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 comes up short again in Gainesville against the Gators

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Gators Handle Dawgs 87-71

In the post-game wrap-up after the game, Coach Mark Fox proclaimed “We have to play defense better if we want to win on the road.  We have to rebound better if we want to win on the road.”

That about sums up Wednesday night’s  loss in Gainesville at the O’Connell Center.

The Dawgs didn’t defensive rebound well, turned the ball over too many times and looked totally lost on defense when Florida reversed the ball.  The Gators scored an astounding 50 points off turnovers and second-chance points!

Georgia had 19 turnovers to Florida’s 10, and UGA was out-rebounded 27-23 (which is shocking since Georgia came into this game with a +4.5 rebounding margin).  The Gators were ferocious on the offensive glass, hauling in 13 offensive boards.

The Dawgs, however, only brought down 7 offensive rebounds – they came into the game averaging 12.5 on the season.

Georgia did shoot the ball very well, knocking down 59.6% from the field and 57.1% from beyond the arc (problem was they only took 47 shots due to excessive turnovers).

Trey Thompkins and Ricky McPhee combined for 63% of the Dawgs offense.  Thompkins was on fire, connecting on 10 of 12 shots including 2 for 2 on 3-pointers.  McPhee knocked down five 3’s and finished the night 8 of 11 from the field.  Travis Leslie was the only other Georgia player in double-figures, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-leading 8 rebounds…he also had two more alley-oop dunks and may show up on ESPN again tonight.

Florida’s dynamic guard duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker proved too much for Georgia to handle.  Walker burned the Dawgs for 21 points on four 3’s (which all were from FAR outside the line) and dished out 10 assists.  Boynton hit three 3’s himself and ended up with 21 points.

Forward Alex Tyus was unstoppable all night, hitting 10-14 on field goals and leading the Gators in scoring with 23 points.

Georgia is not 0-6 in true road games (not counting the Illinois game), and 0-3 in SEC away games.

The Dawgs have to shake this one off, though, and get ready for another difficult SEC road game this Saturday night as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, SC.

In case you missed it Tuesday night, the Gamecocks just knocked off the #1 Kentucky Wildcats.