Dawgs outpace LSU 93-82 in Athens

 

After an abysmal midweek showing in Columbia against the Gamecocks, a rejuvenated group of Georgia Bulldogs – just 8 of them as opposed to 12 – unleashed a level of offense that hasn’t been witnessed this season.  Maybe the Dawgs were inspired by their absence from the FBI investigation that has become the massive scandal that is currently consuming college basketball?  That might be a stretch. Whatever the case, Georgia (16-12, 7-9) scored 93 points, the most they’ve scored all season in a game, and earned a must-win victory over the LSU Tigers.

The UGA offense certainly looked different from what we’ve been accustomed to this season.  The Dawgs pushed the ball up the court and actually got shots up early in the possession.  Teshaun Hightower, who was this week’s new starter, did a particularly good job of keeping Georgia playing at a faster tempo.  Georgia took 61 shots from the floor, which marked just the 2nd time this season that UGA has had more than 60 field goal attempts in an SEC contest.  And Georgia didn’t have one of its hallmark scoring droughts, to the delight of both Mark Fox and the fan base.

The Dawgs were able to get the ball into Yante Maten on the block before the Tigers were completely set on defense, which resulted in a lot of one-on-one opportunities for Maten, who played absolutely fantastic on the afternoon.  Maten finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, and he looked like an NBA player as he had LSU’s Duop Reath playing on skates.  Maten got whatever he wanted around the rim, and he had several really nice jumpers from the wing in which he jab-stepped at the defender before pulling up for the shot.  Maten’s aggressiveness got Reath in foul trouble, and the LSU big, who averages nearly 13 points a night, scored only 1 point in this one.

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Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Tigers’ defense was basically nonexistent.  LSU either chose to not double Maten, or the the double was slow to converge.  The Tiger press was incredibly soft, which might have been the result of poor execution, or it could have just been by design.  LSU routinely had 4 defenders below the free throw line on its press, giving Georgia a number of 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 opportunities at the rim once they got the ball across half court.  The Dawgs had 15 fast break points.  I’d wager that’s the most points they’ve gotten off the break in an SEC game this season.  Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored a career-high 21 points, was a benefactor of all that fast-breaking.  The freshman scored the majority of his points around the rim or at the free throw line, and he is finally starting to show some of that aggressiveness on offense that was on display at the start of the season.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the Dawgs, however.  Georgia’s backcourt struggled to stay in front of the Tiger perimeter players as they moved the ball into the paint (where they got 34 points) with relative ease.  UGA also gave the ball away 16 times, and the Tigers converted those turnovers into 20 points. Georgia’s perimeter shooting was atrocious. The Dawgs hit just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc in the first half, and they finished the game 5 of 22 on triples. Luckily, there were lots of other ways to score against LSU’s porous defense that the ineffective shooting from the outside didn’t really hurt UGA that badly.

Although I find it bizarre that Georgia does not have a set starting five with 3 games left in the regular season, hats off to Mark Fox for going with what he feels like are his best 8 players.  At this point in the season, teams should not be playing 10 to 12 guys as Georgia has been unless you are running some fashion of a “40 minutes of hell” up and down type game, which UGA clearly is not.  Despite what Coach Fox said at his press conference following the wins against Florida and Tennessee, it’s not that I don’t like players like Mike Edwards and E’Torrian Wilridge. I just like it better when they are sitting on the bench.  With Jordan Harris apparently done for the year, I’d say the 8 guys that got all the minutes yesterday are the top players on this roster, and hopefully they continue to garner the lion’s share of court time.

Entering yesterday’s contest, Georgia had 6 quadrant 1 (Q1) wins, which tied them with 10 other teams in the country.  There were only 5 other teams in the nation with more Q1 wins.  Despite UGA’s less than stellar record, the Dawgs have a significant number of Q1 wins.  Although, in beating LSU, the Dawgs might have cost themselves one of those Q1 wins as the Tigers’ RPI will likely go below 75, and that would negate Georgia’s Q1 win in Baton Rouge earlier in the year.  Not to worry, the Dawgs have another Q1 opportunity this Wednesday when they host Texas A&M on Senior Night.

Box score:

uga lsulsu georgia

 

 

 

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South Carolina wins 4th straight against Dawgs, completes another season sweep

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South Carolina’s best player, Chris Silva, went to the bench with 4 fouls with 11:14 remaining and his team up 52-42.  If a Georgia (15-2, 6-9) run was going to occur, this was the time for it.  Without Silva on the court, Frank Martin shifted his team into a zone that absolutely confounded the Dawgs.  Georgia couldn’t get the ball into the paint; rather, they settled to pass it around the perimeter and take shots from beyond the arc. Silva returned to the game nearly 9 minutes later at the 2:47 mark with his team still up 61-52. For UGA, it was an opportunity lost.  South Carolina won 66-57, completing the season sweep.

That makes 4 straight losses for Mark Fox at the hands of Frank Martin.  And just to clarify, this is a bad South Carolina team.  The Gamecocks are now 15-13 overall and 6-9 in the SEC.  They might have beaten Auburn last weekend, but they lost 6 straight before pulling off that miracle.

The aforementioned stagnant offense is just the icing on the cake in a game in which Georgia looked a combination of mystified and disinterested for much of the the night.  Maybe all the pressure from showing up in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology in the “Next Four Out” category got to the Dawgs?  How else can you explain how a team commits nearly as many turnovers (17) as they did field goals (21)?

Georgia’s guard play, which has been detrimental to this team all season, really let the team down this evening in Columbia.  The Dawgs were utterly careless with the ball, and when the Gamecocks switched into a trap press, UGA’s backcourt went into full-on panic mode.  I honestly do not understand why teams haven’t pressed Georgia more this year as ineffective as the Dawgs have been at handling that pressure.  South Carolina ended up getting 18 of their 66 points off of UGA turnovers.

But as a UGA fan, I’m used to Georgia struggling to put the ball in the bucket.  I mean, this was the 5th time this season the Dawgs have failed to eclipse 60 points in a game.

However, the lack of execution on the defensive end was rather surprising.  UGA’s defensive rotations out of its zone were abysmal.  South Carolina constantly had guys open all around the perimeter.  The Gamecocks entered this game making just 6 three-pointers a contest in SEC games, yet they buried 13 triples against the Dawgs tonight.  That is simply inexcusable.

Even when the Cocks failed to convert a basket, they still found themselves getting loads of extra scoring opportunities because Georgia couldn’t defensive rebound.  Considering that Frank Martin’s team hauled down 18 offensive rebounds against the Dawgs in Athens in the first meeting between these two teams, one would think that this would have been a point of emphasis this week in preparation for this game.  Yet, the Gamecocks came away with 16 more offensive rebounds by the time it was all said and done, and they ended up with 18 second chance points. In a game that had to be considered “must-win” for a Georgia team that is fighting to stay relevant in the NCAA Tournament discussion, the Dawgs lacked in effort, the one area of their game that should be present every night considering the dearth of outside shooters and dribble-drivers on this team.

 

In all honesty, this just wasn’t a very fun game to watch if you were a Georgia fan.  The Dawgs allowed the Gamecocks to go on an 11-3 run in the final stretch of the first half that gave SC a 42-27 advantage at the break.  In the second half, UGA got to within 6 points a couple of times, but then Carolina would get a putback off of a miss, or Georgia would fail to go over the top on a screen and Wesley Meyers would hit an open three (he hit 5 of them on the night).

The Dawgs have LSU on Saturday in Athens, and they desperately need a win as Georgia is now just a game away from being the SEC’s bottom team.

Georgia wins second in a row with upset of #18 Tennessee

Derek Ogbeide was clearly having a good time yesterday inside Stegeman Coliseum.  The UGA big cheesed for the camera after a huge old-fashioned three-point play.  When a Tennessee big got called for traveling late in the second half, Ogbeide skipped down the court with his hands up high as he simulated the official signal for traveling with his dancing fingers.  The junior from Atlanta had plenty to be excited about as his offense carried the Dawgs down the stretch and enabled Georgia to hold off the #18 Tennessee Volunteers in their 72-63 upset win on Saturday (UGA’s 5th straight W over the Vols).

Ogbeide had 16 points and 11 rebounds, marking his second double-double in a week.  It’s no shock that Ogbeide’s improved play has coincided with two enormous conference wins for this UGA basketball program.  He’s finally becoming the threat on the opposite block that many hoped he would be all season.  With all the attention that Yante Maten garners, it was expected that Ogbeide would benefit offensively on the opposite block, and those hopes are beginning to come to fruition as the junior scored on an array of drop-step buckets, dunks and tip-ins.

The Georgia defense was once again the main attraction, however, as the Dawgs held a Volunteer team that entered this game scoring almost 75 a night in SEC games to just 63.  The Vols were making more than 37% of their attempts beyond the arc in league play, yet on Saturday they only connected on 32%.  Yante Maten, in addition to his 19 points, shut down Tennessee’s leading scorer Grant Williams.  Maten held Williams to just 5 points, which is over 12 below his conference average.  Maten’s offense forced Williams into foul trouble, which frustrated the UT big into a 1 of 8 performance from the field.

I realize it sounds simple, but credit Mark Fox’s team for not folding and relinquishing the lead against an aggressive opponent, something that has been an issue for this UGA team this season (see @ Missouri, @ Auburn, Arkansas).  With 5:14 remaining, Kyle Alexander tipped in a missed Tennessee shot that cut the Georgia advantage to 54-51. The Vols got into their full-court pressure (that they applied for much of the latter portion of the game), and I began to chew my fingernails as it felt like things were going to potentially unravel.  Tyree Crump assuaged my fears, however, when he buried a three-pointer that sent the Dawgs back up by 6 points.  Several possessions later, with the Vols only one stop away from having the chance to make it a one-possession game, Crump again hit a timely triple that turned out to be a dagger as it put UGA up 62-54 with just 1:54 left.  All 11 of Crump’s points came in the final 5 minutes of this contest.

Two key stats that were in UGA’s favor:

Second chance points: UGA 19, Tennessee 8.

Points in the paint: UGA 29, Tennessee 19.

Not to sound like a broken record, but both Ogbeide and Maten can’t be praised enough for how well they outplayed the Tennessee frontcourt duo of Williams and Admiral Schoefield.  In addition to Williams’s struggles, Schoefield had a lackluster outing as well as he shot just 5 of 13 from the floor en route to 11 points.  UGA’s two bigs outscored these guys by a tally of 35 to 16, and that was probably the difference in the game.

Box score:

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Up next

Georgia heads to Columbia on Wednesday to look for revenge against a South Carolina team that just snapped a six-game losing streak with an impressive upset win over #10 Auburn.

As both UGA and college basketball fans, we have a tendency to start thinking things like “If my team does this and this and this, then they should be in the NCAA Tournament, right?” My advice: don’t do that.  This week was big for Georgia basketball as it injected life into a season that appeared to be spiraling downward, and it might have saved Coach Fox’s job.  However, it’s also the first time UGA has won consecutive SEC games since January 3rd and 6th when the Dawgs beat Ole Miss and Alabama.  At this point, Georgia’s still not anywhere close to sniffing the NCAA Tournament, and for now, that’s fine.  UGA fans should enjoy these last two wins because they both seemed highly improbable after last Saturday’s home loss to Auburn.

Georgia has another opportunity to further distance itself from the cellar of the SEC on Wednesday, and hopefully that’s this team’s only focus.

3 quick takeaways from UGA’s 72-69 win over Florida

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What can be said about Yante Maten that hasn’t already been said?  The guy is on pace to lead the SEC in both points and rebounds, and he’s has to be in serious consideration for the conference’s Player of the Year award.  The senior willed his team to an improbable comeback in a game that Georgia trailed for the majority of regulation.  The Dawgs rode Maten in the second half as they fed him the ball inside religiously.  Yante scored 16 of his 23 points after the intermission.  With the Dawgs trailing 59-53 and just 25 seconds remaining, the game appeared to be over.  On the next possession, however, Maten buried a triple with 17 seconds remaining that made it a one-possession ball game.  On the ensuing Gator in-bounds play, Jalen Hudson cut too hard and couldn’t control his momentum, which led to him traveling as he received the ball.  Then Yante Maten went all “1990s Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks” and hit another contested three-pointer that tied the game at 59-59 and sent it to overtime.

UGA defense

The Dawgs played incredibly stout man defense last night in Gainesville.  The UGA guards stayed in front of a talented Florida backcourt for much of the night and frustrated some of the better shooters in the SEC.  Georgia held Florida, a team that entered this contest scoring more than 77 a night, to just 59 points in regulation; the Gators shot under 38% from the floor. Jalen Hudson, the team’s leading scorer, was held to just 2 points, and Chris Chiozza could muster only 5 on an ugly 2 for 14 shooting performance.  With 10:03 left in the game and Florida up 50-39, Georigia’s defense put the clamps on and held the Gators without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes, which was eerily similar to the 9-minute stretch in the second half in Athens in which Florida failed to convert from the floor.  Egor Koulechov, who had 19 points, finally scored a bucket with 2:36 remaining, but by then UGA had trimmed the Gator advantage to 53-50.   Georgia’s defense certainly enabled this comeback.

The arrival of Tyree Crump

All season, Georgia has been searching for a point guard to create offense and replace some of the points that J.J. Frazier used to facilitate.  In the second half on Tuesday night, Tyree Crump started to look like that guy.  Crump finished with 13 points – 11 of which came after the break – including a clutch three-pointer that cut the Florida lead to 57-53 with only 1:08 left in regulation.  Crump also had 5 assists, several of which led to wide-open dunks for Derek Ogbeide (who had 10 points on the night).  I know the knock against Crump has been his defense, but he looked good last night on Chiozza; the Florida senior had trouble getting open looks with Crump constantly pestering him.  Over the last stretch of regulation and then into overtime, Tyree played with more confidence than I’ve seen him display in his nearly two years in Athens.

Auburn completes season sweep of Georgia with 78-61 win

Auburn played yesterday without Bryce Brown, the team’s leading scorer and the potential SEC Player of the Year candidate.  Based upon the relative ease in which the Tigers dispatched the Dawgs in Stegeman, he didn’t appeared to be missed.  It was painfully obvious how much more talented Bruce Pearl’s team is than Mark Fox’s.  Auburn has multiple players that can hit three-pointers while Georgia might have one.  The Tigers have 4 or 5 guys that can create offense off the dribble; do the Dawgs have anyone with that skill set?

I’m venturing that the UGA coaching staff felt that with Brown out the Dawgs could man up on the Tigers in an effort to contest shots on the perimeter.  Unfortunately, the Georgia guards couldn’t stay in front of the Auburn guards as the Tigers got to the rim whenever they wanted.  The smaller Tigers scored 30 points in the paint on the afternoon to Georgia’s 26.

In the second half, Georgia went to a zone because they couldn’t defend Pearl’s team in man.  The problem, though, was that the Dawgs lost interest in guarding the arc.  Auburn hit 6 of its 11 triples after the break, and most of them were completely uncontested. The Tigers came into Athens averaging 10.5 three-pointers a night in SEC play, with Brown contributing 4 a game.  The fact that Georgia allowed Auburn to best their conference average without the services of their most dangerous shooter is a true testament to the lack of commitment that the Dawgs showed in defending the perimeter.

Several of the Auburn three’s came off of offensive rebounds during a particularly devastating stretch of play for the Dawgs.  The Tigers’ Mustapha Heron put his stamp on the game with a thunderous one-handed dunk that was also the result of an offensive board.  Heron’s bucket sent UGA fans to the exits as it made it 72-56 with 3:24 remaining. The Tigers got 15 of their 78 points off of second chances.  From where I was sitting, it looked like the home team gave up in the second half.

Offense looks real simple when the point guard can pass the ball to the wing, and then that wing can blow by his man and finish at the bucket. That’s not really the Georgia way.  UGA’s possessions have truly become adventures that have me cringing for the entire 30 seconds.  Nothing looks easy.  Turtle dribbled the ball out of bounds twice attempting to perform a simple crossover dribble. Derek Ogbeide threw one pass directly into the stands from the top of the key. Tyree Crump had multiple passes taken right from his hands as he couldn’t get the ball around the Auburn defender. From the start of the game, Bruce Pearl implored his backcourt to pick up and pressure UGA’s guards as soon as the ball crossed half court.  If Georgia had a player like Heron or Jared Harper, a team couldn’t defend them in this manner because those guys would just go around the defender and then the entire defense would be at a disadvantage (basically what happened to UGA all afternoon).  But alas, this Bulldog team is lacking in dribble-drivers and its the reason why they struggle to muster 60 points a game.

Georgia had a couple possessions where they quickly pushed the ball up the court and got it inside to Yante Maten.  Those were nice moments.  Sadly, there were only a few of them.  The Dawgs had 13 turnovers that led to 25 Tiger points.  UGA shot 28% from beyond the arc.

At this point, Georgia should just start Crump, Juwan Parker, Maten, Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds, who had become sort of the forgotten man, was reinserted into the starting five and he played admirably, scoring 14 points.  Those are the players with the most talent and potential, and Fox mind as well get the young fellas the experience now in the hopes that it benefits them more next season.  This season is a wash.  Anyone still counting quality wins and thinking the Dawgs might go on a run to make a push for the NCAA tournament is living in fantasy land.  At 13-11, Georgia’s probably going to struggle to even be considered for the NIT.  This was supposed to be Mark Fox’s deepest team yet (according to him).  How have things unraveled so much from the team’s 11-3 start?

 

Box score:

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Last place Vandy whips Georgia 81-66

The Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 4-7) never led once last night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-15, 3-8). I could probably just stop the blog post right there because that about covers it. The Dawgs have hit a new low.  UGA just got blown out by the worst team in the SEC. Vanderbilt was 2-8 in league games coming into this contest, and the Dores had an RPI of 122. At this point, Georgia’s NIT hopes are now officially in doubt.

Despite the typical UGA start to a game – not scoring for the first 4 minutes and going 2 for 11 from the floor – the Dawgs managed to get to halftime trailing 39-31, which at the time seemed like a blessing.  Georgia cut the Vandy advantage to as low as 48-47 with 13:20 left in the second half following a jumper by Turtle Jackson, and the Dawgs actually traded baskets with the Dores for a few minutes.

But eventually the UGA offense would go into one of its extended droughts that have become a trademark of Mark Fox coached teams.  Following a bucket by Yante Maten, who finished with a game-high 20 points, that made it 56-53 Vandy with 11:10 remaining, the Dawgs would go nearly 7 minutes before converting another field goal.  With 4:27 left, Derek Ogbeide put one in off the right side of the glass, but by then it was too late as the Dores lead had blossomed to 77-62 during this stretch.  Final score: Vandy 81, UGA 66.  Ouch.

Announcers and NCAA basketball media types will wax eloquently about how great Georgia plays defense.  This is simply a myth. Yes, UGA is allowing the least amount of points in SEC games (65.7).  However, that number is just a byproduct of the molasses-paced tempo at which this teams plays.  Earlier this week, I referenced the Dawgs’ defensive efficiency, which measures the amount of points a team gives up per possession.  This stat is gives a more accurate picture of a team’s defensive performance because it takes tempo (# of possessions) into account.  Georgia’s defensive efficiency is smack dab in the middle of the SEC.  Whether that is good, bad or just ok depends on how we view the overall defensive prowess of the league.

One thing is for sure, though, strong defensive teams don’t allow a team that’s making 8 triples a night to knock down 11 against them.  Surely the Dawgs’ scouting report highlighted Vandy’s proclivity for moving the ball from side to side in order to get open looks from the perimeter, but for whatever reason UGA routinely had defenders closing out with their hands down or not closing out at all.  Juwan Paker and Jackson (Parker in particular) often look like their feet are lodged in mud when attempting to defend on the perimeter.  Vandy guards Riley LaChance and Saben Lee, who averaged a combined 23 points a night, tallied 38 total points against the Dawgs and seemed to be virtually impossible to defend off the dribble.  Good defensive teams do not allow these things to happen.

Back to the offense.  The bottom line is that Georgia has one player that can put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis, and he’s leaving Athens in a little over a month.  Vanderbilt is the worst team in the SEC this year (although they could potentially swap spots with Georgia this weekend), yet I think that Maten is the only player who would start for them.  I’d swap guards with the Dores in a heartbeat if the offer were proffered.  Saben Lee is a freshman who is netting over 10 points a game for Vandy.  He was rated a 4-star recruit by Rivals.  Why don’t Georgia’s 4-stars step in and perform that way?  Rayshaun Hammonds was 0-5 yesterday and couldn’t manage to hit a layup even with the much smaller LaChance guarding him on the block.  Hammonds’s confidence has to be totally shot at this point because he doesn’t resemble anything of the player that he was at the start of the season.  Jordan Harris isn’t with the team right now, but he’s failed to develop into anything more than a role player at this point. Tyree Crump, who started again last night, played only 6 minutes due to a couple of turnovers and failed to score.  None of Georgia’s recent string of 4-stars have come close to performing at Lee’s level.  Why is that?

It doesn’t get any easier from here for Georgia.  Last night’s game was probably the second most winnable one for the remainder of the schedule (LSU at home being the most winnable).  The Dawgs have #8 Auburn in Athens on Saturday, and the Tigers are coming off of a home loss to Texas A&M last night, so they will be pissed off.  Then Georgia has a game at Florida, one at South Carolina, two against the #15 Vols and then one at home against the surging Aggies.  Best case scenario, UGA goes 3-4 over that stretch and finishes the year 16-14.  More than likely, however, the results will be worse as those are some of the best teams in the conference.

Box score:

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Just how good is Georgia’s defense?

Georgia holds teams to the second-lowest point total (66) per game in the SEC, including both conference and non-conference games, second only to Mississippi State (65.3).  In league play, UGA is limiting teams to 65.5 points a night, which is the lowest total of any SEC team.

But is Georgia’s defense really the best in the conference?

Consider the following:

Defensive efficiency is calculated by taking the number of points a team allows and dividing it by the number of opponent possessions (then multiplying that number by 100 to show the expected result over 100 possessions).  Simply looking at just the total number of points that a team yields doesn’t give the most accurate picture of how well that team is stopping its opposition from scoring.  Defensive efficiency takes into account the tempo at which the team plays games at because it considers the total number of possessions into the equation.  According to kenpom.com (Ken Pomeroy, statistical guru), UGA’s adjusted defensive efficiency is 95.7, which is very good (26th in the nation).  However, there are 6 SEC teams with a better adjusted defensive efficiency than Georgia: Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi St., Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M.  Auburn is giving up 72.6 ppg, which is 10th in the conference, but the Tigers are the highest scoring team at 86 ppg.  The high amount of points that Auburn is giving up is simply a consequence of the Tigers’ up-tempo style of play.

The Bulldogs are averaging only 68.5 possessions per contest.  There are 315 college basketball teams that possess the ball more than UGA.  Part of that is due to Georgia’s turnover margin (-3.4), which is the worst among SEC teams.  But a larger factor into the number of UGA possessions is simply that the Dawgs are playing games at a snail’s pace. Unfortunately, I could not find any sites that calculate shot clock usage because I know that number is out there and it would vindicate my argument.  If anyone’s watched a Georgia game this season, they’ve witnessed a team that routinely goes deep into the shot clock before getting an attempt off (or not taking a shot at all).  For all you gamblers out there, UGA’s SEC games have only gone over the over-under once this season (disclosure: I’m not giving out gambling advice).

I do think that Mark Fox’s team plays pretty solid defense, especially in the paint.  But they are not the best defensive team in the SEC.  The Dawgs are somewhere in the middle, and considering that their offensive efficiency is 11th in the conference, that’s just not good enough to get the results that UGA fans are interested in: wins.