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UGA comes up short again in Gainesville against the Gators

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J.J. Frazier had a chance to be a hero twice on Saturday, but he came up a little short each time.  The first opportunity came at the end of regulation when J.J. took a last second shot from the top of the key as timed expired, but the ball didn’t cooperate, bouncing off the back of the iron and sending the game into overtime.  At the end of OT, Frazier took an off-balanced shot from the corner that could have tied the game at 79 apiece, but that shot   was off the mark as well and UGA lost an 80-76 heartbreaker to the Florida Gators, making it 14 straight years since they last won in Gainesville.

In some ways it was kind of amazing that the Dawgs managed to get to OT considering that they had to play the last 3:51 without their leading scorer, Yante Maten.  Maten fouled out vying for position underneath with a Florida player, his team up 64-59.  But without Yante on the court, the Gators were able to extend their defense so that they could key in on Frazier around the perimeter, and they limited UGA to just 3 points during this final stretch.  Overtime felt like more of a formality than anything since it seemed improbable that the Dawgs could actually outplay Florida for 5 minutes without Maten’s inside presence.

But moral victories aside, this loss was also incredibly frustrating for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, Georgia missed out on a chance to notch a serious NCAA tournament resume win on the road against a team with an RPI of 3.  At halftime, ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz repeated almost to the point of ad nauseam how important it was that Georgia get this game.

Second, the Dawgs once again played loose with the basketball, turning it over 18 times, and it cost them: Florida converted those turnovers into 22 points.  While the Gators did enter this game 18th in the nation in turnovers forced, that didn’t mean that UGA had to oblige and hand the ball over to them.  The Dawgs are now averaging just under 16 turnovers a game in conference play, which is third to last in the SEC in that category.

Also, at the end of this game Georgia failed to limit the Gators to just one shot on offense.  Florida collected 5 offensive rebounds over the final five and a half minutes (including OT), and they turned those boards into 4 of their final 14 points.  Let’s not forget that Florida guard Kasey Hill tied the game from the line at 67-67 after John Egbunu kept Hill’s previous missed free throw alive.  Derek Ogbeide led UGA with 10 rebounds on the afternoon, but he only managed 1 defensive board during this critical stretch of the game.  Florida only had 6 second chance points in the entire game, but unfortunately for Georgia the Gators collected the majority of them with the game on the line.

Finally, Georgia made too many bonehead plays to walk out of this one with a win.  The Dawgs committed three fouls on Florida shooters attempting three-pointers, and Canyon Barry turned two of them into four-point plays.  I would wager a large sum of money that no other team in the country today surrenders more than one 4-point play in a game.  I guess I have to at least credit the Dawgs for attempting to contest his shot, though, since twice on inbounds plays Mark Fox’s team left the youngest Barry wide open at the top of the key, where he buried both attempts.  Barry scored a season-high 27 points on the Dawgs this afternoon, connecting on 5 of his 8 three-point shots.

This was a winnable game for Georgia.  Despite Florida’s #23 ranking in the polls and their high RPI, this Gator team did not look nearly as scary as the ones that Billy Donovan fielded in the past.  I was expecting 40 minutes of full-court pressure from this highly regarded Florida defense, yet for much of the game the Gators seemed content to play half court man to man, which played to UGA’s strengths.  In the first half, the Dawgs pounded the ball inside and led the entire twenty minutes, taking a 1 point advantage into the break.  Georgia made more than 48% of their field goal attemtps, well above the team’s season average of 44%.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the Dawgs are now 11-6 overall, and 3-2 in conference play. J.J. Frazier played well, scoring 25 points and dishing out 5 assists, but man would it have been epic if he could have sunk that shot at the end of regulation.  Juwan Park, who has been getting better and better since the start of the SEC season, netted 17 points to go along with his 7 boards.

Georgia has a few days to lick their wounds before playing host to a Vanderbilt team that just lost a close game at home to Kentucky.

 

 

 

Written by hoopdawg

January 14, 2017 at 3:55 pm

UGA searching for its first win in Gainesville under Coach Mark Fox

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The Stephen C. O’Connell Center has not been kind to UGA over the past 15 years.

Mark Fox has never won a game in Gainesville.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Matter of fact, Fox’s UGA teams have only been victorious 3 times in their 12 meetings with the Gators overall during that same time span.  The last time the Dawgs did manage to pull off a road win against Florida was during the 2001-2002 season, when now assistant coach Jonas Hayes was a player (UGA won 84-79 that day).

The fact that the Gators have been so dominant against Georgia shouldn’t be surprising, though.  Florida has had considerably better talent walk through its doors over the past 15 years.  I mean, the Gators did win back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007 during the Joakim Noah era.  Florida regularly goes to the NCAA Tournament, while UGA has been twice since Fox set foot in Athens.

But its not just the Gators that Coach Mark Fox’s teams have struggled against.  Generally speaking, Georgia hasn’t fared well against elite competition during Fox’s tenure.  Over the past seven seasons, the Dawgs have compiled a 2-30 record versus what ESPN deems the RPI Top 25.  Currently, Florida has an RPI of 3.

To say that Georgia has a lot of things going against itself historically as they rumble into Gainesville for a midday showdown with the Gators is an understatement.

Written by hoopdawg

January 13, 2017 at 6:58 am

Late surge helps UGA cruise past Ole Miss in Oxford

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12356596After trailing by double digits for much of the second half, Mississippi tried to mount a comeback down the final stretch of the game.  Following a jumper by Breein Tyree, the Rebels had cut the Georgia (11-5; 3-1) lead to 53-44 with 5:37 remaining.  The Ole Miss (10-6; 1-3) crowd, which hadn’t had much to cheer about for the previous thirty-something minutes, finally started to come to life. On the ensuing possession, however, J.J. Frazier delivered a crushing three-pointer, which sent the Dawgs’ advantage back up above 10 points.  Frazier’s bucket sparked the Georgia offense, which had connected on only 37% of its previous attempts, and the Dawgs closed out the game by making 5 of their last 9 shots en route to a 69-47 blowout of the home team.

Offensively, it just wasn’t Ole Miss’s night.  Of course, it didn’t help that the team’s leading scorer, Deandre Burnett, who averages 19 ppg, left the court with an ankle injury with about 4 minutes remaining before the break, after scoring just 3 points.  Unfortunately for Andy Kennedy’s team, Burnett wouldn’t return to the game.  The Rebels’ second-leading scorer, Terrance Davis, netted 9 of his 12 points quickly after the intermission, but he eventually had to sit for a large chunk of the second half due to foul trouble.

Usually, when a team’s best players aren’t on the court, that team is going to struggle to score the basketball.  Ole Miss came into the game shooting 44% from the field; on Wednesday night they hit under 28% from the floor.  The Rebels were making over 36% from beyond the arc, but this evening they failed to make more than 10% from the perimeter.  Even the free throw line flummoxed them: Ole Miss hit just 53% from the stripe, which was a far cry from its season average of 75%.

But it wasn’t all just bad shooting and a lack of personnel.  Coach Mark Fox’s team did an excellent job of mixing in their zones with man defense, and the UGA perimeter players for the most part effectively closed out on the Rebel shooters.

Georgia was led offensively by Frazier and Yante Maten, who scored 17 and 15, respectively. Frazier looked more comfortable from beyond the arc, where he knocked down 3 of his 7 attempts.  Maten notched another double-double as he snagged a team-high 11 boards, and the junior scored all but 2 of his points after halftime.

All and all, though, UGA didn’t look that great on offense.  Ole Miss ran an extended 1-3-1 zone that transitioned into a 2-3 for much of the night, and it served to limit the number of good looks at the basket for Georgia.  The Dawgs seemed unsure of how to attack the pressure, which should be a major concern going into the Florida game.  Georgia connected on only 40% from the floor and less than 28% from beyond the arc in Oxford, and I fear that a similar effort in Gainesville this Saturday could leave the Dawgs on the receiving end of a blowout.

Once again, UGA had trouble taking care of the ball.  After turning it over 20 times last weekend against Missouri, Georgia committed another 14 tonight in Mississippi.  Mark Fox’s team took a 30-18 advantage into the intermission, but had they not given the ball away 10 times in the first half, UGA could have been up by 20 points or more at that point.

The biggest positive takeaway on the night for the Dawgs offensively has to be their efficiency from the free throw line, where Georgia sunk 22 of its 25 attempts.

This victory is UGA’s second conference road win of the young SEC season, and it marks Georgia’s best RPI win to date as the Rebels came ranked 38th.

The Dawgs return to action this Saturday at high noon against the Florida Gators in Gainesville, a place where Mark Fox has yet to win.

 

 

 

Written by hoopdawg

January 11, 2017 at 9:59 pm

Dawgs bounce back at home with a 71-66 win over Mizzou

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Hopefully during the postgame handshakes Coach Fox made sure to thank the Missouri assistant that started all the fracas on the court as Georgia (10-5) and Mizzou (5-9) headed into the locker rooms at halftime.  The scuffle fired up a Stegeman crowd that had been lulled to sleep as UGA played an incredibly uninspiring first half. The Dawgs returned to the court reinvigorated following the intermission, and they certainly fed off of the energy coming from a loud and exhuberent Georgia student section.

Georgia, who trailed the Tigers 26-20 at the break, opened up the second half with some full-court pressure and a sense of urgency.  The result: UGA turned Mizzou over 5 times in the first 6 minutes, and had a 39-32 lead after Pape Diatta capped off a 19-6 run with a beautiful left-handed reverse layup.

The Dawgs backed out of the press, though, and Georgia’s defense got lackadaisical.  The Bulldogs allowed Terrance Phillips, who led all Tiger scorers with 20 points, to bury 3 of his 5 three’s after the break.  By the 7:20 mark, Mizzou had taken the lead back from UGA following a free throw by K.J. Walton, making the score 52-51 in favor of the Tigers.

J.J. Frazier, however, took over in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points and snatching a team-high 5 steals.  Two of Frazier’s steals came back to back and proved critical down the stretch as he converted one into a layup and another into a mid-range jumper.  J.J.’s thievery gave his team a 62-54 advantage with 5:23 left in the game, and following a dagger from beyond the arc by Pape Diatta the Dawgs had a commanding 65-54 lead with just a little over 4 minutes remaining.

As exciting as the second half turned out to be for both the UGA team and its fans, the first half showcased the worst twenty minutes that this team has played all year.  Georgia managed just 2 field goals in the game’s first 12 minutes against a Missouri team that entered this game with an RPI of 263 and a loss to Lipscomb under its belt.  The Dawgs shot 33% from the floor and just 17% from beyond the arc as they tried to shoot over the top of Missouri’s 2-3 zone defense.  Much like South Carolina, Mizzou defenders swarmed around Yante Maten whenever he touched the ball inside.  Maten didn’t handle the extra attention well as he committed 4 of his team’s 12 turnovers prior to the intermission (UGA had 20 turnovers on the afternoon).  Georgia’s other leading scorer, J.J. Frazier, had just 2 points on 2 field goal attempts as he played as timid of a half offensively as I can remember.

But enough of the negatives. Even though this Tiger team will probably reside in the SEC cellar this year, this was a game that Georgia had to have and they got it.  Frazier shot it 50% from the floor, making it just the 5th time this year that he has hit that mark in a game.  While he missed both his three-point attempts, J.J. knocked down several mid to long-range jumpers which might help to restore his confidence.

Juwan Parker, who has scored in double-digits in all three of the conference games this year, finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds.  More importantly, though, is that the junior seems to have found his shot as he is hitting over 52% from the field in SEC contests.

Pape Diatta provide a huge spark off the bench for Coach Fox, scoring 12 points to go along with 5 boards.  I’m not sure what exactly Diatta has to do to steal more of Kenny Paul Geno’s minutes, but hopefully today he made a strong enough case to his coach.

Yante Maten just missed another double-double as he netted 17 points and snagged 9 rebounds, though his turnovers were quite unfortunate.

The future does not look bright for the Dawgs next week as they have a pair of road matchups with Ole Miss and Florida.

Written by hoopdawg

January 7, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Georgia can’t overcome turnovers in loss to South Carolina

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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.

 

Written by hoopdawg

January 4, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Georgia uses late run to snatch SEC opener away from Auburn

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12336179SEC openers have not been Mark Fox’s specialty during his tenure in Athens as his teams have gone a combined 2-5.  Georgia (9-4) looked overwhelmed at the start of this game, and following a tip-in by Austin Wiley the Auburn Tigers (10-3) held a commanding 33-20 lead over the Dawgs just a little over halfway through the opening twenty minutes.  The sold out Auburn Arena was rocking as this hot Tiger team, coming off a huge road win at Connecticut, seemed poised to deliver a knockout punch to a shell-shocked group of Dawgs.

But UGA hung around.  J.J. Frazier got handsy, ratcheting up a game-high 5 steals.  Jordan Harris looked like a 4-star recruit, scoring 12 points on a combination of three-pointers and drives.  Yante Maten got hit with 2 quick fouls, but managed to only accumulate 1 more over the final 30-something minutes.  Even Juwan Parker, who’s jumper has been anything but consistent this season, buried a key shot from the corner that put the Dawgs up 90-80 with only 2:31 left.

Below are two major reasons why Georgia managed to pull off this 96-84 victory on The Plains:

Switch to zone 

The Dawgs tried to play Auburn in a man defense to begin the game and that strategy was rendered ineffective pretty quickly.  The Tigers pushed the tempo early, and UGA failed to close out well on the perimeter, which led to a barrage of Auburn three-pointers.  The Tigers hit 7 of their first 11 shots from beyond the arc and held a 36-26 advantage with a little over 8 minutes left in the first half after a triple from junior T.J. Lang.

Credit Mark Fox, however, for recognizing and reacting to Auburn’s pace by putting his team into a combination of matchup, 2-3 and 3-2 zones.  The Tigers missed their final 3 shots from the perimeter heading into the intermission, and they made just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.  After hitting over 56% from the floor in the first twenty minutes of play, Auburn made only 37% of its field goal attempts following the break. UGA’s zone looks reduced the number of open shots from the outside for Bruce Pearl’s team, and it helped Georgia slow down the tempo of the game, which turned out to work very much in Dawgs’ favor.

Two-man game

In the latter quarter of this game, Georgia abandoned its typical half court offensive sets, which can become slightly rigid at times, and instead put the ball in the hands of its two playmakers. On nearly every possession, the Dawgs offense consisted of a high screen by Yante Maten for J.J. Frazier, and then those two would take it from there.  Maten, who led all scorers with 31 points, netted 10 of those in the game’s final 8 minutes.  Frazier, who poured in 27 points as well, scored 8 during the same stretch and dished out 2 of his 5 assists.  The UGA offense looked much more NBA-like than collegiate in the game’s final minutes, and Georgia closed out this contest with a  22-10 run after trailing Auburn 76-74 with 7:27 remaining.  After connecting on just 42% of its field goal attempts in the first half, Georgia almost knocked down 60% of its shots from the floor following the intermission en route to a season-high output of 96 points.

Written by hoopdawg

December 30, 2016 at 7:36 am

Just how good is the high school basketball talent in Georgia?

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Dennis Felton’s demise at Georgia, which was briefly stalled by a miraculous tornado-driven SEC Tournament Championship in 2008, ultimately came to roost because of the coach’s inability to keep the top high school basketball talent in state.

Mark Fox was hired because he had recruited well and made a winner out of Nevada, and I suppose the thinking inside the UGA Athletic Department was that with Atlanta just a little over an hour away, Fox could start convincing some of these talented Peach state recruits to stay home and play in the Red and Black.

As a former high school basketball player in DeKalb County, one of Atlanta’s biggest school districts, I’ve always felt that this city was loaded with high-end basketball talent, as I played against a number of major Division-I commits.  For years, college basketball analysts have labeled Atlanta a “hotbed” for recruiting, but I wanted to take a more objective look for myself.  Here is what I was able to dig up:

  • According to Hero Sports, Georgia has produced the 7th highest number of Division-I basketball players this season with 225.
  • In 2015, Georgia and Wisconsin tied for 7th place among states (with 13 players apiece) in regards to the number of players on rosters of teams ranked in the  AP Preseason Top 25.
  • Georgia produced the 5th most (44) Division-I college basketball players relative to its college-age male populations, according to a 2014 Deadspin article.
  • Georgia currently has 12 players from the state ranked on the 2017 ESPN100 list of the nation’s best recruits, the most of any other state.  The next closest state to Georgia is California, which has a total of 8 players on the same list.  Considering the population differential between those two states, I’d say that the fact that Georgia boasts 4 more blue chips than Cali is quite significant.  Below are the number of ESPN100 recruits from the state of Georgia during the Mark Fox era:
    • 2017 = 12
    • 2016 = 9
    • 2015 = 6
    • 2014 = 4
    • 2013 = 2
    • 2012 = 9
    • 2011 = 6
    • 2010 = 5

Maybe the most telling statistic from all of this is that over the past 8 years the state of Georgia has put 53 players on the ESPN 100 lists, and UGA has landed 3 of them: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyree Crump and Rayshawn Hammonds.  Not including next year’s class with Hammonds, Fox will have signed one of these ESPN100 guys at a rate of just under 1 every 3 years during his time in Athens.

If a UGA basketball coach could ever manage to land one of these ESPN100 recruits every season, the Dawgs would probably be dancing nearly every March.

 

 

 

 

Written by hoopdawg

December 27, 2016 at 8:25 am

Posted in college basketball

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