After opening up big halftime lead, Georgia loses heartbreaker to Arizona State

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Leads are not safe when it comes to Georgia Bulldog (5-4) athletics. Nicolas Claxton’s last-second attempt to tie the game drew nothing but air, and Arizona State snuck out of Athens with a 76-74 win in a game that they led for just a little over two minutes.

The Dawgs’ final possession was questionable, at best. I’m going to err on the side of Tom Crean and venture that he did not call a timeout to tell his team to inbounds the ball to Claxton so that he could go the length of the court against future NBA lottery pick Luguentz Dort.  Unfortunately, thought, that’s how it played out, and Georgia, not surprisingly, came up short in a game that it led by 14 points at halftime.

Georgia’s defense for the first twenty minutes was unrecognizable from anything we’ve seen from this team this year.  UGA’s guards stayed in front of the Sun Devil guards (for the most part), and everyone that Crean ran onto the court closed out with a sense of purpose on every ASU player that received the ball.  The Dawgs limited the Sun Devils to just 32% from the floor (just 16% from beyond the arc) in the first half. Luguentz Dort, who entered the game netting 22 a night, had only 5 points through the first 20 minutes of play.

UGA’s leading scorers – Rayshaun Hammonds, Nic Claxton and Tyree Crump – played superb from the start.  Hammonds hit a pair of triples, and he had the Sun Devils on their heels defensively as he attacked the basket and drew fouls.

Tyree Crump, who has been playing so much looser than in his previous two years in Athens, scored 16 points prior to the intermission.  Crump didn’t just hit three’s either, though he did knock down two; he also found points off the dribble and on cuts without the ball.

Claxton was simply the best player on the court in the first half as he scored 7 points, grabbed 10 boards and swatted 3 shots.  Claxton’s versatility makes him such a weapon for Tom Crean.  He can defend every position (he blocked two of Dort’s shots before the half), and he can bring the ball up the court immediately upon rebounding it, which really helped to ignite the tempo of this UGA team’s offense in half number one. 

Georgia went on a huge 12-3 run that included a triple from Tyree Crump and an athletic finish by Rayshaun Hammonds that bolstered UGA’s first half lead to 43-29 with a little over 2 minutes remaining before the break; the Dawgs would take a 47-33 advantage into the half.

Everything that went well in the first half failed to carry over to half number two, though. ASU opened up the second half with a 13-7 run that was fueled in part by 2 UGA turnovers.  After 5 minutes of play, the Sun Devils had cut the Dawgs’ double-digit halftime advantage to 54-46.   Georgia’s defense had no answer for Arizona State guard Remy Martin, who led all scorers with 21 points. Martin got into the paint whenever he wanted, and when he wasn’t driving, he was dropping the ball off to Romello White, who chipped in 16 points and seemed to have his way with the Georgia bigs inside.  ASU followed up its 32% first half performance from the floor with a much-improved 50% effort after the break.

One stat that will not show up in the box score that was devastating for Georgia was Arizona State’s ability to answer UGA three-pointers: ASU followed up three consecutive Georgia triples with a triple themselves in the second half, and that certainly aided their comeback effort and eventual win.

Foul trouble was a killer for UGA on Saturday night. Derek Ogbeide picked up 2 fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game, which tested UGA’s frontcourt depth, or lack thereof, early. Anytime Mike Edwards is forced into playing additional minutes, one can assume that things are not going as planned for the Dawgs.  Ogbeide picked up his 4th foul less than 4 minutes into the second half, and Rayshaun Hammonds fouled out with over 4 minutes remaining in the game.

Crump, Hammonds and Claxton, who combined for 38 first-half points, scored a total of 9 points between them in the game’s final 20 minutes. Credit ASU coach Bobby Hurley for making the defensive adjustments necessary to take that trio completely out of rhythm.

Considering how large of a halftime lead Georgia held over this Sun Devil team at home, this loss feels tough. Maybe that’s because it came so close on the heels of the football team’s collapse against Bama in Atlanta two weeks ago. Who knows? 

However, the Dawgs’ effort in this game completely surpassed my expectations, and if you had told me this morning that Georgia would have the ball with a chance to tie or win at the end of the game I would have taken it in a heartbeat. This team IS getting better. If you don’t believe me, just rewatch the game against Georgia State last month in the Cayman Islands. The Dawgs were pegged to finish 13th in the SEC before the season started, and after tonight, I would be shocked if Tom Crean’s team didn’t end up several spots higher than that initial forecast.

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Hot-handed Georgia beats Texas Southern 92-75

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After coasting for the previous 20 minutes, the Georgia Bulldogs (5-3) saw their 25-point second half lead whittle down to a 78-66 advantage with a little over 5 minutes remaining following a 13-0 run by the Texas Southern Tigers (3-6). A game that seemed a forgone conclusion suddenly had become far more competitive than Tom Crean most likely preferred. Thankfully, Tyree Crump, who had his best shooting night as a Bulldog, buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to stop the bleeding and solidify the home win for the Dawgs. 

This win was a much-needed jolt of momentum for UGA as they head into a twelve day layoff due to final exams. Texas Southern was an NCAA tournament team a year ago after winning the SWAC, and they were projected to finish 2nd in the league this year.  The Tigers are now 3-6 on the season, but their schedule thus far has been brutal as Georgia marked the sixth Power 5 team that Texas Southern has played on the road, with wins at both Baylor and Oregon. Put simply, the Dawgs beat a team tonight that is better than its record indicates.

Georgia’s offense was clicking on Monday evening in Athens. UGA entered this contest connecting on just under 6 three’s a game, yet by the intermission the Dawgs had already hit that mark. The hot shooting from the perimeter, which must have come as a bit of a surprise to the Tigers considering UGA came into this game making less than 32% of its attempts from beyond the arc, took Texas Southern out of its defensive game plan.  The Tigers started the game in a zone in the hopes of forcing Georgia to beat them from outside, but the Dawgs’ efficiency from the perimeter forced the Tigers to extend its pressure, which resulted in a slew of easy scores for Georgia close to the bucket as UGA notched 24 of its 52 first-half points in the paint.

UGA’s proficient shooting extended into the second half as well as the Dawgs ended up with 11 three-pointers on the night, tying their season-high from the opener against Savannah State. Tyree Crump, who led all scorers with a career-high 25 points, was responsible for 5 of those triples. Crump did not start this game, but he nearly outscored a Texas Southern bench that was responsible for 26 points on the night. Georgia’s starting frontcourt is fairly solid; it’s the backcourt that remains a major question mark at this point in the season. In order for Georgia to live its best life, Crump needs to become a double-digit scorer for this team (like, starting now).

I realize that we haven’t scratched the surface of conference play, but UGA’s trio of starting lefty bigs seem legit.  Rayshaun Hammonds, Nicolas Claxton and Derek Ogbeide attacked the glass relentlessly this evening as they collected 27 boards between them; they were just a few rebounds shy of all ending the night with double-doubles (Ogbeide was the only one to secure that feat).  Georgia had 15 offensive rebounds which led to 21 second chance points.

Derek Ogbeide, who is averaging in double-figures for the first time in his career, looks a lot more comfortable in Crean’s offense. Personally, I much prefer him receiving the ball in the paint versus at the top of the key (where Fox generally had him as a set piece in his offense), and I’m guessing that he feels the same way. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Georgia limited the Tigers to just 35% from the floor, which is below their season average.  Texas Southern’s leading scorer, Jalyn Patterson (15 ppg), was held to just 3 points on a forgetful 1 for 14 shooting performance from the floor. 

The Dawgs return to action on December 15th when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils, who are currently 7-0. Though, that could certainly change as they have a date with #6 Nevada later on this week.

Georgia blasts Kennesaw State 84-51 in Athens

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The Georgia Bulldogs (4-3) spent the majority of Tuesday night in the paint against the Kennesaw State Owls (1-7), where the Dawgs scored 57 of of their 84 points. Spoiler alert: Georgia won big.

However, Dawgs fans shouldn’t read too much into this game.  To put it delicately, Kennesaw State is an awful team.  The Owls, who were projected to finish 7th in the 9-team Atlantic Sun Conference, flew into Athens on the fumes of a 1-6 record.  Kennesaw State does not play much defense, and they don’t seem particularly interested in defensive rebounding; also, the Owls cannot shoot the ball very well as they struggled to convert just 27% of their shots from the floor. I have no doubt that this KSU team has what it takes to fulfill that preseason prophecy and end up near the gutter of the ASUN.

Georgia began the game with a turkey hangover, but eventually the Dawgs pushed their advantage to 22-11 at the 7:46 media timeout following an 8-0 run that was capped off by a layup by Teshaun Hightower on the break.  Georgia used multiple steals to start ramping up the tempo and extending the lead as they scored 16 first-half points off fast breaks.  Once the Dawgs began to push the pace a bit, the floor opened up, particularly for Tyree Crump, who buried 3 triples prior to the break, and Georgia had a 39-20 lead at the intermission.

Georgia took advantage of 10 Kennesaw State turnovers by converting them into 14 points before the half.  However, the Dawgs were careless with the basketball themselves as they committed 11 turnovers; Georgia was fortunate that the Owls couldn’t capitalize on those mistakes like Georgia State did in the Caymans.  UGA’s sloppiness with the basketball, which has certainly been a predominant trend of this young season, is particularly disconcerting because the Dawgs are literally just handing the ball over.  In both the Georgia State game and the first half against the Owls, the defense wasn’t doing anything special to affect UGA’s offense, so in theory, these turnovers shouldn’t really be happening at nearly this alarming of a rate.  

But all’s well that ends well as the Dawgs were able to use the second half as more or less a scrimmage.  Georgia cleaned up the ball security somewhat, committing just 5 turnovers after the intermission, and the Dawgs ended up with 20 team assists.  The star of the evening was Nicolas Claxton, who notched a double-double by scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 boards. Claxton has been racking up stats against the weaker opponents on UGA’s pre-SEC slate thus far. However, at some point the Dawgs are going to need him to be more effective against stiffer competition, which is on the horizon as Georgia has upcoming games with Arizona State and Georgia Tech just around the corner (not to mention the start of SEC play).

Sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds contributed 14 points himself, which is just about at his season average of 14.5 ppg, and he did all of this damage in just 23 minutes of play. Hammonds just seems to be quietly going about his business and scoring in double-figures night in, night out. Honestly, I’d like to see him assert himself even more on offense as I feel confident that he is this team’s most skilled weapon on that end of the court.

It’s hard to say how well Georgia defended this Owl team since putting the ball in the basket has been quite the challenge for KSU so far this season (35% on FG). The Dawgs did limit Tyler Hooker, who came into tonight’s contest netting nearly 20 ppg, to just 11 points on a dismal 5 for 19 shooting performance.  The Owls certainly made life easy on Georgia on the defensive side as KSU hit just 1 of the 15 shots they attempted from beyond the arc.

UGA doesn’t return to the court again until Monday when they take on a tough Texas Southern team that is far better than its 2-4 record implies.  The Tigers are coached by former LSU skipper Johnny Jones, and they have multiple Power 5 transfers on their roster this year.  Texas Southern has already beat both Baylor and #18 Oregon, and they’ve lost games to Iowa State, Gonzaga and San Diego State; they play Arizona State this Saturday.  All of those contests were (and will be) on the road, so traveling to Athens will not do much to intimidate this road-tested squad.

Tom Crean probably won’t take much solace from tonight’s win, and he’d better have his team prepared for a better fight next Monday.

Box Score:

Temple hands Georgia its first loss of the season

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Derek Ogbeide’s turnaround hook with 7 seconds left was just a tad long, which allowed Temple to secure the rebound and eventually bury a pair of free throws to seal the 81-77 home win, their third of the season. The fact that the Dawgs (1-1) even had the ball with a chance to win at the end of this game was nothing short of miraculous considering that they trailed the Owls for the majority of the contest.  I mean, UGA fell behind Temple 77-70 with 2:25 left after Quinton Rose hit what appeared to be a dagger as the shot clock nearly expired.  Georgia’s effort in this one should give fans optimism of what this season could hold if the Dawgs can show improvement on both sides of the ball.

To be fair to Tyree Crump, though, a big reason why Georgia even found itself in a position to win was because of the junior’s offensive explosion that came on toward the end of the second half. Crump scored 10 of his 16 points over the final 5 minutes of the game. He’s definitely looking more comfortable in Crean’s offense compared to how he’s appeared in his previous two seasons with the Dawgs.  Crump hit a pair of threes, but he also scored multiple buckets around the rim off drives, which is a part of his repertoire that we’ve yet to really see from him.

While Ogbeide came up short (technically long) at the end for Georgia, his play throughout this game enabled the Dawgs to keep within striking distance of the Owls.  The Georgia senior tallied his first double-double of the season, netting 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds.  Ogbeide’s upper-body strength caused problems for the Owls inside as the senior repeatedly drew contact and finished around the basket.  

The same problems that plagued the Dawgs in the opener against Savannah State reared their ugly head again tonight in Philadelphia.  For starters, Georgia gave the ball away 20 times, and those turnovers led to 22 Temple points.  That makes UGA 2 for 2 on the year in coughing the ball up 20 times in a contest. Georgia’s ball security didn’t hurt them as bad against overmatched Savannah State, but it crippled the Dawgs this evening.  When a team loses by just 4 points on the road, it’s really hard not to look at those turnovers and wonder what might have been if that total had been just 5 less.  I realize that turnovers are going to happen with this team, especially considering the tempo that Tom Crean wants for his offense.  But the pace of this game didn’t cause the turnovers this evening; most of them can be attributed to just plain sloppiness. 

Also, much like in the Savannah State game, Georgia did not play strong enough defense on the perimeter.  Temple’s Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston each went for 25 points, and guard Nate Pierre-Louis added 16 himself.  The Owls’ stars moved the ball into the teeth of the UGA defense with ease, which led to both Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds playing in foul trouble for much of the game (Hammonds fouled out in the final seconds of play).  Georgia’s backcourt has to do a better job of staying in front of opponents so as to protect the bigs inside defensively.  Hammonds, who buried a clutch three-pointer to cut the lead to 79-77 with 27 seconds remaining, scored 13 points in just 17 minutes of play.  If the Dawgs are going to win on the road, they need Hammonds on the court.

The biggest surprise of the night statistically had to be that Georgia outscored Temple in the paint 42-30, and that the Dawgs took just 10 shots from beyond the arc.  At the half, Georgia had attempted only 3 three-pointers. This shot selection varied tremendously from the opener in which UGA put up 27 attempts from the perimeter.  

Tom Crean’s team got its first taste of real competition tonight, and they weren’t quite ready.  However, considering that this was just the second game for a team that is playing in a new system for a new coach, the end result wasn’t all negative (not to mention that Georgia had to fly up for the game TODAY due to technical difficulties with the plane). The real test for UGA will be how much they improve as the season progresses, which was something that Mark Fox teams struggled to do in the latter part of his tenure as the Dawgs’ head coach.

On a personal note, I’m going to be traveling and running a 30-kilometer race in Moab, Utah over the first half of Thanksgiving, so I’ll be following the games via my phone for the next few contests leading up to the holiday tournament in Grand Cayman.

Strong second half helps UGA beat Gardner-Webb in Athens

After a shaky first half that was plagued by a slew of fouls for each team, the Georgia Bulldogs got it together after the break to outlast the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs 77-59 in Athens on Friday night.

The opening half was not a thing of beauty for Coach Mark Fox’s team.  The Dawgs struggled to defend the perimeter well as they allowed the GW guards to consistently get into the lane and to the rim, where the Runnin’ Bulldogs buried 13 of their 17 attempts from the stripe.  On offense, UGA endured one of its patented scoring droughts, going nearly 6 minutes without a field goal following an exciting fast break dunk by Yante Maten.  By the time J.J. Frazier connected on a layup with 8:30 left in the half, his Georgia team trailed the visitors 20-18.  Georgia’s offense did pick it up a bit heading into the break, and UGA took a 40-37 advantage into the intermission.

The Dawgs played primarily zone in the second half, clamping down on the GW guards on the outside.  After shooting nearly 39% in half number one, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were held to just 25% from the floor following the break, and they managed only 22 second-half points.  UGA forced GW into 19 turnovers, which led to 28 points for Georgia, a key factor in this victory for Coach Fox’s bunch.  The only GW players to finish in double-digits were David Efianayi and LaQuincy Rideau, who scored 15 and 11, respectively.

Yante Maten led all scorers with 16 points, and he added to his stat line with 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists.  The only other UGA players to end up in double figures were Frazier and Mike Edwards, who netted 10 apiece.  J.J. played somewhat tentatively again on offense as he attempted just 6 shots; he did create 4 steals and dish out 6 assists, though.  For whatever reason, Frazier has been less assertive this season compared to last.  It’s possible that J.J. is still adjusting to being the team’s premier guard after playing alongside Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines for the first three years of his career.  But even with both Mann and Gaines gone, Frazier is averaging less field goal attempts per game so far this year, taking 10.8 per contest compared to the 12.1 he put up a year ago. At some point, Frazier must force the issue a bit on offense as this team will have trouble navigating its SEC schedule if J.J. is tied for 4th on the team in field goal attempts as he was tonight against GW.

Coach Mark Fox got excellent scoring off his bench on Friday with Mike Edwards, Pape Diatta and Jordan Harris getting 10, 9 and 7, respectively.  Edwards did a great job of making himself available in the lane when Maten faced double-teams, which occurred regularly this evening.  Diatta, who scored 7 of his 9 before the break, also hauled in 6 rebounds, making for an incredibly productive 16 minutes.

The Dawgs shot over 48% from the floor against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, and they are now hitting nearly 44% from the field on the season, compared to the 42% that UGA shot last year.

Georgia gets another tune up on Wednesday when they play host to Morehouse, then the Dawgs get another crack at a Power 5 conference opponent when they take on Marquette next Sunday in Athens.

 

 

Dawgs top Paladins 84-78

Georgia earned its second victory of the week on Thursday night in front of a sparse Stegeman crowd as they managed to defeat the Furman Paladins 84-78.  Here are some observations:

Maten and Frazier again the difference

At this point, the only thing separating UGA from being a mid major program are #1 and #30.  Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, who were both selected to ESPN’s top 100 college basketball players list this week, are already in midseason form.  Maten continues to showcase the ability to score from just about anywhere other than the corner three-point line.  On Thursday, he notched 27 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  Frazier, who had been somewhat timid offensively in the first two games this season, looked like vintage J.J. against Furman: driving to the basket and bouncing off defenders en route to layups, and stopping quickly off the dribble to get his three-point shot.  Frazier led all scorers with 28 points – 12 of which came from beyond the arc.  He and Maten accounted for nearly 70% of Georgia’s offense against the Paladins.

UGA clamped down when it needed to

Furman did not come into Athens to play the role of pre-conference tune up.  The Paladins led Georgia 58-57 with 7:13 remaining in the game after a jumper by Kris Acox, and they looked confident enough in themselves to pull off the upset.  However, UGA’s Juwan Parker stepped up big and responded for his team down the stretch, hitting a cutting Mike Edwards on a break that ended in an exciting dunk.  Parker scored the Dawgs’ next two field goals, knocking down a pair of jumpers that put UGA up 66-59 with just 4:16 left.  Georgia pushed its advantage to 69-60 following a pair of free throws from J.J., and the Dawgs never looked back.

 

 

Freshmen continue to see limited minutes

Jordan Harris played 15 minutes on Thursday night.  He had to be shocked.  Whenever the substitution horn buzzed, he would constantly glance over his shoulder, assuming that his time was up.  But Fox stuck with Harris down the stretch, and the freshman played well.  He scored once on a beautiful drive down the left side of the lane, and Harris also knocked down an open jump shot.  Tyree Crump, however, played just a mere 5 minutes against the Paladins.  Crump scored on his only shot, spinning off his defender from the baseline and finishing at the bucket; he was yanked out 15 seconds later after the first dead ball. I don’t know what Coach Mark Fox’s plans are this year in regards to his usage of either of these talented freshmen, but if they aren’t seeing the court much now, I can’t imagine their playing time increasing once conference play begins.  Maybe he is easing them into his rotations.  Maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable enough with them to give them more time on the court.  My hope is that he’s leaning towards the former.

Georgia earns first win of the season against UNC Asheville

A couple of Bulldogs squared off inside Stegeman on Monday night, and Georgia had to show the ones from Asheville that this town wasn’t big enough for the both of them.  The Dawgs rode their stars, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, to the team’s first win of the 2016-2017 season.  Maten and Frazier scored 19 and 18, respectively, combining for nearly two-thirds of UGA points in this 60-46 victory.  This might be a common theme of the season.

Much like the Clemson game, though, Frazier began the night a little tentative.  After hitting a three several minutes into this contest, Frazier wouldn’t score again until he connected on three free throws with a little under 5 minutes to go before the break.  Georgia struggled in the first half to make shots against the Asheville half-court trap zone.  Before J.J. hit those aforementioned free throws, the Dawgs were locked up at 22-22 with 4:22 left.  The shots from the charity stripe invigorated Frazier, though, as he netted 8 points in the final four minutes to spark Georgia to a 33-26 halftime lead.

Coach Fox’s team shot the ball a bit better in the second half, but the Georgia defense (or possibly Asheville’s inability to make open shots) was responsible for this win.  The Dawgs  held the other Bulldogs to under 34% from the floor, and Asheville shot an abysmal 4 for 22 from beyond the arc.  Ahmad Thomas led all UNC Asheville scorers with just 13 points.

Overall, however, this win was a sort of underwhelming.  Georgia had superior size and talent, yet the Dawgs led by merely 5 points with under 10 minutes remaining in the game.  After turning the ball over 15 times last Friday at Clemson, UGA gave it away another 17 times on Monday (6 of them coming from Maten).

While it’s hard to gauge much from these early preseason games in regards to predicting the course of the season, especially considering Fox’s prolific subbing patterns, Georgia still doesn’t have anyone who looks like they can be a reliable scorer outside of Frazier and Maten.  Juwan Parker started the night well, making 2 of his first 3 shots, but he ended up shooting 4 of 12 by game’s end.  He took two more shots than J.J., yet he scored half the number of points.  Tyree Crump went 0 for 5, and Turtle Jackson and Papa Diatta each missed both of the shots that they put up.

Freshman Jordan Harris did knock down a three-pointer, making him 1 for 1 on the season from the field.  However, he was quickly removed during the next TV timeout, giving him only 3 minutes of court time on the night.

Tonight’s game and Thursday’s contest against Furman are both considered “Host Games” as part of next week’s CBE Classic in Kansas City (the outcome of the games does not affect UGA’s travel plans to Missouri).  After Furman, UGA has a game with George Washington in the first round of the CBE next Monday, with a potential matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks looming Tuesday.  Even though it’s only a week away, it’s hard to imagine this Georgia team on the same floor as #7 Kansas right now.