Sloppy UGA loses 74-69 to TAMU

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Mark Fox’s final four SEC seasons as Georgia’s head coach looked like this: 11-7 (NCAA tournament), 10-8, 9-9 and 7-11. There’s this notion circling around social media that Tom Crean is in the midst of some sort of rebuild. How is UGA considered a rebuilding project when the last coach won 7 league games? South Carolina finished 7-11 in conference two years ago and then bounced back to go 11-7 the following season. Any team that was only 2 games under .500 the previous season in a league like the SEC is not in “rebuilding mode”.

Georgia’s remaining schedule is Auburn, @ Vandy, @ South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and @ LSU. This team is dangerously close to repeating another 2-win effort in SEC play. The only game on that slate that I can see as a possible W for Tom Crean’s team is the game in Nashville, but historically, UGA teams haven’t fared well on the raised court, and I see no reason as to why this year’s squad would be any different.

Here are some thoughts on another frustrating loss in which the Dawgs committed 21 turnovers that led to 26 Aggie points (insert face palm emoji here):

Great halftime adjustments by Buzz Williams

And I’m not just referring to his decision to ditch the three-piece suit for a looser long-sleeve t-shirt. Though, considering how much Williams was perspiring during the game’s first 20 minutes, that wasn’t a bad move, hygienically speaking.

Coach Buzz obviously reminded his team at the break that they haven’t been that successful this season from beyond the arc, a message that Crean can’t seem to communicate to his Georgia team that connected on just 9 of 29 from the perimeter today in College Station. The Aggies entered this contest with the lowest three-point shooting (26%) in SEC games, yet they took 16 of them in the first half, of which they made only 5. Despite having a distinct size advantage inside, TAMU was outscored 16-8 in the paint at the intermission. However, in the final 20 minutes, Williams’s team notched 24 points in the paint and attempted just 7 more triples.

Kudos to the coach for convincing his team to play within itself and to its strengths. TAMU’s 74 points was 14 more than the 60 they were averaging in SEC games coming into this one (also worst in the conference).

UGA showed some mental fortitude in the second half

The Aggies blew the doors off the Dawgs out of halftime, and following an 11-2 run that was capped off with an alley oop dunk by Wendell Mitchell, the game was tied at 40 apiece. Georgia didn’t wilt, though, and after triples from both Sahvir Wheeler and Tye Fagan, the Dawgs found themselves on top 48-42 with a little over 11 minutes left.

Several minutes later, TAMU would lock the game up at 48-48 following a bucket from Josh Neebo. Once again, UGA remained poised as Fagan hit another three and Rayshaun Hammonds scored an important basket inside to give his team a 55-50 advantage with under 8 minutes remaining.

The Aggies would eventually tie the game again on another score from Neebo that made it 59-59 with 4:32 left. This time Georgia couldn’t hold on, and TAMU eventually took the lead and would keep it.

UGA desperately needed someone to step up and settle things down during this critical stretch of game, but alas, this team doesn’t have that guy. Anthony Edwards, who finished with only 6 points, attempted just 1 shot from the floor after the break. The freshman played only 2 of the final 10 minutes of this one as he seemed disengaged both on offense and from his team.

Hammonds played big versus Neebo

The lone bright spot for this Georgia team today had to be junior Rayshaun Hammonds, who had the pleasure of defending senior manchild Josh Neebo. Hammonds outscored (15-12) and outrebounded (7-4) the larger Neebo, and Rayshaun is now tied for 6th in rebounds per game in league play (7.2). Considering that the Hammonds, the lone big on an undersized UGA team, is asked to defend the opposition’s largest player every single game, it’s admirable that he continues to fight so hard on the glass inside.

Box score:

Next up:

Auburn in Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

No

UGA defense suffocates Aggies

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The Georgia Bulldogs (12-9, 2-6) ended a depressing 4-game losing streak with a runaway win against Texas A&M in Athens on Saturday. If you are a fan of soundly-played offense, this wasn’t the game for you. Only one of the teams shot over 40% from the floor (Georgia), and these two squads combined for 37 turnovers, nearly averaging one per minute of play.

However, the Dawgs desperately needed a victory, and when a team has its back against the wall, style points go out the window.

Here’s how Tom Crean’s team ended up on the right side of the scoreboard today:

Fabulous defensive effort

Georgia’s backside help on the block was tremendous this afternoon. So much so, actually, that TAMU basically abandoned trying to dump the ball into the paint to its leading scorer, Josh Neebo, and instead opted to launched three-pointers, which has not been this team’s forte. Neebo, who had been netting 12 a night, scored just 2 against the Dawgs; Texas A&M, a team not known for its prowess from beyond the arc, made only 5 of 25 shots from that area, which absolutely played into UGA’s gameplan.

Credit Tom Crean and his players for accepting the challenge to play defense for an entire 40 minutes and executing their scheme to near perfection. The Aggies were held almost 19 points below their season average in SEC play, and to keep a team to under 50 points in a conference game is certainly impressive. After getting brutalized on the inside for much of its league games, the Dawgs held the Aggies to just 22 points in the paint in this one.

UGA’s ability to regroup at the half and come out prepared to fight harder on the defensive glass is commendable, especially considering the Aggies entered this game with the 3rd best offensive rebounding percentage in the conference. In the first half, UGA yielded 10 offensive rebounds to a TAMU team that’s been averaging 12 a contest in SEC play. Georgia, however, buckled down after the intermission and only relented 3 more offensive boards to the Aggies over the final 20 minutes.

Much of that defensive rebounding can be attributed to UGA’s star player, Anthony Edwards, who hauled in 13 defensive rebounds in the game (15 overall).

Anthony Edwards was a man amongst boys in the second half

After the break, Georgia fans were treated to the version of the Ant Man that still has scouts projecting him to be the #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. Edwards was unstoppable in the second half in both taking defenders off the dribble and knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Ant Man finished this game with 29 points to go along with those 15 boards for his second double-double in as many games. Georgia should have the best player on the court in its remaining SEC games, and when Edwards plays up to his potential this team becomes dangerous to deal with from a defensive standpoint.

Some stats that just don’t make sense

  1. In a game in which UGA had 20 turnovers, the Dawgs still managed to outscore the Aggies in points off turnovers by a decisive 22-11 count.
  2. Georgia had 15 offensive boards and TAMU had 13, yet the teams tied with just 7 second chance points apiece.

Up next

At Florida on Wednesday night.

Postseason projection

NIT (firmly on the bubble)

Offensive woes sink Georgia in loss to Texas A&M

Last weekend Tom Crean said publicly that he basically made some mistakes in keeping some of the players on this Georgia Bulldog (10-14, 1-10) roster. I know he apologized, but that doesn’t erase the fact that the words were said and those thoughts existed (and maybe still do) in his mind.

Either way, I expected the Dawgs to come out with a little more fire than they showed on Tuesday night in College Station. I guess I presumed that some, or all, of those UGA players might want to prove Crean wrong.

Instead, Georgia mustered up just 56 points in the loss of a game that they could have stolen on the road against a Texas A&M (10-13, 3-8) team that has been decimated by injuries this season.

The Aggies played zone defense against UGA the entire game. This strategy by Coach Billy Kennedy seemed appropriate considering Georgia entered this contest last in the SEC in both field goal percentage (39.8%) and three-point percentage (30%) in league games.

There are basically two ways teams can exploit a zone: they can shoot the defense out of it or drive the ball to the soft spots to draw defenders and create opportunities. Georgia failed to employ either of those aforementioned tactics. The Dawgs shot an abysmal 3 for 23 from beyond the arc. Tyree Crump made only 2 of his 11 three-point attempts, with numerous of those shots coming from well beyond the line. UGA got outscored in the paint 36-28 in a game in which they had a distinct size advantage inside. Derek Ogbeide, who’s been this team’s best back-to-the basket offensive player, took only 4 shots; Rayshaun Hammonds, the team’s leading scorer, had just 3 attempts from the floor himself, and he finished with only 5 points and 3 turnovers.

The only Georgia player who held their own in this contest was Nic Claxton, who notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Georgia definitely played at a slower pace on Tuesday than we have seen in a while, and my guess is that was intentional on Crean’s part in an effort to limit turnovers, which it did as the Dawgs only coughed the ball up 12 times against the Aggies. However, Georgia’s execution on offense was an exhibition in futility, and honestly, it was painful to watch.

The Dawgs played a lot of zone defense themselves against A&M, particularly 2-3, which was most likely done in an attempt to take some pressure of the Georgia guards defensively. This look befuddled the Aggies for early on, but eventually A&M got comfortable offensively and buried 4 triples during the final stretch of the first half as they finished 45% from the field heading into the locker room with a 34-21 advantage.

The Aggies offensive rhythm continued to improve as the game progressed. Kennedy’s team pounded the ball inside to Christian Mekowulu, who responded with 15 points and 15 boards. Sophomore point guard T.J. Starks had his way with UGA for much of the night as he ended up with 19 points and 4 steals.

The dagger in this one came during a 7-0 Aggie run in the initial segment of the second half when Jay Jay Chandler sunk a triple to make it 47-29 A&M with a little over 14 minutes left in the game. Any Georgia fan who changed the channel at this point undoubtedly had a more pleasant Tuesday evening than the ones who stuck around to the end of this contest.

Rayshaun Hammonds foul tracker

The sophomore only committed 1 personal foul in College Station. He still has 77 on the year, but maybe he won’t completely destroy last year’s total of 81 PFs. At the half of this game, Hammonds had 0 points and 3 turnovers. As a stretch big, Hammonds should be the perfect fit for a system like Crean’s, yet he continues to play below expectations.

Box score:

Georgia loses 61-60 at home in physical game

The ending

With the Dawgs trailing 61-60 with only 12 seconds left and T.J. Starks at the line for the Aggies shooting a one-and-one, the casual onlooker might expect that Coach Mark Fox would be telling his guys to either A) call timeout if he misses or B) get the ball across halfcourt and THEN call timeout.  Neither of those phrases was uttered, however, and Georgia’s Teshaun Hightower pushed the ball up the right side of the court following Starks’s miss and took it right to a well-covered Juwan Parker (who had a well-covered Tyree Crump right next to him).  Parker managed to force up a desperation attempt, but it fell way short, and UGA let a critical late-season game slip through their fingertips.

The reason why Georgia should have called a timeout to set something up is fairly obvious: Hightower is a freshman.  He isn’t battled tested yet, and he doesn’t have any significant late game experience.  Hence, why he took the ball to an already crowded side of the court.  A set play would have at least given Georgia better spacing on their final possession.

UGA’s backcourt

I cannot fault Hightower, though, for his indecision during the waning seconds.  He gave Fox some incredibly big minutes off the bench as the freshman scored 11 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 4 assists.  Yes, he did have a costly turnover against the Texas A&M press that allowed the Aggies to take a 61-60 advantage on the ensuing possession.  But again, he’s a freshman, and he’s going to make mistakes.  I’m positive he will never make that same mistake again as long as he’s donning the Red and Black.  Hightower’s aggression on offense is something that Georgia’s sorely been lacking from the point guard position this year, and it was refreshing to see the TAMU defenders backpedaling when he brought the ball across halfcourt.  Against Turtle Jackson, and even sometimes Crump, the TAMU guards, specifically Starks, were pushing the Georgia guards well beyond the three-point line, which made it difficult for the Dawgs to get into any sort of offensive rhythm.

The UGA backcourt once again failed this team defensively.  The freshman Starks drove the ball to the basket with little resistance all night.  I was shocked to learn that he only averages 9 points a game; he scored 15 against the Dawgs, and I would have guessed that was around or slightly below his average considering how easily he scored around the rim.  Even more shocking: Starks was a 3-star recruit.  Whoever evaluated and offered him on the Aggie staff deserves a steak dinner because he looks like he’s going to be a load to deal with in the SEC for a few years to come.

D.J. Hogg, who was right around his average with 11 points, had little trouble getting around Rayshaun Hammonds when he wanted to take the ball into the lane.  The Aggies outscored Georgia in the paint 34-16, and I’d wager that more than half of those buckets came from the TAMU guards.  Considering how little production that UGA gets from the guard position, it’s a shame that the Dawgs’ backcourt hasn’t defended better this season.

Maten struggles

I definitely feel for Yante Maten as I’m positive this was not how he envisioned his last game in Athens unfolding. Maten had 16 points and 12 rebounds, but it came at the expense of a 5 for 18 shooting performance.  He either had Tyler Davis or Robert Williams (both of who are monsters) leaning on him the whole night, and any time he received the ball on the block a guard came down immediately to double.  By the end of the game, Maten appeared to be exhausted. He missed a number of shots around the basket that he normally converts in his sleep, and he hit just 4 of 8 from the free throw line, which I attribute to tired legs.

Substitution patterns

Last weekend, Georgia put up a season-high 93 points in their romp of LSU, and Fox only played 8 different players.  That obviously didn’t sit well with the coach as he ran 11 different guys into the game last night.  I thought Mike Edwards time was done; I guess I was wrong. In a mere 2 minutes, Edwards fouled a TAMU player shooting a triple, and then he dribbled the ball into a turnover in the paint on offense (why was he dribbling in the paint in the first place?). E’Torrion Wilridge played all 13 of his minutes before the intermission; he scored 3 points. Wilridge never saw the floor again after halftime, which led me to wonder why he played so much in the first half.  I’ve asked this same question so many times this season.  Since Georgia’s not that good of a team, I just can’t seem to grasp why Fox continues to play so many players, but at least I know I’m not alone in this line of thinking.

 

Dawgs turn game over to Aggies, lose 63-62

The Dawgs (12-7) lost in truly bizarre fashion in College Station on Saturday afternoon.  With a little over 16 seconds left, J.J. Frazier brought the ball up the court with his team trailing by a point.  When the clock hit 5.6 seconds, Frazier found himself in trouble, facing a double-team near the perimeter.  Fortunately, Frazier managed to find Yante Maten on the block, where he quickly turned and drew a foul going towards the bucket.  At the moment, it appeared that Maten was headed to the line with a chance to put his team ahead of Texas A&M (9-9).  The problem, however, was that the clock still showed 5.6 seconds.  The officials gathered, discussed and determined that more than 6 seconds had eclipsed since the game clock ceased running, and they decided that the contest was over, giving the Aggies the 63-62 home win.

While this decision certainly deserves some explaining from the SEC’s league office, Georgia can hardly be that upset considering how horribly the Dawgs played down the stretch.  After building up a 56-43 advantage with a little over 10 minutes remaining, UGA’s final 17 possessions resulted in 10 turnovers and a 1 for 7 performance from the floor.  The Aggies full court trap press mystified Georgia and forced the Dawgs into 4 turnovers in the final 2 minutes of play.  Texas A&M ended the game on a 10-0 run and stole a victory from the Dawgs in a contest that UGA led for the majority of the afternoon.

As bummed as I am regarding the loss, I’m equally curious as to whether Coach Mark Fox’s team actually has a press break offense.  The A&M trap was tough, but nothing that a Division I team from a Power 5 conference shouldn’t be able to figure out.  The Dawgs, however, seemed content to go the route of a broken record as they repeatedly inbounded the ball far too low and to the corner, making it incredibly easy for the Aggie defenders to trap Frazier.  Not once during this nightmare of an ending did Georgia pass the ball into a player above the free throw line.

UGA’s offense over the last quarter of this game completely contrasted what it had done over the previous thirty minutes.  For most of the afternoon, the Dawgs were highly efficient on offense, carving up the Aggies 2-3 zone by getting the ball to either the short corner or free throw line.  Before the meltdown, Georgia hit over 46% from the floor and 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, and they had 14 team assists to just 7 turnovers.  Texas A&M’s 10-0 run to end the game was payback for the one that UGA went on going into the intermission.  Yante Maten and Tyree Crump hit back to back three-pointers to send the Dawgs up 39-29 at the half.

Defensively, UGA’s match up zone kept the Aggies in check.  A&M made only 36% of its shots from the floor, and the team’s leading scorer, Tyler Davis, finished with just 8 points.  The Aggies out-rebounded the Dawgs 40-38 and they hauled in 18 offensive boards, but when a team starts two 6’9″s and two 6’10″s that can almost be expected.

The Aggies were led offensively by Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg, who finished with 18 and 16, respectively.

Georgia had just two players finish in double-figures: Maten (19) and Frazier (11).

After committing only 6 turnovers on Tuesday against Vandy, the Dawgs returned to their careless ways, giving the ball away 17 times.

UGA now has two losses to teams with RPI’s above 100: Texas A&M (110) and Oakland (127).  Both of these games will fall into the old “bad loss” category in regards to Georgia’s NCAA tournament resume, which took a major hit today in College Station.

 

 

Dawgs pick up a 62-53 road win in College Station

In last Saturday’s win at home against Tennessee, Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann combined for 11 turnovers.

Tonight in College Station it was pretty clear that UGA’s veteran duo was looking to make amends.  In a critical possession late in the game with Georgia leading by 4, Mann made a heady fake that drew Gaines’s defender towards the top of the key, leaving Kenny wide open in the corner.  Mann found Gaines, who promptly buried the three-pointer, sealing the UGA victory.

Gaines, who hadn’t finished in double-figures in three games, led all Georgia scorers with 15 points.  Mann chipped in 14 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and maybe most importantly – zero turnovers.  Charles Mann has not lived up to preseason expectations so far this year, but his play tonight helped to carry his team to a win.

After coughing the ball up 20 times to the Vols in Athens, Georgia committed just 7 turnovers against the Aggies, who gave it away 13 times themselves.

The Dawgs began the game shooting it well from beyond the arc, hitting 4 of their first 9 three-pointers.  However, over the next 30 minutes UGA would hit only 2 of 15 from the perimeter, and were it not for the improved ball security and a 75% mark from the line, the outcome of this contest may have been different.

The Aggies were led offensively by Alex Caruso and Daniel House, who scored 20 and 14, respectively.

Georgia showed an incredible amount of poise down the stretch in this game.  Things were looking bleak for the Dawgs when A&M tied the game at 43-apiece on a bucket by Caruso with 10:13 left – Kenny Gaines was on the bench with 4 fouls and the Aggies were already in the bonus.  But Georgia showed a lot of composure, going on an 8-0 run that found them with a 51-43 lead following a layup by Cam Forte with 6:46 left.

Tonight’s win was huge for Georgia, lifting their SEC record to 7-4 and 16-7 overall.  The Dawgs are fourth in the league standings (for now), and they will take on Auburn this Saturday inside Stegeman Coliseum.

Speaking to a courtside reporter after the final horn, an utterly hoarse Mark Fox, who spent nearly the entire second half hollering at the officials, could barely muster, “We just defended.  We defended and made our free throws.”

CMF deserves a tall glass of water after this one.

Georgia traveling to College Station to take on the Aggies

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-11; 1-4) were dealt a nasty hand in the beginning section of their Southeastern Conference schedule, playing two games against Florida as well as a road contest at Missouri (all of which the Dawgs lost).

However, the next stretch of games appears to be more favorable for UGA, although a majority of those games will be played away from Athens. Georgia’s next three opponents – Texas A & M, Auburn and South Carolina – have a combined conference record of 5-10. If the Dawgs still have any plans of getting this season back on track, now would be the time to do it.

The Aggies’ (12-6; 2-3) SEC basketball debut got out to a roaring start with consecutive wins over Arkansas and Kentucky (in Rupp). Since then, though, things have not been nearly as rosy for A & M, who enters tonight’s game with Georgia riding a three-game losing streak, including a 58-54 defeat at the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

The Dawgs effort against the #7 Gators on Wednesday night in Athens showed me that while this team still does not possess much in the form of a half court offense, they do still have some fight left in them. However, for Georgia to be successful in College Station later this evening they must find a way to score in the half court.

This Aggies team is long and they play strong man defense, something that the Dawgs have withered against all too often this season. In conference play, A & M is limiting opponents to under 60 points a game, which is third in the SEC. They have also been extremely effective on the glass in league play, boasting a +8.4 rebounding margin and hauling in nearly 13 offensive boards a night.

The Aggies’ offense runs through its backcourt, where they are led by senior Elston Turner and junior point guard Fabyon Harris. This tandem is one of the better ones in the SEC, with Turner leading the way at 15.5 points per contest. He is dangerous from the perimeter where he is making 40% of his three-point attempts. In the win over Kentucky, Turner dropped 40 points on the Cats, including 6 three’s.

Harris, though small in stature, pushes the ball well for A & M and he is netting just over 10 ppg.

While Georgia has played some stout competition thus far in conference games, the Dawgs’ biggest enemy in SEC play has been themselves. Through five league games, UGA is giving the ball away nearly 18 times a night. The Dawgs’ inability to value the basketball has amplified their offensive futilities, leading them to a league-low 56.2 points per SEC game.

Basically, Georgia has to clean things up. They also must become more effective when they have the ball – the second half against Florida brought back painful memories of earlier games this season against Youngstown State and Southern Miss, which featured UGA swinging the ball around the perimeter until a desperate shot went up with the shot clock expiring.

Coach Mark Fox’s team has a chance to steal a road conference win this evening, but they will need to play a lot smarter in order to do it.