Georgia Hosts Auburn at 1:30PM this Saturday

In the Georgia Bulldogs (15-6; 4-4) loss at Kentucky last week, Trey Thompkins played just 11 first-half minutes.  In the Arkansas game on Wednesday, Trey logged merely 4 minutes of playing time in the game’s first half.

Thompkins has now missed significant playing time in consecutive games due to foul trouble, and as expected, the Dawgs offense has suffered, scoring only 60 points in each of the last two contests.  Georgia is leading the SEC in scoring in conference games at 74.4 ppg, but without Trey on the floor, that number becomes unattainable.

On Saturday, Georgia hosts the Auburn Tigers, the worst team in the league.  The Tigers have won just 1 of their first 8 conference games, and they only have 8 wins on the season (also the lowest in the SEC).  Other than a fluke 65-60 win over Florida State back on January 3rd, this season has been a total disaster for Auburn with losses to UNC-Asheville, Samford, Campbell, Rutgers, Presbyterian and LSU (to name a few) – not exactly the nation’s elite programs.

Offensively, the Tigers have been – “challenged”.  Through the first half of the SEC season, Auburn is averaging 59.4 ppg, which is second to last in the league.  The Tigers are either playing with a lid on the rim, or they are just plain bad at shooting.  As a team, Auburn is hitting a frigid 36.1% from the field and under 30% from beyond the arc (they are also dead-last in the SEC from the line – 62.5%).

According to Rivals.com, the Tigers are just living up to their preseason expectations.

Georgia will definitely be the better team on the court on Saturday, and they should be heavily favored.  However, last year it felt like the Dawgs had the more talented squad, yet they were blown out on The Plaines 82-63.  In that game, Trey Thompkins battled with foul trouble the entire night, finishing with just 6 points and 4 boards before finally fouling out.

The toughest opponent that the Dawgs will face this weekend is themselves.  Georgia can ill-afford to have Thompkins get into foul trouble once again, as it will level the playing field for the Tigers.

The Dawgs also need to resist the temptation of looking ahead to their big-time, out-of-conference clash with Xavier next Tuesday.  As exciting as that game should be, in the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s SEC game with Auburn is more important.

With all the faults that exist within the Auburn offense, they do have one area of the game that they do exceptionally well – rebound.  The Tigers hit the glass hard, hauling down 15.1 offensive boards a game, ranking them second in the conference in that category.

Georgia has been very strong on the defensive glass in conference games this season, bringing down nearly 28 per game (1st in the SEC).  However, nearly 7 of those defensive boards are coming from Trey Thompkins.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again – Trey cannot get into foul trouble in this game.

I’m not sure where Travis Leslie has been the last two games, but I bet that Coach Mark Fox would love to have him back.  In the first six conference games this year, Leslie was playing like a preseason All-SEC team member, averaging 17.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg.  In his last two contests, he is netting just 6.0 ppg and bringing down only 4.0 rpg.  The Dawgs are going to need him to snap out of his offensive slump as they head into the second half of the conference slate.

What more can be said?  It’s hard to get too excited about playing a team that sports a 1-7 SEC record, with a 1-4 road record to boot.

The Dawgs just need to take care of business and defend their home court, something that hasn’t been easy for them thus far in conference games.  Georgia is 2-2 in SEC games played at Stegeman Coliseum, and if they hope to extend their season into late March the Dawgs need to win the remaining five games in Athens (plus the one against Xavier, so technically six).

The Dawgs were able to sneak back into Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology this week, following their road win at Arkansas last Wednesday.  They are still listed with “Work Left to Do” in the latest “Bubble Watch“, but with an RPI of 35, I’d say Georgia is moving over to the favorable side of the bubble.

There are a couple other SEC East games of interest being played on Saturday – South Carolina at #24 Vanderbilt and #11 Kentucky at #23 Florida (ESPN’s “College Gameday” game).

If Georgia does what they’re supposed to do on Saturday and beats Auburn, there is a good chance they could move up to 3rd place in their half of the conference by Sunday.

Dawgs come up short at Rupp, lose 76-68

I watched ESPN’s Gameday Saturday morning, and no one predicted that Georgia Bulldogs would have the lead at the half against the Kentucky Wildcats…Nor did anyone think that the game would be tied at 59-59 with 7:35 remaining.

Kentucky did end up pulling away at the end of this one, and spoiled the Dawgs attempt of knocking off their second ranked opponent this week (largely because of the play by Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins)…but it was a battle till the end.

Travis Leslie made it very clear  two minutes into the game that Georgia did not travel to Lexington to back down.  Leslie caught an outlet pass, took it the length of the court and finished with a monster tomahawk dunk right on Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins (Big Cuz probably never thought he would be face-to-face with Leslie’s thigh).

Thompkins put in another herculean effort, scoring 17 points and nabbing 13 rebounds in the face of the Cats big frontcourt.  Ricky McPhee had 13 points and was not at all intimidated by superstar frosh John Wall (McPhee actually gave the “silence” signal to the Kentucky fans after dropping a three-pointer in the first half).

Georgia did not protect the ball well, committing an atrocious 26 turnovers.

It is also becoming evident that the Dawgs do not have much depth – Thompkins and Ware played 37 minutes each, Leslie 36 and McPhee 35.  Mark Fox is doing his best to give these guys short rests by taking them out before TV timeouts, but this could catch up to Georgia in the latter part of the season…UGA needs some of its bench players to step up and contribute.

When Thompkins and Leslie are not on the floor the offense tends to self-destruct.

But all and all, I was very proud of the effort that Mark Fox’s team gave on Saturday.  They challenged the Cats from the start and fought hard until the last second.

I think that the Dawgs are going to surprise some teams in SEC play this season.

Great Quote – “The members of the media voted us unanimously as the last-place team,” Fox said to the media after the game. “If you guys are right, then this league is really balanced because Kentucky’s very, very good.”

What did everyone else think about the game?

Tonight: Saint Louis @ UGA 7PM

Gameday is here…I did a little preview of the game yesterday.

Here are a few more quick notes about the Dawgs opponent:

  1. Saint Louis is coached by former Utah pancake-eater Rick Majerus.
  2. I mentioned yesterday that this team was lead by their sophomore PF Willie Reed…what I failed to mention is that they only have 1 Junior on the roster!!!  That’s right, the whole team is composed of Soph’s & Frosh – super young.
  3. Vegas has the Dawgs favored by only 3 points.  If you are not familiar with how odds & sports betting works, the guys that make the lines for sporting events are VERY GOOD at their jobs.  This spread of 3 points makes me feel very confident that it will be a nail-biter and will probably be decided in the final four minutes of the second half.  If you don’t have anything planned for tonight, there should be a thriller on CSS!

I’d like to offer a few “Keys to the Game” for the Dawgs…however, my goal is to avoid the cliché phrases that every analyst offers before a game.

“Uh, well, if UGA can control the ball, limit turnovers, defensive rebound and shoot a good percentage from the field they will win this game” – anonymous sports announcer

Really?  Is that all they have to do?  What an insightful “Key to the Game”!  Substitute any college team in the country where I have “UGA” and that team probably has a 95% chance of winning if it accomplishes those goals.  So, when I give “Keys to the Game”, I am going to try to offer a little more UGA-specific insight.

Without further ado, Hoop Dawg’s “Keys to the Game”:

  1. Dustin Ware has to score:  the Dawgs came into this season with the hopes that Ware would be one of their top scorers.  Yet, so far this year he is shooting a dismal 24.1% from the field & 17% from 3PT while averaging a mere 6.4 ppg.  Actually, 17 of his 29 FG attempts have been 3’s.  He needs to get a few close buckets early to build his confidence, then work his way out beyond the arc
  2. Trey must dominate: this is a ton of pressure on Thompkins, but you know what – if the Dawgs are going to have ANY success this year it all starts/ends with him.    He has to go into every game with the mindset that he WILL  be the best player on the court that night
  3. Price + Barnes = 20 boards: Jeremy Price & Chris Barnes need to get super-physical with Willie Reed in the paint.  The more boards they grab, the more frustrated he will become.  Reed loves getting offensive boards and easy putbacks (who doesn’t right?), and if Price & Barnes can limit this it will really frustrate him
  4. X factor: so far this year, Travis Leslie & Ricky McPhee have been sharing scoring responsibilities and providing some offensive support for Thompkins….and guess what?  It needs to happen again tonight!  At least one of them (hopefully both) needs to be able to drop in 12+ tonight and be reliable in the clutch.

That’s all folks…Go Dawgs!