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.