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:

uga-tenntennessee uga

 

 

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.

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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:

uga vandy.PNG

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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.

 

 

 

Georgia faceplants in Starkville against Mississippi State

When a team’s Achilles Heel is scoring, that team cannot afford to dig themselves into too deep of a hole. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Georgia did on Saturday night in its 72-57 loss in Starkville against Mississippi State.

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The Dawgs played arguably their worst half of basketball of the season tonight in the first half against the other Bulldogs.  Georgia turned the ball over 9 times before the break, and UGA failed to secure a single offensive rebound (Georgia got out-rebounded 37-20 in the game).  The Dawgs seemed disinterested in playing defense for the first 20 minutes of play, and that trend continued into the second half as well.  The Missy State guards faced little resistance on the dribble drive and the Georgia bigs offered zero help on the inside when penetration reached the paint.  UGA’s offense isn’t built to overcome large deficits, which was why Mark Fox’s team appeared doomed as they headed to the locker room trailing the Maroon Dawgs 37-21.

Here’s the box score:

UGA missy

missy state uga

As already mentioned, Georgia’s defense was abysmal.  Even though the Maroon Dogs entered tonight’s game with the 9th best offense in SEC Play (69 ppg), UGA felt that it didn’t have the personnel to line up and play man defense.  Rather, Georgia sat in a soft zone that Lamar Peters carved up to the tune of 20 points.  If a Missy State guard got past a member of the UGA backcourt (something that occurred regularly this evening), the Georgia bigs failed to play anything that resembled help defense.  The Maroon Dogs scored on numerous backdoor cuts and alley-oops because Mark Fox’s team didn’t communicate in its zone.  Missy State, who was shooting just 43% from the floor in conference play, knocked down over 50% of its field goal attempts against Georgia on Saturday.

After scoring 72 points earlier this week against the Gators in Athens, the UGA offense got back to its stagnant ways against the other Bulldogs in Starkville. Yante Maten, who ended up with 13 points on a frustrating 5 for 12 performance from the floor, faced double-teams for much of the night.  Although, even when Maten had one-on-one opportunities against State’s Abdul Ado, he struggled to convert against the athletic shot blocker. In short, Maten had a tough night.  Georgia’s not going to be successful on offense in games in which Maten struggles.

There weren’t many positive takeaways offensively from this game considering the Dawgs put up just 57 points. However, one of the lone bright spots had to be the play of Pape Diatta, who scored 12 points on a perfect night from the floor in which all his shots came from beyond the arc.  Diatta injured his ankle in the preseason, and he’s played sparingly this year so far.  I’m not sure if his resurgence in minutes was related more to his health or the fact that Jordan Harris was suspended from the team indefinitely for undisclosed reasons.  Diatta was brought to Georgia to make triples, and since that is something that this team rarely does I’d say he earned a few more minutes of playing time moving forward based upon his performance this evening.

Question that I must have answered: How does Mark Fox choose his starting five and playing rotations?

Tyree Crump earned just his second start of his career against Missy State, and the sophomore scored 13 points on a 4 of 9 shooting effort.  Crump now joins E’Torrion Wildridge and Teshaun Hightower in an illustrious group of Georgia players that have now started in games this season as well as spent entire games on the bench.  Remember Hightower?  He started a couple of games in a row earlier on in league play, yet now he barely takes his warm up off. Crump has either not left the bench or played just a minute or two in multiple games this season.  How do these disparities in playing time exist?  How can a player go from zero to minimal playing time, to starting, to back to no playing time again?  I almost wonder if Georgia’s 5th starter is chosen by a Rock Paper Scissors tournament each week, and the loser is relegated to the pine for the night. If I were an AJC reporter, I’d be throwing these types of questions at Mark Fox every. Single. Week.

Looking ahead

Georgia has 5 Top 50 RPI wins, which is solid. But Georgia also has a record of 13-9 overall, and they are now just 4-6 in SEC play.  If the Dawgs don’t get above .500 in the conference, they’ll be playing for an NIT bid at best.  Georgia heads to Nashville on Wednesday to take on Vanderbilt in a building where Mark Fox coached teams are just 1-5 against the Dores.

After Vandy, the remainder of UGA’s schedule is just brutal to say the least:

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