Dawg put together complete game, advance to play Florida

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In a truly bizarre day of basketball in which the NCAA announced it would be playing its tournament without fans, the Georgia Bulldogs (16-16) opened up the SEC tournament against the Ole Miss Rebels in the only day of action for this competition in which spectators would be allowed to be present.

After a depressing week of UGA hoops which resulted in losses to both Florida and LSU (in quite embarassing fashion), the Dawgs stepped on the court in Nashville and played their most complete game in a while against a Rebel Black Bear team that beat them earlier this season in Athens.

From the opening tip, Georgia appeared more energized, and the Dawgs were certainly the aggressors as they won the majority of 50-50 balls in this one. From the start, UGA’s offense was a thing of constant motion. The Rebels tried to slow the Dawgs down by playing some combinations of 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones, yet Georgia just continued to methodically move the ball to the soft spots in the defense. Tom Crean’s team finished the game with 19 assists, which is incredible considering how much this team as struggled to remain productive against zone defenses all season.

Senior Jordan Harris definitely wins the “Most Active” award, though. Harris moved without the ball the entire game and it resulted in his best performance of the year: 21 points and 7 rebounds. He scored off of cuts from the top of the key and the baseline, and Harris kept positioning himself as a perfect target on the perimeter, where he canned 3 of 4 triples.

The other offensive stud of the night was Rayshaun Hammonds, who bullied the Rebels with 22 points and 11 boards. Coach Kermit Davis had no answer for Hammonds, who scored from just about everywhere on the court as well: on the block, short corner, around the free throw line and from beyond the arc.

As a team, the Dawgs made over 54% of their shots from the floor, which was significantly higher than their season average of 43%. But again, UGA’s unselfishness with the ball and the players’ ability to create offense without the ball in their hands led to 42 points in the paint to Ole Miss’s 38.

All of the positives on offense this evening are even more significant considering that UGA’s leading scorer, Anthony Edwards, had an off night as he mustered only 6 points on a 2 for 13 effort from the floor.

The other big story of the night was the Georgia defense, which has definitely been a limiting factor for this team all season. Tonight’s UGA squad looked nothing like the bunch that traveled to Baton Rouge last weekend. Players were rotating and helping on penetration. Shots were being contested from all angles. Breein Tyree ended up with 18 points, but that’s still more than 4 below his SEC average, and he did it at the expense of a 6 for 16 shooting effort. Georgia forced Ole Miss into 15 turnovers on the night to UGA’s 12, which is impressive considering the Rebels were the 4th best team in the conference this season in turnover margin (+.5).

The one scary part of this game came at the 5:59 mark when Khadim Sy converted a dunk to make it an 8-point game and every UGA fan started to think “here we go again” in the back of their head (since Georgia has had a knack for blowing double-digit leads this season). Sahvir Wheeler had other plans, though, as the freshman went into attack mode and scored 8 of this 15 points down the stretch to help the Dawgs hang on to the 81-63 victory and play into the second round.

Tomorrow, Georgia gets its third shot at Florida, a team that has beaten them twice this season with rather suffocating defense. However, it is difficult to beat a team three times in a year. Also, the last time UGA knocked off Ole Miss in its first game of the SEC Tournament and the remainder of the games were played without fans (like this one will be from here on out) was 2008, and well, you know what happened.

Georgia basketball’s Achilles’ heel

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The regular season came to a grinding halt yesterday in Baton Rouge, and Georgia Bulldog (15-16, 5-13) basketball fans most likely breathed a collective sigh. After being treated to a little mini-run of success a few weeks ago in which the Dawgs won 3 of 4 games, including a dramatic buzzer-beater against Vanderbilt in Nashville, UGA spent the past game and a half getting pulverized by LSU and Florida.

Yesterday’s drubbing at the hands of LSU was just a microcosm of an epidemic that has plagued this Georgia team all season: its defense (or lack thereof). The Dawgs ended the year with the second-worst scoring defense in SEC play as they allowed over 78 points a contest. In 13 of 18 conference games this year, Georgia allowed the opposing team score above their season SEC average in points. All season, this UGA team has been slow to react and provide help on penetration, and yesterday was no different as the Tigers scored 42 points in the paint and shot over 58% from the floor.

Probably the most concerning piece of the puzzle regarding the UGA defense is the lack of improvement that this team has shown. Over the past 3 games, the Dawgs are ranked 344th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The fact that this team is young is no excuse; they should have gotten better in this regard as the season progressed, yet they didn’t. In fact, one could go so far as to say that UGA regressed on the defensive side of the ball.

Tom Crean had his guys in a matchup zone for most of the game in Baton Rouge. However, it still appears that too many of Georgia’s players don’t understand the concepts of this particular defense. Sure, UGA’s perimeter guys switch off screens and movement on the wing. But once an opposing dribble-driver gets into the lane, there’s still little indication that any of Georgia’s 4 other defenders knows how to react. The Tigers had little issue shattering their season average of 80 ppg as they almost pushed the scoreboard to triple digits against a UGA team that provided little resistance. LSU hasn’t been a particularly strong three-point shooting team this year (32.5%), yet against Crean’s zones the Bayou Bengal Tigers canned over 52% of their attempts from beyond the arc.

With the losses of Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide from last year’s team, coupled with the sudden departure of Amanze Ngumezi, some drop off had to be expected. Obviously, this year’s squad was not built to deal with a lot of size from opposing frontcourts. However, this is a highly-athletic team, especially Anthony Edwards, Jordan Harris and Toumani Camara. Despite the glaring size disadvantages, Georgia should have been able to contain teams better on the defensive side of the ball.

Georgia opens up the SEC Tournament next week on Wednesday in a rematch with Ole Miss, a team that beat the Dawgs 70-60 in January back in Athens. Depending on which UGA team shows up, this experience in Nashville could go one of two ways: it ends painlessly on Wednesday, or Georgia plays into the start of the weekend. If the Dawgs do manage to get by the Rebel Black Bears, I think they have a realistic shot of beating Florida in the next round. I mean, surely UGA can find a way to hold onto a double-digit lead against a team that has beaten them twice this year, right?

Best case scenario: the SEC does not permit fans to attend due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, and Georgia steals the championship similarly to the 2008 tornado team.

Is this UGA basketball team…dangerous?

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Just two weeks ago, Georgia (15-14, 5-11) was just 2-10 in conference and the Dawgs had lost 8 of their past 9 games. Things felt bleak, to say the least.

After holding serve at home today against the Arkansas Razorbacks, UGA finds itself in the midst of its best stretch of basketball this season as the Dawgs have now won 3 of their last 4 contests. Similarly to the South Carolina game earlier in the week, Georgia was up against a team fighting to stay on the NCAA bubble. It’s safe to say that Tom Crean’s team just smacked the Hogs out of Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out”, and they nearly eclipsed 100 points in doing so.

Two pivotal moments of the game

With 6:41 remaining in the first half, Georgia enjoyed a 38-20 lead as the Dawgs were making everything they threw at the rim. UGA’s first half shooting numbers were absurd: Georgia hit over 55% from the floor and made more than 45% of their attempts from beyond the arc.

However, Georgia had already blown 4 double-digit leads in SEC games this season already, so no one watching this one ever felt safe, and for good reason. The Hogs closed out the half on a 19-9 run, and Eric Musselman’s team went into the half feeling relieved that they only trailed by 8 points.

Mason Jones, who sleepwalked through the first half, woke up quickly coming out of the break as he scored 5 points to bring Arky within 3 with 19:12 left in the game.

Georgia responded with coast-to-coast layups from Sahvir Wheeler and dunks from Toumani Camara and Jordan Harris. Instead of sulking about the change in momentum, UGA took it back through a series of high-energy plays that saw them bolster the lead to 58-50 with 14:17 remaining.

Pivotal moment number two came with 2:45 left in the game and Georgia leading by a point. Tyree Crump, who has made almost nothing but three-pointers during his time in Athens, took his defender off the dribble from the top of the key and finished at the rim on a layup. On the ensuing UGA possession, Crump again got by his man and found a wide open Rayshaun Hammonds for the easy stickback. On Georgia’s next trip down the court, Crump buried a triple from 5 feet outside the new extended three-point line to make it 90-84 with only 1:35 left. That shot was essentially the dagger that sunk Arkansas, and Crump has now put his stamp on two of UGA’s recent victories.

No defense from either side

Georgia and Arkansas entered Saturday’s game averaging in the low 70’s in scoring in SEC games, yet both teams were able to shatter those expected outcomes. Little defense was played inside Stegeman, but fortunately for UGA its offense was just a bit more effective down the stretch.

Georgia’s defensive lapses continue to remain perplexing. On multiple possessions, Sahvir Wheeler let Mason Jones blow by him to the rim. Given his height disparity, one would think that Wheeler could at least have provided some resistance around the perimeter on the Arkansas star. There were also several trips late in the second half in which the Hogs got uncontested baskets by simply outrunning the UGA defenders down the court.

Arkansas’s defense obviously wasn’t any better as they let Georgia pulverize them inside for 50 points (UGA allowed just 30 inside to Arky). Maybe both teams made a gentleman’s agreement prior to tipoff to take it easy on that end of the court?

I wonder if this team has the capability or willpower to play two games of defense in a row?

Anthony Edwards has hit his stride

The Ant Man is netting 31 a night in his past two games, and he’s making over 50% of his shots from the floor. Edwards is enjoying his best moments of SEC basketball lately, and it’s clear that he is in rhythm.

When the season started, it was evident that the Ant Man had all the physical attributes and skills that NBA teams covet. However, those gifts were not always translating to success on the court, especially when league play got going.

That’s not the case anymore. Edwards looks incredibly comfortable with the ball, and he’s creating great looks for himself off the dribble. All of his recent dominance is even more impressive considering that both South Carolina and Arkansas basically had a man playing flat out deny on him for nearly the entire game.

One more shout out…

Shout out to Ray Hammonds, Jordan Harris, Wheeler and Camara. As mentioned above, Arkansas tried to take Edwards away (though it didn’t totally work as the freshman scored 26 points) by face-guarding him in their man set so as to force the other Georgia players to beat them. That strategy didn’t work out so well for the Hogs as Hammonds dropped 22 points and the other three guys all finished in double-digits.

Up next:

Florida at home on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

NIT

Box score:

Georgia plays better in OT loss to South Carolina

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When these two teams locked up in Athens over two weeks ago, the Dawgs were trailing 27-5 with a little over 6 minutes left in the first half. In that game, UGA didn’t even look like they deserved to be on the same floor as South Carolina.

On Wednesday night in Columbia, the Dawgs almost pulled off their 3rd straight win in as many games despite playing the final 3 minutes of overtime without 3 starters: Rayshaun Hammonds, Toumani Camara and Jordan Harris. Georgia had a chance to tie the game with 4 seconds left, but the referees chose to award Maik Kotsar a charge instead of a block on Sahvir Wheeler’s final drive.

Here are some quick thoughts on tonight’s game:

Ant Man put on a show

Tonight’s game was really the first time that Edwards absolutely took over in an SEC game. No matter who Frank Martin put on the freshman, he found a way around. Carolina didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Edwards, and he ended up with 36 points to go along with 7 boards.

Edwards’s numbers were even more impressive considering how much attention he was garnering. USC played primarily man defense the entire night, and whoever was on the Ant Man typically denied him the ball as soon as he crossed half court. Edwards ended up bringing the ball up himself in the point guard role on a number of possessions just so he could be assured of a touch. When the freshman drove, Carolina readily had one to two defenders shading over to double- and triple-team him.

This was definitely a performance in which it was obvious which player on the court was destined for the NBA in the immediate future.

UGA’s defense was virtually nonexistent

Thank goodness Tom Crean’s team found a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball because the Dawgs provided little resistance on the defensive end. I thought after the subpar effort at Vandy last weekend, Georgia would return to a form that more resembled how they played against Auburn a week ago. That just wasn’t the case.

Whether the Dawgs were in man or zone, they did not communicate effectively enough to keep the Gamecocks from scoring around the rim. Rotations were either too slow to react or just didn’t happen. At halftime, Carolina had already dunked the ball 4 times to go along with 10 layups. By the time the final horn sounded, USC had punished Georgia for 54 points in the paint as they shot 66% on two-pointers. Alonzo Frink, who entered this contest netting a meager 4.3 a night, looked like Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday as he torched UGA for a career-high 22 points.

As I mentioned, Hammonds fouled out and so did Camara. Georgia’s defense continues to be the Achilles Heel of this squad, and that’s primarily because this team does not have a true big man.

Final thoughts

There isn’t a ton of solace in moral victories, but when your team is 4-11 in conference play, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Jordan Harris logged just 10 minutes last night before eventually fouling out. Sahvir Wheeler played only 6 minutes after the break and Hammonds played 9; both guys were in foul trouble for the final 20 minutes of regulation. Yet UGA still had a chance to win in OT.

Georgia trailed 59-52 with over 12 minutes remaining after a 9-2 Gamecock run in the second half. But just like in the game against Vandy, the Dawgs didn’t wilt; instead, they responded with a 13-4 run of their own that saw UGA recapture the lead 65-63 following a pair of free throws from Edwards. Georgia recently started a trend of getting themselves back into games and overcoming deficits, on the road nonetheless.

It’s going to be difficult for UGA to climb out of that Wednesday slot of the SEC tournament considering they trail Arkansas by 2 games with just 3 games remaining. However, the way this team has been playing away from home gives some hope to the possibility that they could win several games on a neutral court in Nashville, Tennessee.

Up next:

Arkansas

Postseason projection:

At 14-14, Georgia is on the outer parts of the NIT bubble and going to need a strong finish to work their way into the bracket.

Box score:

Role players carry UGA in win over Vandy

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Three consecutive missed free throws by Vanderbilt and a heroic 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer by Tyree Crump enabled UGA to put together its first SEC win streak of the season (2). For Georgia (14-13, 4-10) fans, the ending to this one was the icing on the cake of what was a fairly entertaining watch, considering this contest featured two teams that entered this matchup with 4 conference wins between them.

Here are some thoughts on what transpired in Nashville last evening:

Georgia’s role players stepped up big

Sahvir Wheeler picked up his 4th foul with over 17 minutes of game time remaining. For the next 14 minutes, Tom Crean was forced to keep his floor general on the bench. With Wheeler out of the game, Vanderbilt turned its entire attention onto Anthony Edwards. Anytime Edwards would penetrate inside the arc, one or two Commodore defenders would shade over to essentially double- or triple-team him.

Edwards made a layup at the 11:56 mark to give UGA its first lead (52-51) since the early stages of the game, but the freshman phenom would go scoreless for the remainder of the contest before fouling out with 6 seconds remaining.

So how did Georgia, a team that has blown 4 double-digit leads in losses this season, overcome a 9-point deficit with less than 7 minutes remaining? As miraculous as Crump’s triple was maybe even more miraculous was the fact that the Dawgs were even in that position to begin with.

The key to UGA’s comeback lied in the fortitude of its role players:

  • Tye Fagan scored stickbacks on offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions and then made a jumper in the middle of the lane to make it 65-58, Vandy, with 7 minutes left. Even though the Dawgs were still trailing by 7 at this point, without Fagan’s efforts Georgia could have fallen behind to a point that was insurmountable, given the amount of time left.
  • Before Crump hit the game winner, he made a triple and another bucket (that seemed like a three that was never reviewed) that helped UGA clip further into the Vanderbilt lead. Crump’s three-pointer with under 6 remaining brought the Dawgs within 4 points.
  • When the game finally started to feel as though it was slipping away with Vandy up 7 with only 4:28 left, Jordan Harris banged down a pair of triples to make it a one-possession game with 2:30 on the clock.
  • Sahvir Wheeler, who I mentioned sat for most of the second half, reentered the game at the 3:10 mark and scored 6 points in the final two minutes, including two monster free throws to bring the Dawgs within a point with 6 seconds left. Wheeler’s ability to come off the bench after sitting for so long and instantly facilitate offense for his team highlighted just how important the freshman is to this team. Over the past 8 games, Wheeler is netting over 12 ppg, a remarkable progression on offense for a first year player going through his first SEC slate.

The Dawgs limited turnovers after the break

During the first half, Georgia’s offense resembled a game of “Hot Potato” at times as UGA played loose with the basketball. The Dawgs committed 10 of their 13 turnovers prior to the intermission, and Vandy turned all those mishaps into 20 points on the night.

The centerpiece of the Vanderbilt’s defensive scheme involved a little junk trap on the ball handler outside the arc. For whatever reason, this action had the Georgia perimeter players flustered for the initial 20 minutes of play.

At halftime however, Tom Crean must have reminded his crew that the Commodores were the second-worst scoring defense in the league (74.3) and there was no reason to fear any of Jerry Stackhouse’s defensive sets. The Dawgs finally just started dribbling around the traps, which led to a lot of open looks as the Dores defenders scrambled to cover open UGA players. Georgia only committing 3 turnovers in the second half was a catalyst to this team’s comeback.

What the heck happened to Georgia’s defense?

If I hadn’t watched UGA hold Auburn to just 55 points on Wednesday, I wouldn’t have believed it after seeing this team’s defensive effort in Nashville on Saturday.

Tom Crean tried to put his team in a man defense in the first half, but no one could stay in front of Saben Lee or Scotty Pippen, Jr., who Georgia made look a lot more like Sr. yesterday. Lee went off for 22 of his game-high 34 points before the break, and it was almost comical how easy it was for him to blow by UGA’s perimeter players en route to the rim.

Crean moved his team into a 2-3 zone in an attempt to provide more help on Vandy’s backcourt, but the Dawgs failed to communicate and that led to more backdoor cuts and uncontested layups and dunks for the Dores.

As much fun as the Dawgs are going to have rewatching Crump’s buzzer beater, they are going to cringe when they examine the possessions when they were allegedly on defense. Georgia permitted Vanderbilt to connect on over 57% from the floor and better than 46% from beyond the arc. In SEC play this season, the Dores have been one of the worst shooting teams in league games at under 43% from the field, and they’ve been making barely over 33% from the perimeter. The Dawgs should feel a renewed sense of confidence after winning both games this week, but they should also be a bit disgusted by their lackadaisical effort on the defensive side of the ball yesterday.

Up Next:

Georgia has a rematch with South Carolina in Columbia on Wednesday night. Considering how overpowering the Gamecocks looked compared to UGA in Athens during the first matchup of these two teams, this contest will be a great opportunity for Tom Crean’s team to measure up and see how much they’ve grown (or haven’t) over the past few weeks.

Postseason projection:

NIT bubble

Box Score:

UGA defends the entire game and gets the result it wants

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The Georgia Bulldogs (13-13, 3-10) snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night against the #13 Auburn Tigers in a game that Las Vegas had made UGA a 4.5-point underdog. It should definitely be noted that Bruce Pearl’s team was playing its second consecutive game without NBA prospect Isaac Okoro, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.1 ppg. Nonetheless, this young Bulldog team found a way to win despite holding a double-digit lead for a brief 35 seconds early in the second half.

A couple thoughts on the game:

Here we go again…

The big “here we go again moment” came around the 6-minute mark of the second half after Anthony Edwards had knocked down a free throw to make it 52-43, Georgia. Over the next four possessions, Sahvir Wheeler, Mike Peake, Jordan Harris and Edwards all took three-point attempts that failed to convert. For the record, Harris shoots 28% from the perimeter and Peake shoots just 12%, so why those two were launching from beyond the arc during the game’s final stretch is beyond me.

Thankfully, the Ant Man converted on a floater that made it 54-47 with 4 minutes left, but Samir Doughty buried a triple on the ensuing possession and Auburn found themselves trailing by only 4 points. For anyone who has watched even a sliver of this UGA basketball season, this felt like the time when the wheels were supposed to start coming off for Georgia. Edwards sunk a huge three-pointer two possessions later, though, that turned out to be a dagger as it put the Dawgs up by 8 with 2:15 remaining. The cacophony of sounds circulating inside Stegeman following this bucket was a blend of cheers as well as collective sighs of relief from the Bulldog nation.

40-minute defensive effort from Georgia

Tom Crean finally convinced his team to play defense for an entire game, and it resulted in Auburn scoring its second-lowest output (55) of the season. This Tiger team entered this contest with the 3rd highest-scoring offense in SEC play at over 77 a night, further highlighting how impressive UGA was on that side of the ball this evening.

When Georgia struggled to stay in front of J’Von McCormick, who ended up with 22 points, Crean switched his team into a matchup zone in order to give his perimeter players more help up top in dealing with the senior guard. The Dawgs frustrated Bruce Pearl’s team into a 31% effort from the field and just 15% from beyond the arc; both of these results were well below the Tigers’ season shooting averages in league games. Georgia’s defense was so stifling that Pearl sweated completely through his suit, making him the second coach in less than a week that UGA has caused to perspire profusely.

Even though Auburn kept trying to pound the ball inside to Austin Wiley so as to take advantage of Georgia’s undersized frontcourt, the Dawgs were only outscored in the paint by a tally of 28-26; the last time these two teams met the Tigers brutalized UGA on the interior for 44 points. Protecting the rim has been a real challenge for this Bulldog squad this season, so it was refreshing to see them finally put together a complete effort in that facet of the game on Wednesday.

Georgia did yield 16 offensive boards to the Tigers and those did lead to 18 second chance points, but considering this Auburn team is the top offensive rebounding squad in SEC games (14.3), this is forgivable.

Crean’s frosh step up

While Edwards did knock down two important shots during the final stretch of this game, he also committed a game-high 7 turnovers, and those could have been more costly for Georgia had some of his fellow freshman not stepped up.

Sahvir Wheeler finished with 13 points and 4 assists as he looked in complete control of the UGA offense for much of the game. There was a moment in the first half when a Georgia big brought an on-ball screen to Wheeler on the perimeter. After Wheeler took his defender into the screen off the dribble, he found himself isolated with Auburn’s center (Wiley) defending him. Sahvir attacked the Tiger big man and had him backpedaling so quickly that Wheeler pulled up for a wide open jumper just inside the free throw line, which he made. It was such a mature decision by the freshman to take the wide open shot versus forcing something contested around the rim.

The other newcomer that was seemingly everywhere on the court on Wednesday night was Toumani Camara, who scored 12 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals (he also took at least two charges).

Up next:

Georgia heads to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt with a shot at putting together its first SEC win streak of the year.

Postseason projection:

NIT (outer fringes of the bubble)

Box score:

Sloppy UGA loses 74-69 to TAMU

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Mark Fox’s final four SEC seasons as Georgia’s head coach looked like this: 11-7 (NCAA tournament), 10-8, 9-9 and 7-11. There’s this notion circling around social media that Tom Crean is in the midst of some sort of rebuild. How is UGA considered a rebuilding project when the last coach won 7 league games? South Carolina finished 7-11 in conference two years ago and then bounced back to go 11-7 the following season. Any team that was only 2 games under .500 the previous season in a league like the SEC is not in “rebuilding mode”.

Georgia’s remaining schedule is Auburn, @ Vandy, @ South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and @ LSU. This team is dangerously close to repeating another 2-win effort in SEC play. The only game on that slate that I can see as a possible W for Tom Crean’s team is the game in Nashville, but historically, UGA teams haven’t fared well on the raised court, and I see no reason as to why this year’s squad would be any different.

Here are some thoughts on another frustrating loss in which the Dawgs committed 21 turnovers that led to 26 Aggie points (insert face palm emoji here):

Great halftime adjustments by Buzz Williams

And I’m not just referring to his decision to ditch the three-piece suit for a looser long-sleeve t-shirt. Though, considering how much Williams was perspiring during the game’s first 20 minutes, that wasn’t a bad move, hygienically speaking.

Coach Buzz obviously reminded his team at the break that they haven’t been that successful this season from beyond the arc, a message that Crean can’t seem to communicate to his Georgia team that connected on just 9 of 29 from the perimeter today in College Station. The Aggies entered this contest with the lowest three-point shooting (26%) in SEC games, yet they took 16 of them in the first half, of which they made only 5. Despite having a distinct size advantage inside, TAMU was outscored 16-8 in the paint at the intermission. However, in the final 20 minutes, Williams’s team notched 24 points in the paint and attempted just 7 more triples.

Kudos to the coach for convincing his team to play within itself and to its strengths. TAMU’s 74 points was 14 more than the 60 they were averaging in SEC games coming into this one (also worst in the conference).

UGA showed some mental fortitude in the second half

The Aggies blew the doors off the Dawgs out of halftime, and following an 11-2 run that was capped off with an alley oop dunk by Wendell Mitchell, the game was tied at 40 apiece. Georgia didn’t wilt, though, and after triples from both Sahvir Wheeler and Tye Fagan, the Dawgs found themselves on top 48-42 with a little over 11 minutes left.

Several minutes later, TAMU would lock the game up at 48-48 following a bucket from Josh Neebo. Once again, UGA remained poised as Fagan hit another three and Rayshaun Hammonds scored an important basket inside to give his team a 55-50 advantage with under 8 minutes remaining.

The Aggies would eventually tie the game again on another score from Neebo that made it 59-59 with 4:32 left. This time Georgia couldn’t hold on, and TAMU eventually took the lead and would keep it.

UGA desperately needed someone to step up and settle things down during this critical stretch of game, but alas, this team doesn’t have that guy. Anthony Edwards, who finished with only 6 points, attempted just 1 shot from the floor after the break. The freshman played only 2 of the final 10 minutes of this one as he seemed disengaged both on offense and from his team.

Hammonds played big versus Neebo

The lone bright spot for this Georgia team today had to be junior Rayshaun Hammonds, who had the pleasure of defending senior manchild Josh Neebo. Hammonds outscored (15-12) and outrebounded (7-4) the larger Neebo, and Rayshaun is now tied for 6th in rebounds per game in league play (7.2). Considering that the Hammonds, the lone big on an undersized UGA team, is asked to defend the opposition’s largest player every single game, it’s admirable that he continues to fight so hard on the glass inside.

Box score:

Next up:

Auburn in Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

No

It’s official: Frank Martin owns UGA

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Frank Martin has built a program at South Carolina that regularly features teams that emulate the toughness of their hard-nosed coach. This year’s brand of Gamecocks is no different. From the opening tip, it was painfully obvious just how much more physically imposing this USC squad is compared to the Tom Crean’s Dawgs (12-11, 2-9).

Martin’s team didn’t play any matchup zone last night in Athens. Rather, his bunch strapped it up and played an imposing version of man defense that UGA hasn’t seen yet this year. The Dawgs couldn’t get into any sort of offensive rhythm as they turned the ball over 19 times. All that motion and movement that Tom Crean’s offense is built on was nowhere to be found; South Carolina didn’t allow it. Other than Anthony Edwards, UGA didn’t have anyone that threatened this Gamecock team.

Carolina held the Dawgs to under 35% from the floor and they frustrated Georgia into an abysmal 3 for 24 effort from beyond the arc. Remember when Crean said that UGA was going to shoot the three more in his opening presser? It would be cool if they could start making a few more of them. Georgia is now connecting on just 28% of its attempts from beyond the arc, which puts them at 12th in the league in that category.

Edwards finished with 16 points on a forgettable 4 for 13 shooting night, but to be fair to the Ant Man, he was the only Georgia player that seemed capable of facilitating any sort of offense against Carolina. Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler combined for 9 points on a 3 for 12 effort from the floor.

To put it bluntly, this game was never fun to watch. Georgia started 1 for 17 from the floor and turned the ball over 9 times in the first 13 minutes. With a little under 7 minutes remaining before the break, the Dawgs trailed 25-5. USC took the air out of Stegeman early, and they never let it back in. UGA finished the first half shooting just 24% from the floor, and they went into the intermission trailing 38-20.

Frank Martin’s South Carolina teams have now won 7 straight games against the Dawgs. Let that sink in. Those types of losing streaks are forgivable against a blueblood like Kentucky. Against South Carolina, though, not so much. Martin’s last two recruiting classes have been ranked 55th and 45th in the nation, yet his team has a NET ranking of 65 and is trending towards an at-large berth to this year’s NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks actually BEAT Kentucky earlier this year.

Based upon what’s transpired thus far, it’s hard to remain hopeful for much that is left on this Georgia team’s slate. I wonder what Edwards’s mindset will be for the final third of the season? He’s in a similar position as Nic Claxton was last year: stuck on a team with 2 conference wins and an NBA Draft just a few months away.

Stats from the South Carolina that jump off the sheet:

  • Points off turnovers: USC 25, UGA 4
  • Points in the paint: USC 40, UGA 22

Up next:

At Texas A&M on Saturday (Yay! One of UGA’s 2 SEC wins)

Postseason projection:

Nada

Alabama edges out Georgia in shootout

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Double-digit leads are by no means safe around this Georgia Bulldogs team (12-11, 2-8). With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Toumani Camara finished at the rim to make it 65-53, UGA. The Dawgs had taken control of the game to start the second half as they played fast and aggressive. However, much like the games against Missouri and Florida, all of that evaporated as Alabama (13-10, 5-5) proceeded to go on a 15-2 run that saw the Tide wrest back the lead to make it 68-67 in their favor.

How does this keep happening?

Here are a couple thoughts on a game that was entertaining to watch, yet ultimately difficult to digest:

Defense? Defense?

Statistically speaking, Alabama and Georgia have been two of the worst scoring defenses in SEC play. The Crimson Tide entered this game yielding over 77 a night (14th) and the Dawgs have been giving up over 73 per contest (12th) in conference games. But these two teams took their collective inabilities to stay in front of anyone to new heights on Saturday evening. The concept of help defense has clearly not been mastered by UGA or Bama as just about anyone who got past his defender on the perimeter had a clear and uncontested path to the bucket; it reminded me of the NBA All-Star game. Georgia outscored the Tide 58 to 56 in points in the paint; that’s right, an astounding 104 total points were made in the lane tonight.

I truly cannot remember watching a game with less guarding. Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis put up a career high 37 points against the Dawgs. That should wound the pride of just about any defense.

And this was on the heels of a second half against the Florida Gators earlier this week in which the Dawgs permitted 55 points. Georgia has now given up 160 points in the last 60 minutes of game play. Incredible.

I get that this team is young and everybody is new and they’re still learning Crean’s offensive system and how to play together. However, there’s no excuse as to why these guys can’t play better defense. Defense is about effort, and right now, Crean is not getting much of it out of his guys on that end of the court.

Other players stepped up to support an ailing Ant Man

Apparently, Anthony Edwards has been dealing with the flu as of yesterday, and he wasn’t exactly feeling his best around tip off of this one. The freshman logged another double-double with 14 points and 12 boards, but he didn’t look like himself on offense as he connected on just 5 of 17 from the floor; he also missed all 6 of his three-point attempts, including the last-second one that could have tied the game.

Sahvir Wheeler and Rayshaun Hammonds did an admirable job of filling up the stat sheet, though. Bama didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Wheeler as he scored a career high 24 points to go along with 8 assists. He did turn the ball over 6 times as he continues to make risky passes, but he also dished out some absolute dimes, so some of those turnovers are forgivable. Wheeler scored 40 points this week as he continues to expand his role in this Georgia offense. The Dawgs are most likely going to lose Edwards to the NBA next season, but the return of Wheeler could set this team up to be even better on offense next year.

Rayshaun Hammonds, who dealt with foul trouble for much of the game, scored 20 points in just 26 minutes of efficient play. The junior netted 5 of his total with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, including the bucket that tied the game at 92 with 21 seconds left. Hammonds had not finished in double-figures in the past 4 games, so it was refreshing to see him active and engaged on offense again.

Up next:

South Carolina comes to Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

NIT (outermost fringe of the bubble)

UGA defense suffocates Aggies

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The Georgia Bulldogs (12-9, 2-6) ended a depressing 4-game losing streak with a runaway win against Texas A&M in Athens on Saturday. If you are a fan of soundly-played offense, this wasn’t the game for you. Only one of the teams shot over 40% from the floor (Georgia), and these two squads combined for 37 turnovers, nearly averaging one per minute of play.

However, the Dawgs desperately needed a victory, and when a team has its back against the wall, style points go out the window.

Here’s how Tom Crean’s team ended up on the right side of the scoreboard today:

Fabulous defensive effort

Georgia’s backside help on the block was tremendous this afternoon. So much so, actually, that TAMU basically abandoned trying to dump the ball into the paint to its leading scorer, Josh Neebo, and instead opted to launched three-pointers, which has not been this team’s forte. Neebo, who had been netting 12 a night, scored just 2 against the Dawgs; Texas A&M, a team not known for its prowess from beyond the arc, made only 5 of 25 shots from that area, which absolutely played into UGA’s gameplan.

Credit Tom Crean and his players for accepting the challenge to play defense for an entire 40 minutes and executing their scheme to near perfection. The Aggies were held almost 19 points below their season average in SEC play, and to keep a team to under 50 points in a conference game is certainly impressive. After getting brutalized on the inside for much of its league games, the Dawgs held the Aggies to just 22 points in the paint in this one.

UGA’s ability to regroup at the half and come out prepared to fight harder on the defensive glass is commendable, especially considering the Aggies entered this game with the 3rd best offensive rebounding percentage in the conference. In the first half, UGA yielded 10 offensive rebounds to a TAMU team that’s been averaging 12 a contest in SEC play. Georgia, however, buckled down after the intermission and only relented 3 more offensive boards to the Aggies over the final 20 minutes.

Much of that defensive rebounding can be attributed to UGA’s star player, Anthony Edwards, who hauled in 13 defensive rebounds in the game (15 overall).

Anthony Edwards was a man amongst boys in the second half

After the break, Georgia fans were treated to the version of the Ant Man that still has scouts projecting him to be the #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. Edwards was unstoppable in the second half in both taking defenders off the dribble and knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Ant Man finished this game with 29 points to go along with those 15 boards for his second double-double in as many games. Georgia should have the best player on the court in its remaining SEC games, and when Edwards plays up to his potential this team becomes dangerous to deal with from a defensive standpoint.

Some stats that just don’t make sense

  1. In a game in which UGA had 20 turnovers, the Dawgs still managed to outscore the Aggies in points off turnovers by a decisive 22-11 count.
  2. Georgia had 15 offensive boards and TAMU had 13, yet the teams tied with just 7 second chance points apiece.

Up next

At Florida on Wednesday night.

Postseason projection

NIT (firmly on the bubble)