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.

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.

 

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.

 

UGA basketball: The Going Slow Edition

 

The Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0 and sitting atop of the conference standings, and if they continue to play at this level they have a real shot at earning an automatic bid to this year’s NCAA tournament.

If only the Dawgs played in the Big South Conference then everything in my opening statement would be true.  Georgia has played three teams from the Big South this year – UNC-Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern – and they trashed all of them.  Sure, the Garder-Webb game was close at the half (UGA held a 3 point lead), but the Dawgs ended up coasting to a 77-59 win.  Georgia easily bested UNC-Asheville, who is currently in first place in the league with an 11-2 record.  Who’s to say that UGA couldn’t amass a similar or even better record if they were playing a Big South slate of games?

All of this is obviously parody, or maybe fantasy?  The reality is Georgia is stuck in the SEC where they are 4-7 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak in conference games. Even though the Dawgs play in a Power 5 conference, they look a lot more like a mid-major, which is kind of sad considering they have two preseason All-SEC players on the roster.

But other than Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, this Georgia team doesn’t have the type of talent you expect from a Power 5 school.  Juwan Parker would be a solid 6th man on a lot of quality teams, but the third scoring option?  Parker, who at 6’3″ is grossly undersized for the wing position, is shooting less than 38% from the floor and below 18% from beyond the arc, yet he has taken the third most shots on the team.

I love Derek Ogbeide’s effort on defense.  He is a committed rebounder and a shot-blocking threat.  But his offensive game is not where it needs to be at this point.  Ogbeide has essentially one move that he does nearly every time he gets a touch on the block: turn left, hook shot.  And SEC teams have begun to take notice.  Several times against Florida on Tuesday, the Gator defender overplayed Ogbeide so much to the left that it appeared that he was gifting him the right side of the basket, but Derek didn’t bite and still went left.

It’s too early to make assumptions on Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump.  As highly-touted recruits, both players are capable of making tremendous jumps between their freshman and sophomore years, especially Harris since he actually gets regular court time.

But what about the rest of UGA’s cast?  Guys like Turtle Jackson, Mike Edwards, Houston Kessler, Kenny Paul Geno, E’Torrion Wilridge.  How successful would those guys be in the Big South?  All of them get regular minutes on Coach Fox’s team, but none of them is the least bit dangerous with the ball in their hands, which gives opposing defenses an incredible advantage over Georgia, especially when more than one of them is on the court at once.  At times this year, J.J. Frazier has appeared to be pushing it a bit and maybe taking some shots that he shouldn’t.  But when Maten is on the bench, can you really blame him?

I’m not trying to slam any of these guys.  I realize that they are just college kids that were offered an opportunity to play for UGA and they took it.  The fact that they might be in over their heads is not their fault; it’s Mark Fox’s.

In year eight of his ten-year plan, this is the team that Fox has assembled.  They turn the ball over a lot (more than 14 a game) and they do not shoot well from the outside (281st in the nation in 3PT%).  Apparently, both of these aforementioned reasons have Fox indicating that it’s time to slow things down.  I guess I need to pop over to Jittery Joe’s before the game today because seeing this team play any slower is going to potentially put me into nap mode.

Going slow is definitely an option that a coach has when his team has a talent deficit compared to their opponent, which has been the case for Georgia in most SEC games this year.  But he also has the choice to speed things up a bit.  Turtle, Edwards and Wilridge might not put the fear of God into too many defenders, but they are all long players that are highly athletic.  When Maten is out of the game, why not utilize their main collective strength and put them in a full-court trap press, similar to the one that Texas A&M ran.  Sorry, too soon?

Anyhow, imagine Edwards guarding the ball and then trapping with either Turtle or Wilridge (or Parker or Geno for that matter), depending on which side the ball goes. Presses can create offensive opportunities for stagnant offenses, yet Georgia barely ever does it.

The Dawgs have one and a half outside shooting threats and only two guys who can create their own shot.  But they do have some athletes, and athletes can put pressure on ball handlers in the open court.

 

Georgia fades down the stretch, loses again to South Carolina

A year ago the Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 4-6) beat the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-4; 9-1) three times and knocked them out of contention for an NCAA tournament berth.  Today, South Carolina returned the favor, besting the Dawgs 77-75 at the Columbia Life Center on Saturday afternoon.  Any more talk of this Georgia team going to the Big Dance should be put on hold until UGA either wins 6 of its final 8 games, or a tornado is spotted approaching Nashville in early march for the SEC tournament.

Ultimately, Georgia was undone by one of its infamous offensive scoring droughts that have become a staple of Mark Fox’s teams over the past several seasons.  Yante Maten scored a bucket to make it 51-50 Carolina with 11:23 remaining in the game, only to see his team go the next eight and a half minutes without a field goal.  Juwan Parker hit a jumper with 2:50 left to snap the spell, but by then the Dawgs were still trailing 67-60.  Frank Martin put his team into a zone defense during this brutal stretch, and Georgia struggled to adjust when they were no longer able to rely on the J.J. Frazier and Maten two-man game.

The Dawgs also struggled to protect the ball today as they turned it over 15 times with Frazier and Parker leading the way with 5 apiece.  Granted, South Carolina is probably the best defensive team in the conference as they lead the SEC in defensive scoring (63), field goal percentage (39%) and three-point percentage (25%), but for UGA’s offense to completely stall over the final quarter of the game is inexcusable.

Defensively, the Bulldogs failed to close out effectively on the Gamecocks on the perimeter, where South Carolina connected on 11 of 24 from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs once again began the game trying to play Carolina in man defense, and Sindarious Thornwell made them pay as he hit 3 three-pointers in less than 8 minutes to put his team up 14-11.  In Athens last month, Georgia struggled to defend Thornwell and P.J. Dozier one-on-one due to their superior size over the UGA backcourt.  Today, it wasn’t much different as Dozier and Thornwell torched Georgia for 21 and 18, respectively.  When Georgia switched to its 2-3 match-up zone they were able to cover the perimeter better, but SC obviously still got theirs from the outside off of transition plays and offensive rebounds.

Georgia’s abysmal second half was a complete contrast to its first twenty minutes of play.  Prior to the intermission, UGA’s offense was deliberate, pounding the ball inside to Maten, who was able to score 10 points and get both Carolina bigs Silva and Kotar in foul trouble with 2 each.  However, all of that stopped following the intermission as Yante primarily saw double-teams with every touch and it became harder and harder for the guards to dump the ball inside.

The Dawgs were led by Maten and Frazier, who scored 18 apiece.

Georgia has now lost its last 4 SEC contests, and the going isn’t going to get anything but tougher heading into next week when UGA hosts #24 Florida on Tuesday night in Athens before heading to Knoxville next Saturday to take on Tennessee.

 

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.

 

 

The keys to UGA’s win over Vanderbilt

Just a few days removed from a crushing overtime defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 4-2) collected themselves and managed to bounce back at home on Tuesday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4).  Here are the keys that propelled UGA to the 76-68 home win:

Unselfish, efficient offense

Vanderbilt attempted to zone the Dawgs early in this game and UGA ate it up.  Georgia did an excellent job of getting the ball into the short corners and finding gaps in the zone.  When UGA players penetrated and drew extra defenders, the Dawgs opted to pass instead of forcing up highly-contested shots.  Georgia dished out 16 team assists, which marks their highest total yet in SEC play.  UGA shot over 45% from the floor, and the Dawgs had four starters finish in double-figures – Yante Maten and Juwan Parker led the way with 21 and 17, respectively.  The Bulldogs also knocked down 40% from beyond the arc, and the majority of those three-pointers came on kick out passes from the paint.  Lastly, UGA valued the basketball, turning it over just 6 times on Tuesday, which is a drastic improvement for a Georgia team that entered this contest average 16 turnovers per conference game.

Solid first half perimeter defense

Vanderbilt gets 40% of its offense from beyond the arc.  The Dores came into Athens making over 40% of its three-point shots in SEC play.  However, UGA held Vandy to just 1 of 9 from the perimeter in the first half, which enabled Georgia to take a 34-25 advantage into the break.  Coach Mark Fox had his team in a lot of match up zone, and the Dawgs’ defenders closed out and contested nearly every Commodore three-point attempt.  The second half was a different story though, as Vandy found its range and connected on 9 of 22 shots from beyond the arc.  The Dores ended up with 10 three’s, which is just below their 10.8 average in SEC games, but they only made 34% of them.  The Dawgs’ ability to contain Vanderbilt from the perimeter in this contest’s first twenty minutes proved crucial, and it may have been the difference in the game.

Composure

Vanderbilt, who only led for 1:35 of this game, had three opportunities to overtake the Dawgs last night.  However, each time the Dores closed the gap, Georgia found a way to respond.  After building up a 14-5 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the half, UGA’s offense took a breather and scored just 2 points over the next six minutes.  With 7:33 remaining before the break and Vandy trailing 16-11, Yante Maten buried a big three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the UGA lead.

Vandy opened up the second half with a flurry of three-pointers, and after Jeff Roberson hit one from beyond the arc the UGA advantage had been cut to 42-39 with a little over 15 minutes left in the game.  The Dawgs answered, though, as J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker hit back to back three’s, and Jordan Harris stole a lazy Vandy pass and took it the length of the floor for an electrifying one-handed dunk, putting Georgia up 50-41.

The Dores last effort to catch the Dawgs came late in the game when Riley Lachance sunk a three to trim the UGA lead to 65-60 with 2:17 remaining.  Once again, Coach Fox’s team responded to the pressure, getting the ball into the hands of Yante Maten, who was fouled and made both free throws.  On the ensuing possession, Parker got a steal and was immediately sent to the line, where he too hit both attempts.  With just 1:25 left, UGA had a 69-60 lead that Vandy would not surmount.

 

 

Georgia can’t overcome turnovers in loss to South Carolina

For a brief moment the Georgia Bulldogs looked poised to claim its first lead of the second half after Yante Maten buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with only 57 seconds remaining.  Trailing South Carolina 62-61, the Dawgs were just one mere stop from wresting away the advantage from the visiting Gamecocks.  But as luck would have it, Sindarius Thornwell, who had just returned from a six-game suspension, would score on a tip-in from his own miss on the ensuing possession, putting his team back up by 3.  J.J. Frazier turned the ball over the next time down the court and then fouled Hassani Gravett immediately.  Gravett made only one of two from the line, but Frazier forced an awkward three that caromed off the rim, and UGA would go on to lose 67-61.

The final minute of this game exemplified the major issues that plagued this Georgia team throughout the night: poor defense, turnovers and inconsistent offense.  The Dawgs tried to play USC in man defense for much of this game, but I’m not sure that they had the personnel for that strategy to work.  Coach Mark Fox doesn’t have the perimeter players to deal with Thornwell or fellow guard P.J. Dozier.  Both of these guys relentlessly drove the ball to the paint, where Frank Martin’s team notched 38 of its points (to UGA’s 19).  Dozier led all scores with 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, and Thornwell recorded a double-double, scoring 19 points and snagging 11 rebounds.

Georgia didn’t really have it together on offense tonight either.  The Dawgs made just 36% from the floor and under 31% from beyond the arc.  Coach Fox’s team played incredibly sloppy in this one, turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 18 Gamecock points. UGA began the second half with one of its infamous scoring droughts, netting just 5 points in over 7 minutes of play.  The Dawgs only trailed Carolina 36-34 at the break, but following a Chris Silva Jumper with 12:51 left they found themselves down 48-39.  The free throw line, where UGA connected on 23 of 30 attempts, was the lone bright spot for Georgia, and honestly it kept them in the game down the stretch.

The Dawgs continued to pound the ball inside to Yante Maten, and despite facing multiple double-teams, he kept getting himself to the line.  Maten made 9 of his 13 free throw attempts, though he only shot 33% from the floor.  Yante did record another double-double as he pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds, but he never really got into an offensive rhythm as he constantly found himself surrounded by Gamecock bigs whenever he touched the ball inside.  All this pressure forced Georgia’s leading scorer into 6 turnovers.

Unfortunately, Maten wasn’t the only Dawg to hand the ball over 6 times.  Frazier committed 6 as well and never really got going on offense himself.  Much like Maten, J.J. collected the majority of his points from the charity stripe, where he sunk 9 of 10 attempts.  But Frazier’s efficiency from the field was far worse as he connected on just 30% from the floor and only 1 of his 6 perimeter shots.

The only other UGA player to finish in double-figures was Juwan Parker, who netted 12 points to go along with his 6 rebounds.

This loss was a tough one for Coach Fox’s team for several reasons.   One, it totally sucks the air out of any of the mojo that the Dawgs might have been feeling after that big road win at Auburn last week.  Two, Georgia still hasn’t recorded a solid RPI win.  South Carolina’s RPI was 54 coming into the game, and it would have been UGA’s highest to date had they pulled it off.  Finally, Georgia blew a solid opportunity to begin SEC play at 3-0 with lowly Missouri coming into town this Saturday.  However, now that that’s out the window, the Dawgs will be doing their best to get back above .500 in conference play.

 

Dawgs fall flat in second half against Oakland

Any good feelings that Georgia (8-4) might have been harboring following their first win over a significant non-conference opponent (Georgia Tech) earlier this week were certainly crushed and flushed this evening inside Oakland’s Center O’rena in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

After building up a 37-25 advantage with a little over 5 minutes remaining in the first half, the Dawgs went on to lose 86-79 to an Oakland team that entered tonight’s game ranked 216 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings.  If the word “bad loss” as it pertains to NCAA tournament resumes were actually in the dictionary, it would be accompanied by a picture of Oakland’s incredibly dark, hardwood floor with its grossly oversized grizzly in the center.

A game that was meant to be an early Christmas present for Georgia’s Yante Maten turned into a lump of coal for the Michigan native.  Maten fouled out of the game with 6:19 left and his team trailing 71-64.  He only managed to tally 6 points and 5 rebounds while committing 4 turnovers.  The Grizzlies doubled down on Maten whenever he got the ball on the block, preventing him from establishing any sort of offensive rhythm.

J.J. Frazier, who played a fabulous first half, scoring 18 points on 7 of 8 from the floor, disappeared following the intermission.  Frazier missed all 10 of his second half attempts as he forced up shots under intensified pressure from the Oakland defenders.  He did manage 4 free throws after the break, however, and led all UGA scorers with 22 points.

Oakland jumped all over Georgia to start the second half, going on an 18-4 run that erased UGA’s 45-38 halftime advantage.  Martez Walker capped off the run with a three-pointer that sent his team up 56-49 with a little over 15 minutes remaining in the game.  Walker hit 4 three’s on the evening and finished with a career-high 30 points.

The fact that Coach Mark Fox’s team allowed an Oakland player to put 30 points on them is a testament to how poorly this team played defense tonight.  Georgia looked slow to the ball, especially in the second half, and eventually the Dawgs had to get out of their man defense and switch to zone because they simply couldn’t guard the Grizzlies straight up.  After hitting under 36% from the floor in the first twenty minutes, Oakland knocked down over 53% of their attempts in the second half.  The Grizzlies also connected on 10 of their 17 shots from beyond the arc.

The only other Georgia starters to finish in double-digits were Derek Ogbeide and Juwan Parker.  Ogbeide logged a double-double, netting 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds; 11 of Derek’s points came after the break, and he scored 4 consecutive buckets during a critical stretch in the second half that helped UGA cut into Oakland’s 61-51 lead.

Parker scored 15 points, but he committed a team-high 5 turnovers.  The Dawgs gave the ball over 19 times this evening, a problem that plagued this team tonight offensively against Oakland.

The game on Tuesday against Georgia Tech was never in doubt because Georgia had the two best players on the court.  That was not the case tonight, though, as Maten played only 21 minutes before fouling out.  Still, Coach Mark Fox’s bunch shouldn’t be losing to Oakland.  Period.