Three noteables from UGA’s win over Kentucky

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In one night, Georgia snapped a 14-game losing streak to Kentucky while simultaneously putting together a two-game SEC win streak of their own. The Dawgs closed out the game on a 7-0 run that ended with an off-balanced layup from P.J. Horne as time was winding down.

Here are some observations from Wednesday’s win over Kentucky:

  1. Georgia’s offense and defense switched roles on Wednesday

Coming into tonight’s game against the Kentucky Wildcats, UGA’s offense was one of the more efficient ones in the conference:

Yet on Wednesday night in Athens, it was the defense that carried Georgia over the Cats. For the most part, this game was fairly offensively-challenged for both teams. The Dawgs hit less than 39% from the floor and made only 4 of 12 from beyond the arc. Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler finished with just 10 points on a 4 of 15 shooting effort from the field. Wheeler, who is the catalyst for this team, consistently found himself surrounded by Kentucky bigs in the paint on penetration, which led to the sophomore taking an array of out of control shots around the rim. Georgia’s other big scorer, Toumani Camara, was basically a non-factor as he netted just 6 points and attempted only 4 shots.

The UGA defense, however, was a completely different story. Playing primarily man for much of the night, Georgia occupied the passing lanes and forced Kentucky into 17 turnovers, which the Dawgs promptly turned into 25 points (nearly 40% of the Georgia offensive output). With Kentucky up 62-56 with 2:02 left in the game, UGA’s defense pitched a shutout for the remainder, and that enabled Tom Crean’s team to have the opportunity to win at the end.

2. The turnover story got reversed as well

The Dawgs entered this contest leading the SEC with over 18 turnovers a night in conference play. By halftime, UGA had just 6 giveaways, and they would finish the game with 11. Kentucky scored 11 points off turnovers, but the +6 turnover differential in Georgia’s favor might have made the difference in the outcome of this game. Justin Kier led the game with 5 steals and helped to disrupt the flow of an anemic Kentucky offense, and UGA ended up taking 10 more field goals attempts than the Cats.

3. Thank goodness for grad transfers

The obvious hero of the night was P.J. Horne, who took a low inbounds pass from Wheeler with 3.6 seconds lefts and put it off the glass and in for the UGA victory. Horne’s ability to find his way to the rim was definitely abetted by the Kentucky defender’s disinterest in going after the ball when P.J. bobbled it; however, Georgia was the more aggressive team for much of the night, so this end seemed fitting.

Andrew Garcia played probably his best conference game of the season to date. The wily veteran took advantage of the inexperienced Kentucky bigs as Garcia used his body to make himself available near the rim the entire game. Garcia led all UGA scorers with 16 points to go along with 6 boards, and he displayed some nice back-to-the-basket scoring skills on the block. The senior definitely yields height in every contest, but Garcia’s wide body help to compensate for that lack of size on Wednesday against Kentucky.

3 reasons why Georgia got its first SEC win today

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The Dawgs (8-4, 1-4) got their first conference win of the season on Saturday at The Pavillion in Oxford, Mississippi, where the Bulldogs hung on for a 78-74 win. Here are the three reasons why UGA managed to pull off the road upset. Spoiler alert: it’s all about the backcourt.

  1. Sahvir Wheeler

The sophomore point guard played maybe his most complete game of the season against Ole Miss as he scored 18 points to go along with 9 assists. Wheeler played steady for pretty much the entire game, but I thought he had two particular stretches that were key for his team. The first came right out of the half when Georgia’s point guard scored a layup and dished out 2 assists which bolstered UGA’s advantage to 36-30. Wheeler was distributing the ball well and getting his teammates involved. His shining moment, however, came during the final stretch of play with his team leading by just 1 with 1:02 left after a pair of free throws from Devontae Shuler. Wheeler put the offense on his shoulders and got to the free throw line on consecutive possessions, where he knocked down 4 straight free throws and essentially helped his team close out the Rebels.

2. Tye Fagan

Georgia’s offense was kind of a mess in the first half of this contest. Ole Miss threw several different zones at the Dawgs that involved trapping outside the three-point line, and UGA looked discombobulated. Georgia shot under 41% from the floor and committed 8 turnovers in the initial 20 minutes of this game.

The second half was a completely different story, however, and Fagan was a big part of UGA’s offensive transformation. Fagan masterfully found the soft spots in the Ole Miss zone and was the benefactor of a lot of easy shots at the rim. After scoring just 2 points prior to the break, Fagan came out and netted 17 points over the final 20 minutes on a perfect 8 of 8 performance from the floor. The Dawgs shot a blistering 75% from the floor in the second half, thanks in part to Fagan’s efforts on offense.

3. K.D. Johnson

To be honest, Georgia doesn’t win this game if the NCAA hadn’t cleared Johnson to play this week. The freshman came off the bench to give his team 14 points, including a 4 of 5 shooting effort from beyond the arc. Johnson knocked down triples on consecutive possessions late in the game to put UGA up 71-59 with 4:33 remaining. K.D.’s ability to convert from the perimeter (in clutch situations, nonetheless) makes this Georgia team more dynamic on the offensive side of the ball. The freshman, paired with Wheeler and Toumani Camara, gives Tom Crean a solid foundation to start with next year.

While the sole focus of this post has been on the UGA backcourt, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the Georgia defense for just a bit. Tom Crean deployed his team in a 2-3 zone for much of this contest, which was a worthy strategy considering the Rebels entered this game 13th in the SEC in scoring (65) and last in field goal percentage (38.4%). While the Dawgs probably feel decent about not allowing an opponent to score over 90 points for the 4th straight game, Georgia did permit Mississippi to exceed their SEC averages in both scoring (74) and field goal percentage (50.8%). UGA still has issues on the defensive side of the ball; Ole Miss just didn’t have the firepower to completely expose them. Kentucky comes into Athens on Wednesday, and UGA’s defense will definitely be put to the test against Calipari’s bigger athletes.

Georgia’s defense helps extend losing streak

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The Dawgs looked like a team without a player taller 6’8″ on Wednesday night against Auburn. Tom Crean started JUCO transfer Tyron McMillan in a token effort to compensate for the height differential, though the sophomore played just 10 minutes so I’m not totally sure what the value was in that endeavor. Auburn played an uptempo brand of basketball similar to how Georgia has preferred to run this year, except Bruce Pearl’s team did it with bigger and more athletic players. The end result wasn’t pretty for UGA as they got drubbed 95-77 at home to an Auburn team that had lost its first 4 SEC games. The Dawgs now have the dubious distinction of the worst conference record at 0-4.

In a game that should have meant the world to both of these teams as it presented an opportunity to get off the snide, Georgia’s defense once again failed itself. The Dawgs entered this contest yielding the most points per night in league games (92), and yet, they somehow found a way for an opponent to push that average even higher. The Tigers shot a blistering 57% from the floor and they netted 29 fast break points. Auburn had SIX players finish the game in double-figures, which is ridiculous.

But Georgia’s interior defense proved to be the real Achilles heel as the Tigers torched the Dawgs for an astounding 58 points in the paint. This UGA team either doesn’t communicate well on that side of the ball, or there are some fundamental misconceptions regarding defensive rotations. The Georgia bigs were out of position often, and it led to a number of easy points at the rim for Bruce Pearl’s team. On occasion, the UGA bigs managed to provide some token help, but it wasn’t effective and left the Auburn bigs alone around the rim far too often. The bottom line is this team is getting blitzkrieged by opposing offenses on the regular now, and that is on Crean.

Offensively, Georgia becomes stagnant WAY too quickly. My understanding of the Crean offense is that in the half court set, players should basically be in constant motion. Tonight, that was not the case. Rather, the Dawgs seemed more content to occupy the perimeter, swing the ball around and let guys try to create off the dribble. Unfortunately, UGA doesn’t have many players with this sort of skill set. Credit the Dawgs as they kept attacking the rim; the only problem was that Auburn was consistently there to impede them, and the Tigers racked up an impressive 14 blocks on the night.

Point guard Sahvir Wheeler had a pretty good game as he finished with 19 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. The main highlight for UGA, though, had to be the addition of freshman K.D. Johnson, who netted 21 points in his debut to go along with 7 boards and 4 steals. Johnson looked engaged on both ends of the court, and one can only hope that some of his enthusiasm is infectious so that he can inspire some of his teammates to up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Although, Tiger freshman Sharife Cooper scored 28 points on these two UGA guards, so both of them have room to improve as well.

To be honest, I had this game penciled in as a win for Georgia at the start of SEC play. After witnessing what just happened on Wednesday night, it’s becoming more difficult to find 6 games that the Dawgs could potentially win, which is what they would need to eclipse last year’s SEC win tally of 5.

UGA defense fails to show up for Arkansas game

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-3, 0-3) remained winless in conference play after getting drubbed 99-69 by Arkansas in Fayetteville. The sky is not falling yet for this UGA basketball program as next week should be an easier slate (Auburn, Ole Miss), but what transpired today against the Hogs should give Georgia fans some pause for concern.

There’s an old saying in sports that “defense travels”; today, Georgia proved that’s not always true as the Dawgs’ defense clearly got lost somewhere en route to Bud Walton Arena. UGA entered this contest giving up an SEC-worst 88.5 points per game, and the Dawgs should safely hold that bottom spot in the defensive scoring category after yielding 99 to the Razorbacks on Saturday.

Georgia has particularly struggled at defending the perimeter this season. In its two SEC games, UGA’s opponents have made nearly 39% of their triple attempts. This afternoon, the Dawgs were a step late on closeouts, and Arkansas made them pay by knocking down 12 of 21 (57%) from beyond the arc, which is 3 more triples than the Hogs have been averaging a game this year.

While Arkansas was led by Moses Moody’s 25 points, the Dawgs allowed a total of five Hogs to finish in double-figures (and one other to also score 20). Believe it or not, this game was relatively close at the half with Georgia trailing by just 6 before a disinterested group of UGA players came out after the break and permitted Arky to put up 56 second-half points.

Georgia’s lack of a perimeter game is still a problem. In Tom Crean’s first three years at UGA, his team’s have shot 32%, 30% and 30.9% (this year’s bunch). When a coach states at his initial press conference that his team is going to shoot the three more, one would assume that would mean that his rosters would regularly have 3 to 4 legitimate outside threats. However, that’s never been the case for Crean, and this year’s team is no different. Georgia basically has two three-point threats: Justin Kier (42%) and P.J. Horne (35%). This is not enough firepower for a team that’s shooting over 21 triples a contest.

On Saturday, the Dawgs made just 5 of 19 (26%) on three-pointers. However, even if Georgia hits 3 more from beyond the arc, they still lose by 21, so it’s probably a non-factor in a game in which UGA played zero defense.

Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler cannot miss significant chunks of time in games due to foul trouble. Today, Camara was the culprit, and his absence from the lineup definitely hurt the Dawgs on both ends of the court. The sophomore picked up his second foul of the game with over 15 minutes left in the first half, which caused him to have to spend nearly 10 minutes on the bench. He would eventually foul out of the game with 10 minutes remaining. Camara scored 15 points in 16 minutes, which is highly effective, but his inability to stay on the court served to keep him in check.

Wheeler didn’t have any foul issues, but he failed to show up in the second half. Prior to the break, the sophomore looked phenomenal as he scored 10 points on an array of dribble-drives from the perimeter. For 20 minutes, Wheeler looked the part of a premier SEC point guard; he’s got to find a way to put together two halves like that, especially when his team’s leading scorer is not participating.

A few observations from Georgia’s close loss at LSU

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-2, 0-2) are no strangers to moral victories, which is essentially what the Dawgs got in Baton Rouge on Wednesday night in their 94-92 overtime loss to the LSU Tigers. UGA dropped its first SEC road game of the season in dramatic fashion in a game that Georgia led 80-74 with less than two minutes to go in regulation.

Typically when teams are leading down stretch of games they tend to try to run clock and reduce the number of possessions. This strategy may have backfired on Georgia, however, as playing half court basketball is just not a strength for this team. The Dawgs last two possessions of regulation resulted in a turnover and a miss on a rushed shot from P.J. Horne with the shot clock expiring. I almost wonder if this UGA team should buck the tradition of milking clock and just play fast the whole game, regardless of the situation.

Here are a few other observations:

The Tigers played defense when they needed to down the stretch of this contest

LSU, who entered this game as the 9th best defense in the SEC at 68 points a night, appeared disinterested in playing defense for much of this contest. The Tigers have the best three-point defense in the SEC (27%), yet they allowed the Dawgs, who have been connecting on just 30% from beyond the arc this season, to knock down 12 triples (9 of which came from Justin Kier and Horne).

Will Wade’s team ratcheted up the defense when it needed to, though. Georgia had all the momentum with 9:07 left after Justin Kier finished at the rim to give his team a 68-58 advantage. Unfortunately, the bigger, more athletic Tigers eventually decided to tighten things up, and that enabled them to go on a 13-2 run that saw LSU take a 71-70 lead two minutes later after a pair of free throws from Cameron Thomas. It was pretty obvious that this talented Tiger team can put the clamps down pretty quickly when they feel pressed.

Georgia’s offense found itself again

The Dawgs were held to 73 points and kept in relative check last week against Missy State, however, this was not the case in Baton Rouge. Georgia had great energy from the start and looked fast and crisp with the ball. By halftime, Georgia had connected on 50% from the floor and 47% from beyond the arc. UGA had 11 turnovers, but they also had 11 assists.

Sahvir Wheeler, who had been in a bit of a mini-slump, was far more effective on Wednesday. Wheeler scored 21 points to go along with 9 assists. He kept pushing the ball into the teeth of the Tiger defense and finding open teammates on kickouts. The sophomore looked the part of a point guard facilitating offense and getting his teammates involved.

Graduate transfers Kier and Horne were the prime benefactors of Wheeler’s creativity as they finished with 25 and 11, respectively. These two seniors have developed into legitimate threats from the perimeter, which definitely opens things up a bit for the Dawgs in the half court set.

UGA’s help defense must improve

LSU had numerous drives to the basket that were essentially uncontested. Too many times an LSU guard got past the UGA backcourt defender only to find no one from Georgia’s frontcourt their to meet them. Considering that the Dawgs will be undersized in nearly every conference game, it seems as if swarming to the basketball and providing weak side help would have to be tenets for this bunch on defense.

A couple of stats that jumped out at me:

  • Cameron Thomas, who Georgia limited to 5 of 17 from the floor, still ended up with 26 points thanks to a 15 of 16 effort from the FT line
  • LSU had 19 steals
  • Georgia had 28 fast break points to LSU’s 3
  • UGA won the battle of the boards 43-40
  • Justin Kier was definitely not out of bounds near the end of OT, and UGA should have been given the ball with a chance to tie

Georgia SEC opener recap: no defense = no offense

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-1, 0-1) dropped their SEC opener for the 4th time in as many years as the Dawgs fell 83-73 to Mississippi State in a game in which UGA never led. This game marked the first loss for Tom Crean’s team of the season, and while it’s not time to hit the alarm bells just yet, it certainly should give Georgia fans some pause for concern.

UGA’s defense never seemed fully-engaged against the Maroon Dawgs. Georgia’s strengths thus far on this side of the ball have been turning teams over and defending the perimeter well. Neither of those occurred often enough to win against Ben Howland’s team. UGA entered this contest as one of the top teams in the nation in opponent turnovers per game (19), yet Mississippi State had just 12 on Wednesday night in Athens. The Dawgs failed to disrupt the passing lanes in the half court set and that resulted in just 9 points off turnovers for Georgia (to State’s 22).

Georgia’s defensive closeouts around the arc were borderline lazy as they permitted Missy State to connect on 12 triples. I foolishly assumed that UGA might tighten up the pressure on the outside when Deivon Smith hit his team’s 6th three of the half with over 10 minutes remaining before the break, but the Dawgs gave up 6 more triples before the final horn sounded. Missy State point guard Iverson Molinar ended up playing just 26 minutes due to early foul trouble, yet he still ended up leading all scorers with 24 points on a 4 of 6 effort from beyond the arc. Molinar completely had his way with the Georgia backcourt, and I wondered if Tom Crean might give him the Andrew Garcia treatment, but that didn’t happen.

The problem with all of this inefficient defense is that it greatly impacted UGA’s offense. You might go so far as to say that Georgia’s ability to be successful on offense depends solely on if UGA can generate steals and stops; that’s what allows this team to play fast, which is definitely the style they are most comfortable playing. Last night, however, the Dawgs netted only 9 points on the break, a crippling statistic for this team.

The tempo of this contest forced Georgia to play in the half court on offense for most of the night, and that portion of UGA’s game is still a work in progress. The Dawgs settled for threes to start the game; unfortunately, they made just 1 of their first 9 attempts. Georgia ended up making 36% from the perimeter thanks to a 5 of 10 performance by P.J. Horne (21 points). The Dawgs hoisted up 25 three-point attempts on last night, which feels like an awful lot for a team that only has two outside shooters (Horne and Justin Kier).

Coming into this game, Georgia had been one of the more prolific two-point scoring teams in the country. UGA had been averaging over 47 points a night on two-pointers, while last night they mustered just 34. Sahvir Wheeler is only a sophomore and still developing, but he has to find a way to be more effective at scoring the ball in a slower paced game. Wheeler finished with just 6 points on a 2 of 10 shooting performance, and he struggled to score around the rim against the bigs of Missy State. Wheeler did dish out 8 assists, but they came at the expense of 5 turnovers. Ultimately, Sahvir has to be better at producing offense if the Dawgs hope to win more SEC games than last year’s total (5).

Dawgs preserve perfect record with monster second half

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The Georgia Bulldogs remained undefeated with a 76-58 win over Northeastern (1-4) on Tuesday night in Athens. However, the Dawgs dealt with probably the most adversity they’ve seen all season during this game’s initial 20 minutes of play.

If you were a Georgia fan, the first half was highly forgettable. Georgia had 5 turnovers before 4 minutes of game had transpired, which allowed the Huskies to jump out to a 9-3 lead by the first media timeout. Northeastern came into Stegeman committed to make this a slow-paced half court game, and for 20 minutes they were successful at doing that and frustrating the heck out of UGA’s offense.

Before the game, I shared this tidbit of information:

Unfortunately, the Dawgs were unable to showcase either of these defensive strengths prior to the break. Northeastern committed just 7 first-half turnovers, and the Huskies connected on an unbelievable 9 of 13 from beyond the arc (69%).

Sophomore point guard Tyson Walker, a Second Team preseason CAA selection, was a major thorn in Georgia’s side to start the game. Sahvir Wheeler struggled to defend Walker, particularly on ball screens. If Sahvir went under the screen, Walker made him pay from the perimeter; when Wheeler attempted to fight through, the Northeastern point guard just blew by and finished at the rim. By halftime, Walker had 14 points and 5 assists, just a bucket shy of his season average, and Northeastern held a 45-32 advantage.

Fortunately for Georgia, their coach is:

Coach Crean win’s this week’s “Halftime Adjustment Award” with his decision to switch Wheeler off Tyson Walker and let Andrew Garcia (and some Tye Fagan) defend him. Garcia’s size presented issues for Walker and essentially took him out of the Northeastern offense. Walker managed just 5 points in the second half, and all of those were basically meaningless as they came when the game was out of reach for the Huskies. I honestly believe that Garcia’s harassment of Walker frustrated the sophomore into his 4th foul with over 12 minutes remaining in the game and his team up by just 5 points. Walker got tangled up with UGA’s Justin Kier on a Northeastern possession and was whistled for a push. Let’s credit that whistle to Mr. Garcia.

Another benefactor of shutting down Walker’s offensive creativity is that it completing eliminated Jahmyl Telfort from the game as well. The freshman was the benefactor of Walker’s penetration in the first half as he torched Georgia with 4 triples and 15 points prior to the intermission. Telfort, however, failed to score again when the teams returned to the court for the final 20 minutes.

Northeastern scored as many points (13) as they committed turnovers (13) in the game’s second half.

Honestly, I could wax eloquently about Andrew Garcia’s play for the entire post. In addition to his defensive effort, the senior led the Dawgs with 15 points and basically saved Georgia’s perfect record.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the boost that Justin Kier gave this team last night, especially when UGA’s starting point guard had to head to the bench. In the midst of an unprecedented 21-0 run, Wheeler picked up his 4th foul with 9:31 left and had to sit with his team leading 53-50. Nearly 7 minutes later, Kier buried a triple to ice the game at 70-55 with under 3 minutes remaining. During this little stretch of game, Kier contributed 5 points, 3 steals and 2 assists, and Georgia saw no drop off in play even with its floor general not on the court. The grad transfer finished the night with 7 points, 6 assists and 5 steals, and in my opinion he looks the most likely out of all the new faces this year to continue this level of play into SEC season.

Other things that were pleasing:

  • Despite spending a majority of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, Toumani Camara still managed to score 13 points and nab 8 boards.
  • PJ Horne might have had his best game thus far as a Dawg: 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. Perhaps even more importantly was that the senior connected on a pair of triples (40%) and maybe, just maybe, could emerge as this squad’s second perimeter threat.
  • Fagan only had 8 points, but the way he got them was fantastic. Recognizing that Walker, who had 4 fouls at the time, was on him, Fagan headed to the block where he played bully-ball around the rim on the Northeastern sophomore. Whoever made that adjustment to Georgia’s offense definitely deserves a burrito from Cali N Tito’s.

The Fast and the Furious: Georgia basketball edition

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Between Sahvir Wheeler and Toumani Camara, I’m not exactly sure who is Vin Diesel and who’s Paul Walker in this analogy, but Georgia’s sophomores have teamed up with director Tom Crean to create a pretty exciting product this year. UGA’s breakneck style of play overwhelmed the Bearcats in the 83-68 blowout, and the Dawgs are sitting at 6-0 for the first time since the 1982-1983 season.

Georgia took its first real test of the season on Saturday and aced it with 20 minutes to spare. Cincy was clearly not prepared for the track meet that they stepped into as the Dawgs pushed the tempo to Mach Speed from the opening tip. Georgia scored 18 (of their 27) points off the break in the first half; the Dawgs forced the Bearcats into 13 turnovers, which UGA converted into 16 (of their 27) points. All this chaos led to a 49-26 halftime advantage for Georgia that had everyone from the chili-making region of the country scratching their heads.

Prior to the start of this game, I thought (foolishly) that 7’1″ center Chris Vogt might pose a problem for undersized Georgia. Cincinnati’s big man was named to the American Athletic Conference’s Second Team by the media. By the time 20 minutes had eclipsed in this contest, I had forgot that Vogt existed. The Cincy big ended the half (and the night) with 0 points on just 1 measly field goal attempt.

The Bulldogs are finally starting to produce the coveted deflections that Tom Crean has spoken so eloquently of these past several years. Georgia turned the Bearcats over a whopping 24 times on Saturday, and the Dawgs are now 13th in the nation in opponent turnovers (19). UGA’s ability to occupy the passing lanes is frustrating opposing offenses and resulting in a lot of extra possessions for Tom Crean’s team (UGA is 19th in the nation in possessions per game).

This UGA team is a pesky bunch that is extremely active on the defensive side of the ball. The Dawgs limited Cincy to just 17% from beyond the arc, a place that Georgia has defended well this year; UGA is holding opponents to under 23% from the perimeter on the season.

Georgia sophomore Sahvir Wheeler did not turn in his best performance of the season. Wheeler pressed too much and try to force up some shots around the rim that just shouldn’t have been taken. The Georgia point guard made only 4 of 14 from the floor and turned the ball over 6 times.

While Wheeler struggled, his teammates Toumani Camara, Justin Kier and Tye Fagan flourished. Camara logged another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and his ability to get up and down the court and score points in the transition makes this UGA team so dynamic. Camara’s jump from year one to year two is so similar to Travis Leslie it’s downright eerie. Leslie averaged 6 ppg and 4 rpg his freshman year and nearly 15ppg and 7rpg his sophomore campaign; Camara averaged 6.6 ppg and 4 rpg last year, and he’s currently netting over 15 ppg and snagging over 8 rpg. Both players seemingly needed a season to hone in their freakish athleticism; the only difference is that Toumani is 6’8″, a nice little bonus for Coach Crean.

Kier and Fagan finished the game with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Each player scored numerous buckets at the rim, and Kier flashed the ability to create offense off the dribble, which is something we haven’t seen too much of from him up to this point.

ESPN announcer Jimmy Dykes praised Georgia’s brand of basketball, but the announcer insinuated that UGA would have to prove itself in the SEC when teams like Tennessee lock them up defensively and force them into a half court game. In the words of Samuel Jackson’s character from “Pulp Fiction”, please allow me to retort. The #12 Vols trailed this Bearcat team 53-51 with 6:14 left in the game before Tennessee was finally able to pull away for the 65-56 home win. If Georgia can continue to disrupt opposing offenses with deflections and limit three-point opportunities, the Dawgs will be able to play at any pace they want.

Don’t believe me? Ask this Jon Rothstein.

Georgia comes from behind against Samford

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Sometimes the sports’ gods come together and align for the good of UGA fans, and yesterday was one of those days. The football team steamrolled Mizzou, LSU dashed the Gators’ playoff hopes and the basketball team came from behind against the fighting Samford and Sons to preserve Georgia’s undefeated record.

However, UGA’s 5-0 record has come against the 292nd ranked schedule in college basketball, according to ESPN, so it feels like we should take it with a little grain of salt.

We learned two things from Saturday’s 79-75 win: 1) Georgia needs Toumani Camara to play in every single game, and 2) the Dawgs are not built to play in the half court, which is something SEC teams will probably force them to do every night.

Samford kept this game at a turtle’s pace by playing primarily zone from the opening tip. The Dawgs played right into the other Bulldogs’ hands as they settled for outside shots, where UGA connected on just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Georgia converted just two field goals through the first 11 minutes, and after a triple from Triston Chambers, Samford held its largest lead of the day (24-11) with 8:45 left in the first half.

Offensively, this game looked nothing like the previous four. The Dawgs were held to just 9 fast break points, and they were outscored in the paint (36-28) for the first time this season. Sahvir Wheeler, who ended up with 15 points, shot a dismal 5 of 15 from the floor. When he tried to force the ball inside against the Samford zone, defenders collapsed on him and forced him into either difficult shots or turnovers, of which he had 5.

UGA looked visibly uncomfortable trying to facilitate offense in the half court, which is understandable considering this team’s lack of outside shooters. Georgia continued to struggle to make three-pointers as they hit just 26% of their attempts on Saturday, one percentage point below their season average. However, we did gain a few insights into this facet of UGA’s game: Justin Kier needs to shoot more, and P.J. Horne should probably shoot less. Kier scored 18 points and buried 4 of 9 from beyond the arc, including a pair of triples late in the second half that brought the Dawgs to within a point with less than 8 minutes remaining. The senior has established himself as Georgia’s premier outside threat as he’s hitting over 43% from the perimeter, and he should have the greenest of green lights from that spot on the court.

Horne, on the other hand, made only 1 of 7 outside shots, and many of them were taken in rushed fashion with his feet not set. He hit over 34% from three-point range last year at Virginia Tech, so he obviously has this shot in his arsenal, but I just don’t think he needs to fire off quite as many. Horne is currently leading the Bulldogs in three-point attempts on the season.

The absence of Camara and its impact on this game must be noted again as he’s tied with Wheeler in importance to this team. However, the fact that Georgia needed the entire 40 minutes to put away Samford, a team that was projected to finish 8th in the 10-team Southern Conference, should provide UGA fans with some pause for concern. This game was essentially a preview of what SEC play will look like, except the players defending Georgia in the various zone looks will be bigger and more athletic.

Next Saturday the Dawgs get their first real test of the young season when they host the Cincinnati Bearcats, who just took the #12 Tennessee Vols to the wire in Knoxville.

Instant analysis: UGA defense too much for Montana

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The Georgia Bulldogs picked up their 4th win of the season as they remained undefeated with a 63-50 home win over the winless Montana Grizzlies. While the Grizz have yet to check the box in the old win column, Montana was projected by the media to finish 2nd in the Big Sky prior to the start of the year, so it’s possible they could be better than they have shown thus far.

UGA’s length and athleticism defensively proved to be too much for the Grizz on Tuesday night in Stegeman. Georgia forced Montana into 20 turnovers, which the Dawgs converted into 16 points. Tom Crean’s team held the Grizz under 36% from the floor, and they limited Montana to only 3 offensive rebounds and 5 second chance points. The question, though, is can Georgia’s defense remain stout in the face of stiffer competition? The Dawgs get Cincinnati in Athens on December 19th, and this game will give us a much deeper glimpse into what this team is really about.

Georgia created 10 steals in this game, but unfortunately the Dawgs gave the ball away 18 times. Turnovers continue to be an issue for this squad as UGA entered the game coughing the ball up nearly 19 times a contest. Tom Crean wants this team to play fast, and that is going to result in some turnovers, but Georgia has to iron out this sloppiness before conference play because those mistakes will prove to be much more costly against bigger and more talented teams.

While Georgia’s three-point shooting continues to be problematic (22%), this team sure did capitalize in the transition, where the Dawgs scored 24 points. Georgia ended up with 40 points in the paint, and I’d venture to say that nearly three-quarters of those came on the break in the open court. Toumani Camara, who logged a double-double with 15 points and 17 boards, once again benefitted from the up and down tempo of this game; Camara ran the court well and was rewarded with a lot of easy baskets both off the pass and offensive rebounds. The sophomore had one trip down on a break where he crossed up a Grizz defender and finished at the rim, and it was a thing of beauty. If Camara can create like that off the dribble, then I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’d like to see A LOT more of it.

The last thing I will touch on is the fact that Montana outscored the Dawgs 13-10 in the minutes that Sahvir Wheeler wasn’t on the court. Even though Wheeler didn’t have his best game of the year (9 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists), he’s just so much for a defense to deal with when he’s in the game. Whether it’s a make or a miss, the Grizz knew that Georgia’s sophomore point guard would be attacking them full speed at the rim in a matter of seconds. When Wheeler was on the bench, it definitely gave Montana a chance to collectively breath and settle in a bit. It’s going to be critical that Wheeler remain out of foul trouble as this team progresses into league games.