Dawgs upend Tech in Atlanta

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One week removed from its collapse at home to Arizona State, Georgia (7-4) appeared on the verge of gifting away another double-digit lead in Atlanta to archrival, Georgia Tech. With UGA leading by 4 and only 3:58 remaining, Nicolas Claxton snagged a miss by Teshaun Hightower and threw it down for two huge second chance points. Not to be outdone by himself, Claxton grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end before hitting a dagger from the wing that put the Dawgs up 9 with only 2:32 left.

The Jackets threatened one final comeback after Brandon Alston drilled a three-pointer to make it 57-51 UGA advantage with 2:10 remaining, but Tyree Crump diffused any hopes of a Tech run by knocking down a triple himself on the next possession for Georgia, and the Dawgs cruised to their 4th straight win over the Jackets with a 70-59 victory in Atlanta on Saturday.

The Dawgs’ defense stole the show this afternoon, though, as Georgia took Tech out of its offense time and time again. The Jackets looked ill-equipped to deal with UGA’s presence inside, as Nicolas Claxton blocked 6 shots and altered a dozen others. Tech shot under 27% in the first half and ended up at barely over 32% on the game. At the intermission, the Jackets had mustered just 19 points.

While Georgia’s bigs definitely redirected a plethora of Yellow Jacket shot attempts, a big defensive shoutout must go to Teshaun Hightower and the UGA guards for how they defended Tech’s leading scorer, Jose Alvarado. Alvarado, who entered this game netting over 14 a night, scored 11 points, but it took him a 3 of 20 shooting effort to get there. Hightower did an admiral job of staying in front of him all afternoon and forcing him into an array of challenging shots.

Tom Crean was brought to UGA to boost the offensive output, but today’s showing in Atlanta made it pretty clear that this team is slowly gaining a resolute defensive identity as well, and much of that starts with Claxton. The guy is simply everywhere on the court all at once. In addition to his half-dozen blocks, the sophomore also contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Claxton’s ability to bring the ball up the court off of defensive rebounds helps to ramp up the tempo and effectiveness of Georgia’s offense; if he keeps up this level of play once the SEC slate begins in January, Claxton is going to be awful hard to keep off of the postseason All-SEC First Team.

In the grand scheme of the college basketball landscape, this game was fairly meaningless. Both of these squads were projected to finish 13th in their respective conferences. But within the state of Georgia, this game was a huge statement for Tom Crean in his first dip into the Clean Old-Fashioned Hate matchup. Moving forward, if the Dawgs can continue to learn how to close out games, this team will be a difficult out in the SEC.

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Dawgs drop second in a row, fall 62-54 to Georgia Tech

Trailing 55-50 with only 1:48 remaining in the game, the Georgia Bulldogs came out of a timeout with 18 seconds on the shot clock and an opportunity to cut the Tech lead to just one possession.

However, the Dawgs were unable to seize the moment.  Instead, Vincent Williams put up a prayer with only 1 second left on the shot clock that was quickly batted out of play by the Yellow Jacket defender.  Georgia’s Neme Djurisic couldn’t get a shot up quickly enough on the inbounds play, resulting in a UGA turnover.

On the ensuing possession, Georgia Tech senior point guard Mfon Udofia slashed to the basket and scored the bucket while drawing the foul.  After completing the three-point play the old-fashioned way, Udofia’s Jackets held a 58-50 advantage with only 58 ticks left on the clock. 

Udofia and Marcus Georges-Hunt carried the Jackets on Tuesday night, scoring 12 and 18 points, respectively.

Georgia Tech came into the game connecting on under 25% of their three-point attempts this season, yet the rim must have looked awfully big against the Georgia defense as the Jackets made a season-high 9 three-pointers on 21 shots from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs failed to contest a number of Tech’s perimeter attempts, which probably led to the Jackets’ much-improved shooting performance.

In Georgia’s case it was pretty much business as usual for the Dawgs, hitting less than 32% from the floor and going 2 of 17 from the three-point line.  Coach Mark Fox’s team was held under 60 points for the 6th time this season (in 8 games), and they have yet to crack the 70-point barrier.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led all UGA scorers with 16 points, but it took a 5 for 18 performance from the floor for him to reach that tally.  In KCP’s defense, Georgia Tech obviously learned from the example set by South Florida last Friday as they shadowed help on Georgia’s star player anytime he had the ball.  KCP’s effort in this game was relentless, finishing with a game-high 13 rebounds.

The lone bright spot offensively for the Dawgs had to come from the play by freshman Brandon Morris, who turned in 9 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes of action.  If Morris continues to improve he could begin to start pushing Neme for his starting position.

Djurisic turned in another dismal performance, going 1 of 8 from the floor to give him 4 points and 6 boards.  Neme’s inability to score from either inside or out is beginning to make him a liability, and it is time for Fox to start looking to John Cannon and/or Brandon Morris as potential replacements for Djurisic in the starting five.

The 62-54 loss to the Jackets drops the Dawgs to 2-6 on the year, leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that this is going to be a long season.  Georgia cannot shoot the basketball, and they can’t sign any free agents to help in this facet of the game. 

As long as Donte Williams continues to turn in mediocre efforts UGA will remain a team with little firepower in the paint.