Belmont cruises past Georgia in Athens

12529676Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs’ appearance in this year’s NIT tournament was short-lived.  UGA attempted to defend its home court without the services of Yante Maten and Juwan Parker, and in the end, it failed as the Dawgs fell 78-69 to Belmont.  For the second straight year, Georgia will head into the offseason wondering “what if” in regards to this tournament.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for the Dawgs this March, or maybe advancing to the semifinals of the NIT is an intricate part of year 9 of Fox’s 10-year plan.  Either way, UGA’s season is done as they finish 19-15 on the year (assuming we include the win over Division II Morehouse).

Tonight, Georgia struggled to cover the perimeter against a Belmont (23-6) team that entered this game hitting 10 three-pointers a night.  Surely defending the outside had to be a point of focus in practice the past several days.  Yet, the Bruins torched the Dawgs for 7 three’s in the first half.  UGA responded by switching to man defense out of the intermission, and Belmont promptly hit 3 more from beyond the arc.  Fox put his team back in its bread and butter – the matchup zone – only to see the Dawgs yield 4 more three-pointers.  By the time the final horn sounded, the Bruins had knocked down a whopping 14 three-pointers, and they finished with a blistering 45% mark from the perimeter.  For the Dawgs’ defense, mission not accomplished.

For a while in the second half, the Bruins simplified their offense down to an NBA-like style as they allowed Evan Bradds to back down whoever was on his side of the UGA zone until help came over and he could kick it to an open shooter.  Watching the Bruins score the ball over and over again in this fashion was quite painful as a UGA fan.  And Bradds had plenty of options to pass it to as he and three of his teammates finished the game in double-figures.  The Bruins were led by Dylan Windler, who scored 21 points.  Windler came into this contest netting just 9 a night against Ohio Valley competition, but this evening he shredded the Georgia defense and appeared to be virtually unguardable.

On the flip side, Georgia’s offense was J.J. Frazier, who led all scorers with 29 points.  Frazier used his athleticism to get to the basket basically whenever he pleased, but his efforts alone were not enough this time.  The rest of the UGA offense looked stagnant and almost content to stand by and watch the J.J. Frazier show.  Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump each finished with 10 points, but did not shoot the ball particularly well, going 4 for 11 and 4 for 10, respectively.  The Dawgs didn’t shoot it well as a team as they connected on 42% from the floor and just 23% from beyond the arc.

Georgia’s ineptness on the offensive side of the ball is why this team only led Belmont for 19 seconds on Wednesday.

Even though Maten and Parker were out, one would think that Georgia should win this game at home.  The problem, though, is that other than Frazier and Ogbiede, the Bruins had better players on the court.  Belmont’s players shot the ball more efficiently and ran their offense to precision.  UGA’s 5 through 8 players on the roster should be at least as talented as a team from the Ohio Valley, and if that’s not the case their needs to be serious questions asked about the direction that this program is heading.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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