Georgia defense continues to be problematic for this team

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The Dawgs (11-7, 1-4) dropped their second game in a row in Tuesday’s loss to Kentucky inside Rupp Arena. The fact that UGA only lost by 10 is a bit of a silver lining for Tom Crean’s team considering that Anthony Edwards didn’t score the entire first half, and Sahvir Wheeler went the whole game without a bucket. The Dawgs got 29 points from the bench and surprising double-digit efforts from Tye Fagan (14) and Toumani Camara (10) that helped UGA piece together a 79-point performance that came via chunks of scoring from various role players.

It’s safe to say that the Dawgs DO NOT have anyone capable of defending Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans on the perimeter or Nick Richards on the block; the sophomore and junior scored 23 and 20, respectively, for Coach Calipari’s team. The UGA fan base was ecstatic when Crean signed a player of Edwards’s caliber during the offseason, and rightfully so; it’s just that Cal has like 4 to 5 of those kinds of talents on his roster, and that’s a problem for Georgia whenever they play the Cats.

Here are a few more thoughts on the game:

Too many easy baskets for Kentucky

The Georgia Bulldogs interior defense plagued them once again. Kentucky used its size advantage to notch 46 points in the paint against the Dawgs, marking the 4th time in 5 SEC games that a team has scored 44 points or more inside the free throw line. Over the past 3 games prior to this one, UGA allowed opponents to make over 65% of their two-point attempts, the majority of which were scored in the lane. Not to keep pouring it on the defense, but after tonight’s effort, Georgia is now allowing over 80 points a contest in league games, which gives Tom Crean’s team the worst scoring defense in the SEC.

Crean has continued to preach effort on the defensive end in both finishing out possessions and rebounding. Obviously, I agree that those are crucial tenets that must be satisfied if a team hopes to make life difficult for opposing offenses. However, I’m not sure if effort alone is going to be enough for this year’s team to overcome some serious deficiencies that exist in regards to the size of the frontcourt.

The best part of the game for Georgia

The highlight of the games was the 7-ish minute span in the first half in which Georgia shook off a sluggish start and came back from an early 10-2 disadvantage. In an eerie repeat to last weekend’s game in Starkville, the Dawgs found themselves down by the exact same score by the time the initial media timeout rolled around. Kentucky had 11 fastbreak points prior to the intermission, and a majority of those came during this first segment of the game.

Tom Crean moved his team into an extended 2-3 zone in an attempt to slow down the pace of the game and to get Kentucky off-balanced. The UGA zone stymied the Cats’ offense, and Georgia outscored Kentucky 18-14 for the next 7 minutes. With 5:30 remaining before the half, the Dawgs capped off a 9-0 run en route to a 29-28 lead.

The effort in the first 20 minutes of this game was solid as Georgia notched 10 offensive boards which led to 10 second chance points. Despite shooting just 34% from the floor and 20% from three-point land, UGA only trailed 41-35 at the half, a half in which leading-scorer Anthony Edwards contributed 0 points.

Up next:

Ole Miss in Athens

Current postseason projection:

NIT

Box Score:

Dawgs knocked out of NIT by Saint Mary’s

Georgia followed up its best offensive output of the season – a 93-point effort in the win over Belmont – with one of its worst performances on Sunday night in Moraga, California. The Dawgs couldn’t finish on the inside, and their outside shooting was terrible, making just 4 of 17 three-point attempts.  Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, didn’t have any trouble  scoring the ball as they knocked down 50% of their field goal attempts en route to a relatively easy 77-65 win over UGA in the second round of the NIT Tournament.

The Dawgs offense looked inauspicious from the start.  Yante Maten, coming off the best offensive performance of his career against Belmont, struggled mightily in half number one.  Maten made just 3 of his 13 field goal attempts, with many of his misses coming on very makable shots.  Things didn’t get any better for Yante in the second half either as he finished the game with 12 points on a 6 for 22 shooting effort.

As a team, UGA made under 30% of its shots prior to the intermission. Georgia endured one of its typical scoring droughts in the first half, this one lasting nearly 8 minutes.  During this stretch, Georgia failed to convert a field goal, while Saint Mary’s went on a 15-3 run that bolstered its lead to 27-17.  The Gaels would take a 36-23 advantage into the break.

Georgia’s defense was equally as frustrating as its offense.  Coach Mark Fox moved his guys from a zone to man, and then back to zone.  Regardless, the Dawgs were slow to close out on the Gaels all game.  Saint Mary’s moved the ball quickly around the floor, and it seemed like the Georgia players were always a second late getting to the right spot.  The Gaels made 9 shots from beyond the arc, knocking down almost 38% of their attempts.  Saint Mary’s had four players finish in double-figures, with Emmett Naar leading the way with 15 points.

The Dawgs also had four starters end the game in double-digits.  Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier led Bulldogs with 13 points apiece.

This loss ends Georgia’s season as the Dawgs finish up at 20-14 overall.  Today’s game also marks the last for seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who both finished in the top twenty of UGA’s all-time scoring leaders.

The Dawgs had another chance today to notch an RPI Top 50 win (ESPN had the Gaels at 40), but alas it wasn’t meant to be, making Georgia 0 for 6 on the year against teams of this caliber.

Next year, UGA is going to have to win some of these games if they want to be playing on CBS, TBS, TNT or TRU TV this time of year, rather than ESPNU.

Dawgs advance to 2nd round of NIT with win over Belmont

With a little over 5 minutes remaining in the game and Georgia leading by just 2 points, Yante Maten picked up a ball booted by Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw, took it the length of the floor and finished with a thunderous dunk that electrified the UGA crowd.  Belmont could have easily folded at this point, but instead the Bruins fought to stick around, trimming the Dawgs’ advantage back down to four points with 2:13 left.  On the next possession, though, J.J. Frazier knocked down a three-pointer from just inside the construction site for the new indoor football practice facility, giving UGA 83-76 lead with under two minutes remaining.  Belmont would not get any closer as the Dawgs earned a 93-84 win and the right to play St. Mary’s in the second round of the NIT.

Though Frazier may have delivered the dagger in this one, the story on the night was all about Yante Maten.  Maten scored 20 of his career 33 points in the first half, including a 3 for 3 performance from the three-point line.  Shockingly, Belmont opted not to double on Maten when he received the ball on the block, and the Bruins paid dearly for this decision as Yante was an astounding 14 for 17 from the floor.  In addition to his prolific scoring, he also grabbed 10 rebounds to notch his 10th double-double of the season.

Almost overshadowed by Maten’s phenomenal performance was Charles Mann, who scored a season-high 23 points this evening. Surprisingly, the majority of Mann’s points came from beyond the arc, where he buried 4 of his 6 three-point attempts. I’m not sure what to make of Mann’s newfound outside shot, other than I wish it had showed up a bit earlier in his career.

J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines both struggled from the floor as each of them shot below 40% on the night.  However, they finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively.

This game did not feature much defense as both teams got the ball up the court and into scoring opportunities with relative ease.  Belmont shot over 47% from the field as a team, and they were right on their season average from the perimeter at a little bit above 37%. The Bruins had 5 players end the game in double-figures, with senior Craig Bradshaw leading the way with 19 points.

Tonight’s victory marked Georgia’s 20th of the season, making it three-straight years in which the Dawgs have eclipsed that mark.  Seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann have been an integral part of this successful run, and hopefully this evening’s game will not be the last time we see these two play inside Stegeman Coliseum.  However, should 1-seed Valpo knock off 4-seed FSU tomorrow night, Georgia would not get another home game even if the Dawgs manage to win on the road against St. Mary’s in the second round.

But for now, UGA can be satisfied knowing that its season will continue on to another game.

 

No NCAA’s for Georgia, but the Dawgs do get an NIT bid

If Georgia was on the NCAA bubble heading into the Selection Sunday, they were on the very outer fringe of it.  The Dawgs, who just fell short of knocking off the Kentucky Wildcats yesterday, ultimately didn’t have enough quality wins to convince the committee to include them in the field of 68.

However, when one door closes, another one opens.  In this case, that other door is the NIT, where Georgia has been named a 3-seed, and they will play the sixth-seeded Belmont Bruins.  As the higher seed, the Dawgs will take on the Bruins in Athens on Wednesday night.

Belmont won the regular season Ohio Valley Conference title, but the Bruins were knocked out of their league tournament, which shut the door on any aspirations that they might have held in regards to dancing.  At quick glance, the main thing that jumps out off the Bruins’ stat sheet is their proclivity to knock down three’s – Belmont made over 36% of its attempts from beyond the arc this season.

Both teams share a common opponent – Murray State- whom they each beat on their respective home courts.

I am definitely curious as to what Georgia’s mindset will be heading into this game.  Not making the NCAA Tournament has to be a tough pill for this UGA team to swallow, especially for the two seniors.  What will UGA’s mentality be on Tuesday evening, just days removed from the loss in Nashville and the letdown this afternoon?

 

Georgia comeback falls short as Dawgs lose to Gophers in NIT

If only the Georgia Bulldogs could have just pressed the reset on the first half of today’s game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, maybe they would have avoided their second loss in the preseason NIT.

Before the break, UGA committed 15 of its season-high 18 turnovers, which allowed the Gophers to take a 37-25 lead into the intermission.  Georgia was flustered early with Minnesota’s full court pressure, and they looked like they were rushing on offense for much of the game’s first 20 minutes.

There wasn’t any reset button though, and the Dawgs spent the entire second half trying to dig themselves out of the hole that they had created – which they nearly did.  Despite the fact that Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines combined for only 4 points on the night, UGA trimmed the Minnesota advantage to 65-62 following a three-pointer from J.J. Frazier.  But a free throw on the other end for the Gophers coupled with a missed three from Juwan Parker resulted in Minnesota sealing the 66-62 win.

Charles Mann had a really tough game, scoring zero points and committing 4 turnovers in the first half.  He must have gotten in the doghouse with Coach Fox at the half because he only saw the floor for 4 minutes after the break, and that was only because Kenny Gaines went out for a spell with a neck injury.

With Mann out, J.J. Frazier stepped up and played admirably, scoring 12 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.  Even more importantly, the sophomore point guard did not give the ball away once.

Marcus Thornton recorded another double-double, scoring 14 points and snagging 10 rebounds, and freshman Yante Maten chipped in another 12 points.

Other than the turnovers, another major difference in this contest came from the perimeter, where Minnesota knocked down 10 three-pointers to Georgia’s 3.  The Dawgs connected on only 21% of their shots from the outside today, and they are now barely above 25% from beyond the arc as a team this season.  If UGA cannot locate its three-point shot, they are going to have some serious trouble putting up points this season.

While it definitely stings for Georgia to leave New York completely empty-handed, it should be noted that this is a descent Minnesota team, picked by many to finish 7th in the Big Ten this year – a team that could very well sneak into this season’s NCAA Tournament.

Coach Mark Fox’s team must regroup quickly before embarking on a road trip to Chattanooga next Tuesday to play the Mocks, a team that Fox Sports suggested could challenge for the SoCon title this year.