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.

 

 

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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.

Clemson smothers Georgia in season opener

The strength of this Clemson Tiger team last season was its defense, and coach Brad Brownell road that defense on Friday night to a 74-64 victory in the season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs.  All night long, the Tigers pushed the Dawgs away from the basket, using a strong man-to-man to stymie the UGA offense.  Clemson held Georgia to under 43% from the floor, and they turned the Dawgs over 14 times inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers jumped on Georgia from the start, opening up a 21-9 lead less than 10 minutes in following a three-pointer from Avry Holmes.  Clemson star forward Jaron Blossomgame picked up two fouls early and sat for much of the first half, but guard Game DeVoe picked up the slack in his absence, knocking down two three’s before the break en route to 12 first half points.  The Tigers held J.J. Frazier to just 3 points prior to the intermission, which enabled them to head into the break with a 40-30 advantage.

The Dawgs closed the gap in the second half after Turtle Jackson hit a pair of three-pointers to cut the Clemson lead to 51-48 with 10:18 remaining in the game.  The Tigers jumped on Georgia immediately out the ensuing timeout though, going on a 12-2 run that was capped off by an old-fashioned three-point play by Donte Grantham, putting his team up 63-50 with 7:43 left.  This stretch by Clemson took the life out of the Dawgs, and Clemson kept UGA at bay for the remainder of the night.

DeVoe led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points, and Blossomgame chipped in another 13.

Yante Maten carried the Dawgs on the night, scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, posting his first double-double of the season.  Frazier was the only other UGA player to finish in double-figures, scoring 11 points; however, it took him a 5 for 13 shooting effort to get there.

Clemson’s defense definitely exposed a huge question mark that Georgia will have to address at some point this season: who will score other than Frazier and Maten?  Other than Derek Ogbeide’s 9 point-effort on a 4 for 5 performance, most of the other UGA players struggled.  Most noticeably among them being Juwan Parker, who shot an abysmal 3 for 10 from the floor. Coach Mark Fox must get offensive output from some of his role players, but I’m not sure Parker is a viable option.  He certainly has enjoyed shooting it from the perimeter during his time at Georgia, but unfortunately for the Dawgs Parker has made just 19% of his attempts from beyond the arc.  At some point, someone – either Parker or Fox – needs to decide that that’s not a productive shot for this team.

Teams are going to continue to overload their defense on Frazier this year, just like the Tigers did tonight.   Coach Brownell had his guards stick with Frazier even when he didn’t have the ball in an effort to force the four other UGA players on the court to beat them, and, for the most part, it worked.

Coach Mark Fox’s team will get a chance to earn its first win of the year on Monday night in Athens when they play host to the Bulldogs from Asheville, North Carolina.

Georgia-Clemson Preview

A couple of NCAA Tournament hopefuls will be squaring off on Friday night when Georgia travels to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers.  For now, UGA is in the “First Four Out” category of ESPN’s Preseason Bracketology, while Clemson was no where to be found.  Although, any bracket predictions being made before the season has tipped off should be taken lightly.

The strength of this Tiger team last year was its defense.  A rangy bunch, Clemson ranked first in the ACC last season in blocked shots at 5.2 per game, and they were third in fewest points allowed at 64.5 per contest.  Last year, UGA was plagued in numerous games by long stretches of offensive ineptitude, a weakness that Coach Mark Fox’s team must eliminate if they want to play into late March this year.

A year ago, the Dawgs manhandled the Tigers in Athens 71-48.  UGA was led by seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who combined for 35 points to carry Georgia to the home win.  In that game, UGA limited Clemson superstar Jaron Blossomgame to just 5 points, which was almost 13 under his average.

Fast forward to 2016.  Georgia no longer has Gaines or Mann, and they once again will have to take on a Tiger team led by Jaron Blossomgame, a preseason First Team All-ACC selection.  Blossomgame is currently projected by NBADraft.net to go #17 in their 2017 Mock NBA Draft.  At this point, Georgia doesn’t have any players in that Mock.

This contest should present both a formidable challenge and an opportunity for UGA junior Yante Maten.  In the exhibition game last week, Maten had his way against the inferior competition from Fort Valley, Georgia.  Against Clemson, Maten will have his hands full dealing with a potential NBA first-round draft pick in Blossomgame.  That being said, there should be an NBA scout or two inside Littlejohn on Friday; Yante will have a chance to show them what he can do while going head-to-head with a probable prospect.

Friday’s season opener at Clemson could definitely have selection implications in March.  Coach Mark Fox’s team has the possibility of earning a quality win that could boost its NCAA resume, and we’re not even halfway through November.

Welcome back Georgia basketball

The Georgia Bulldogs returned to the hard courts for the first time since galavanting this summer throughout Spain, where UGA won all of its exhibitions.  In tonight’s exhibition game, the Dawgs played host to the Fort Valley State Wildcats, a team hailing from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).

The Wildcats were undersized and overmatched, and the Dawgs dismantled them inside Stegeman by a count of 94-38.  Even though this game meant nothing in regards to the win-loss column, Mark Fox’s team definitely showed up with a sense of purpose defensively, holding Fort Valley to under 25% from the field.  UGA subbed at an incredible rate, even for Fox, yet for the most part everyone who came in entered the game prepared to work on the defensive end.  The Wildcats had managed just 2 points after nearly ten minutes of game time had eclipsed.

Offensively, Georgia was led by Yante Maten, who looked like a man among boys on Thursday.  Maten scored a game-high 19 points on an array of hooks and dunks, and he even added a three.  After being selected to the preseason All-SEC Second Team, Maten certainly appears poised for a big junior season.

UGA’s other star, senior J.J. Frazier, who was a All-SEC First Team selection, scored only 9 points.  However, Frazier played sparingly, and he did have a nice stretch in the second half when he buried a series of three-pointers.

Both Maten and Frazier are two of Georgia’s known commodities, though.  Tonight, fans headed to Stegeman to see some of the new Bulldog players as well as some of last year’s returning sophomores.  The biggest surprise on the night had to be the play of freshman guard Tyree Crump, who comes from the same hometown as Kirby Smart: Bainbridge, Georgia.  The rumors circling around Crump after the trip to Spain were that he could get hot from the perimeter, and the freshman did not disappoint on Thursday.  Crump actually missed his first two attempts from beyond the arc, prompting Fox to sub him out. However, before a stoppage of play could occur, Crump knocked down a pair of three’s to get himself in the scoring column.  He hit two more three-pointers in the second half, and Crump also scored on a nice drive off the dribble.  Kenny Paul Geno and Juwan Parker may have started this game, but do not be surprised if Crump doesn’t play himself into one of the starting spots as the season progresses.

But in the end, it’s important to remember that tonight’s game was merely a surface-level look into this year’s UGA basketball team.  The Dawgs played a ton of guys, and their opponent resembled nothing of what the competition will look like next Friday when Georgia opens at Clemson.  Coach Fox does have two bonafide stars at his disposal in Frazier and Maten, though, and he appears to have a deeper bench than in years past.

Looking ahead to next season

Just like the season before, Georgia will be losing two key seniors from its roster as it heads into the offseason. With the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, UGA will need to replace 23.7 points per night.  In addition to the loss of offensive production, the Dawgs will also need someone to step up and assume the role of shutdown defender that Gaines has occupied for the past four years.

The good news, however, is that Coach Mark Fox’s team returns its two leading scorers, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, both of whom finished with over 16 points per game.  Frazier and Maten were named to the postseason All-SEC second team this year, and surely they will each find a spot on the preseason All-SEC first team heading into next season.  Georgia is fortunate to have bonafide stars at both the guard and forward positions.

The biggest concern offensively for the Dawgs next year at this point has to be perimeter shooting.  Both Frazier and Gaines knocked down over 38% of their three-point tries this year, but Gaines is gone, leaving Georgia with only one legitimate outside threat.  What happens when J.J. has to sit?

Georgia’s incoming freshman guards, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, each connected on over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc in their senior seasons in high school.  At least one of these guys will need to come in an establish himself as an outside scorer from the start.  I also understand that Mark Fox is actively recruiting a graduate transfer for next year, so here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping that he gets one who can fill it up from the perimeter.

Joining Yante Maten in the paint will be sophomores Derek Ogbeide and Michael Edwards. Ogbeide proved himself to be a tenacious rebounder in his freshman campaign, averaging over 5 boards per contest in just 15 minutes a game.  Next year he should see increased minutes, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the big fella ring up more than a few double-doubles.

Michael Edwards is an intriguing player who could either have a Travis Leslie-esque jump next year, or he could continue doing more of the same from what we saw this season.  If you recall, Leslie appeared wild and uncoordinated in his first year of UGA basketball, netting just 6 points a game. However, Leslie burst onto the season in year number two, netting nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds a night.  Much like Leslie, Edwards, who possesses an imposing 6’9″ frame, showed signs of that same sort of raw athleticism as a freshman. If Edwards can learn to improve his footwork and get better control of his body, Dawgs fans could see significant gains from the sophomore big.

ESPN released its “Way too early Top 25” and Joe Lunardi posted his initial “Bracketology” for the 2017 season; Georgia wasn’t included in either of them.  Maybe its for the best, since the Dawgs were projected in the NCAA tournament field by Lunardi prior to this year and, well, we all know how that turned out.

But make no mistake: UGA SHOULD make the NCAA tournament next season with the personnel the Dawgs are returning.  Whether that happens or not is on Coach Mark Fox.  In the past five regular seasons, Georgia is now 4-34 against the RPI Top 50, a record that is truly atrocious.  Playing good competition is not enough.  At some point, UGA needs to break through and start winning some of these games.  Another NIT appearance is unacceptable.