Alabama edges out Georgia in shootout

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Double-digit leads are by no means safe around this Georgia Bulldogs team (12-11, 2-8). With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Toumani Camara finished at the rim to make it 65-53, UGA. The Dawgs had taken control of the game to start the second half as they played fast and aggressive. However, much like the games against Missouri and Florida, all of that evaporated as Alabama (13-10, 5-5) proceeded to go on a 15-2 run that saw the Tide wrest back the lead to make it 68-67 in their favor.

How does this keep happening?

Here are a couple thoughts on a game that was entertaining to watch, yet ultimately difficult to digest:

Defense? Defense?

Statistically speaking, Alabama and Georgia have been two of the worst scoring defenses in SEC play. The Crimson Tide entered this game yielding over 77 a night (14th) and the Dawgs have been giving up over 73 per contest (12th) in conference games. But these two teams took their collective inabilities to stay in front of anyone to new heights on Saturday evening. The concept of help defense has clearly not been mastered by UGA or Bama as just about anyone who got past his defender on the perimeter had a clear and uncontested path to the bucket; it reminded me of the NBA All-Star game. Georgia outscored the Tide 58 to 56 in points in the paint; that’s right, an astounding 104 total points were made in the lane tonight.

I truly cannot remember watching a game with less guarding. Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis put up a career high 37 points against the Dawgs. That should wound the pride of just about any defense.

And this was on the heels of a second half against the Florida Gators earlier this week in which the Dawgs permitted 55 points. Georgia has now given up 160 points in the last 60 minutes of game play. Incredible.

I get that this team is young and everybody is new and they’re still learning Crean’s offensive system and how to play together. However, there’s no excuse as to why these guys can’t play better defense. Defense is about effort, and right now, Crean is not getting much of it out of his guys on that end of the court.

Other players stepped up to support an ailing Ant Man

Apparently, Anthony Edwards has been dealing with the flu as of yesterday, and he wasn’t exactly feeling his best around tip off of this one. The freshman logged another double-double with 14 points and 12 boards, but he didn’t look like himself on offense as he connected on just 5 of 17 from the floor; he also missed all 6 of his three-point attempts, including the last-second one that could have tied the game.

Sahvir Wheeler and Rayshaun Hammonds did an admirable job of filling up the stat sheet, though. Bama didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Wheeler as he scored a career high 24 points to go along with 8 assists. He did turn the ball over 6 times as he continues to make risky passes, but he also dished out some absolute dimes, so some of those turnovers are forgivable. Wheeler scored 40 points this week as he continues to expand his role in this Georgia offense. The Dawgs are most likely going to lose Edwards to the NBA next season, but the return of Wheeler could set this team up to be even better on offense next year.

Rayshaun Hammonds, who dealt with foul trouble for much of the game, scored 20 points in just 26 minutes of efficient play. The junior netted 5 of his total with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, including the bucket that tied the game at 92 with 21 seconds left. Hammonds had not finished in double-figures in the past 4 games, so it was refreshing to see him active and engaged on offense again.

Up next:

South Carolina comes to Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

NIT (outermost fringe of the bubble)

UGA defense drops the ball in 89-74 defeat in Tuscaloosa

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This Georgia team’s biggest issue for the season has been turnovers, which were still a problem on Wednesday as the Dawgs coughed the ball up 13 times to Alabama, and the Crimson Tide managed to turn those mishaps into 22 points.

However, as of late, UGA’s defense has been its most limiting factor. They say that defense travels, but obviously, the Georgia D didn’t make this trip. Several days removed from allowing the South Carolina Gamecocks – one of the poorer shooting teams in the conference – to torch them from the perimeter with an 11 for 16 performance, the Dawgs once again struggled to defend the three-point line. The Tide connected on nearly 39% from beyond the arc, and none of those makes was more deadly than the 2 by Tevin Mack that allowed Bama to build up a double-digit lead (53-42) in just a little over 3 minutes into the second half.

The Dawgs are now last in the conference in scoring defense (80 ppg) in SEC play, and they are 3rd from the bottom in three-point percentage defense. Bama scoring 89 points means that Georgia has now yielded 80+ points to 3 of its last 4 conference opponents. Yikes!

But it’s not just the perimeter where UGA’s defense is failing. Alabama got WAY too many easy baskets around the rim because Georgia’s help defense continues to remain either too slow or disinterested. How many times did a Bama guard beat one of Georgia’s backcourt defenders and go all the way to the rim for a lay up? I lost count. The Tide scored 28 of its 41 first-half points in the paint, and they ended up with 48 points inside on the game. I’m not sure if Nicolas Claxton is playing more tentative to avoid getting in foul trouble, but he was certainly guilty of not rotating to help on multiple defensive possessions. Avery Johnson’s team made nearly 57% of its field goal attempts Wednesday, and that’s completely unacceptable. Winning on the road is almost impossible when the other team is scoring on 3 of every 5 possessions.

The first half of this game was fun, though, right? The pace was up tempo as the Dawgs and Tide played a back-and-forth 20 minutes in which both teams shot above 48% from the floor.

Alabama, however, proved that it could play defense when it needed to in the second half, when Georgia could not. The Tide limited UGA to just 34% from the floor in the second 20 minutes of play, and Johnson’s team forced the Dawgs into 7 more turnovers. UGA doesn’t have the offensive firepower this season to try to outscore teams for 40 minutes, save the Texas game, so Georgia better figure some things out defensively or the Dawgs could be stuck on 1 SEC win for quite a while.

Shout-out to…

Derek Ogbeide, despite playing through what has to be his most trying season at Georgia, continues to improve as the season progresses. Against the Tide, the senior led all UGA scorers with 17 points, marking his 4th consecutive SEC game in double-figures scoring.

Rayshaun Hammonds foul count

Last season, Hammonds tallied 81 personal fouls on the year. After Wednesday’s 4-foul performance, the sophomore now has 71 PFs this season, and he should have no trouble eclipsing last year’s total with 9 conference games remaining in the regular season. Hammonds had 13 points last night, but he played just 21 minutes. He’s this team’s best scoring option, yet Hammonds cannot manage to stay on the floor, which is definitely one of this year’s mysteries. I imagine this situation must be incredibly frustrating for Crean.

Box score:

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.

 

 

Bama rolls UGA in Athens 80-60

 

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Assistant Philip Pearson had to take over the coaching duties last night after Mark Fox was tossed late in the first half.

After beating Vandy at home a week ago, it seemed like Georgia (12-8) had a few more games before embarking on what would be their most difficult stretch of conference play: @ Kentucky, @ South Carolina, Florida and @ Tennessee.  Losing on the road to Texas A&M, a team projected to finish 3rd in the conference, in the bizarre fashion that UGA did is one thing.  To get blown out at home, though, by an Alabama (12-7) team that was picked to end up 11th in the SEC is another.  The Tide trounced Georgia 80-60 last night in Stegeman, and now the Bulldogs will carry a two-game conference losing streak into Lexington next Tuesday.  Below are my thoughts on what went wrong last night:

Soft defense

Georgia is a team that prides itself on its defense, which is why the Dawgs entered last evening’s contest ranked 24th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to under 40% a night.  That team didn’t show up on Tuesday, though.  The rotations in UGA’s matchup zone last night were incredibly sluggish.  Weak side defenders failed to shift quickly enough when the ball moved to the wing and the corners, leaving gaping holes in middle of the zone.  Alabama took advantage, easily getting the ball into the paint, where the Tide scored 26 of their points. Bama came into this game with second-worst offense in league games, netting under 68 points a night; yet by halftime, the Tide had already scored 41 points, which was their highest output in a first half in conference play this year.  Freshman Braxton Key, who is the only Bama player scoring in double-figures at 10.7 a night, completely had his way with the Dawgs and finished with a game-high 26 points.  Riley Norris nearly doubled his season average as he scored 15 points on Tuesday, and he looked like Steph Curry doing it: hitting open three’s and dicing into the lane off the dribble.

The Dawgs effort around the perimeter wasn’t any better.  The Tide hit 4 three-pointers before the break because Georgia’s zone was slow to react; the 5 three-pointers that Bama knocked down after the intermission happened because UGA looked as if it just wasn’t interested in running out.  This was an Alabama team that was making less than 32% of its attempts from beyond the arc prior to Tuesday in SEC games, but the Tide sure looked comfortable from the perimeter last night as they buried 9 of 16 shots.

Devastating stretch to close out the first half

The Dawgs had a moment in the first half where they appeared ready to wake up and take control of this game.  With UGA trailing 28-19 with 4:07 remaining in half, Juwan Parker hit a three-pointer and Yante Maten simultaneously got fouled underneath vying for position for the rebound.  Since Georgia was in the bonus, Maten stepped to the line and hit a pair of free throws which cut the Tide advantage to 28-24 following the five-point trip.

Then the wheels came off.  Bama responded immediately and went on a 10-0 run that sent their lead back up to 38-24 with just 1:27 left.  About 30 seconds earlier, UGA lost its coach for the remaining 22 minutes as Mark Fox was quickly ejected for arguing a carrying call against Jordan Harris.  Any hopes that Fox’s tirade might ignite his sleepy team were quickly dashed when Corban Collins hit a three-pointer with just one second on the clock, and the Tide took a 41-27 lead into the break.

Disappearing act by J.J. Frazier

J.J. has played pretty well for UGA this year, but by and large, he hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations after what he did a year ago.  At times last night, I forgot that he was even on the court.  Frazier, who came into yesterday’s contest netting a little over 18 points per SEC game, took just 3 shots in the first half.  J.J. ended up with only 4 points,  shooting an abysmal 2 for 9 from the floor and missing all 5 of this three-point attempts.  Not only was his shot off, but Frazier missed on his lay ups, too.  J.J. drew all glass on one of his fast break drives, which is a shot that he routinely finishes with contact.

Yante Maten led all UGA scorers with 20 points, which was impressive considering he faced double teams every time he touched the ball in the paint.  But last night proved that Maten cannot do it alone, and when Frazier is held under double-digits the Dawgs are going to hard-pressed to beat anybody other than Morehouse.

 

 

Georgia upends Bama in overtime for 8th conference win

Cameron Forte could not have picked a better moment to make his first collegiate shot ever from outside the paint.

With his team down 65-64 and fighting for its NCAA Tournament lives, Forte buried a jumper off of a spin move from the corner to send the Dawgs up 66-65 with only 6 seconds remaining.

Credit freshman Yante Maten for hustling back on defense just in the nick of time to send Retin Obasohan’s last-second layup attempt into the 19th row behind the goal.  Alabama did get one last look, but Rodney Cooper failed to get his shot off before the clock expired, and Georgia snuck out of Tuscaloosa with a much-needed SEC road win.

What this win lacked in beauty it certainly made up for in grittiness.  The Dawgs played the entire overtime without Marcus Thornton, who fouled out before the end of regulation play, and they lost Charles Mann to fouls with 1:38 remaining in the overtime.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well in this contest, with both teams finishing just under 38% from the floor.  The offense was incredibly sluggish in the first half, especially when the score remained locked in at 19-11 (Georgia’s advantage) for over 3 minutes.  Bama only hit 4 field goals through the first 17 minutes of the game, but UGA was nearly as inept on offense, which ultimately allowed the Tide to tie the game at 24-apiece going into the break.

Georgia was led offensively by Neme Djurisic, who scored 14 points to go along with 7 rebounds.  The Dawgs’ late-game hero, Cameron Forte, chipped in 8 points as well as a team-high 10 boards.

Charles Mann netted 13 points, but unfortunately he turned the ball over 5 times, and he was particularly flustered by Bama’s full-court jump press.

Even though J.J. Frazier missed a pair of layups late in the game, his return was critical to this win as the sophomore provided 8 points of offense in addition to his 3 assists.  Frazier is this team’s best ball-handler, and his presence certainly makes UGA’s offense more dynamic.

Alabama was led offensively by Retin Obasohan, who scored 6 of his team-high 16 points on a pair of clutch three-pointers in the waning moments of regulation play.

This win puts Georgia at 17-9 overall and 8-6 in the conference, where they are currently tied for 5th place with LSU.  After back-to-back sickening home losses to Auburn and South Carolina, the Dawgs stepped up and got a win tonight in a game that may have saved their season.

UGA has three days off before they hit the road again to take on Ole Miss in Oxford, where the 10-4 Rebels will certainly be looking to avenge a January 20th loss to Georgia.

Dawgs host Alabama in first SEC home game of the season

The Georgia Bulldogs (7-6, 1-0) are two days removed from pulling one of the bigger upsets of the week in the world of college basketball with their win at #21 Missouri on Wednesday.

Now UGA will see just how well they can handle success after their best victory of the season.
And if the Dawgs haven’t put the Mizzu game out of their minds come Saturday, they could find themselves in trouble when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Athens this afternoon (7-7, 1-0).

Both teams won their conference openers, and they have very similar regular season records thus far. Alabama’s record is a little misleading though, considering they have played a much more difficult schedule than UGA up to this point. CBS Sportsline ranks the Tide’s schedule as the 9th hardest in the country, compared to Georgia’s SOS of 189.

Bama has lost close games (by 9 points or less) to #6 Wichita State, #16 Duke, Oklahoma, UCLA and Xavier.

In addition, the Tide possess arguably the best backcourt in the conference, led by All-SEC point guard Trevor Releford – who is scoring over 18 a game – and Retin Obasohan, who nets 13 points per night.

Georgia’s Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines will certainly be challenged on the perimeter by Releford and Obasohan. This matchup in the backcourt could dictate which team leaves Stegeman tonight with its first SEC loss of the year.

Bama’s Releford sinks a half-court shot, downing Georgia 61-58

When Trevor Releford launched the basketball from beyond halfcourt with time expiring, a small part of me expected it to go in. Of course, less than a second later, the ball swished through the net, giving Alabama a 61-58 home victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.

After trailing the Tide 50-41 with less than six minutes remaining, Georgia mounted a 17-8 run that ended with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope burying an NBA-range three-pointer to tie the game at 58-apiece.

UGA actually possessed the basketball with the game knotted at 58-58 and only 17 ticks left on the clock. Unfortunately, freshman Charles Mann turned the ball over and the aforementioned prayer hoisted up by Releford was answered.

For Georgia to even be in a position to win this game at the end after the way that they played in the first half was quite a feat – UGA made only 26% of their field goal attempts before the intermission, mustering just 18 points.

Alabama made their first four field goal attempts with three of those coming from beyond the arc, helping the Tide to open up a 13-3 advantage less than four minutes into the first half. The Dawgs fought for much of the game to overcome this early deficit, and had they not started so poorly the game may not have come down to Releford’s desperate toss.

UGA was led offensively by KCP and Neme Djurisic, who scored 14 points apiece in the losing effort.

The loss sends the Dawgs to 9-9 on the season in conference play, and they will take on LSU in the second round of the SEC tournament next week in Nashville.

Considering that this team began the season 0-3 in the league, finishing up even in SEC games is a credit to Coach Fox and his team.