The narrative for Georgia’s (17-12; 8-8) basketball team has become incredibly predictable these days. Basically, it goes something like this: with its best interior player watching from the sidelines, one undersized point guard continues to refuse to let this team lose.
Despite at one point holding a 17-point advantage in the first half, UGA found itself with the ball and trailing LSU 80-79 with only 6.9 seconds left. The Dawgs got the ball to J.J. Frazier, who quickly split a double team before sprinting down the court and drawing a foul with less than 2 seconds left. Frazier buried the two free throws, which gave UGA an 81-80 edge. LSU attempted a full court pass, but it landed in Derek Ogbeide’s hands. Ogbeide began walking with the ball as if the game were over, and fortunately for Georgia, the referees missed an obvious traveling violation and found a foul in the video replay that sent Ogbeide to the line with only 1.3 left. Georgia would win 82-80, and more importantly, the Dawgs avoided what could have been a shameful home loss to a Tiger team that rolled into Athens with a 1-14 SEC record.
As refreshing as it was to see Frazier pull out another win for this team, the fact that Georgia relinquished its huge lead and almost lost to the worst team in the conference, even without Maten, is concerning. After shooting 55% from the floor and building up a 44-37 halftime lead, the Dawgs began to unravel midway through the second half. Georgia bolstered its advantage to 55-42 following an E’Torrian Wilridge three-pointer with 16:54 remaining. But then UGA got careless with the ball, turning it over 7 times after the break. The Dawgs also failed to defend the glass and allowed LSU to haul down 7 of its 11 offensive boards in the second half; the Tigers scored 14 second chance points to Georgia’s 6. UGA came dangerously close to becoming the team that would snap LSU’s 14-game SEC losing streak.
Georgia escaped today, but it was so much closer than it should have been. I fear that the offense is almost becoming too Frazier-centric down the stretch. While obviously a team wants the ball in the hands of its best player when it counts, for the final 4 minutes of the LSU game the Dawgs merely stalled for 20 seconds before getting the ball to J.J. so that he could try to create something. Frazier missed his final 5 field goal attempts, largely because the Tigers were dedicating nearly all their defensive resources to stopping him. I’m not so sure this offensive strategy will work against a stronger opponent like Auburn, and I’m positive its not going to be enough against Arkansas.
But the thing is, even though Jordan Harris is also apparently injured, Mark Fox has other offensive weapons at his disposal, yet he continues to be reluctant to use them. For the second straight game, freshman Tyree Crump came off the bench and buried a pair of three-pointers, only to spend the majority of the game on the bench. Tonight, Crump played 8 minutes and scored 6 points and dished out 2 assists; Turtle Jackson played 32 minutes, scoring 9 points and handing out 2 turnovers. Fox’s unwillingness to play Crump, even though he continues to provide perimeter offense, will certainly go down as one of the mysteries of this team’s season.
In addition to Frazier’s 29 points and 8 assists, both Ogbeide and Juwan Parker finished in double-digits as they scored 12 apiece. LSU, who was led by Antonio Blakeny’s 20 points, also had 3 players end up in double-figures, with Brandon Sampson and Skylar Mays netting 15 each.
They double-teamed him. They threw junk traps at him when he crossed half court. At times, Alabama even had a defender completely face guarding him without any help responsibility. Tide coach Avery Johnson threw the kitchen sink at Georgia’s J.J. Frazier, and in the end, none of it worked. Frazier scored 11 of Georgia’s final 12 points and helped guide his team to a 60-55 road win over an Alabama team that is trying to position itself for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
J.J. seems to be saving his best basketball for the finish of his UGA career as he followed up last Saturday’s 36-point effort in the loss to Kentucky with a 28-point game tonight in Tuscaloosa. Frazier once again put the Dawgs on his back and dropped 17 points in the second half, but one play in particular truly typified the toughness and fight that he brings to this team, night in, night out. With over 4 minutes left in the game, Alabama took a Derek Ogbeide miss and quickly pushed it up the floor with a chance to take its first lead of the night, only to have Frazier chase down point guard Dazon Ingram and strip the ball away. J.J. then jetted past the lone Tide defender and soared for the basket, which pushed the UGA advantage up to 54-51. Just when Alabama appeared poised to take control of the game’s momentum, Frazier masterfully stole it right back.
While J.J. was certainly fantastic in this contest, Georgia definitely missed Maten inside. After opening up a 30-18 halftime lead in which the Crimson Tide shot an abysmal 22% from the floor, Georgia’s failure to handle its business on the defensive glass allowed the Crimson Tide to creep back into the game. Alabama ended up with 17 offensive rebounds, which is 3 more than their SEC average, and they scored 17 of their 55 points off of second chance points. In contrast, the Dawgs managed to grab only 3 offensive boards, and they were out-rebounded by a count of 42-30.
Even though Bama has been one of the more inept offensive teams in conference play, credit the Bulldogs for holding them to 16 points under their SEC game average. The Tide had two stretches in the first half – one of 7 minutes and one of 5 – in which they were unable to convert a field goal.
For UGA, Frazier was the only player to finish in double-figures, while the Tide had three guys end up in double-digits, with Ar’Mond Davis leading the way with 17 points.
Ultimately, Coach Mark Fox’s team has to be breathing a huge sigh of relief as they avoided losing their 5th conference game this year in which the Dawgs held a lead in the final 4 minutes of the game. In addition, Georgia proved that while it will certainly be more difficult, they are capable of winning without Yante Maten.
The Dawgs have a super short turnaround before returning home to play the LSU Tigers in Athens on Saturday evening.
When Yante Maten went down with a knee injury just two minutes into the game yesterday against Kentucky, the collective hopes of everyone inside Stegemen Coliseum rooting for Georgia to get the signature win it desperately needed took a major hit. Maten spent about 10 minutes in the locker room before gingerly making his way back to the UGA bench, where he sat for the rest of the evening. Georgia’s big man, who has been a nightmare for opposing defenses all season, could barely put any pressure on his right leg.
This should have been enough to break the Dawgs’ spirits. With their leader done for the night, UGA could easily have crumbled, considering the daunting task that now lay before them. Yet, for some reason, they didn’t. Georgia simply dug in and went toe-to-toe with the #13 Wildcats for the next 38 minutes. Kentucky’s roster is so loaded with talent that Coach Calipari sends in 5-star recruits off the bench, whereas Mark Fox has to add Juwan Parker and Mike Edwards’s recruiting stars together to get to five. Regardless, the Dawgs found themselves with possession of the basketball with 44 seconds left and the game tied at 75 apiece. As the shot clock melted down, Kentucky sent an extra defender to jump J.J. Frazier at the top of the key. Frazier kicked it to Pape Diatta, who forced the ball into the lane and ended up getting blocked by two Wildcat defenders. The Cats took the lead on the ensuing possession following a pair of free throws from De’Aaron Fox, Frazier missed his next jumper and Kentucky managed to hit its free throws and escape from Athens with the 82-77 road win.
Despite the overwhelming amount of talent that Calipari has at his disposal, the best player on the court on Saturday was easily Georgia’s J.J. Frazier. J.J. hit a three-pointer with time expiring from just inside Milledge Avenue to cut the Kentucky lead to 33-31 as the teams headed into the intermission. This shot electrified the Steg and was just a little preview of what UGA fans could expect to see from their point guard in the second half.
After the break, Frazier became superman. J.J. diced up the Kentucky defense and scored 22 points on an array of challenging layups that seemingly increased in difficulty level as the game progressed. By the end of this contest, Frazier had 36 points, and Kentucky had a bunch of angry guards who had fouled out trying to deal with him. Isaiah Briscoe, who had over 20 points when these team met earlier in Lexington, couldn’t control his emotions as J.J. continually bruised his ego; Briscoe would score only 9 points before fouling out with almost 5 minutes left in the game. His replacement, Dominique Hawkins, also racked up 5 personals trying to stay in front of Frazier.
Even De’Aaron Fox missed significant minutes due to foul trouble (another credit to Frazier), but Fox got himself together and poured in 14 of his 16 points after the break, providing Kentucky the spark it desperately needed to keep up with the Dawgs.
As fantastic as Frazier played, he didn’t pull off this near upset all by himself. Juwan Parker and Mike Edwards also ended up in double-figures with 10 points each. Edwards played with a level of toughness inside that he hadn’t yet displayed in his initial two years in Athens.
Derek Ogbeide only chipped in 4 points, but he was the anchor of the UGA defense, holding down the paint and snagging a team-high 11 rebounds. Bam Adebayo scored 13 points for the Cats, but half of those points came at the expense of Houston Kessler.
And while Diatta’s quasi-turnover came at an incredibly inopportune time for the Dawgs, Pape played an otherwise solid second half. He scored all 9 of his points after the break, including a huge three-pointer from the wing that gave Georgia a 64-61 lead with a little over 5 minutes remaining.
The only other Kentucky player to score in double-digits was Malik Monk, who notched 16 points on a frustrating 3 for 11 performance from the field, a far cry from the 37-point effort he put in the first time these teams matched up.
For the most part, UGA played a pretty sound game defensively. Probably the biggest negative the Dawgs will take away from this game is that they allowed the Cats to control the glass by a tally of 41-26. More importantly, UGA yielded 14 offensive boards to Kentucky, which led to 8 second chance points that may have ultimately been the difference in this one.
In the end, Georgia came up a little short of pulling off this miracle, and Coach Fox’s teams have now lost 23 straight games to ESPN RPI Top 25 teams. A season that began with high expectations may be over in less than 3 weeks. With a 15-12 record (6-8 SEC), UGA isn’t going to the NCAA tournament, and depending on Maten’s status, they may miss the NIT as well.
With all that being said, UGA fans had to be darn proud of the way those kids in the white jerseys fought for 40 minutes yesterday.
Last night’s contest with Mississippi State had trap game written all over it. Sandwiched right in between last Saturday’s thrilling comeback over Tennessee and next Saturday’s showdown with SEC monster Kentucky was an unassuming matchup with another team brandishing a 5-7 conference record.
For the first twenty minutes of this one, Georgia looked as if they just weren’t all there. On offense, UGA clunked and clanked around the court as they turned the ball over 9 times and mustered a subpar 25% shooting percentage from the floor. J.J. Frazier, the hero from the game in Knoxville, went the whole half without a field goal, and his teammate, Yante Maten, managed only one himself. Defensively, the Dawgs played as if they hadn’t been made aware in the film room that the Maroon Dawgs could be dangerous from the perimeter. Missy State came into this game making 8 three-pointers a night in SEC games, yet by the intermission they already had connected on 6 of them.
Fortunately, somebody got the team some 5-hour energy at the break, and they actually came out of the locker room with a little poise. J.J. Frazier began to push the tempo more on offense, and the Dawgs went on a 12-3 run to start that half that erased the Maroon Dawgs 32-28 halftime advantage and gave Georgia a 40-35 lead after just 5 minutes of play.
The UGA offense snapped out of its funk and much of that had to do with Frazier, who started to resemble the player who dropped 29 points in Knoxville just a few days earlier. Frazier scored all 17 of his points last night in the final twenty minutes, 9 of which came off of three-pointers. Yante Maten took over in the paint, scoring 15 of his game-high 24 points following the intermission, and he snagged 5 more boards to give him 9 on the evening, just missing another double-double. As a team, UGA hit 67% from the floor over the game’s final twenty minutes of play as the Dawgs improved their shot selection as a team.
This game was actually tied at 54 apiece with 6:30 left, but UGA went on a critical 8-0 run that was capped off by a pair of free throws from Maten that saw Georgia take a 62-54 lead with just over 4:06 remaining. This stretch of game turned out to be too much for the Maroon Dogs to overcome as they couldn’t close the gap on UGA, and Mark Fox’s team earned the 79-72 home victory, which marked the Dawgs first SEC win streak since early January.
The offense wasn’t the only thing that underwent a metamorphosis after the break. Following the intermission, Georgia guarded much tighter on the perimeter and held MSU to just 3 second half buckets from beyond the arc. The UGA bigs played strong as well, holding the Missy State starting posts to just a 1 for 5 effort from the floor. Both Maten and Derek Ogbeide played incredibly sound post defense as they stayed on the floor and forced the MSU bigs to try to shoot over them.
The unsung heroes of this game for Georgia had to be Juwan Parker and E’Torrian Wilridge. Parker, who has officially brought the midrange jumper back to college basketball, quietly put together a 16-point effort after turning the ball over twice in the game’s first 4 minutes, and if his shot hadn’t been on last night then this contest could have easily turned out differently.
Wilridge seemed to benefit from the “first career start” mojo that Tyree Crump enjoyed on Saturday in Knoxville when he dropped 13 points on the Vols (Crump only played 5 minutes last night, which is certainly a head scratcher). On Tuesday, Wilridge earned Fox’s token start, and he did not disappoint as he peppered the stat sheet with 5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. Three of his assists came during that 8-0 run that knocked the life out of MSU as Wilridge consistently got the ball inside to a cutting Maten.
With 47 seconds left on the clock and Georgia leading by just 2 points, J.J. Frazier hoisted the Georgia Bulldogs onto his shoulders and found a way to notch an old-fashioned three-point play to ice the game. Frazier’s converted free throw made it 76-71 Dawgs with only 21 ticks left, and Georgia ended up sneaking out of Knoxville with a 76-75 road win.
The enormity of this victory for an ailing basketball program is almost impossible to put into words. Let me set the scene: Georgia’s star player and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist, Yante Maten, hardly played in the second half, and he fouled out on a questionable offensive foul with over 5 minutes remaining in the game. For all intents and purposes, Georgia was down for the count. Except they weren’t. Tyree Crump, who garnered his first start of the season, scored 8 points during the final stretch of this contest, including a three-pointer that bolstered the UGA lead to 70-64 with just 2:26 left.
Tennessee brutalized Georgia to start the second half, going on a 17-5 run that saw the Vols open up a 53-39 advantage. The manner in which Tennessee scored during this stretch should have demoralized UGA as the Vols pounded the ball inside possession after possession. Yet for some reason, the Dawgs remained unfazed. Frazier scored 7 of his game-high 29 points during a critical 12-2 Georgia run that cut the UT lead down to 55-51.
The Dawgs absorbed a 30-point effort from freshman sensation Grant Williams. Only one other Tennessee player finished in double-figures.
Similarly, UGA had just one player besides J.J. Frazier – Tyree Crump – end up in double-digits. Crump scored a season-high (against Division I teams) of 13 points, and most of them came during the final quarter of this contest.
This win came out of nowhere, and while it is incredibly satisfying for Georgia basketball fans, it will surely leave many with a series of “what if” questions. What if the Dawgs didn’t melt down at Texas A&M? What if J.J. hit those last second shots against Florida and Kentucky?
For tonight, though, UGA fans should simply enjoy this win.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0 and sitting atop of the conference standings, and if they continue to play at this level they have a real shot at earning an automatic bid to this year’s NCAA tournament.
If only the Dawgs played in the Big South Conference then everything in my opening statement would be true. Georgia has played three teams from the Big South this year – UNC-Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern – and they trashed all of them. Sure, the Garder-Webb game was close at the half (UGA held a 3 point lead), but the Dawgs ended up coasting to a 77-59 win. Georgia easily bested UNC-Asheville, who is currently in first place in the league with an 11-2 record. Who’s to say that UGA couldn’t amass a similar or even better record if they were playing a Big South slate of games?
All of this is obviously parody, or maybe fantasy? The reality is Georgia is stuck in the SEC where they are 4-7 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak in conference games. Even though the Dawgs play in a Power 5 conference, they look a lot more like a mid-major, which is kind of sad considering they have two preseason All-SEC players on the roster.
But other than Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, this Georgia team doesn’t have the type of talent you expect from a Power 5 school. Juwan Parker would be a solid 6th man on a lot of quality teams, but the third scoring option? Parker, who at 6’3″ is grossly undersized for the wing position, is shooting less than 38% from the floor and below 18% from beyond the arc, yet he has taken the third most shots on the team.
I love Derek Ogbeide’s effort on defense. He is a committed rebounder and a shot-blocking threat. But his offensive game is not where it needs to be at this point. Ogbeide has essentially one move that he does nearly every time he gets a touch on the block: turn left, hook shot. And SEC teams have begun to take notice. Several times against Florida on Tuesday, the Gator defender overplayed Ogbeide so much to the left that it appeared that he was gifting him the right side of the basket, but Derek didn’t bite and still went left.
It’s too early to make assumptions on Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump. As highly-touted recruits, both players are capable of making tremendous jumps between their freshman and sophomore years, especially Harris since he actually gets regular court time.
But what about the rest of UGA’s cast? Guys like Turtle Jackson, Mike Edwards, Houston Kessler, Kenny Paul Geno, E’Torrion Wilridge. How successful would those guys be in the Big South? All of them get regular minutes on Coach Fox’s team, but none of them is the least bit dangerous with the ball in their hands, which gives opposing defenses an incredible advantage over Georgia, especially when more than one of them is on the court at once. At times this year, J.J. Frazier has appeared to be pushing it a bit and maybe taking some shots that he shouldn’t. But when Maten is on the bench, can you really blame him?
I’m not trying to slam any of these guys. I realize that they are just college kids that were offered an opportunity to play for UGA and they took it. The fact that they might be in over their heads is not their fault; it’s Mark Fox’s.
In year eight of his ten-year plan, this is the team that Fox has assembled. They turn the ball over a lot (more than 14 a game) and they do not shoot well from the outside (281st in the nation in 3PT%). Apparently, both of these aforementioned reasons have Fox indicating that it’s time to slow things down. I guess I need to pop over to Jittery Joe’s before the game today because seeing this team play any slower is going to potentially put me into nap mode.
Going slow is definitely an option that a coach has when his team has a talent deficit compared to their opponent, which has been the case for Georgia in most SEC games this year. But he also has the choice to speed things up a bit. Turtle, Edwards and Wilridge might not put the fear of God into too many defenders, but they are all long players that are highly athletic. When Maten is out of the game, why not utilize their main collective strength and put them in a full-court trap press, similar to the one that Texas A&M ran. Sorry, too soon?
Anyhow, imagine Edwards guarding the ball and then trapping with either Turtle or Wilridge (or Parker or Geno for that matter), depending on which side the ball goes. Presses can create offensive opportunities for stagnant offenses, yet Georgia barely ever does it.
The Dawgs have one and a half outside shooting threats and only two guys who can create their own shot. But they do have some athletes, and athletes can put pressure on ball handlers in the open court.
Mark Fox had to be experiencing déjà vu inside of Stegeman Coliseum this evening. In the loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Georgia’s offense went over 8 minutes without a field goal; this evening, the Dawgs pulled a similar disappearing act, going more than 6 minutes without a bucket from the floor. By the time Yante Maten finished an open dunk inside to end the drought, UGA (13-11, 4-7) trailed 63-52 with only 3:50 remaining, and the Dawgs would go on to lose 72-60.
But it wasn’t just poor shooting that did the Dawgs in on Tuesday evening. Believe it or not, this contest was actually close at times. With 16:00 left in the game, Florida held a slim 41-38 advantage. Mark Fox’s team got careless, though, and turned the ball over on the next three possessions, which enabled the Gators to push the lead to 48-40 during a critical stretch of this game.
On the night, Georgia gave the ball away 16 times, and depending on how some other SEC games shake out this week, UGA could be leading the conference in giveaways by the weekend. To make matters worse, Florida was opportunistic this evening, converting those Georgia TOs into 18 points. Yante Maten carried the torch with 5 turnovers as he had trouble protecting the ball inside against multiple Florida defenders. Jordan Harris gave the ball over 3 times himself, and he continues to get it stripped easily from his hands when he attempts to drive the ball at the defense.
Georgia struggled tonight offensively against a Florida team that is second in conference play in team defense, holding opponents to just 66 points a night. The Gators are bigger and more athletic than UGA, and every time Yante Maten touched the ball inside the Florida zone collapsed on him. Maten finished with 19 points and J.J. Frazier chipped in 18, but for the most part the Dawgs were stymied when they had the ball. Georgia’s lack of shooters always becomes painfully apparent when they are playing strong defensive units that can overplay Maten and Frazier. The Dawgs hit only 33% of their shots as a team, but everyone not named Maten or Frazier shot a collective 26% on the night.
Florida overwhelmed Georgia quickly at the start of this one as they jumped out to a 30-14 lead. The Dawgs, though, responded with a 15-0 run of their own to cut the Gators’ advantage down to 30-29. Florida went without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes of play during the latter portion of the first half, but Kasey Hill broke the spell by hitting a jumper with 1:45 left, which gave the Gators a 35-33 lead that they would take into the intermission.
Other than this stretch of play in the first half, UGA for much of the night had trouble handling Florida on defense. The Gators’ backup point guard, Chris Chiozza, was a matchup nightmare for the Dawgs as he knifed into the middle of the lane whenever he wanted. Chiozza led all Florida scorers with 15 points to go along with 4 steals, and he was one of four Gators to finish the game in double-figures.
These two teams played a tightly contested game and went to overtime a month ago in Gainesville, but it was pretty clear tonight that one team is trending upward and in the right direction, and the other team is Georgia.
Now the really bad news. This loss marks the first time in Fox’s career that he has dropped 5 consecutive SEC games. Furthermore, UGA has yet to earn a conference win against a team with a winning record in league play. Georgia is 0-7 against what ESPN deems the RPI Top 50, and the Dawgs have now lost 22 straight games over the past five seasons to teams in ESPN’s RPI Top 25.