Dawgs topple Tech in Athens 82-78

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After three cakewalks to begin the 2019-2020 slate, Tom Crean’s team got its first test of the season as the Georgia Bulldogs (4-0) took on their in-state rival, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1). This Georgia Tech team surprised a lot of people in its season opener when they went into Raleigh and got an 82-81 win over N.C. State, a team the media projected to be 5th in the ACC.

The game started out a little rocky as both teams were no doubt feeling some pregame jitters as it took almost 3 minutes before Michael Devoe, who netted 34 points, broke the scoring drought with a triple. The Dawgs didn’t get on the board until Rayshaun Hammonds knocked down a jumper after nearly 5 minutes had eclipsed.

Georgia had trouble dealing with Tech’s size inside, especially with the presence of 6’10” senior James Banks, who ended up with 6 blocks on the night. UGA tried to force the issue a little too much earlier on in the paint via their bigs; Georgia is going to face the challenge of dealing with bigger opposing frontcourts all season, but they seem to get to the rim better off of cuts from the wing position, especially when those cutters are Hammonds and Anthony Edwards.

Shockingly, the Dawgs managed to surpass 80 points despite the slow start.

Georgia’s offense COULD become dangerous

Even with a double-digit lead late the in the game, the Georgia offense remained aggressive in attacking the rim. Gone are the Mark Fox days of yore of running shot clock down the stretch and hoping to hold onto leads. Tom Crean’s team is playing fast no matter the time or situation, as evidenced by the high-flying alley-oop that Toumani Camara caught from Sahvir Wheeler with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game.

Rayshaun Hammonds was obviously the star of the night offensively has he played his best game of his career (and certainly his best first half) in which he scored 26 points to go with 9 boards. The junior from Atlanta was unconscious through the initial 20 minutes of this contest as he poured in 19 points on an array of triples and layups.

Freshman Anthony Edwards struggled in the first half as he failed to convert a field goal and mustered just 2 points. Josh Pastner had his team moving in and out of zone defenses, but no matter the look, whenever Edwards touched the ball he immediately had a second Tech defender shading over near him. Edwards tried to press things offensively and didn’t find much success on that side of the ball prior to the intermission.

However, when Hammonds headed to the bench with 26 points and his 4th foul with 10:16 left in the game and the Dawgs up 56-48, Edwards took over and scored 9 points during the nearly 5 minute stretch that Hammonds sat on the bench. He ended up with 16 second half points, and he did a much better job of waiting until he had the matchup he wanted before attacking off the dribble; Edwards also moved great without the ball as he scored multiple baskets off of backdoor cuts to the rim. Even though he was an all-world recruit, it’s still hard to believe that this was just his 4th collegiate game because he looks so comfortable on the court.

Sahvir Wheeler and Tyree Crump came up huge tonight in supporting roles on offense. Wheeler, who is just a treat to watch, continues to create offense off of penetration for both himself and his teammates as he finished the night with 5 assists. Crump played within himself and did not force his shots from the perimeter as he notched 11 points, which included some timely three-pointers to keep the Jackets at bay in the second half.

This Georgia team has not had this many potential scoring options on offense since the 2015 NCAA Tournament team that included Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Marcus Thornton, J.J. Frazier, Neme Djurisic and Yante Maten.

Georgia’s offense tonight was so much more effective from the left side of the court, which I attribute to Hammonds performance. He doesn’t really have a right hand, so to speak, so on nights like tonight when Hammonds has it cooking it makes sense that UGA would keep the ball on that side where he is more comfortable operating.

The UGA defense looked better this evening than it has this season

Despite allowing Devoe to reach 34 points, overall, the Georgia defense played fairly well. The Dawgs were intense for most of the game as they jumped into passing lanes and managed to notch 8 steals while forcing the Jackets into 15 turnovers. Crean’s team also outrebounded Tech by a count of 42-40, which is impressive considering the Jackets had a height advantage inside.

Tom Crean came to Georgia with the reputation of putting together long defenses that pressured teams to the half court line and created a lot of deflections and steals. That’s certainly how his most successful Indiana teams played. Tonight, UGA had that look on defense, and it’s exactly how this Georgia team will need to play every night since they will be the smaller team more often than not.

Up next

This evening’s victory of the Yellow Jackets marks the 5th in a row for Georgia, and it give the Dawgs a solid dose of momentum as they prepare to head to Maui next week for a challenging tournament that begins with a tough opener against an undefeated Dayton team. The winner will most likely face Michigan State in the second round.

Box Score:

UGA improves to 8-2 overall with 80-59 win over Georgia Tech

It was over when…

Georgia had a poor stretch of play with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game in which they turned the ball over on 4 consecutive possessions.  Prior to this run of sloppiness, UGA held a 59-45 advantage over the Jackets.  Despite the Dawgs’ willingness to give the ball away, Tech failed to capitalize; they got it down to 59-50, but then Georgia started attacking the rim again and getting to the free throw line.  With 4:50 left, Yante Maten capped off an 11-3 run with a pair of free throws to make it 70-53 in Georgia’s favor.

Welcome back offense

After taking the day off last Saturday in Amherst, Georgia’s offense came back to life on Tuesday night in Athens.  Other than the aforementioned stretch of turnovers, the only other real moment of struggle for the Dawgs offensively came right at the start of the game when the Jackets showed a little junk press in which their guards trapped the ball-handler.  Georgia seemed a bit caught off guard by the full-court Tech pressure, and after a few hurried shots, the Jackets had built up a 7-3 lead.  But that didn’t last long as UGA took a 20-17 advantage on a Juwan Parker three-pointer less than 9 minutes into the contest, and the Dawgs would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game.

Honestly, it was hard to believe that this UGA team was the same one that I watched play just a few day ago against UMass, in a game in which Georgia failed to establish any sort of offensive rhythm.  Against Tech, Georgia’s offense was  firing on all cylinders.  Jackets’ Coach Josh Pastner started his team off in a 1-3-1 zone in the half court set, and UGA did an excellent job of attacking the soft spots in the zone.  Both Turtle Jackson and Juwan Parker had nice drives in which they attracted multiple defenders and then found Derek Ogbeide underneath for several easy baskets.  Maten made a beautiful pass from the elbow to a cutting Rayshaun Hammonds, who finished with an uncontested dunk.  I loved seeing Hammonds, who ended up with 11 points, slide into the lane when Yante received the ball on the high post – hopefully the Dawgs will run more of this action going forward as it is a great use of Hammonds’ size.

Pastner’s most confounding coaching move of the game though had to be his decision to play Maten one-on-one.  I only remember one UGA possession in which Yante was doubled on the block.  Pastner has to regret how he attempted to defend Maten because the SEC POY torched the Jackets for 24 points on a 9 for 13 shooting effort.  Yante hit an uncontested three-pointer and then a jumper from just inside the arc on the subsequent possession that made it 36-32 UGA with under a minute before the break.  It almost felt like Tech had done zero prep on Maten, because anyone who’s watched the senior play this season knows that Yante needs to be doubled in the paint, and he should not be left alone at the top of the key, where his jumper is quite lethal.

Georgia’s offensive numbers were downright gaudy: 58% from the floor, 47% from 3PT and 17 team assists.  Following the intermission, UGA shot a scorching 71% from the floor.

No second chance points for Jackets

To be fair, Georgia only got 6 second chance points themselves, but that was because the Dawgs just weren’t missing shots.  Tech, however, finished with only 5 second chance points, and that was due to Georgia’s bigs successfully limiting the Jackets to just one opportunity per trip down the court.

The Dawgs definitely appeared more alert defensively last night than they were against UMass on Saturday.  Georgia contested nearly all of the Jackets’ three-point attempts and held them to just 2 of 13 from that range.  Leading scorer Josh Okogie scored 21 points, but he had a hard time getting there as he made only 5 of his 16 shots.

The only player that UGA couldn’t hold down was senior point guard Tadric Jackson, who did most of his damage in the first half, where he scored 13 of his 17 points.  Similarly to other opposing point guards this season, Jackson faced little resistance from Georgia’s backcourt and got the ball into the lane with relative ease.  At this point, the Dawgs really don’t have a guard that can lock down a strong ball-handler, and I’m not sure who on this UGA roster can fill that role.

Concluding thoughts

This win had to be a huge relief for Coach Fox, his team and the UGA fan base.  After last weekend’s debacle, I’m sure everyone was a little on edge coming into this rivalry game.  Considering that Tech had an RPI of 235 as of Tuesday, Georgia had little room for error as a loss to the Jackets might have pulverized any NCAA Tournament hopes that the Dawgs were harboring.  But credit UGA – they cleaned up both sides of the ball and won easily for the second year in a row against their in-state rival.

Georgia returns to action this Friday with a great RPI opportunity when they host the Temple Owls (RPI 10).

Reviewing Georgia’s 60-43 win over rival Georgia Tech

Last night’s contest between the Georgia Bulldogs (8-3) and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-4) left the rims inside McCamish Pavillion bruised and battered.  The fans that came to watch offense on Tuesday evening definitely left the arena sorely disappointed.  Neither team shot above 38% from the floor, and Tech hit only 1 for 10 from beyond the arc, compared to UGA’s 3 for 18 effort.  Georgia Tech managed just 43 points, its lowest output since being held to 41 by Clemson back in 2014.

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Why Georgia couldn’t score

The Jackets ran an extended 1-3-1 zone for much of the night in an effort to limit Yante Maten’s looks inside, and to their credit, it worked.  Maten had very few opportunities where he received the ball on the block close to the bucket, and even when he did, he was immediately surrounded by multiple Tech defenders.  Maten finished the night as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, but they were hard-earned and came at the expense of a  5 for 12 shooting effort.

J.J. Frazier scored 15 points, but it certainly wasn’t one of his better games as a Bulldog.  He once again struggled with his shot, making only 1 of his 6 attempts from the perimeter.  Frazier also dished out 4 turnovers to just 2 assists.  However, he was the only UGA point guard that seemed capable of attacking Tech’s zone and drawing multiple defenders so that his teammates could get open.  Turtle Jackson, who thankfully only played 12 minutes, did the opposite as he got rid of the ball as soon as he could once it crossed half court.  Not that UGA’s offense was clicking on all cylinders last night by any means, but it went into downright stall out mode when Turtle took the helm so that J.J. could rest.

Something tells me more teams might start defending Georgia in this manner moving forward.

Why Tech couldn’t score

Coach Mark Fox employed a man defense for most of the game, which made sense considering UGA had the more talented roster.  I cannot say that I have seen a lot of Tech basketball this year, but offensively, there is not a lot there.  The Jackets’ leading scorer, Ben Lammers, was the only Tech player to end up in double-figures as he scored 10 points on a 4 for 10 night from the floor.  Lammers also had 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, which earned him “Player of the Game” honors according to the giant replay screen above center court.  Considering his team got trounced and he had just the 4th highest point total of the night, I hope that Lammers doesn’t take much solace in that meaningless award.

Tech’s other senior big, Quinton Stephens, was determined to show the world that he can in fact create his own shot off the dribble.  However, the basketball gods inside McCamish had other ideas as Stephens missed all 9 of his attempts from the floor and turned the ball over 4 times.

UGA out rebounded the Jackets by a tally of 40-31, and even more importantly, they limited Tech to only 2 second chance points.  Considering how poorly the Jackets shot it on Tuesday, Georgia’s defensive rebounding might have been the difference in this game as they permitted Tech to grab just 5 offensive boards.

Critical moment of the game #1

The first came with 7:45 remaining before the break and the Dawgs leading 19-10, following an old-fashioned three-point play by Yante Maten.  Georgia had wrestled control of this contest from the Jackets, and they appeared poised to deliver a knockout blow to the home team going into the half.  However, instead of keeping his foot on the pedal, Mark Fox opted to pump the breaks, taking Maten out 17 seconds later and then removing Frazier a minute after that.  The result: Tech went on a 6-0 run and after a pair of free throws by Josh Okogie the Jackets only trailed the Dawgs 19-16.  Georgia ended up taking a 27-18 advantage into the intermission, but it felt like they should have been up by 15 or more.

Critical moment of the game #2

With 15:22 left and UGA up 34-24, Georgia Tech decided to extend a media timeout for a planned on-court celebration of its Governor’s Cup trophy that the football team earned in Athens back in November.  I have no idea why this celebration didn’t occur at some point during halftime since the game operations people obviously knew that the football players were going to take the floor.  Apparently this commemoration did not sit well with Coach Fox’s team as they outscored Tech 13-8 over the next 8 minutes, extending the Georgia lead to 47-32, and putting this contest out of reach for Josh Pastner’s bunch.

While this game was not a thing of beauty, all and all, it was a huge win for the Dawgs.  Georgia secured the non-conference win over a Power 5 opponent that it desperately needed, and this victory came on the road, which was an added bonus.  Another thing Coach Fox’s team did was avoid a potential “bad loss” to a Tech team that currently has an RPI of 169 and no prospects of moving that number below the century mark any time soon.

 

 

Up next for UGA: Georgia Tech

 

The annual in-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech (6-3) has not been kind to Coach Mark Fox in recent years.  Prior to last year’s win in Athens, a game in which J.J. Frazier scored 35 points, Georgia (7-3) had lost four in a row to the Jackets.  With losses already to Clemson, Kansas and Marquette, the Dawgs are running out of opportunities for solid non-conference wins, meaning that Tuesday’s contest against the Jackets is one that Fox’s team must have.

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J.J. hit 6 three-pointers when these two teams met in Athens last year.

Georgia Tech, who was projected by both SI and USA Today to finish 14th in the new 15-team ACC this year, has endured a rocky start to the season.  After needing overtime to win their exhibition game against Shorter, the Jackets won 4 of 5 to start the season.  The problem, however, was that the lone loss came at home to Ohio.  Tech has dropped road games at both Penn State and Tennessee, yet they somehow pulled off a shocker at VCU, upending the Rams 76-73 in OT.

Coach Josh Pastner did not inherit a lot to work with for his initial campaign as the Jackets’ skipper.  Tech returned just one starter this season – Quinton Stephens – and he only netted 5 points a game a year ago.  This season, though, Stephens has been getting almost 12 points and 8 rebounds a night.

The surprise of the year thus far for Pastner has to be the play of center Ben Lammers, who is leading this team in both scoring and rebounding.  After averaging just 3.6 points and 4 boards a night last year, Lammers is pouring in 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.  Lammers is an excellent passer, and at 6’10”, he can can see the whole floor when he has the ball at the top of the key, where Tech likes to run a lot of its offense.

The most talented guard on the Jackets roster has to be junior Tadric Jackson, who is scoring just under 13 points a contest.  The former 4-star recruit out of Tift County spurned an offer from UGA and wound up going to school in Atlanta instead.  This season, Tech is 4-1 in games in which Jackson has scored in double-figures; they are 1-2 in the games that he has failed to eclipse the 10-point mark.

This Tech team is not afraid to press full court defensively, which is something that Georgia has not see a lot of so far this season.  The Dawgs should definitely expect to see full court pressure on Tuesday, as Pastner will want to make it as difficult as possible for UGA to dump the ball down into Maten in the half court set.

While its unreasonable to demand another 35 points out of Frazier, Coach Fox must get better play from his senior guard.  J.J. has shot over 40% from the floor in only 4 of the team’s 10 games this year, and if Georgia hopes to sneak out of Midtown with a win they are going to need Frazier to shoot it well Tuesday night.

Dawgs drop the opener to rival Georgia Tech

Charles Mitchell, who had spurned Georgia twice already on the recruiting front, torched the Dawgs in Atlanta on Friday night for 20 points and 9 rebounds en route to an 80-73 Georgia Tech victory.  Mitchell was one of Fox’s targets coming out of Wheeler High School a few years ago, but the young man opted to go to Maryland.  Last year, when Mitchell chose to leave Maryland to return to the state of Georgia so he could be closer to his grandmother, he again snubbed UGA, selecting Tech as his new basketball destination.  Despite these choices, last evening he appeared to be playing possessed, with a chip on his shoulder, almost. And, Mitchell gives the Yellow Jackets something that the Dawgs desperately need: a post who can play with his back to the basket.

Much like in the exhibition game last week, Georgia’s offense looked clunky, making just 27% of its shots in the game’s opening half.  The Dawgs ended the game hitting nearly 42% from the floor, but Mark Fox’s team appears to be lacking scoring options, especially when Charles Mann has a 3 for 11 shooting performance.  While Fox’s offensive scheme involves a lot of motion and picks, without playmakers it simply does not work.  This system still needs players who can slice their way into the lane from the wing position, and right now, I’m scratching my head wondering who on Georgia can fill that roll?

Despite starting poorly, UGA managed to hang around in this contest, cutting the lead as low as 4 points after a Marcus Thornton bucket with 14:39 left in the game and Georgia Tech up 50-46.  However, back-to-back field goals by Charles Mitchell – one of them an awkward dunk off a break – pushed the Jackets lead back up to 8 points.

Whenever Georgia managed to get close, Tech would pull away.  Quinton Stephens, who led all scorers with 22 points, was a menace for UGA all night, connecting on 6 of his eight shots from beyond the arc.

The Dawgs’ best performance was turned in by Djurisic, who finished with 18 points, helping to keep his team around before the intermission with some timely three-pointers.

Cameron Forte wins the award for the most efficient performance of the night, scoring 5 points and grabbing 3 rebounds to go along with a steal and a block, all in just 4 minutes of play.  Forte’s lack of presence on the court as the game progressed was perplexing since he was giving his team a viable scoring option.  Last season, Forte’s defense is what limited his playing time; whether that has improved or not, he needs to be in the lineup more because this team needs all the help it can get on the other side of the ball.

This loss is going to sting (pun intended).  Georgia Tech does not look like a very good team, and it seems likely that they will end up near the bottom of the ACC, just as was projected by numerous media sources.  Whether this game will hurt UGA’s NCAA hopes later in the year probably shouldn’t be of much concern to Georgia fans because right now this Dawgs’ team does not have the looks of an NCAA tournament team.

What should worry Dawgs’ fans is that Mark Fox has now dropped four straight to the Jackets, which hasn’t happened since the 1960’s (back when Tech was in the SEC).  Georgia gets a slew of cupcake games before taking on Gonzaga in New York on November 26th as part of the preseason NIT.

Georgia Tech edges Dawgs 80-71

Any coach, player or fan knows that the most critical parts of a college basketball game are the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. A team can either build or lose momentum heading into the break, and they can either set or lose the tone coming out of intermission.

On Friday night in Athens, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dominated this 8-minute section of the game, resulting in their second straight win in the Classic City (something that hadn’t been done since the 1960-1961 seasons).

After playing slightly behind for the majority of the first half, Kenny Gaines actually gave UGA a 31-30 lead following a pair of made free throws. Juwan Parker scored on the ensuing possession, and Georgia held a 33-30 advantage with 4:11 remaining before the break.

Tech, however, used 5 points from point guard Trae Golden and two Georgia turnovers to go on a 13-5 run to close out the half, with the Yellow Jackets leading 43-38 after 20 minutes of play.

They Yellow Jackets opened up the second half with a 12-2 run, and after another Golden three-pointer Tech found itself holding a commanding 55-40 advantage with 16:46 left in the game.

The Dawgs were never able to cut much into this lead, and Tech cruised out of Athens with a 80-71 victory, their third of the season.

Georgia Tech was lead offensively by Trae Golden, who finished the game with a team-high 18 points.

As a team, UGA played fairly well defensively, limiting the Jackets to under 39% from the floor. Tech did get several easy baskets along the baseline due to some slow rotations by the Georgia bigs, but other than that Coach Fox had to be pleased with the defensive effort.

Offensively, Georgia looks too much like a one-man show. Sophomore Charles Mann shouldered the scoring load for the Dawgs, putting up a career-high 24 points (including a scorching 4 for 4 performance from beyond the arc). Unfortunately though, Mann also led UGA with 7 turnovers – however, some of those can be attributed to a lack of help around him (at times it looked as if Mann was just trying too hard to create offense).

After two scrimmages against UNC-Pembroke and Wofford, Georgia got its first taste of real Division I competition and Charles Mann appeared to be the only player ready to make something happen with the ball in his hands.

UGA’s lack of an inside presence (once again) allowed the Jackets to extend their defense to the perimeter, placing added pressure on Mann and fellow sophomore Kenny Gaines, who ended up with 13 points, but it was at the expense of a 3 for 10 shooting performance.

Coach Fox will need an inside player to step up and take some of the pressure off Mann and Gaines if this team hopes to find much success this season.

Dawgs host in-state rival Georgia Tech on Friday

Trae Golden, a native of Powder Springs, Georgia, transferred to Georgia Tech from Tennessee this past summer so that he could be closer to home and his ailing father. The result: the Yellow Jackets had a Second-Team All-SEC point guard literally fall right into their laps.

The former Vol has been productive early, averaging 14 points per game against Prebsbytarian and Delaware State. The senior led Tech in scoring with 16 points against DSU on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor. Golden provides Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory the perfect complement to a team that returned four starters from a year ago.

The good news for Georgia fans is that in Charles Mann’s only encounter with Golden last season he managed to limit Trae to just 4 points on 1 of 10 shooting from the field. Golden struggled to find good looks against the taller point guard, and he likely will find the view unpleasant again Friday night in Athens against a more-seasoned Charles Mann.

Prior to the season, Georgia Tech was projected to finish slightly below the middle of the expanded ACC.

To date, neither of these teams has played much competition. Friday night’s game should serve as an early barometer for both team’s coaches to get an idea about what kind of squads they have on their hands for the 2013-2014 season.

The Yellow Jackets’ roster has several players who passed on scholarship opportunities from UGA along with senior center Daniel Miller, who originally signed to play for the Dawgs before defecting after Dennis Felton’s departure.

Coach Fox’s team will not be low on motivation.

Rivalry Week: Jackets Visit Dawgs

This movie was playing in theatres the last time Georgia Tech...

The year was 1976…A hot, young actor by the name of Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the classic western, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  A band by the name of Hall & Oates was climbing the Billboard charts with their new hit single, “Sara Smile”.  Yours truly had not quite been born yet…

Do you know another reason why 1976 was a significant year in American history?  It marked the last time that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-4) won a basketball game in Athens, Georgia.

The Georgia Bulldogs (4-4) have not experienced a ton of success on the hard courts over the past thirty-something years, but one thing has remained a constant during that same time period – the Dawgs do not lose to their in-state rivals inside of Stegeman Coliseum.

Tonight’s game features two teams teetering on the brink of .500, in a state that is brimming over with high school basketball talent.  If Coach Mark Fox and Brian Gregory want to stick around at their respective programs, they are going to have to do a better job of keeping the local talent in state.

The Dawgs are looking to stop a three-game losing streak, with the most recent loss coming at home last Friday night to the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Tech is on a little two-game skid of their own, following back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Tulane.

The strength of the Jackets’ lineup resides in its backcourt, where they are led by juniors Glen Rice, Jr. and Mfon Udofia.  Rice and Udofia lead the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg and 11.9 ppg, respectively.  Both players can hurt opposing defenses off the dribble, or from the outside where they are each connecting on over 33% of their three-point attempts.

Slowing down the Georgia Tech guards is certainly a must for the Bulldogs if they hope to be successful tonight.

However, defense has not been what’s been ailing the Dawgs so far this season.  UGA’s Achilles heel this year has been its atrocious second-half play.  Coach Mark Fox must find a way to keep his team focused after the intermission so that they can avoid the second-half offensive droughts that have plagued his team this season.

In Georgia’s four losses to Cal, Xavier, Colorado and Cincinnati, the Bulldogs were outscored in the first 10 minutes of these game’s second halves by a grand tally of 84-31.  Frankly, that statistic is embarrassing.

I think that there is a great chance that the Bulldogs could head into the break of tonight’s game leading the Yellow Jackets.  The question, however, is can they bring any intensity out of the locker room to finish out the game?

Charleston Southern Buccaneers Visit Athens, GA on Tuesday

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-2) will take on their second opponent this season from the Big South Conference (the first being High Point) as the Charleston Southern Buccaneers role into Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday.

In continuing with the holiday spirit, I am willing to chalk up the Dawgs unimpressive win over Mercer last Tuesday to some pre-holiday jitters.  Hopefully Mark Fox’s guys got all the presents they asked for over the weekend, and they can turn their attentions back to basketball.

ESPN wasn’t as nice – listing Georgia’s 56-53 win over Mercer as a score that “caught their eye”, and saying that “the Bulldogs still shouldn’t be struggling this much.”

I tend to agree.

Charleston Southern is 6-6 on the season, however some of those wins have come against rather flimsy competition – Southern’s strength-of-schedule sits at 208 on CBS’s rankings.  Four of their wins have come against Division II teams – Montreat College, Toccoa Falls, Milligan and Bluefield College.

The Dawgs do share a common opponent with the Buccaneers:  the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.  Charleston Southern lost 52-39 at Georgia Tech in their first game of the season, while the Dawgs beat the Jackets 73-72.

Despite their soft schedule and unimpressive start, Charleston Southern does have seven Georgia natives on its roster, and they will be looking to play well against the Dawgs in what will be a “homecoming” of sorts for many Buccaneer players.  Four of the Buccaneers starters hale from the Peach State, and two players – forward Kenny Mitchell and reserve guard Chris Grier – played their high school ball at Columbia High in Decatur, where Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price played as well.

The Bucs start three guards that all average in double-figures – Jermarco Warren (14.4 ppg), Sheldon Strickland (11.3 ppg) and Jeremy Sexton (10.4 ppg).  Warren, a preseason Big South All-League First Team selection, is leading his team in both scoring  and steals (1.8) while shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc.

Freshman Sheldon Strickland is out to a great rookie campaign, not only scoring in double-figures but also leading this Bucs team with 3.6 assists per game and connecting on 50% of his three-point attempts.   Strickland comes from Lithonia, GA where he played at my alma mater in Atlanta – Lakeside High School.  I saw him play in a few games last year – he is a very athletic guard that could challenge Robinson or Ware defensively.

Sophomore guard Jeremy Sexton, the only starter not from Georgia, is hitting nearly 35% of his three-pointers and scoring 10.4 ppg.

Leading the charge in the paint for the Bucs is 6’5″ junior forward Kelvin Martin.  Martin, a preseason Big South All-League Second Team selection, is netting 11.6 ppg and leading the Bucs in rebounds at 9.0 per game.  His field goal percentage is off the charts, as he is making over 70% of his attempts from the floor.

This team has no trouble scoring the basketball.  Currently, Southern is averaging 80.5 ppg (21st nationally), shooting 48% from the field (30th nationally) and making 39.4% of their three-point attempts (33rd nationally).  Granted, these numbers may have been bolstered by playing against lesser competition, but it’s definitely apparent that this is a very good shooting team.

Georgia is currently 11th in the SEC in three-point percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37.1% from beyond the arc.  If the Georgia comes out lackadaisical on defense and doesn’t contest outside shots, the Dawgs could be in for another close game (in a game that shouldn’t be close at all).

Charleston Southern is undersized with only one starter over 6’5″ – sophomore forward Kenny Mitchell stands at 6’7″ (9.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg).  The Bucs also lack depth, with several starters playing nearly 40 minutes in games against Division I opponents this year.

Mark Fox’s team needs to get back on track after a near let-down in Macon.  Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price SHOULD have their way in the paint on Tuesday night.

After combining for a total of zero points against Mercer, Georgia’s guard tandem of Gerald Robinson, Jr. (0-2 FG) and Dustin Ware (0-1) SHOULD be chomping at the bit offensively.  GR2 did have 4 assists in the game, but he has to look for his own shot more on offense, especially off the dribble-drive.  When he gets into the paint and scores, it really opens things up for everyone else on this team.

Dustin Ware needs to be this team’s three-point threat, meaning he can’t have games where he only attempts one shot from the outside.  When Ware gets passes to him on the kick-outs or skips, he has to be ready to knock down shots for Coach Fox.  Georgia is still averaging under 5 three-point field goals per game as a team.

Speaking of three-pointers, Trey Thompkins has started to find his outside stroke in the month of December, connecting on 4 of 9 attempts.  And as I mentioned last week, Georgia is now 6-0 in games this season in which Trey scores 15 points or more.  As his scoring goes, so go the Dawgs.

And finally, Georgia is 5-0 at home in The Steg this season, while Charleston Southern is 0-4 on the road – so nothing’s got to give, right?

Can the Dawgs put the Mercer game (and the holidays) behind them and stay perfect in December?

Ware’s Dawgs Sink Jackets 73-72

From the twitter account of ESPN’s Andy Katz – “Georgia with late possession win over rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta. That’s the type of win road win UGA should have to be taken seriously.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

After sleepwalking through the first half of last night’s game against Georgia Tech (4-4), the Dawgs (6-2) woke up behind a barrage of Dustin Ware three-pointers to secure Georgia‘s first win at Alexander Memorial Colesium in 10 years.

Ware hit 7 of his 9 three-point attempts last night and finished with 21 points along with 6 assists, including the game-winner that put his Dawgs up 73-70 with just 18 seconds remaining.

Georgia Tech had the ball with 11 seconds left and an opportunity to tie the game, but Glen Rice, Jr. elected to take the lay-up instead, cutting the Georgia lead to 73-72 with just 6.8 seconds remaining in the game.

The Dawgs then in-bounded the ball to Gerald Robinson, Jr. – GR2 is so fast with the ball that he nearly got away from the Tech defenders and ran out the clock himself.  However, he was fouled with just 4.5 seconds remaining and managed to miss both free throws – the only silver lining here is that there were only 2.8 seconds left after the Jackets were able to run down his second miss and call timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Brian Oliver elected to throw a hail mary pass that was intercepted by Georgia’s Travis Leslie  and the game was officially over.

The importance of Georgia‘s sharp perimeter shooting cannot be stated enough.  Sherrard Brantley had his best game to date as a Dawg, knocking down three shots from beyond the arc and finishing with 9 points.  Brantley hit back-to-back three’s during a crucial stretch in the second half, giving Georgia‘s its first lead at 48-47 with 12:10 remaining. He then answered a Brian Oliver three on the ensuing possession to put the Dawgs back on top 51-50 at the 11:36 mark.  With both Travis Leslie and GR2 dealing with foul trouble, Brantley was thrust into the difficult role of guarding Tech’s Iman Shumpert in the second half.   Brantley stepped up and did a nice job with Shumpert, limiting him to just 7 points in the second half (and maybe wearing him down – Shumpert had to sit the game’s final minutes dealing with leg cramps).

The Jackets started the game with a 2-3 zone that stymied the Dawgs on offense for a majority of the first half.  The Dawgs shot just 40% from the field and turned it over 5 times – Trey had 3 of those first-half turnovers and just 6 points.  Thompkins struggled to find offense against the Tech zone, with defenders collapsing on him every time he touched the ball.

The Dawgs had a seven-minute stretch in the first half in which they scored only one field goal, enabling the Jackets to build a 31-21 lead with just 2:17 left before the break.

Fortunately for Georgia, they played pretty tough defense which kept the game within reach – trailing 35-29 at the half.

The second half was a different story.

Ware and Brantley buried a combined six three-point shots, forcing Paul Hewitt to put his team in a man-to-man defense.  Georgia Tech’s Paul Oliver and Daniel Miller were no match for Thompkins, as Trey torched the Jackets for 15 second-half points – he finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds.

In the second half, the Dawgs shot an improved 48.4% from the field, and they made 7 of 11 from beyond the arc.

It is also worth noting that Georgia only turned the ball over TWICE in the second half, and just seven times in the game.  This shows a lot of maturity from Fox’s team, committing only seven turnovers playing on the road in a hostile environment.

And how about the resiliency of this Dawgs team?

When the Jackets went up 70-65 following a dunk by Daniel Miller with only 2:14 left in the game, it looked as if this one was slipping away.

But Gerald Robinson calmly guided his team’s offense and fed a beautiful entry pass to Trey – Thompkins finished the play plus the free throw to bring Georgia within two.  Following a nice Georgia defensive stand, GR2 took the ball to the basket and finished an amazing left-handed finger-roll, tying the game at 70 apiece.  And then (as we all are well aware) came the GR2 dish to Ware for the big three that gave Georgia the win.

So in the game’s final two minutes, Robinson led the Dawgs with 2 assists and a field goal.

Gerald Robinson finished the game with 11 points and 6 assists, and at this point, it looks like GR2 might be unguardable off the dribble.  When teams show Georgia zone in the future, I’d really like to see GR2 become a little more selfish in attacking the zone himself.  It’s obvious that he likes getting his teammates involved in the offense, but I think his penetration will force teams to play more man against Georgia.

This was a great win for Georgia for so many reasons – beating the in-state rival, beating an ACC team, winning on the road, recruiting, etc.

After going 0-11 in true road games last season, Coach Fox’s team is now 2-0 this season in games played at the opponent’s venue.

Watching the Dawgs take this game, and then getting to listen to the Tech fans grumble about Paul Hewitt all the way to the car made this event well worth the $30 I paid for the ticket.

And finally, Coach Mark Fox’s team has now won two in a row against the Jackets.

So I ask you Dawgs fans: Who runs this state?