Florida completes season sweep of Georgia in Athens with 72-60 win

12419220Mark Fox had to be experiencing déjà vu inside of Stegeman Coliseum this evening.  In the loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Georgia’s offense went over 8 minutes without a field goal; this evening, the Dawgs pulled a similar disappearing act, going more than 6 minutes without a bucket from the floor.  By the time Yante Maten finished an open dunk inside to end the drought, UGA (13-11, 4-7) trailed 63-52 with only 3:50 remaining, and the Dawgs would go on to lose 72-60.

But it wasn’t just poor shooting that did the Dawgs in on Tuesday evening.  Believe it or not, this contest was actually close at times.  With 16:00 left in the game, Florida held a slim 41-38 advantage.  Mark Fox’s team got careless, though, and turned the ball over on the next three possessions, which enabled the Gators to push the lead to 48-40 during a critical stretch of this game.

On the night, Georgia gave the ball away 16 times, and depending on how some other SEC games shake out this week, UGA could be leading the conference in giveaways by the weekend.  To make matters worse, Florida was opportunistic this evening, converting those Georgia TOs into 18 points.  Yante Maten carried the torch with 5 turnovers as he had trouble protecting the ball inside against multiple Florida defenders.  Jordan Harris gave the ball over 3 times himself, and he continues to get it stripped easily from his hands when he attempts to drive the ball at the defense.

Georgia struggled tonight offensively against a Florida team that is second in conference play in team defense, holding opponents to just 66 points a night.  The Gators are bigger and more athletic than UGA, and every time Yante Maten touched the ball inside the Florida zone collapsed on him.  Maten finished with 19 points and J.J. Frazier chipped in 18, but for the most part the Dawgs were stymied when they had the ball.  Georgia’s lack of shooters always becomes painfully apparent when they are playing strong defensive units that can overplay Maten and Frazier.  The Dawgs hit only 33% of their shots as a team, but everyone not named Maten or Frazier shot a collective 26% on the night.

Florida overwhelmed Georgia quickly at the start of this one as they jumped out to a 30-14 lead.  The Dawgs, though, responded with a 15-0 run of their own to cut the Gators’ advantage down to 30-29.  Florida went without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes of play during the latter portion of the first half, but Kasey Hill broke the spell by hitting a jumper with 1:45 left, which gave the Gators a 35-33 lead that they would take into the intermission.

Other than this stretch of play in the first half, UGA for much of the night had trouble handling Florida on defense.  The Gators’ backup point guard, Chris Chiozza, was a matchup nightmare for the Dawgs as he knifed into the middle of the lane whenever he wanted.  Chiozza led all Florida scorers with 15 points to go along with 4 steals, and he was one of four Gators to finish the game in double-figures.

These two teams played a tightly contested game and went to overtime a month ago in Gainesville, but it was pretty clear tonight that one team is trending upward and in the right direction, and the other team is Georgia.

Now the really bad news.  This loss marks the first time in Fox’s career that he has dropped 5 consecutive SEC games.  Furthermore, UGA has yet to earn a conference win against a team with a winning record in league play.  Georgia is 0-7 against what ESPN deems the RPI Top 50, and the Dawgs have now lost 22 straight games over the past five seasons to teams in ESPN’s RPI Top 25.

 

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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.

Florida wins in Athens, sweeping Georgia on the year

Kenny Gaines, who had knocked down three-pointers on consecutive possessions, couldn’t make it three in a row for the Dawgs, which would have tied the game at 56 apiece with less than 10 seconds remaining. Instead, Gaines’s attempt fell short, and so did Georgia’s comeback, giving Florida the 58-54 road win in Athens, along with a season sweep of Coach Mark Fox’s team.

At this point, any discussions of UGA (14-10) earning an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament are pure fantasy as Georgia is now a dismal 3-10 against the RPI Top 100.

Neither team shot the ball well tonight, but the difference was that Florida made a much higher percentage of its attempts in the second half.  Even though the Dawgs took a 25-19 advantage into the intermission, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy as Florida was just 1 of 17 from beyond the arc in the game’s first twenty minutes; surely, at some point, the Gators would find their range, which they did following the break, knocking down 50% of their shots from both the field and three-point land.

UGA, however, hit just 32% from the floor on the night, making exactly 10 of 31 attempts in each half.  The Dawgs’ offense hit a wall during the game’s final 7 minutes, just after UGA had taken a 44-41 lead following a nice finish by Yante Maten on the break.  Georgia would score only one field goal over the next 6 minutes, which is why Coach Fox’s team found themselves in the predicament that they were in, trailing Florida 52-47 with less than a minute left.

The Gators, who pressured UGA relentlessly when the two teams met in Gainesville earlier this year, seemed content to play a half court game, which obviously worked in Georgia’s favor.  Without having to face the ragged Gator press, the Dawgs managed to turn the ball over just 10 times on the night.

Florida was led offensively by KeVaughn Allen, who scored a game-high 19 points, including 4 three-pointers – 3 of which came in the second half.

Kenny Gaines, Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier scored 12, 11 and 10 points for UGA, respectively; though, none of them had much success in the shooting department.  Gaines was 4 for 11, Frazier 4 for 10, and Maten hit only 4 of his 17 attempts.

The Dawgs are 1-7 this season against the RPI Top 50 for a reason: they don’t have enough players to to compete with high-level teams for 40 minutes.  Georgia has two outside shooting threats and one legitimate post player, which is just not enough to be successful against strong competition.  If one of those guys gets in foul trouble or is having an off night, UGA is essentially playing 4 on 5 when it has the ball.

Anyone know what the NIT bubble is looking like these days?

 

 

 

Dawgs begin conference play with a loss

After winning four games in a row to close out December, including victories over Clemson and Georgia Tech, Georgia (7-4, 0-1) appeared to have finally met its match on Saturday in Gainesville against the Florida Gators.

Actually, UGA looked overmatched.

Florida’s defense overwhelmed the Dawgs.  Georgia had difficulty getting into its offense on a number of possessions, struggling to handle the Gators’ pressure.

The result: UGA hit less than 36% of its shots from the floor, including going just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc.  This offensive ineptness ultimately led to a 77-63 Florida win in both of these team’s first SEC game of the season.

Also, Florida hit 9 three-pointers, and the Gators had five players finish in double-figures, with KeVaughn Allen leading the way with 18 points.   Florida took a lot more uncontested shots than Georgia, which aided them in shooting a higher percentage on Saturday.

This contest seemed as though it was going to get out of hand early after Devin Robinson hit a three that gave his Gators a 24-11 advantage with a little over 9 minutes left in the half.  The Dawgs recovered, though, trimming the Florida lead to 38-31 going into the intermission.

Coming out of the break, Yante Maten scored 6 of his team’s first 8 points,  including a jumper with 16:58 left in the game that cut the Gator advantage to just 43-39.  It didn’t remain close for long, however, as Florida went on an 11-5 run that saw the score balloon to 54-44 with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.

The Dawgs were unable to close that gap over the final 10 minutes – actually, it increased – and Georgia suffered a double-digit loss at the hands of its rival.

Maten finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds, and it seems likely that he will end up on an All-SEC team by year’s end.

Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier were the only other Bulldogs to end up in double-figures, scoring 13 and 12, respectively.

Charles Mann ended up with 9 points, but he shot only 1 of 7 from the field and he failed to dish out a single assist. Additionally, Mann committed a team high 3 turnovers, and he now has 3 more turnovers than assists on the season, which is troubling considering he is a senior guard.

The Dawgs will be more successful this season if Mark Fox can convince Mann that his job on this team is to be a role player.  Mann is shooting under 31% on the season, and he continues to force things offensively – and not in a good way.

UGA’s best offensive options are Maten, Gaines and Frazier, so Mann and the rest of the Bulldogs should feel obliged to get these three players as many decent looks at the basket as possible, night in, night out.

At the end of the day, though, conference road wins are tough to come by in college basketball, so UGA fans should steer clear of the panic button.  Georgia hosts Missouri in Athens on Wednesday, and then the Dawgs have a winnable road game next Saturday in Oxford.

By this time next week, Georgia could have a winning SEC record.

Dawgs beat Gators for second SEC win

After relinquishing big leads against both Arkansas and LSU (and nearly blowing a double-digit lead in its win over Vandy on Wednesday), Coach Mark Fox preached the importance of “closing” to his team heading into today’s matchup with conference rival Florida.

With 5:46 left in the game, UGA held a 61-51 advantage, but Florida still seemed too close given the inconsistency that Georgia had shown towards the end of its first three SEC games.

This afternoon, though, the Dawgs kept their composure and actually extended the advantage to close out the win, knocking off the Gators 73-61 in Athens.  This loss was the first for Florida in 24 SEC games, and it was definitely overdue for Georgia, who had dropped 18 of the previous 21 to the Gators.

Georgia started the game on fire, hitting its first 7 shots, allowing UGA to open up a 15-0 advantage.

Florida’s full-court pressure eventually began to wear down the Dawgs in the first half.  After not turning the ball over for the first 11 minutes of the game, UGA committed 8 turnovers in the final 9 minutes going into intermission, enabling the Gators to close Georgia’s advantage to just 36-31.  The Gators’ defense not only created turnovers, it also really limited the amount of time Mark Fox’s team had each possession to run its half-court sets, frustrating UGA offensively.

The Dawgs outscored the Gators 10-6 after the break, giving them a 46-37 lead with 15:16 left.  From this point on, though, Georgia never looked back, building a double-digit lead that they managed to keep for the next fifteen minutes.

UGA had four players finish in double-figures, with Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton leading the way with 16 apiece. Kenny Gaines, who came out briefly midway through the second half with an undisclosed injury, once again played fantastic for Coach Fox, connecting on 4 of his 5 three-point attempts.  Gaines has been lights out from beyond the arc since SEC play started, hitting 12 of his 21 attempts.

Surprisingly, Georgia – a team that couldn’t buy a three-point basket early in the season – entered today’s game with the best three-point shooting percentage in conference play at 43%.  In today’s game against the Gators, the Dawgs made 53% of their shots from the perimeter, proving that they are a dangerous team from the outside.

Georgia’s biggest flaw this afternoon was its ball security – UGA committed 16 turnovers.  Luckily, Coach Fox’s defense was able to turn the Gators over 19 times, a season-high for Billy Donovan’s team.

This win was huge for the Bulldogs, who even up their SEC record after starting the season 0-2 in conference games.  Georgia will look to go above .500 in the SEC when they take on Ole Miss in Athens on Tuesday.

Gators hand Dawgs first SEC loss of the season

For the Georgia Bulldogs to have a chance of beating the #7 Florida Gators in Gainesville for the first time in 11 years, Coach Mark Fox needed his guys to play a flawless game on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, UGA’s performance was quite flawed.

Florida’s defensive pressure overwhelmed Georgia from the opening tip, forcing the Dawgs into 12 first-half turnovers. In addition to the carelessness, UGA couldn’t buy a basket, making just 31% of their field goals before the intermission.

The Dawgs’ leading scorers heading into this contest – Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines – were each held without a field goal in the game’s first 20 minutes – a recipe for disaster for this team. Mann and Gaines combined for only 1 point and 7 turnovers prior to the break.

Florida, conversely, was red hot, canning 50% of their shots, which allowed them to open up a 36-16 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

The Gators were in cruise control for pretty much the remainder of the game, albeit a mini-run by UGA that cut the Florida lead to 45-31 after a Marcus Thornton layup with 11:38 left in the game. UF answered quickly though, going on a 13-1 run that ran the score up to 58-32 with 5:44 remaining; Florida ended up winning 72-50, remaining unbeaten in conference games.

Georgia actually held a 6-4 lead after a Brandon Morris layup with 15:34 left in the half, but the Gators responded immediately with a 13-0 run over the next five minutes that gave them a 17-6 lead – Florida never really looked back.

The Gators were led offensively by Michael Frazier’s 21 points, which came from primarily beyond the arc, where he knocked down 5 three-pointers.

Georgia got 13 points from Juwan Parker off the bench, and Marcus Thornton chipped in another 11 points. For the most part, UGA’s offense wasn’t much to write home about, with Mann and Gaines scoring a combined 12 points on 4 of 15 shooting from the floor.

After a hot start, Georgia received some grounding on Tuesday from the Gators, who may be the best team in the SEC.

The Dawgs must rebound quickly from this loss and get ready to defend home turf against the Arkansas Razorbacks this coming Saturday.

Charles Mann SEC Award and #7 Florida looming

First off, congratulations to sophomore Charles Mann for being named the SEC Player of the Week for his performances in Georgia’s wins over Missouri and Alabama. Mann averaged 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the victories, and his 18 free throw attempts against the Tide were the 4th most in UGA history for a single game.

As the Dawgs prepare to take on the #7 Florida Gators on Tuesday night, I would like to point out a couple interesting tidbits surrounding the game:

1. Florida will be playing without leading scorer Casey Prather for the second straight game. Prather, who is averaging 17 points per game this season, is still dealing with pain and swelling in his bruised right knee.

2. The Gators have won 24 games in a row in Gainesville at the O’Connell Center, tying a school record. Remember that just last Wednesday Georgia went on the road and ended Missouri’s 26-game home winning streak.

3. Speaking of the O’Connell Center, UGA has dropped the last 11 meetings inside that facility. The last time Georgia managed to upend Florida in Gainesville was on January 19, 2002 when Jarivs Hayes poured in 23 points en route to the 84-79 Dawgs’ victory.

How does everyone see this game playing out?