Sometimes the sports’ gods come together and align for the good of UGA fans, and yesterday was one of those days. The football team steamrolled Mizzou, LSU dashed the Gators’ playoff hopes and the basketball team came from behind against the fighting Samford and Sons to preserve Georgia’s undefeated record.
However, UGA’s 5-0 record has come against the 292nd ranked schedule in college basketball, according to ESPN, so it feels like we should take it with a little grain of salt.
We learned two things from Saturday’s 79-75 win: 1) Georgia needs Toumani Camara to play in every single game, and 2) the Dawgs are not built to play in the half court, which is something SEC teams will probably force them to do every night.
Samford kept this game at a turtle’s pace by playing primarily zone from the opening tip. The Dawgs played right into the other Bulldogs’ hands as they settled for outside shots, where UGA connected on just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Georgia converted just two field goals through the first 11 minutes, and after a triple from Triston Chambers, Samford held its largest lead of the day (24-11) with 8:45 left in the first half.
Offensively, this game looked nothing like the previous four. The Dawgs were held to just 9 fast break points, and they were outscored in the paint (36-28) for the first time this season. Sahvir Wheeler, who ended up with 15 points, shot a dismal 5 of 15 from the floor. When he tried to force the ball inside against the Samford zone, defenders collapsed on him and forced him into either difficult shots or turnovers, of which he had 5.
UGA looked visibly uncomfortable trying to facilitate offense in the half court, which is understandable considering this team’s lack of outside shooters. Georgia continued to struggle to make three-pointers as they hit just 26% of their attempts on Saturday, one percentage point below their season average. However, we did gain a few insights into this facet of UGA’s game: Justin Kier needs to shoot more, and P.J. Horne should probably shoot less. Kier scored 18 points and buried 4 of 9 from beyond the arc, including a pair of triples late in the second half that brought the Dawgs to within a point with less than 8 minutes remaining. The senior has established himself as Georgia’s premier outside threat as he’s hitting over 43% from the perimeter, and he should have the greenest of green lights from that spot on the court.
Horne, on the other hand, made only 1 of 7 outside shots, and many of them were taken in rushed fashion with his feet not set. He hit over 34% from three-point range last year at Virginia Tech, so he obviously has this shot in his arsenal, but I just don’t think he needs to fire off quite as many. Horne is currently leading the Bulldogs in three-point attempts on the season.
The absence of Camara and its impact on this game must be noted again as he’s tied with Wheeler in importance to this team. However, the fact that Georgia needed the entire 40 minutes to put away Samford, a team that was projected to finish 8th in the 10-team Southern Conference, should provide UGA fans with some pause for concern. This game was essentially a preview of what SEC play will look like, except the players defending Georgia in the various zone looks will be bigger and more athletic.
Next Saturday the Dawgs get their first real test of the young season when they host the Cincinnati Bearcats, who just took the #12 Tennessee Vols to the wire in Knoxville.