 minutes.  At some point Fox may have to consider inserting Crump into the starting five as he and Turtle are by far the Dawgs’ most dangerous three-point threats.  Their presence on the court gives Maten, who is going to be double-teamed all season it appears, viable outlets on the perimeter.

This game wasn’t a thing of beauty by any means; neither team had a field goal for almost 4 minutes to begin the second half.  But Mark Fox’s team once again got it done away from Athens against a team that may be dancing in March.  After a series of meaningless cupcake games at home to start the season, Georgia is slowly putting together a nice little NCAA Tournament resume.