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Strong second half helps UGA beat Gardner-Webb in Athens

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After a shaky first half that was plagued by a slew of fouls for each team, the Georgia Bulldogs got it together after the break to outlast the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs 77-59 in Athens on Friday night.

The opening half was not a thing of beauty for Coach Mark Fox’s team.  The Dawgs struggled to defend the perimeter well as they allowed the GW guards to consistently get into the lane and to the rim, where the Runnin’ Bulldogs buried 13 of their 17 attempts from the stripe.  On offense, UGA endured one of its patented scoring droughts, going nearly 6 minutes without a field goal following an exciting fast break dunk by Yante Maten.  By the time J.J. Frazier connected on a layup with 8:30 left in the half, his Georgia team trailed the visitors 20-18.  Georgia’s offense did pick it up a bit heading into the break, and UGA took a 40-37 advantage into the intermission.

The Dawgs played primarily zone in the second half, clamping down on the GW guards on the outside.  After shooting nearly 39% in half number one, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were held to just 25% from the floor following the break, and they managed only 22 second-half points.  UGA forced GW into 19 turnovers, which led to 28 points for Georgia, a key factor in this victory for Coach Fox’s bunch.  The only GW players to finish in double-digits were David Efianayi and LaQuincy Rideau, who scored 15 and 11, respectively.

Yante Maten led all scorers with 16 points, and he added to his stat line with 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists.  The only other UGA players to end up in double figures were Frazier and Mike Edwards, who netted 10 apiece.  J.J. played somewhat tentatively again on offense as he attempted just 6 shots; he did create 4 steals and dish out 6 assists, though.  For whatever reason, Frazier has been less assertive this season compared to last.  It’s possible that J.J. is still adjusting to being the team’s premier guard after playing alongside Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines for the first three years of his career.  But even with both Mann and Gaines gone, Frazier is averaging less field goal attempts per game so far this year, taking 10.8 per contest compared to the 12.1 he put up a year ago. At some point, Frazier must force the issue a bit on offense as this team will have trouble navigating its SEC schedule if J.J. is tied for 4th on the team in field goal attempts as he was tonight against GW.

Coach Mark Fox got excellent scoring off his bench on Friday with Mike Edwards, Pape Diatta and Jordan Harris getting 10, 9 and 7, respectively.  Edwards did a great job of making himself available in the lane when Maten faced double-teams, which occurred regularly this evening.  Diatta, who scored 7 of his 9 before the break, also hauled in 6 rebounds, making for an incredibly productive 16 minutes.

The Dawgs shot over 48% from the floor against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, and they are now hitting nearly 44% from the field on the season, compared to the 42% that UGA shot last year.

Georgia gets another tune up on Wednesday when they play host to Morehouse, then the Dawgs get another crack at a Power 5 conference opponent when they take on Marquette next Sunday in Athens.

 

 

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November 26, 2016 at 8:35 am

Kansas tops Georgia 65-54 in finals of CBE

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The turning point in the game…

After trailing Kansas 35-25 at the break, the Bulldogs made a run at the Jayhawks at the start of the second half.  Yante Maten hit a three-pointer and Derek Ogbeide got a stick back, and less than a minute in UGA had trimmed the Kansas advantage to just 5 points. The Jayhawks responded with a three and a tip-in of their own, and with 17:35 left Kansas had already restored its double-digit halftime lead and sucked the air out of any thoughts of a UGA comeback.   Instead, the Dawgs went into drought mode and allowed over 8 minutes to surpass before they would get another bucket.  By the time Maten hit a jumper with 9:36 remaining, his team was down 52-36.

Maten shines…

Yante was obviously unfazed by the gloss of playing the #5 team in the country.  The junior led all scorers and rebounders with 30 points and 13 boards, respectively.  Maten dominated the paint for much of the game, controlling the blocks and grabbing 8 offensive rebounds,which enabled him to score on a number of second chance stick backs.  Defensively, Maten and the other UGA bigs were a force as well – the Kansas posts accounted for only 5 of their team’s 64 points on the evening.

But he couldn’t do it all by himself…

While Maten certainly enjoyed a monster game in the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, the rest of the Georgia team, by and large, struggled.  Yante shot 48% from the floor en route to 30 total points; everyone else in a red jersey combined for a total of 24 points and 22% from the field.  J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker were particularly cold on Tuesday.  Frazier notched just 2 points, going 1 for 10 from the floor and o for 6 from beyond the arc.  Parker had only 5 points, hitting 2 of his 9 attempts from the field and missing all of his three-point attempts.  Freshman Jordan Harris, who had put together two consecutive decent games coming into this one, looked overwhelmed against the Kansas backcourt, committing a team-high 4 turnovers and scoring just 2 points.

The silver lining…

Georgia fans should be encouraged by the fact that the Dawgs lost by only 11 points to the #5 Jayhawks, considering that J.J., who entered the game averaging nearly 19 points a night, netted only 2 points.  Frazier had been responsible for more than a quarter of UGA’s scoring load in the first 4 games, so it seems reasonable to expect the Dawgs to struggle when he is off (like last night).  If J.J. makes half of his three-point attempts on Tuesday, this game would have been much tighter down the stretch.  Coach Mark Fox’s team definitely showed a certain toughness in hanging around with the more talented Jayhawks, despite not getting any production from its best guard.  Credit the Dawgs’ defense, which held Kansas to under 39% from the floor and basically kept them sort of in the game.

 

 

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November 23, 2016 at 8:26 am

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Georgia earns first win of the season against UNC Asheville

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A couple of Bulldogs squared off inside Stegeman on Monday night, and Georgia had to show the ones from Asheville that this town wasn’t big enough for the both of them.  The Dawgs rode their stars, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, to the team’s first win of the 2016-2017 season.  Maten and Frazier scored 19 and 18, respectively, combining for nearly two-thirds of UGA points in this 60-46 victory.  This might be a common theme of the season.

Much like the Clemson game, though, Frazier began the night a little tentative.  After hitting a three several minutes into this contest, Frazier wouldn’t score again until he connected on three free throws with a little under 5 minutes to go before the break.  Georgia struggled in the first half to make shots against the Asheville half-court trap zone.  Before J.J. hit those aforementioned free throws, the Dawgs were locked up at 22-22 with 4:22 left.  The shots from the charity stripe invigorated Frazier, though, as he netted 8 points in the final four minutes to spark Georgia to a 33-26 halftime lead.

Coach Fox’s team shot the ball a bit better in the second half, but the Georgia defense (or possibly Asheville’s inability to make open shots) was responsible for this win.  The Dawgs  held the other Bulldogs to under 34% from the floor, and Asheville shot an abysmal 4 for 22 from beyond the arc.  Ahmad Thomas led all UNC Asheville scorers with just 13 points.

Overall, however, this win was a sort of underwhelming.  Georgia had superior size and talent, yet the Dawgs led by merely 5 points with under 10 minutes remaining in the game.  After turning the ball over 15 times last Friday at Clemson, UGA gave it away another 17 times on Monday (6 of them coming from Maten).

While it’s hard to gauge much from these early preseason games in regards to predicting the course of the season, especially considering Fox’s prolific subbing patterns, Georgia still doesn’t have anyone who looks like they can be a reliable scorer outside of Frazier and Maten.  Juwan Parker started the night well, making 2 of his first 3 shots, but he ended up shooting 4 of 12 by game’s end.  He took two more shots than J.J., yet he scored half the number of points.  Tyree Crump went 0 for 5, and Turtle Jackson and Papa Diatta each missed both of the shots that they put up.

Freshman Jordan Harris did knock down a three-pointer, making him 1 for 1 on the season from the field.  However, he was quickly removed during the next TV timeout, giving him only 3 minutes of court time on the night.

Tonight’s game and Thursday’s contest against Furman are both considered “Host Games” as part of next week’s CBE Classic in Kansas City (the outcome of the games does not affect UGA’s travel plans to Missouri).  After Furman, UGA has a game with George Washington in the first round of the CBE next Monday, with a potential matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks looming Tuesday.  Even though it’s only a week away, it’s hard to imagine this Georgia team on the same floor as #7 Kansas right now.

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November 14, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Clemson smothers Georgia in season opener

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The strength of this Clemson Tiger team last season was its defense, and coach Brad Brownell road that defense on Friday night to a 74-64 victory in the season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs.  All night long, the Tigers pushed the Dawgs away from the basket, using a strong man-to-man to stymie the UGA offense.  Clemson held Georgia to under 43% from the floor, and they turned the Dawgs over 14 times inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers jumped on Georgia from the start, opening up a 21-9 lead less than 10 minutes in following a three-pointer from Avry Holmes.  Clemson star forward Jaron Blossomgame picked up two fouls early and sat for much of the first half, but guard Game DeVoe picked up the slack in his absence, knocking down two three’s before the break en route to 12 first half points.  The Tigers held J.J. Frazier to just 3 points prior to the intermission, which enabled them to head into the break with a 40-30 advantage.

The Dawgs closed the gap in the second half after Turtle Jackson hit a pair of three-pointers to cut the Clemson lead to 51-48 with 10:18 remaining in the game.  The Tigers jumped on Georgia immediately out the ensuing timeout though, going on a 12-2 run that was capped off by an old-fashioned three-point play by Donte Grantham, putting his team up 63-50 with 7:43 left.  This stretch by Clemson took the life out of the Dawgs, and Clemson kept UGA at bay for the remainder of the night.

DeVoe led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points, and Blossomgame chipped in another 13.

Yante Maten carried the Dawgs on the night, scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, posting his first double-double of the season.  Frazier was the only other UGA player to finish in double-figures, scoring 11 points; however, it took him a 5 for 13 shooting effort to get there.

Clemson’s defense definitely exposed a huge question mark that Georgia will have to address at some point this season: who will score other than Frazier and Maten?  Other than Derek Ogbeide’s 9 point-effort on a 4 for 5 performance, most of the other UGA players struggled.  Most noticeably among them being Juwan Parker, who shot an abysmal 3 for 10 from the floor. Coach Mark Fox must get offensive output from some of his role players, but I’m not sure Parker is a viable option.  He certainly has enjoyed shooting it from the perimeter during his time at Georgia, but unfortunately for the Dawgs Parker has made just 19% of his attempts from beyond the arc.  At some point, someone – either Parker or Fox – needs to decide that that’s not a productive shot for this team.

Teams are going to continue to overload their defense on Frazier this year, just like the Tigers did tonight.   Coach Brownell had his guards stick with Frazier even when he didn’t have the ball in an effort to force the four other UGA players on the court to beat them, and, for the most part, it worked.

Coach Mark Fox’s team will get a chance to earn its first win of the year on Monday night in Athens when they play host to the Bulldogs from Asheville, North Carolina.

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November 11, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Georgia-Clemson Preview

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A couple of NCAA Tournament hopefuls will be squaring off on Friday night when Georgia travels to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers.  For now, UGA is in the “First Four Out” category of ESPN’s Preseason Bracketology, while Clemson was no where to be found.  Although, any bracket predictions being made before the season has tipped off should be taken lightly.

The strength of this Tiger team last year was its defense.  A rangy bunch, Clemson ranked first in the ACC last season in blocked shots at 5.2 per game, and they were third in fewest points allowed at 64.5 per contest.  Last year, UGA was plagued in numerous games by long stretches of offensive ineptitude, a weakness that Coach Mark Fox’s team must eliminate if they want to play into late March this year.

A year ago, the Dawgs manhandled the Tigers in Athens 71-48.  UGA was led by seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who combined for 35 points to carry Georgia to the home win.  In that game, UGA limited Clemson superstar Jaron Blossomgame to just 5 points, which was almost 13 under his average.

Fast forward to 2016.  Georgia no longer has Gaines or Mann, and they once again will have to take on a Tiger team led by Jaron Blossomgame, a preseason First Team All-ACC selection.  Blossomgame is currently projected by NBADraft.net to go #17 in their 2017 Mock NBA Draft.  At this point, Georgia doesn’t have any players in that Mock.

This contest should present both a formidable challenge and an opportunity for UGA junior Yante Maten.  In the exhibition game last week, Maten had his way against the inferior competition from Fort Valley, Georgia.  Against Clemson, Maten will have his hands full dealing with a potential NBA first-round draft pick in Blossomgame.  That being said, there should be an NBA scout or two inside Littlejohn on Friday; Yante will have a chance to show them what he can do while going head-to-head with a probable prospect.

Friday’s season opener at Clemson could definitely have selection implications in March.  Coach Mark Fox’s team has the possibility of earning a quality win that could boost its NCAA resume, and we’re not even halfway through November.

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November 8, 2016 at 7:07 pm

About that new mural inside of Stegeman

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One of the renovations that Georgia fans will quickly notice as they enter Stegeman Coliseum this season to cheer on the Dawgs is the new wall-to-wall mural that sits above the scoreboard, hovering over the student section.

The artwork features former UGA stars from the men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with several former gymnasts (disclosure: I cannot name any current or former Gym Dawg, so apologies for that).

Going from left to right, the first two men’s basketball players, Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Jarvis Hayes, both seem like excellent choices.  Even though KCP and Jarvis only played two seasons each in Athens, they both made immediate impacts in the scoring column while donning the red and black.  Jarvis was named First-Team All-SEC both years, and KCP made it once.   KCP is currently in the midst of building a solid NBA resume, while Hayes played 7 seasons in the league before moving on to greener pastures.  Hayes also led probably the most talented UGA basketball team since the early 80’s during the 2002-2003 season, although that team’s campaign was cut short due to Jim Harrick running amok.

By choosing KCP and Hayes for the graphic, UGA covered both the early and recent 2000’s, meaning that an obvious choice for the third and final former Dawg would be someone from the pre-high-speed internet era.  But the people behind this renovation decided to immortalize Marcus Thornton instead (me thinks Mark Fox had some input into this).  Nothing against Marcus, he had a solid senior season, averaging over 12 points and 7 boards a game en route to a All-SEC Second-Team selection.  But is he really who UGA fans think of when they recollect on former Georgia basketball greats?

Here are some other names I might have considered:

Dominique Wilkins

‘Nique is definitely the most obvious choice.  I mean, he is 4th on the all-time UGA scoring leaders list, even though he played just three seasons.  Wilkins was a First-Team All-SEC selection twice, and he was named a Second-Team All-American two times as well. A nine-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer, the Human Highlight Film also ranks 13th on the league’s all time scoring leaders.  For you young bucks, here’s a clip of some of Nique’s best dunks (#6 is particularly nasty):

 

Vern Fleming

Vern Fleming might be less of a household name than Dominique, but his accomplishments while at UGA were remarkable.  A two-time All-American and First-Team All-SEC selection, Fleming ranks third on Georgia’s all-time scoring leaders.  He also captained the Dawgs’ 1983 Final Four team, which still marks the deepest a Bulldog team has advanced in the Big Dance.  After Georgia, Fleming played 11 years in the NBA.

Alec Kessler

Kessler ranks 2nd among the Dawgs’ all-time scoring leaders, and he was named an All-American in 1990.  Kessler was also twice named to the All-SEC First-Team, though his four-year NBA career was much less glamorous than his time in Athens.

Overall, I like the idea of the artwork, I’m just questioning some of it’s content.  Any thoughts?

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November 4, 2016 at 6:32 pm

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Looking ahead to next season

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Just like the season before, Georgia will be losing two key seniors from its roster as it heads into the offseason. With the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, UGA will need to replace 23.7 points per night.  In addition to the loss of offensive production, the Dawgs will also need someone to step up and assume the role of shutdown defender that Gaines has occupied for the past four years.

The good news, however, is that Coach Mark Fox’s team returns its two leading scorers, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, both of whom finished with over 16 points per game.  Frazier and Maten were named to the postseason All-SEC second team this year, and surely they will each find a spot on the preseason All-SEC first team heading into next season.  Georgia is fortunate to have bonafide stars at both the guard and forward positions.

The biggest concern offensively for the Dawgs next year at this point has to be perimeter shooting.  Both Frazier and Gaines knocked down over 38% of their three-point tries this year, but Gaines is gone, leaving Georgia with only one legitimate outside threat.  What happens when J.J. has to sit?

Georgia’s incoming freshman guards, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris, each connected on over 40% of their shots from beyond the arc in their senior seasons in high school.  At least one of these guys will need to come in an establish himself as an outside scorer from the start.  I also understand that Mark Fox is actively recruiting a graduate transfer for next year, so here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping that he gets one who can fill it up from the perimeter.

Joining Yante Maten in the paint will be sophomores Derek Ogbeide and Michael Edwards. Ogbeide proved himself to be a tenacious rebounder in his freshman campaign, averaging over 5 boards per contest in just 15 minutes a game.  Next year he should see increased minutes, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the big fella ring up more than a few double-doubles.

Michael Edwards is an intriguing player who could either have a Travis Leslie-esque jump next year, or he could continue doing more of the same from what we saw this season.  If you recall, Leslie appeared wild and uncoordinated in his first year of UGA basketball, netting just 6 points a game. However, Leslie burst onto the season in year number two, netting nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds a night.  Much like Leslie, Edwards, who possesses an imposing 6’9″ frame, showed signs of that same sort of raw athleticism as a freshman. If Edwards can learn to improve his footwork and get better control of his body, Dawgs fans could see significant gains from the sophomore big.

ESPN released its “Way too early Top 25” and Joe Lunardi posted his initial “Bracketology” for the 2017 season; Georgia wasn’t included in either of them.  Maybe its for the best, since the Dawgs were projected in the NCAA tournament field by Lunardi prior to this year and, well, we all know how that turned out.

But make no mistake: UGA SHOULD make the NCAA tournament next season with the personnel the Dawgs are returning.  Whether that happens or not is on Coach Mark Fox.  In the past five regular seasons, Georgia is now 4-34 against the RPI Top 50, a record that is truly atrocious.  Playing good competition is not enough.  At some point, UGA needs to break through and start winning some of these games.  Another NIT appearance is unacceptable.

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April 9, 2016 at 7:40 am