Balanced UGA effort carries Dawgs into finals at CBE Hall of Fame Classic

Coach Mark Fox had the ball exactly where he wanted it with his team up by 3 and under a minute to play – in the hands of senior J.J. Frazier. Frazier ran the shot clock down before attempting a long three over the outstretched hands of George Washington’s Yuta Wanatabe.  Frazier’s three-point attempt caromed off the rim and into the hands of Derek Ogbeide, who couldn’t complete the put back.  However, Papa Diatta snared Ogbeide’s miss and put it up and in while getting fouled, which allowed him to complete an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Dawgs up 77-71 with only 35 seconds remaining.

George Washington (3-1) failed to convert not the ensuing possession, and J.J. Frazier buried a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.

Diatta picking up the slack for Frazier on that critical possession late in the game was reflective of the total team effort that Coach Mark Fox got from his squad in its 83-71 victory on Monday night in Kansas City.  Yante Maten fouled out of the game with 4 minutes remaining and UGA (3-1) leading by 2 points, but this young Georgia team held strong and stepped up big in the absence of its best post player.  Maten and Frazier posted 18 points apiece, but UGA got 5 or more points from six different players, including 11 points and 8 rebounds from Ogbeide.  Juwan Parker, who scored all 9 of his points in the second half, just missed a double-double as he hauled down 11 rebounds.

J.J. scored 9 points in the game’s first 6 minutes, only to go the next 23 minutes without any baskets before hitting a three-pointer to put his team up 58-57 with 11:42 left.  Coach Fox had to feel refreshed knowing that this bunch could hold their own when its star player was struggling offensively, especially against a quality opponent like George Washington.

In addition to the balanced scoring, UGA earned this victory in large part due to its second-half defensive adjustments.  The Colonials shot over 40% from beyond the arc in the first half, taking a 36-35 advantage into the break.  With a little over 10 minutes remaining and GW up 57-55, Coach Fox put his team in a matchup 3-2 zone in an attempt to limit the Colonials looks from the perimeter.  The move worked to perfection as GW hit just 1 of their final 5 three-pointers, and the Colonials were held without a field goal for nearly 5 minutes before Watanabe hit a jumper to break the spell.

Tyler Cavanaugh led all scorers on the night with 24 points.

The Dawgs out rebounded the Colonials 39-31, with 5 UGA players securing 5 or more rebounds in this one.  Georgia also dished out 16 team assists, while only turning the ball over only 7 times.  Tonight’s effort definitely showcased some of the depth that Coach Mark Fox highlighted about this team coming into the season.

This victory also sets up a potential marquee matchup with the #5 Kansas Jayhawks, assuming they get by the UAB Blazers.

 

 

Georgia ends 2015 on a high note

A week long hiatus from the hard courts didn’t seem to faze Coach Mark Fox’s Bulldogs (7-3) on Tuesday.  Granted, UGA’s opponent, Robert Morris (2-11), might have been the weakest opponent on Georgia’s schedule thus far, a schedule that ESPN deems the most difficult in the nation (at the moment).

The Colonials came into Athens determined to play nothing but zone defense on Tuesday night, and the mission was accomplished as they avoided manning Georgia for the entire 40 minutes.  The Dawgs looked well-prepared though, dishing out 23 assists and shooting nearly 55% from the floor.

UGA was led offensively by Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, who scored 20 and 17, respectively.  Georgia’s scoring was fairly balanced on Tuesday with four players chipping in 6 or more points.  The Dawgs’ passing was sublime as they patiently moved the ball in and out of the Colonial zone, attacking the weak spots with a purpose.

Georgia was in control for the majority of this contest, keeping Robert Morris at bay by double digits for much of the night.  However, the Colonials did try to make it interesting after Elijah Minnie buried a three that cut the UGA lead to 44-39 with 15:35 left in the game. The Dawgs responded with a 10-3 run, though, which was punctuated by a hook from Houston Kessler that gave Georgia a 54-42 advantage with 10 minutes remaining.  UGA managed to coast for the rest of the game to secure the 79-67 win, its 4th in a row.

Georgia entered tonight’s contest 7th in the nation in team field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 36% on the season.  Coach Fox’s team turned in another strong effort this evening, holding the Colonials to below 38% from the floor, which makes them yet another team that UGA has held under its season average in that category.

All and all, Georgia had a pretty solid preseason, taking a 7-3 record into conference play.  Coming into this season, UGA knew that it would be challenged to replace Marcus Thornton, who was a second team All-SEC player at the end of last year.

Yante Maten has filled in and then some in Thornton’s absence, netting nearly 16 points and 8 rebounds through 10 games.  Maten’s offensive game is becoming increasingly dynamic as he can now score with both his back to the basket and on jumpers outside the paint.

If Georgia can continue to get productivity from at least two of its three guards – Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines or J.J. Frazier – on a nightly basis, the Dawgs should be able to win more games than they lose this year in the Southeastern Conference.

But Georgia has a tough test in its SEC opener, taking on the Florida Gators in Gainesville this Saturday.  As stout as UGA’s non-conference schedule has been so far, the competition is definitely set to ramp up for this bunch of Dawgs come Saturday.