Georgia clobbers Alabama 65-46 in Athens

The first half was close to perfection offensively for the Georgia Bulldogs (11-3, 2-1) on Saturday against the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-6, 1-2).  The second half? Meh.  While the offense slowed down over the second 20 minutes, the one thing that remained consistent for the Dawgs against the Tide today was defense, which won the afternoon for Mark Fox’s team.

Here’s what Mark Fox said about it:

“Our defense was very good. They have a very talented team, and obviously the leading scorer in the league in Collin Sexton.  And he was good. We didn’t hold him below his average so I’m not going to say we played great defense against him. But our team defense was very solid today, and was one of the keys to the win.”

The Bulldogs brought an incredible amount of effort to the defensive side of the ball Saturday.  The Dawgs stayed in front of the Alabama ball-handlers all afternoon.  Georgia held an Alabama team that entered today’s contest averaging 77 points a game to just 45 in Athens.  The Tide’s aggressive backcourt, led by freshman Collin Sexton, is very good at getting to the free throw line.  Mater of fact, prior to today’s match-up, they were taking 25 free throws per contest; however, this afternoon UGA only allowed Bama to get up 11 shots from the charity stripe.

Even though Collin Sexton got his points – 23 – which is slightly above his season average of 20.4 ppg, the key for Fox’s team is that they managed to hold the rest of his teammates in check.  Scoring has not been a problem for Bama this year as they have 3 more players on top of Sexton that average in double-figures, yet he was the only one to eclipse that mark today (to be fair, Dazon Ingram did not play and he gets 11.1 ppg).  John Petty, who had made 39 three-pointers coming into the game, hit just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc and finished with only 3 points.

The Tide shot under 30% from the floor and just 17% from the perimeter, and a big reason for their ineptitude was due to the tempo of this game.  Georgia set the pace of this contest early on and the slower game frustrated an Alabama team that likes to push the ball on every possession and get shots up quickly.  Avery Johnson tried to speed up the game in the first half with a full-court trap press, but Georgia ate it up, particularly well on a play when E’Torrian Wilridge brought the ball up the right side only to find a trailing Yante Maten dashing through the lane for a wide-open two-handed dunk.

Let’s talk a bit more about that first half.  If Georgia has played a better half of offense under Coach Fox against an opponent of this caliber someone will have to remind me because I cannot recall one.  The Dawgs were so composed as they moved the ball in and out of the Bama zone.  Georgia fed the ball inside to the bigs and scored 8 of its first 11 points in the paint.  When the Tide started to clamp down on the blocks, UGA made the extra passes to the perimeter and absolutely lit up Avery Johnson’s team.   Georgia’s passing was just so efficient in the first half, and UGA ended up with 15 team assists on the day. The Dawgs made 8 of 16 from beyond the arc prior to the break with 4 of them coming from Yante Maten, who finished the game in double-double land with 26 points and 11 boards.  Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored all 13 of his points before the intermission, hit 2 three’s as well and made a grown man’s post move on the right block on Georgia’s second possession.

The second half did not look like the first for UGA.  Alabama’s press started to frustrate Georgia’s guards and led to 9 second-half turnovers by the Dawgs.  Even when Georgia got the ball past half court, they played rushed offensively. They didn’t resemble the same team that shot over 48% from the floor, scored 44 points and dished out 12 assists in the first half.  UGA had a particularly inept stretch in the second half in which the Dawgs went without a field goal for nearly 6 minutes before Nicolas Claxton buried a three-pointer from the top of the key that put his team up 57-34 with 10:24 left in the game.  Again, even though the offense took the second half off, the defense did not and that’s how Georgia managed to pull off this blowout at home.

Despite the lackluster final 20 minutes, this win was huge for Georgia.  Just ask the AJC’s Seth Emerson:

If the Dawgs can continue to play half court-paced games, they will be a tough team to beat since Yante Maten is just so difficult for opposing teams to handle. The guy is a double-double machine with 7 on the year already, and as he showed today, he can score from a lot of different places.  The UGA guards are not a strength of the team, but they can be effective enough as long as the game’s being played at a slower tempo.

The Dawgs next game will be this Wednesday at Missouri.

 

Georgia evens up SEC record with 71-60 win over Ole Miss

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-3) notched their first conference win of the season with a 71-60 victory over the Mississippi Rebels inside Stegeman on Wednesday night.  The Rebels built up an early 11-8 lead with 13:40 left after a free throw by Markel Crawford, but once the Dawgs took the lead, which they did on a jumper by Jordan Harris to make it 12-11, they never looked back.  UGA went into the locker room with a 39-31 advantage, and the Dawgs basically coasted for much of the second half to secure the home win.  Here are some observations:

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The game was over when…

With the shot clock expiring and just 7:53 remaining, Ole Miss’s Dominik Olejniczar jumped out and fouled Juwan Parker on a hurried three-point attempt.  This play had to cause any remaining hair on Andy Kennedy’s head to instantly fall out.  The Rebels had scored just 1 field goal over the last 5 minutes of play, and after Parker knocked down 2 of 3 from the line, Georgia’s lead sat comfortably at 56-44.

Ole Miss’s offensive woes

To be fair, this wasn’t your grandfather’s Ole Miss (8-6) basketball team.  Though the Rebels came into Stegeman with a 1-0 SEC record after besting South Carolina in the opener, Mississippi had already lost games to Illinois State, South Dakota State, Utah and Middle Tennessee.

The Rebels run a spread out offense that looks to get shots up as quickly as possible, and unfortunately for them, they were not falling.  Ole Miss ended up hitting just 35% from the floor on the evening, and they only made 6 of 26 from beyond the arc.  Guards Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis, who came into Athens averaging more than 28 points between them, scored a combined 8 points on Wednesday night.  Georgia’s defensive effort was fair, but honestly, it didn’t need to be that great because the Rebels were chunking up misses at such a prolific rate.  There were a few moments, especially in the first half, where Ole Miss’s guards were able to blow by UGA defenders for some easy layups, but other than that, not much clicked for Andy Kennedy’s team.

UGA’s offensive heroes

The Georgia offense faced a combination of man defense mixed in with some junk zones on Wednesday, but overall the Rebels appeared rather disinterested in playing defense; honestly, Ole Miss just seemed ready to be back on offensive again.

The Dawgs pounded the ball inside to Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide, who both had their way with the Rebel frontcourt defenders.  Maten scored 14 of his 15 points prior to the intermission, but even more importantly, he brought a lot of energy to the UGA team.  Yante had several old-fashioned three-point play attempts in the first half in which he could be seen beating his chest in order to pump up his teammates.  After a hard-fought loss at Kentucky on Sunday, it was reasonable to believe that this UGA team might struggle to get up and be ready for this homestead.

Ogbeide finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he really seems to be finding his niche within this UGA offense.  Derek has developed both a hook and up-and-under move (going to his left of course) that are starting to go down on a consistent basis for the Bulldogs.

Juwan Parker led all UGA scorers with 18 points on a perfect 4 for 4 effort from the beyond the arc.  Ole Miss’s defenders made little attempt to rotate when Kennedy had them in zone, which left Parker wide open on the wing for triple after triple.  The only time I recall him having a perimeter shot contested was the play mentioned above in which he was fouled on a three-point shot. The senior also snagged 11 boards and logged a double-double, which had to make him feel good considering his former teammate, J.J. Frazier, was courtside to bear witness.

And finally, welcome back Jordan Harris.  After an inconsistent start to the season, Harris once again looked the part of a high-profile recruit in last evening’s contest.  The sophomore scored 10 of his 12 points before the break, and that total included a pair of three’s.  This Georgia Bulldog team desperately needs more consistency in its perimeter shooting, and hopefully Wednesday’s night’s game shows that Harris is up to the task.

Next up

This Saturday the Dawgs will host an Alabama team that upset #5 Texas A&M at home only to lose at Vandy on the road the following game.  Both teams will be trying to stay above .500 in the conference, and it’s an excellent RPI opportunity for the Dawgs as the Tide are currently at 42, according to NCAA.com.

 

 

UGA leads Kentucky in the second half (again) only to fall 66-61

Even though Georgia led Kentucky for nearly 60% of the game, the whole time I kept waiting for that Kentucky run.  I knew it was coming.  Just like last year, when UGA jumped out to a 19-5 lead in Rupp before losing in overtime.  Or in Athens last year when the Dawgs were up 64-61 with a little over 5 minutes left only to lose 82-77.  In 2016, Georgia saw its 62-54 advantage evaporate over the final 13 minutes and turn into a 93-80 Wildcat win.  In 2015, UGA was up by 6 with over 5 minutes to go in Athens before Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns took over and willed Kentucky to the 72-64 victory.

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Depressed yet?  If so, that’s ok.  You should be.  When it comes to Kentucky, Georgia continues to be ever so close, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump and figure out a way to keep the lead until the clock hits zero.

As far as Kentucky teams go, this one doesn’t seem as gifted as the ones of years past.  Sure, they have three guys that are projected to go in the first round of next year’s NBA draft.  But, they don’t have a De’Aaron Fox.  Or a Malik Monk. Or: Julius Randle, Eric Bledsoe, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, John Wall…This year’s Kentucky team doesn’t seem to have a guy who can absolutely take over a ball game whenever he wants.  That player might emerge as the season progresses, but they aren’t there yet.

This was a winnable game for Georgia, yet they didn’t win.  Should the Dawgs be satisfied with another moral victory against Coach Cal as they have in years past?  I don’t know.

Here’s what happened: 

On defense:

Georgia’s effort on defense last night was nothing short of relentless. Coach Fox kept his team in man-to-man for the majority of the game, sprinkling in some zone occasionally just to give the Cats some different looks.  The Dawgs did an excellent job of staying in front of the opposition and closing out on shots.  Kentucky had only 6 field goals at the half.  On the night, the Cats shot only 31% from the floor.

The only time in this contest when UGA’s defense softened up a bit was down the final stretch when Kentucky went 5 of 5 from the floor over the last 4 minutes of play.  Both Alexander-Gilgeous and Wenyen Gabriel hit wide open three-pointers, and Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Gilgeous all got into the lane for fairly easy layups.  Alexander-Gilgeous finished the game with 21 points, but only two other Cats ended up in double-figures: Quade Green (15pts) and Diallo (10pts).

On offense: 

Georgia’s frontcourt flexed its muscles in Rupp Arena on Sunday evening as Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds scored 17, 13, and 12 points, respectively.  Maten also tallied 12 rebounds en route to another double-double.  The Dawgs scored 34 points in paint against Kentucky, and those three mentioned above accounted for 42 of the team’s 61 points.

The only problem is that this was exactly what Coach Cal had game-planned: make the UGA guards beat them. The Cats showed Georgia full-court pressure often, and even in the half court set the Kentucky guards were picking the UGA guards up as soon as they crossed the line.  The whole night the Georgia guards struggled to set up the Dawgs’ offense because they were constantly being forced to handle the ball well beyond the three-point line.

Turtle Jackson picked up 2 fouls in the first half and had to sit for nearly 13 minutes, and then he got tabbed for his 4th foul with almost 14 minutes left and Georgia up 42-35.  While Turtle is not the most deft ball-handler, he brings a calming presence to the Dawgs’ offense, and it’s quite noticeable when he’s not on the court.

With Turtle out, the Dawgs had to turn to Tyree Crump and Teshaun Hightower to run the UGA offense and that did not go so well.  Crump had a particularly off night, shooting just 1 of 9 from the floor and committing two costly turnovers that both led to Kentucky points.  Hightower missed both his shots, which came from beyond the arc (where he is now 1 of 13 on the year), and turned the ball over once himself in just 5 minutes of play.

The Dawgs had 5 turnovers as a team over the 5 minutes from when they held that 42-35 advantage, and with 8:03 remaining Kentucky took a 47-46 lead following a layup by Diallo.

UGA had 15 turnovers on the night and those turned into 19 Wildcat points.

Miscellaneous:

-Juwan Parker had a really nice old-fashioned three-point play in the second half to give UGA a 42-34 advantage with over 14 minutes left.  He committed a turnover a minute later and was buried on the bench by Fox for nearly the remainder of the game (he back in with 28 seconds left and the game basically over). In lieu of Parker, Fox went with Jordan Harris, who went 1 for 3 from the floor, grabbed 3 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers.  Neither Parker nor Harris is particularly strong on the perimeter defensively.  This certainly wasn’t Parker’s finest game as a Bulldog (5 points), but I don’t think he deserved 17 minutes to Harris’s 21 minutes, and it might have been nice to have a senior on the court while Kentucky was putting together its final run.  As far as Harris is concerned, I expected more growth from year 1 to year 2 from him considering he was a 4-star recruit, and so far I haven’t seen it.

-Georgia shot 21 free throws to Kentucky’s 38, although, when you play in Rupp Arena that’s kind of to be expected.  The Cats got 14 more points from the charity stripe than UGA in a game that was decided by just 5 points.

-Yante Maten, who struggled to get to 17 points on a 5 for 15 performance from the floor, has to be frustrated with this loss as he is still winless against the Cats for his career and he may not get another crack at them unless they run into Kentucky in the SEC Tournament.  Honestly, I feel for Maten.  It has to be irritating to lose to a new group of freshmen every year.

This loss doesn’t hurt the Dawgs’ NCAA Tournament hopes.  Georgia still has a chance to put together a really nice season.  But they have to get over it quickly because Ole Miss will be in Stegeman on Wednesday night looking for its second conference win.