Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’
J.J. Frazier had a chance to be a hero twice on Saturday, but he came up a little short each time. The first opportunity came at the end of regulation when J.J. took a last second shot from the top of the key as timed expired, but the ball didn’t cooperate, bouncing off the back of the iron and sending the game into overtime. At the end of OT, Frazier took an off-balanced shot from the corner that could have tied the game at 79 apiece, but that shot was off the mark as well and UGA lost an 80-76 heartbreaker to the Florida Gators, making it 14 straight years since they last won in Gainesville.
In some ways it was kind of amazing that the Dawgs managed to get to OT considering that they had to play the last 3:51 without their leading scorer, Yante Maten. Maten fouled out vying for position underneath with a Florida player, his team up 64-59. But without Yante on the court, the Gators were able to extend their defense so that they could key in on Frazier around the perimeter, and they limited UGA to just 3 points during this final stretch. Overtime felt like more of a formality than anything since it seemed improbable that the Dawgs could actually outplay Florida for 5 minutes without Maten’s inside presence.
But moral victories aside, this loss was also incredibly frustrating for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Georgia missed out on a chance to notch a serious NCAA tournament resume win on the road against a team with an RPI of 3. At halftime, ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz repeated almost to the point of ad nauseam how important it was that Georgia get this game.
Second, the Dawgs once again played loose with the basketball, turning it over 18 times, and it cost them: Florida converted those turnovers into 22 points. While the Gators did enter this game 18th in the nation in turnovers forced, that didn’t mean that UGA had to oblige and hand the ball over to them. The Dawgs are now averaging just under 16 turnovers a game in conference play, which is third to last in the SEC in that category.
Also, at the end of this game Georgia failed to limit the Gators to just one shot on offense. Florida collected 5 offensive rebounds over the final five and a half minutes (including OT), and they turned those boards into 4 of their final 14 points. Let’s not forget that Florida guard Kasey Hill tied the game from the line at 67-67 after John Egbunu kept Hill’s previous missed free throw alive. Derek Ogbeide led UGA with 10 rebounds on the afternoon, but he only managed 1 defensive board during this critical stretch of the game. Florida only had 6 second chance points in the entire game, but unfortunately for Georgia the Gators collected the majority of them with the game on the line.
Finally, Georgia made too many bonehead plays to walk out of this one with a win. The Dawgs committed three fouls on Florida shooters attempting three-pointers, and Canyon Barry turned two of them into four-point plays. I would wager a large sum of money that no other team in the country today surrenders more than one 4-point play in a game. I guess I have to at least credit the Dawgs for attempting to contest his shot, though, since twice on inbounds plays Mark Fox’s team left the youngest Barry wide open at the top of the key, where he buried both attempts. Barry scored a season-high 27 points on the Dawgs this afternoon, connecting on 5 of his 8 three-point shots.
This was a winnable game for Georgia. Despite Florida’s #23 ranking in the polls and their high RPI, this Gator team did not look nearly as scary as the ones that Billy Donovan fielded in the past. I was expecting 40 minutes of full-court pressure from this highly regarded Florida defense, yet for much of the game the Gators seemed content to play half court man to man, which played to UGA’s strengths. In the first half, the Dawgs pounded the ball inside and led the entire twenty minutes, taking a 1 point advantage into the break. Georgia made more than 48% of their field goal attemtps, well above the team’s season average of 44%.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the Dawgs are now 11-6 overall, and 3-2 in conference play. J.J. Frazier played well, scoring 25 points and dishing out 5 assists, but man would it have been epic if he could have sunk that shot at the end of regulation. Juwan Park, who has been getting better and better since the start of the SEC season, netted 17 points to go along with his 7 boards.
Georgia has a few days to lick their wounds before playing host to a Vanderbilt team that just lost a close game at home to Kentucky.
Mark Fox has never won a game in Gainesville. Let that sink in for a moment. Matter of fact, Fox’s UGA teams have only been victorious 3 times in their 12 meetings with the Gators overall during that same time span. The last time the Dawgs did manage to pull off a road win against Florida was during the 2001-2002 season, when now assistant coach Jonas Hayes was a player (UGA won 84-79 that day).
The fact that the Gators have been so dominant against Georgia shouldn’t be surprising, though. Florida has had considerably better talent walk through its doors over the past 15 years. I mean, the Gators did win back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007 during the Joakim Noah era. Florida regularly goes to the NCAA Tournament, while UGA has been twice since Fox set foot in Athens.
But its not just the Gators that Coach Mark Fox’s teams have struggled against. Generally speaking, Georgia hasn’t fared well against elite competition during Fox’s tenure. Over the past seven seasons, the Dawgs have compiled a 2-30 record versus what ESPN deems the RPI Top 25. Currently, Florida has an RPI of 3.
To say that Georgia has a lot of things going against itself historically as they rumble into Gainesville for a midday showdown with the Gators is an understatement.
After trailing by double digits for much of the second half, Mississippi tried to mount a comeback down the final stretch of the game. Following a jumper by Breein Tyree, the Rebels had cut the Georgia (11-5; 3-1) lead to 53-44 with 5:37 remaining. The Ole Miss (10-6; 1-3) crowd, which hadn’t had much to cheer about for the previous thirty-something minutes, finally started to come to life. On the ensuing possession, however, J.J. Frazier delivered a crushing three-pointer, which sent the Dawgs’ advantage back up above 10 points. Frazier’s bucket sparked the Georgia offense, which had connected on only 37% of its previous attempts, and the Dawgs closed out the game by making 5 of their last 9 shots en route to a 69-47 blowout of the home team.
Offensively, it just wasn’t Ole Miss’s night. Of course, it didn’t help that the team’s leading scorer, Deandre Burnett, who averages 19 ppg, left the court with an ankle injury with about 4 minutes remaining before the break, after scoring just 3 points. Unfortunately for Andy Kennedy’s team, Burnett wouldn’t return to the game. The Rebels’ second-leading scorer, Terrance Davis, netted 9 of his 12 points quickly after the intermission, but he eventually had to sit for a large chunk of the second half due to foul trouble.
Usually, when a team’s best players aren’t on the court, that team is going to struggle to score the basketball. Ole Miss came into the game shooting 44% from the field; on Wednesday night they hit under 28% from the floor. The Rebels were making over 36% from beyond the arc, but this evening they failed to make more than 10% from the perimeter. Even the free throw line flummoxed them: Ole Miss hit just 53% from the stripe, which was a far cry from its season average of 75%.
But it wasn’t all just bad shooting and a lack of personnel. Coach Mark Fox’s team did an excellent job of mixing in their zones with man defense, and the UGA perimeter players for the most part effectively closed out on the Rebel shooters.
Georgia was led offensively by Frazier and Yante Maten, who scored 17 and 15, respectively. Frazier looked more comfortable from beyond the arc, where he knocked down 3 of his 7 attempts. Maten notched another double-double as he snagged a team-high 11 boards, and the junior scored all but 2 of his points after halftime.
All and all, though, UGA didn’t look that great on offense. Ole Miss ran an extended 1-3-1 zone that transitioned into a 2-3 for much of the night, and it served to limit the number of good looks at the basket for Georgia. The Dawgs seemed unsure of how to attack the pressure, which should be a major concern going into the Florida game. Georgia connected on only 40% from the floor and less than 28% from beyond the arc in Oxford, and I fear that a similar effort in Gainesville this Saturday could leave the Dawgs on the receiving end of a blowout.
Once again, UGA had trouble taking care of the ball. After turning it over 20 times last weekend against Missouri, Georgia committed another 14 tonight in Mississippi. Mark Fox’s team took a 30-18 advantage into the intermission, but had they not given the ball away 10 times in the first half, UGA could have been up by 20 points or more at that point.
The biggest positive takeaway on the night for the Dawgs offensively has to be their efficiency from the free throw line, where Georgia sunk 22 of its 25 attempts.
This victory is UGA’s second conference road win of the young SEC season, and it marks Georgia’s best RPI win to date as the Rebels came ranked 38th.
The Dawgs return to action this Saturday at high noon against the Florida Gators in Gainesville, a place where Mark Fox has yet to win.
For a brief moment the Georgia Bulldogs looked poised to claim its first lead of the second half after Yante Maten buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with only 57 seconds remaining. Trailing South Carolina 62-61, the Dawgs were just one mere stop from wresting away the advantage from the visiting Gamecocks. But as luck would have it, Sindarius Thornwell, who had just returned from a six-game suspension, would score on a tip-in from his own miss on the ensuing possession, putting his team back up by 3. J.J. Frazier turned the ball over the next time down the court and then fouled Hassani Gravett immediately. Gravett made only one of two from the line, but Frazier forced an awkward three that caromed off the rim, and UGA would go on to lose 67-61.
The final minute of this game exemplified the major issues that plagued this Georgia team throughout the night: poor defense, turnovers and inconsistent offense. The Dawgs tried to play USC in man defense for much of this game, but I’m not sure that they had the personnel for that strategy to work. Coach Mark Fox doesn’t have the perimeter players to deal with Thornwell or fellow guard P.J. Dozier. Both of these guys relentlessly drove the ball to the paint, where Frank Martin’s team notched 38 of its points (to UGA’s 19). Dozier led all scores with 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, and Thornwell recorded a double-double, scoring 19 points and snagging 11 rebounds.
Georgia didn’t really have it together on offense tonight either. The Dawgs made just 36% from the floor and under 31% from beyond the arc. Coach Fox’s team played incredibly sloppy in this one, turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 18 Gamecock points. UGA began the second half with one of its infamous scoring droughts, netting just 5 points in over 7 minutes of play. The Dawgs only trailed Carolina 36-34 at the break, but following a Chris Silva Jumper with 12:51 left they found themselves down 48-39. The free throw line, where UGA connected on 23 of 30 attempts, was the lone bright spot for Georgia, and honestly it kept them in the game down the stretch.
The Dawgs continued to pound the ball inside to Yante Maten, and despite facing multiple double-teams, he kept getting himself to the line. Maten made 9 of his 13 free throw attempts, though he only shot 33% from the floor. Yante did record another double-double as he pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds, but he never really got into an offensive rhythm as he constantly found himself surrounded by Gamecock bigs whenever he touched the ball inside. All this pressure forced Georgia’s leading scorer into 6 turnovers.
Unfortunately, Maten wasn’t the only Dawg to hand the ball over 6 times. Frazier committed 6 as well and never really got going on offense himself. Much like Maten, J.J. collected the majority of his points from the charity stripe, where he sunk 9 of 10 attempts. But Frazier’s efficiency from the field was far worse as he connected on just 30% from the floor and only 1 of his 6 perimeter shots.
The only other UGA player to finish in double-figures was Juwan Parker, who netted 12 points to go along with his 6 rebounds.
This loss was a tough one for Coach Fox’s team for several reasons. One, it totally sucks the air out of any of the mojo that the Dawgs might have been feeling after that big road win at Auburn last week. Two, Georgia still hasn’t recorded a solid RPI win. South Carolina’s RPI was 54 coming into the game, and it would have been UGA’s highest to date had they pulled it off. Finally, Georgia blew a solid opportunity to begin SEC play at 3-0 with lowly Missouri coming into town this Saturday. However, now that that’s out the window, the Dawgs will be doing their best to get back above .500 in conference play.
SEC openers have not been Mark Fox’s specialty during his tenure in Athens as his teams have gone a combined 2-5. Georgia (9-4) looked overwhelmed at the start of this game, and following a tip-in by Austin Wiley the Auburn Tigers (10-3) held a commanding 33-20 lead over the Dawgs just a little over halfway through the opening twenty minutes. The sold out Auburn Arena was rocking as this hot Tiger team, coming off a huge road win at Connecticut, seemed poised to deliver a knockout punch to a shell-shocked group of Dawgs.
But UGA hung around. J.J. Frazier got handsy, ratcheting up a game-high 5 steals. Jordan Harris looked like a 4-star recruit, scoring 12 points on a combination of three-pointers and drives. Yante Maten got hit with 2 quick fouls, but managed to only accumulate 1 more over the final 30-something minutes. Even Juwan Parker, who’s jumper has been anything but consistent this season, buried a key shot from the corner that put the Dawgs up 90-80 with only 2:31 left.
Below are two major reasons why Georgia managed to pull off this 96-84 victory on The Plains:
Switch to zone
The Dawgs tried to play Auburn in a man defense to begin the game and that strategy was rendered ineffective pretty quickly. The Tigers pushed the tempo early, and UGA failed to close out well on the perimeter, which led to a barrage of Auburn three-pointers. The Tigers hit 7 of their first 11 shots from beyond the arc and held a 36-26 advantage with a little over 8 minutes left in the first half after a triple from junior T.J. Lang.
Credit Mark Fox, however, for recognizing and reacting to Auburn’s pace by putting his team into a combination of matchup, 2-3 and 3-2 zones. The Tigers missed their final 3 shots from the perimeter heading into the intermission, and they made just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half. After hitting over 56% from the floor in the first twenty minutes of play, Auburn made only 37% of its field goal attempts following the break. UGA’s zone looks reduced the number of open shots from the outside for Bruce Pearl’s team, and it helped Georgia slow down the tempo of the game, which turned out to work very much in Dawgs’ favor.
In the latter quarter of this game, Georgia abandoned its typical half court offensive sets, which can become slightly rigid at times, and instead put the ball in the hands of its two playmakers. On nearly every possession, the Dawgs offense consisted of a high screen by Yante Maten for J.J. Frazier, and then those two would take it from there. Maten, who led all scorers with 31 points, netted 10 of those in the game’s final 8 minutes. Frazier, who poured in 27 points as well, scored 8 during the same stretch and dished out 2 of his 5 assists. The UGA offense looked much more NBA-like than collegiate in the game’s final minutes, and Georgia closed out this contest with a 22-10 run after trailing Auburn 76-74 with 7:27 remaining. After connecting on just 42% of its field goal attempts in the first half, Georgia almost knocked down 60% of its shots from the floor following the intermission en route to a season-high output of 96 points.
Dennis Felton’s demise at Georgia, which was briefly stalled by a miraculous tornado-driven SEC Tournament Championship in 2008, ultimately came to roost because of the coach’s inability to keep the top high school basketball talent in state.
Mark Fox was hired because he had recruited well and made a winner out of Nevada, and I suppose the thinking inside the UGA Athletic Department was that with Atlanta just a little over an hour away, Fox could start convincing some of these talented Peach state recruits to stay home and play in the Red and Black.
As a former high school basketball player in DeKalb County, one of Atlanta’s biggest school districts, I’ve always felt that this city was loaded with high-end basketball talent, as I played against a number of major Division-I commits. For years, college basketball analysts have labeled Atlanta a “hotbed” for recruiting, but I wanted to take a more objective look for myself. Here is what I was able to dig up:
- According to Hero Sports, Georgia has produced the 7th highest number of Division-I basketball players this season with 225.
- Georgia ranked 9th among states with representation in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
- In 2015, Georgia and Wisconsin tied for 7th place among states (with 13 players apiece) in regards to the number of players on rosters of teams ranked in the AP Preseason Top 25.
- Georgia produced the 5th most (44) Division-I college basketball players relative to its college-age male populations, according to a 2014 Deadspin article.
- Georgia currently has 12 players from the state ranked on the 2017 ESPN100 list of the nation’s best recruits, the most of any other state. The next closest state to Georgia is California, which has a total of 8 players on the same list. Considering the population differential between those two states, I’d say that the fact that Georgia boasts 4 more blue chips than Cali is quite significant. Below are the number of ESPN100 recruits from the state of Georgia during the Mark Fox era:
- 2017 = 12
- 2016 = 9
- 2015 = 6
- 2014 = 4
- 2013 = 2
- 2012 = 9
- 2011 = 6
- 2010 = 5
Maybe the most telling statistic from all of this is that over the past 8 years the state of Georgia has put 53 players on the ESPN 100 lists, and UGA has landed 3 of them: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyree Crump and Rayshawn Hammonds. Not including next year’s class with Hammonds, Fox will have signed one of these ESPN100 guys at a rate of just under 1 every 3 years during his time in Athens.
If a UGA basketball coach could ever manage to land one of these ESPN100 recruits every season, the Dawgs would probably be dancing nearly every March.
Anyone following Georgia basketball this season has surely been privy to the comments surrounding UGA’s need to find an established third scoring option. Many had hoped that that would be Juwan Parker, who is currently netting 8 points per contest. As the season progresses into conference play, Parker may boost his offensive output and blast into the realm of double-digit scoring, but for this Dawgs team that increase may come at a cost. Currently, Parker is shooting 33% from the floor and 11% from beyond the arc, numbers that aren’t that far off from his career averages heading into this season (33% from the floor and 20% from 3-point land). For Parker to start scoring even more, Georgia will have to endure a lot more missing as well.
Others thought that the two 4-star recruits, Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump, might help to shore up the scoring load that would be abandoned by the departures of Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann. Harris, who has worked his way into the starting lineup, is getting 5.2 points per game, but he’s still looking awful freshman-like whenever he puts the ball on the floor. Defenders have been able to strip the ball from his hands far too easily when he drives the ball, and that problem will only get worse once conference play begins. And Crump is barely seeing the floor.
It is safe to say at this point that Mark Fox may not get another reliable scoring option this season, and that’s a problem. Yante Maten averaged over 24 points against the likes of Clemson, Kansas and Marquette, and UGA still lost all three games. Against Oakland, Maten was rendered ineffective due to foul trouble, managing only 6 points; Georgia lost again. Whether Maten scores 30 or 6, the Bulldogs are still very beatable.
In Mark Fox’s seven years at UGA, his most successful seasons have come when his team’s scoring has been balanced. However, in order for a team to have balanced scoring, it first has to have more than two players that can score the ball effectively. Let’s examine Fox’s lineups throughout his tenure at Georgia in order of what I consider to be most successful to least successful, beginning with his two NCAA tournament participants:
The 2010-11 team that finished 21-12 after losing in the first round of the NCAA’s to Washington:
The 2014-2015 team also went 21-12, and they lost to Michigan State in round 1 of the NCAA’s:
Last year’s team, which ended up in the NIT, was 20-14:
The 2013-2014 campaign – another 20-14 season – resulted in UGA going to the 2nd round of the NIT:
The remaining Fox-lead teams all had losing records:
And finally, a look at this year’s current scoring numbers:
Noticing a trend? When Fox has had only two players at most scoring in double-digits, his teams have not only failed to reach the Big Dance, but they’ve only recorded winning records once in those four seasons. At the moment, it’s definitely looking like a two-player in double-digit kind of season for Fox, and he’s got no one to blame for that other than himself. The Dawgs have the best guard-forward combo in Frazier and Maten that they’ve had since the 2010-2011 team that featured Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Trey Thompkins. Unfortunately, the Frazier-Maten Express has been relatively easy for opponents to manage due to their inadequate supporting cast.
If opponents chose to double-team Trey Thompkins, he had excellent outlets to choose from in Travis Leslie, Gerald Robinson, Jr. and Jeremy Price. Marcus Thornton could rely on Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann and Neme Djurisic if he felt overly pressured.
Who can Frazier or Maten kick the ball too when defenses collapse on them? Or even worse, when one of them is not on the floor?