The Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) beat the brakes off the previously undefeated Jacksonville Dolphins (3-1) in Athens on Friday night. The Dolphins, who were projected to finish 7th in the 9-team Atlantic Sun League prior to the start of the season, had gotten off to a roaring start averaging 81 ppg and netting over 46% from beyond the arc. The Dawgs defense and transition offense ultimately proved to be too overwhelming for Jax as UGA cruised to a 98-65 blowout victory.
While the Dawgs were certainly fun to watch on offense this evening, the defense felt like the story of the night. Georgia’s pressure discombobulated a Dolphin offense that had been highly efficient to begin the year. UGA limited Jax to a 4 of 23 effort from three-point range. The Dawgs created 15 steals and forced the Dolphins into 22 turnovers, which Georgia converted into 34 points. Jacksonville struggled to find clean looks from the perimeter, and UGA’s defensive harassment caused the Dolphins to take a number of difficult, contested shots.
Dontarius James, who entered this contest scoring nearly 18 a night, notched only 11 points on a frustrating 4 for 12 effort from the floor. The junior forward was clearly flustered by Toumani Camara’s constant presence.
Offensively, Georgia did tend to struggle in the half court against the Jax zone. Fortunately, the Dawgs played such great defense that they were able to facilitate much of their offense in the transition. Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler pushed the pace of this game relentlessly as he scored a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 assists for his third double-double of that nature in as many games. If Wheeler continues to be this assertive with the ball, Georgia will stay in a bunch of games because there simply cannot be that many guys in the nation that can stay in front of him.
In addition to Wheeler’s motor, UGA bigs Camara and Christian Brown ran the court well and were rewarded with a slew of dunks and easy buckets. Camara finished with 19 points as he displayed his freakish athleticism by finishing 4 highlight-reel level flushes. Brown ended up with 14 points off the bench, and he may have notched the dunk of the year thus far for this Georgia team when he went up and threw down an alley-oop from Wheeler late in the second half.
The Dawgs shot better from beyond the arc on Friday night (35%), but this team’s ability to score points seems to be much more dependent upon the tempo of the game. Expect Tom Crean’s team to try to turn games into track meets this season, which should provide fans with an entertaining product.
The only real spot of concern on an otherwise solid night for UGA was that grad transfer Andrew Garcia once again found himself in foul trouble. Garcia, who netted 22 points in the opener, played sparingly against North Georgia and once again tonight because he couldn’t stay on the floor due to fouling. He’s probably going to be counted on to be a key cog for this team in the paint, so hopefully Garcia can sort out his body control issues as the season progresses.
Next up: Montana Grizz on Tuesday night