Arkansas overpowers Georgia 85-67

Georgia’s string of miraculous finishes orchestrated by J.J. Frazier came to a screeching halt today in Hogville as Arkansas punished the Dawgs 85-67 in Fayetteville this afternoon.  A game that was close for the first twenty minutes quickly spiraled out of control for UGA as Arkansas began to assert its will both offensively and defensively.  Georgia followed up a 38% first half effort from the floor by shooting just 25% after the break, while Arky made over 60% of its shots in the game’s final twenty minutes.

The Razorbacks started the second half with a 10-2 run that saw their 38-37 halftime lead blossom to 48-39 with 17:30 left.  With a little over 15 minutes remaining, J.J. picked up his 4th foul and had to sit with his team trailing 53-44.  Arkansas brutalized the Dawgs in Frazier’s absence, going on a 9-2 run that put them up 62-46 with 11:46 remaining.  Frazier would return, but it would not matter.  The Hogs continued to score without much resistance and coasted to a relatively easy home win.

UGA’s defense failed big time on Saturday.  The Dawgs’ zone looked out of sorts all afternoon, especially on defending cutters inside the lane.  Georgia’s rotations by its help defenders were basically nonexistent, and Arkansas took advantage by racking up a whopping 48 points in the paint.  The Razorbacks had 4 players finish in double-figures, and they shot over 55% from the field as a team.  Maybe the Dawgs came into this game focused on locking down the perimeter, since Arkansas is the best three-point shooting team in SEC play.  UGA managed to hold the Hogs to just 21% from beyond the arc, but it didn’t matter as Arky had a field day accumulating a plethora of easy baskets in the lane.

For Georgia, the sledding wasn’t nearly as simple on offense.  The Razorback defense consistently pushed the UGA guards out well beyond the three-point arc, which forced the Dawgs into a number of off-balanced shots.  Frazier led all scorers with 24 points, but he had to work hard for them as he routinely was the target of traps whenever he came off ball screens on the perimeter.  Arkansas is much more talented than Alabama, LSU and Auburn.  J.J. needed help on the outside, but he didn’t get it.  Tyree Crump and Juwan Parker each shot 2 for 10 from the floor, and Turtle Jackson connected on just 2 of his 7 attempts.  As amazing as Frazier has been in the past three wins, he wasn’t able to do it alone against a more talented Razorback defense.

The only other Bulldog to score in double-digits was Derek Ogbeide, who finished with 12 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  He scored 10 of those points before the break, and then Ogbeide sort of disappeared in the second half as the Razorbacks ratcheted up the pace of this game.

Andy Katz labeled this one as a must win for Georgia if they hoped to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.  With the loss, it would seem that UGA would need to reach the finals of the SEC Tournament to receive serious consideration for the Big Dance.  The fact of the matter is that Georgia really doesn’t have many significant wins on its resume.  Vanderbilt is the only RPI Top 50 team that the Dawgs have beaten this year.  To play on into March in the only tournament that matters, Georgia probably needs to notch a couple of RPI Top 50 wins next week.

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Georgia completes sweep of Auburn

12486347Just when it seemed like J.J. Frazier could officially do no wrong, he did.  With 12 seconds left and Georgia leading 79-78, Frazier tried to force a pass through the teeth of the Auburn defense and it was stolen.  All of a sudden, Frazier’s Senior Night fairy tale ending seemed in jeopardy.  The Tigers inbounded the ball to Jared Harper with only 7 seconds left, and he promptly tossed up a three-pointer which missed and allowed UGA to hold on for its third straight win.

Other than Frazier’s mental lapse in the final moments of this contest, the Dawgs did an excellent job of taking control of this game when it counted down the stretch.  The two teams went into the final media timeout knotted up at 73-apiece.  UGA tightened up its defense when it counted, though, and they held Auburn to just 1 of its final 6 field goal attempts.

Even though J.J.’s turnover could have been incredibly costly, the Dawgs would have never even been in a position to win without him.  Frazier, who came into this game averaging 31 a night over the past three contests, fittingly scored 31 tonight against Bruce Pearl’s team. He knocked down 5 of his 9 shots from beyond the arc, and J.J. also scored on an array of tricky drives that I will sorely miss seeing inside Stegeman next season.  South Carolina’s Sindarious Thornwell may have been the leading SEC Player of the Year candidate a week ago, but I have to imagine that Frazier is giving him a serious run for his money at this point because what J.J. has done without the help of Yante Maten has been nothing short of miraculous.

The Dawgs started out super slow in this one as they allowed the Tigers to hit 4 three-pointers en route to a 20-9 lead a little over 10 minutes into the game.  UGA also struggled to contain Auburn on the offensive glass as they let the Tigers haul in 7 of their own misses.  In addition, Georgia turned the ball over 9 times before the break, so all things considered, the Dawgs should have felt fortunate to go into the intermission trailing 37-30.

UGA had trouble defending the perimeter for most of the night as Auburn knocked down 12 of its 27 three-point attempts.  But this is a Tiger team that can get hot from beyond the arc, where Auburn is making 9 three’s a game in SEC play.  Mark Fox mixed up zones and man in an attempt to close out on the Auburn shooters, but the Tigers were still successful from the outside.  Tonight’s game marks the 6th SEC contest in which they have made 10 three-pointers or more, and the 10th time overall this season.

While Auburn got after the glass early, Georgia won the overall rebounding effort by a count of 39-36, and much of that credit goes to big man Derek Ogbeide.  Ogbeide, who does the dirty work for this team night in and night out, entered this contest 3rd in SEC games in rebounding with 8 boards a night.  This evening, Ogbeide finished with a double-double, snagging 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points as he controlled the paint for the Dawgs.

The only other UGA player to score in double-digits was Tyree Crump, who poured in 10 points in 11 minutes off the bench.  Crump knocked down 2 of his 3 shots from beyond the arc, and he’s now scored 22 points over his last 28 minutes in the past 3 games.

Georgia is now 18-12 overall and 9-8 in the conference, and they now have a legitimate opportunity to punch an at-large NCAA berth ticket this Saturday with a win at Arkansas.

 

 

UGA does enough to hang on against LSU

12475030The 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.

 

Georgia wins without Maten

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.

 

 

Kentucky overcomes upset-minded UGA

12450736When 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.

 

Georgia basketball wins its second game in a row

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Mike Edwards finishing a lob from J.J. Frazier.

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.

 

Dawgs upset Tennessee in Knoxville

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.