Dawgs fight to the bitter end in 2nd one-point loss in a week

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Despite the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs (10-17, 1-13) have now dropped 12 straight SEC games, I’m convinced that they have to be one of the most entertaining teams stuck in a double-digit losing streak in the history of college basketball. This team has every reason to throw in the towel, yet, even though they are routinely down by 10 points or more, the Dawgs refuse.

The first time UGA could have quit was…

After opening up an 18-15 lead nearly 8 minutes into this contest, Georgia’s 2-3 zone rotations slowed, and Ole Miss began to find a rhythm from the perimeter, where they canned 6 triples in the final 10 minutes before the break. UGA’s offense, which appeared overwhelmed by the Ole Miss half court trap, coughed the ball up 7 times (12 overall in the first half) during this stretch, which helped to open up the Rebels’ transition offense. All of this ugliness resulted in a 39-29 advantage for Kermit Davis’s team at the break as the Dawgs once again fell apart at the close of the first half, which has become a staple of this team.

Instead, this happened…

Tom Crean coached them up at halftime, and Georgia reentered the court a team transformed. The Dawgs figured out the Rebels’ 1-3-1 trap as they started to drive the ball into the soft spots of the zone. UGA’s defense was forcing turnovers themselves as they caused Mississippi to give it away 5 times in the initial 5 minutes of the second half. With 15:07 left, Turtle Jackson buried a three-pointer that capped off a 17-4 Georgia run that saw the Dawgs take a 46-43 advantage.

The second time the Dawgs could have quit was…

After going back and forth for nearly 6 minutes, Mississippi’s star guard, Breein Tyree, who is netting nearly 19 a night in SEC play, took over the game. Tyree, who the Dawgs had held relatively in check for most of the afternoon, suddenly became unguardable. The junior scored 12 of his team’s next 14 points on a barrage of drives and triples, and following his three-pointer with 4:04 left, his Rebels held a commanding 67-60 lead.

Personally, at this point, I thought the game was over. This 12-4 run by Ole Miss seemed insurmountable considering the Dawgs had already overcome one large deficit. I was fully ready to watch the Rebels salt the remainder of this contest away.

But then Jordan Harris happened…

If the previously mentioned 6-plus minutes of gametime were the “Breein Tyree Show”, then the final segment of this game should be known as “The Jordan Harris Hour”. The junior from Iron City, Georgia single-handedly brought the Dawgs back into this one in this game’s final moments. Harris contributed 7 points, 2 rebounds and a steal in the last 4 minutes of play, and he put his team in a position to win in the closing seconds (he finished with 15 points on the afternoon).

About that last play

I know Tyree Crump hit the triple that tied the game against Missy State earlier in the week, but he probably wasn’t positioned to repeat that feat on the Dawgs’ final possession Saturday. Crump, who missed the last-second attempt against the Rebels, had to take the shot from well beyond the arc.

I realize that Claxton was surrounded by Ole Miss defenders, but look who is wide-open under the basket – none other than the star of “The Jordan Harris Hour”, Jordan Harris.

I’m sure that Claxton will want that pass back when he watches the film.

Final thoughts

Just like in the losses to LSU and Missy State, the Dawgs earned another moral victory on Saturday in the 72-71 loss to Mississippi. No one really likes moral victories, but for some reason with THIS team THIS season they don’t feel THAT bad.

After a lackluster offensive performance in this contest’s first 20 minutes of play, Georgia came out of the intermission and canned over 65% of its shots from the floor. The perimeter defense was frustrating as slow defensive rotations and UGA defenders going under screens allowed Ole Miss to hit 12 triples (4 more than their SEC average) on a 43% shooting night from the arc. However, defensive lapses have been a hallmark of this squad this season, and maybe I’m just growing numb to them.

Bottom line: Georgia had an opportunity to steal a win on the road against what is most likely going to be an NCAA tournament team, and they came up 1 point short for the second time in a week.

The Dawgs are losing games, but they haven’t lost an ounce of fight, which is certainly encouraging for what the future could hold in the Tom Crean era.

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Examining Georgia & Florida by their SEC numbers

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Both Georgia (9-7, 1-3) and Florida (9-7, 1-3) will be looking to shake themselves out of a four-way tie for 9th in the conference when the teams lock up in Athens tomorrow. For UGA, the season thus far is going about as expected as the Dawgs were pegged to finish 13th in the SEC prior to the start of league play. Florida, however, has been a bit of a disappointment considering the media predicted the Gators to be the 5th best team in the conference before the season began.

The only common opponent that these two teams share currently is Tennessee, who bested Florida 78-67 in Gainesville last weekend; however, that result was a heck of a lot more competitive than the 46-point drubbing the Dawgs took at the hands of the Vols in Knoxville earlier this month.

Now that we’ve transitioned to conference play, statistics in SEC games become far more insightful than cumulative season stats. At this point, I’m not interested in how Rayshaun Hammonds performs against a Savannah State, Sam Houston State, Illinois State or Texas Southern; his play against conference competition, which hasn’t been stellar thus far (6.7 ppg), is a much stronger measuring stick.

Without further adieu, here is how the Dawgs and Gators stack up numbers-wise through four SEC games:

Offense

  • Scoring offense: Florida 12th (65.2), Georgia 13th (64.8)
  • FG%: Georgia 12th (38.8%), Florida 14th (36.6%)
  • 3-Point%: Florida 9th (30.8%), Georgia 14th (24.5%)
  • 3-Point FG per game: Florida 3rd (9.3), Georgia 12th (6.3)
  • Turnover margin: Florida 1st (+4), Georgia 13th (-3.8)

Defense

  • Scoring defense: Florida 3rd (67.8), Georgia 11th (80.2)
  • FG% defense: Georgia 11th (44.7%), Florida 12th (45.4%)
  • 3-Point FG% defense: Georgia 12th (35.4%), Florida 14th (38.1%)
  • Rebounding margin: Florida 10th (-3.8), Georgia 13th (-6.8)
  • Blocked shots: Georgia 1st (6.5), Florida 12th (2.8)
  • Steals: Florida 7th (6.5), Georgia 10th (5.8)
  • Defensive Reb.%: Florida 7th (67.5%), Georgia 14th (61.5%)

Other than a few outliers, both of these teams are near the bottom of the SEC in more than a few important categories. Neither squad has been impressive offensively, though Florida’s team defense hasn’t been too shabby. Statistically, I’d say the Gators have a slight edge, but the fact that the game is in Athens should tip the scales in UGA’s favor a bit. In other words, I expect a competitive game tomorrow.

Looking ahead to next season

Tom Crean had me at “We’re going to shoot the 3.”  He uttered this statement several months ago at his first official press conference as the head basketball coach at UGA.  The three-point line is paramount in college basketball today, yet Coach Mark Fox never seemed to get this.  Either that, or he was just stubborn and resisted.  Fox’s inability to recruit perimeter shooters certainly was a contributing factor to his downfall at Georgia.   Instead of joining the rest of the basketball world and designing an offense around the arc, Fox chose to hunker down and continue with his hard-nosed, defensive, slow the game down to a crawl approach.  This style of play is effective at keeping teams in contention in games, but it obviously did not support a winning style of play as his UGA teams routinely lost games during the critical final stretch.

At this point, Crean has done nothing other than make a series of highly-energized speeches about how excited he is about this program and where he sees it going.  Based upon his track record at both Indiana and Marquette, he should be able to put a product on the court that is far more entertaining than what Georgia fans grew accustomed to under Fox.  If it hadn’t been for J.J. Frazier, Fox may have been ousted a year earlier; Frazier’s ability to freestyle and create his shot from anywhere masked Fox’s pedestrian offense from fans.

How soon can Crean create success in Athens?  That’s the million dollar question.  UGA fans may have been SLIGHTLY spoiled in this department after seeing Kirby Smart follow up his initial 8-5 season with a trip to the national championship game.  However, UGA basketball fans tend to be a bit more reserved when it comes to expectations; that’s what happens when your team has only made 5 trips to the NCAA Tournament over the past two decades.  Crean will most likely get a pass for the first couple of years, at least until he gets some of HIS players on the court.  After that, fans will want to see more than just trips to the NIT; Crean is going to have to get Georgia dancing on a semi-regular basis to legitimize his presence here over Fox’s.

As far as next year is concerned, I definitely have some worries.  Georgia did not deal well with J.J. Frazier’s departure last year as they ended up last in the SEC in scoring at 68.1 ppg; the team’s ineptness on offense contributed to their 18-15 record overall and a 7-11 conference record.  Next year, the Dawgs will be looking to replace another leading scorer, Yante Maten, who will vacate a league-high 19.3 ppg.

UGA’s leading returning scorer will be Turtle Jackson, who netted a little over 8 points a night last season.  The most probable starting five will be Turtle, Tyree Crump, E’Torrion Wilridge, Rayshaun Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton, though Teshaun Hightower and Derek Ogbeide could easily work themselves into the starting lineup at some point.  Maybe 6’9″ freshman Amanze Ngumezi works his way into the mix as well. Either way, that is not a squad that strikes fear in the eyes of its opponents.  That right there is a team that’s ceiling at best is the NIT.  Some of those aforementioned players might perform better in Crean’s system, which I hear gives players more freedom to create.  However, if you compare that group to any of the SEC teams that went to the NCAA tournament last season, Georgia’s not anywhere close.

Most likely, next year will look a lot like this year in regards to overall record.  If Crean can land a couple of 4- or 5-star recruits in the 2019 class, he could get things cooking at Georgia sooner rather than later.  I think what I’m most excited about in regards to Crean is the potential to watch a Georgia basketball game and see UGA with three players on the court at the same time that can all potentially hit a three-pointer.  That would be something that hasn’t been seen inside of Stegeman Coliseum in quite a while.

Auburn blows Georgia out in 2nd half to cruise to 79-65 win

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Tucker native Bryce Brown lit up the Dawgs for 28 points.

Before we even talk about that second half, consider this chilling fact: Auburn has 3 starters that are from Georgia (12-6, 3-4).  Shooting guard Bryce Brown, who scored 28 points on 5 three-pointers, is from Tucker.  Georgia’s Juwan Parker, who was the recipient of much of Brown’s abuse, probably wishes that his coach had offered the Auburn junior.  Tigers’ point guard Jared Harper had 13 points, 6 assists and 2 steals; Anfernee McLemore had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.  All of them are from the Peach State.

Here’s the box score:

Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 8.57.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-01-20 at 8.58.14 PM

At this point, it’s still hard to believe that the first half even happened.  After building up a 40-26 lead at the break, Georgia fell to pieces coming out for the final 20 minutes of play.  Auburn switched out of its man defense and into a 1-3-1 zone, and Georgia responded by standing around a lot on offense.  The Tigers came out of the intermission firing from the perimeter as they hit 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in the first 5 minutes, and all of a sudden the Georgia lead was just 42-39.  Auburn would knock down 6 three’s in the second half and 10 in the game.  After holding the Tigers, a team averaging 83 points a game in SEC play, to just 26 points in the first 20 minutes, it was surreal to watch Bruce Pearl’s team blow the doors off Georgia in such an incredibly dominant fashion.  Auburn shot 25% in the first half, but knocked down over 58% in the second, while Georgia went from 56% from the field prior to the break to just 25% from the floor after it. UGA didn’t convert its first field goal of the second half until there was only 6:45 left to play in the game. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a team dish out a 31-4 run to start a half; I hope I never have to see such a spectacle again.

Basically, the wheels starting coming off, came off and then rolled all the way to Toomer’s Corner before Mark Fox and Georgia recognized what was happening.  Fox let his team play through the Tiger onslaught all the way to the first media timeout of the second half, despite his team being the victim of a 10-0 run. Auburn would score 15 more points to Georgia’s 2 before Fox deemed it necessary to call a timeout to try to stymie the Tigers’ momentum.  By that point, UGA’s 14-point halftime advantage had turned into a 51-44 lead for Auburn. Yante Maten, the obvious person to get the ball to when things needed to settle, only had 2 shot attempts through the first 14 minutes of the second half.  Maten wasn’t without fault, however, as he gave the ball away 3 times during that same time span and ended up with 6 turnovers on the night. Georgia’s offense stopped moving and its passes got sloppy as the Dawgs committed 13 turnovers following the break (18 in the game).  Whatever Fox’s strategy was for calming his team in this raucous atmosphere, it didn’t take. Personally, I thought the team might have benefited from a timeout on several occasions early in the second half just to slow things down a bit.

Even when Georgia held the advantage in the first half, it didn’t feel sustainable. For starters, Juwan Parker, a career 20% three-point shooter, had 3 triples and 13 points before the intermission.  UGA never looked comfortable on offense against Auburn’s man pressure, and the Dawgs certainly weren’t attacking the rim – Georgia didn’t shoot a single free throw in the first half until Hammonds took a pair with 5:01 left once the Dawgs got into the bonus.  UGA hit 7 from the stripe during this final stretch before the half which helped them add to their lead.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but once again Georgia’s guard play was inadequate, and this definitely feels like it will be the recurring theme for the remainder of the season.  Auburn, much like LSU, South Carolina and Missouri, extended its man-to-man defense and pushed the Georgia guards well outside the perimeter.  UGA’s Turtle Jackson does not possess the ball-handling skills that are necessary to put a defender on his heels and create space – that’s just not his game.  Freshman Teshaun Hightower may become that player, but he’s not there yet.  Jackson’s scoring average has dipped below double digits to 9.8 ppg, leaving Maten as the only Bulldog averaging in double-figures.  Through the first 7 SEC games, Turtle is getting only 5.3 points a night.  Jackson is seeing a lot more defensive pressure, and that trend will only continue as the Dawgs progress through their SEC slate.

When Coach Fox signed 4-stars Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump two years ago, it seemed that he had found his backcourt replacements to handle the spot that J.J. Frazier would eventually vacate.  However, neither of those guys played a whole lot last year, which might have hampered their development.  Harris’s role on the team is convoluted at best as he’s a two-guard that doesn’t like to handle the ball and can’t shoot it that well.  If Harris were 6’7″ he’d be a perfect wing a la former UGA player Brandon Morris, but alas, Jordan is just 6’4″ and stuck with the misappropriated title of “shooting guard”. Tyree Crump came into he game and scored 5 points quickly – one on a beautiful spin move that he finished at the bucket and then another on a triple.  For whatever reason, though, the sophomore only logged 8 minutes tonight.  Even when UGA couldn’t buy a bucket in the second half, Crump, who might be the second-best scorer on the team, remained on the bench.  The knock on Crump is that he doesn’t defend well and turns the ball over too much.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t that describe nearly every Georgia guard?  I’d think Crump’s scoring prowess could at least negate some of those criticisms, especially on a team that has major issues on the offensive side of the ball.

The remainder of Georgia’s SEC schedule is daunting to say the least: two games with Florida, two with #21 Tennessee, another with #17 Auburn, one at Vandy (where UGA never wins), one at South Carolina and a home game against a Texas A&M team at the end of February when the Aggies should be at full-strength and in full NCAA Tournament form.  Mark Fox’s team will be extremely fortunate to finish this season with a .500 conference record.

 

 

Rationalizing UGA’s 3 SEC losses and comparing freshman Rayshaun Hammonds to past and present UGA bigs

Reconciling UGA’s 3 conference losses by looking at the strength of the SEC

The SEC is without a doubt a much better conference today than it was five years ago.  The league currently has 10 teams in the RPI Top 50, according to NCAA.com.  The conference had 12 recruits from the 2017 class land on the ESPN100 – no other league had more.  The SEC’s level of play has reached new heights for the conference, and ESPN analysts are projecting that as many as 8 teams could make this year’s NCAA Tournament.  In short, it’s not an easy place to play night in, night out.

All of Georgia’s losses this year – Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina – have been hard for fans to reconcile.  At Kentucky, UGA once again held a lead late into the game (up 53-49 with 5:19 remaining) only to see the Cats surge ahead and eke out the victory.  In Columbia, the Dawgs flopped and flailed on offense, and they didn’t play a whole of defense in the second half either in their loss to Missouri.  Last Saturday, Georgia’s offense was inept, and the Dawgs yielded 18 offensive boards to the Gamecocks, who rolled out of Athens with the win.

In those aforementioned games, Georgia certainly did not play anything close to its best basketball, especially on the offensive side of the court.  However, I could rationalize each of those losses as such:

Kentucky: since John Calipari took the reigns of the Wildcats, only 5 teams have won inside of Rupp Arena.  His teams have played well over 100-something games in Lexington under Coach Cal, and they’ve only lost 5 of them.

Missouri: the Tigers just knocked off #21 Tennessee at home last night.  They’ve beaten Florida at home this season, too.

South Carolina: Frank Martin’s team could be hitting its stride as they followed up their road win in Athens with a stunning upset victory at home over #18 Kentucky on Tuesday.

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for how the Dawgs played in any of these games.  For sure, Georgia needs to clean things up on offense (and possibly push the tempo), and whether they have the guards on the roster to make that happen remains to be seen.  But fans should acknowledge that these are good teams that beat Georgia, and these losses may not be as devastating in the long run as they might have felt when they occurred.

Comparing Rayshaun Hammonds to former UGA 4-star forwards and others

Rayshaun Hammonds, who started the first 16 games of the season for Georgia, was not a starter on Tuesday night in Baton Rouge.  Against the Tigers, the freshman only logged 14 minutes; he’d been averaging over 26 minutes a game prior to this one.  Logic says that Coach Fox was punishing Hammonds for his lack of effort and aggressiveness against South Carolina, a team that blanked him (though he did haul in 7 boards).

Here’s a look at Hammonds stats so far this year:

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Here are the freshman year numbers for some of Georgia’s most recent 4-star bigs (and one 3-star who is still playing for the Dawgs):

Marcus Thornton (4-star)

Thornton.PNG

Trey Thompkins (4-star)

Thompkins

Jeremy Price (4-star)

Price

Yante Maten (3-star)

 

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At this point, Hammonds’s stats are sitting somewhere between Maten’s and Price’s.  Maten’s jump in scoring from freshman year to sophomore year was incredible as he averaged over 16 ppg in his second year in Athens.  Price, however, never averaged in double-digits during his UGA career, but that was because Thompkins and Travis Leslie (and later Gerald Robinson, Jr.) were doing the majority of the scoring.  Next year will be a big one for both Hammonds and UGA as he will be called upon to shore up a bulk of the points that will be abandoned by Yante’s departure.

Other SEC 4-star bigs from the 2017 class

Dan Gafford (Ark): 12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Jeremiah Tillman (Mizz): 8.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Chuma Okeke (AU): 7.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Rayshaun Hammonds (UGA): 6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Darious Hall (Ark): 4.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg

Chase Johnson (UF): 4.3 ppg, 2 rpg

Alex Reese (Bama): 3.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg

Ejike Obinna (Vandy): 3.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg

Galen Alexander (LSU): 2.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg

Mayan Kiir (LSU): 2.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg

Derrick Walker (UT): 1.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg

Ibrahim Doumbia (SC) 0.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg

Isiah Jasey (A&M): 0.3 ppg, 0.4 rpg

Isaiah Stokes (UF): DNP

While other factors are certainly at play here (playing time, scheme, roster talent, etc.), statistically speaking, Hammonds is outperforming the majority of his 4-star forward peers.

 

 

 

 

Georgia beats Winthrop 87-82 for its 3rd win in a row

uga-basketball-winthropGeorgia’s (7-1) offense was highly efficient over the last 4 minutes of Tuesday night’s game as they got points on 7 of their final 8 possessions.  The Dawgs were able to score consistently when they needed to down the stretch, and that played a critical part in this team being able to escape with a 87-82 win over Winthrop (5-4) last night.

With the game knotted up at 74 apiece, freshman Rayshaun Hammonds broke the tie with a three from the top of the key that made it 77-74 UGA with 3:20 remaining.  The Dawgs scored their next 6 points in the paint on baskets by Mike Edwards, Yante Maten and Turtle Jackson, and those buckets turned out to be enough to keep the Eagles at bay.

Georgia’s strong play at the end of the game was a stark contrast to its play towards the end of the first half.  The Dawgs shot just 2 of 11 from the floor and committed 3 turnovers during the final 7 minutes before the break.  Despite leading 17-5 early on and holding leads of 7 to 9 points for much of the first half, UGA went into the intermission with just a 40-38 advantage.

Winthrop actually took and held the lead for significant chunks of time in the second half.  This game featured 10 lead changes, and it wasn’t until the aforementioned three-pointer from Hammonds and the subsequent run that followed it that Georgia was able to really take control of this one.  This contest definitely had the potential to be a huge letdown for the Dawgs following big wins at Saint Mary’s and Marquette, so credit UGA for taking care of business inside Stegeman and avoiding what certainly would have been a bad loss.

Georgia’s biggest issue on the night was carelessness as the Bulldogs gave the ball away 16 times, which led to 22 points for the Winthrop Eagles.  When Georgia wasn’t giving the ball to Winthrop, they played pretty sound offense: 53% from the field, 53% from 3PT line and 17 assists.  Georgia’s success from beyond the arc might have been the difference in this one with Maten and Turtle Jackson hitting 3 each, and Hammonds knocking down 2 triples.

Maten and Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks had quite the back and forth battle on offense on Tuesday night.  The Eagles made a couple of defensive decisions regarding Maten that turned out to be quite costly: they left him open for 3’s from the top of the key, and they tried to play him one-on-one in the paint.  Yante took full advantage of both of those coaching choices and scored 25 points and grabbed 11 boards for his 4th double-double of the year.

Winthrop’s Cooks netted a game-high 31 points himself (22 of them coming after halftime).  At 6’8″, Cooks was a matchup nightmare for Georgia due to his ability to get into the lane off the dribble; he only made 2 of 11 from the floor prior to the break, but he found his rhythm once the second half kicked off.

Georgia began this game extending its man defense to the perimeter to limit Winthrop’s looks from the three-point time, and it worked for about 16 minutes as the Eagles had just 1 triple. However, Winthrop, a team that entered this game making nearly twelve 3’s a night, buried 3 shots from beyond the arc during the final 4 minutes of the first half; they finished the game with 8 three-pointers on a 42% shooting effort.

UGA’s perimeter defense continues to be a soft spot for this team.  The Dawgs’ backcourt has had trouble keeping opposing teams from driving by and getting into the lane for easy baskets.  Tonight, Winthrop carved Georgia up for 40 points in the paint, which is far too many considering UGA’s size advantage compared to the Eagles.

The Bulldogs ended up with four other players – Jackson (14), Mike Edwards (11), Rayshaun Hammonds (10), Derek Ogbeide (10) – in double-figures along with Maten.  Turtle had a game-high 7 assists to go long with his points.

The Dawgs have a 10-day layoff during Final Exams before returning to action on December 16th when Georgia travels to take on UMass.

 

Georgia upends #21 Saint Mary’s to earn 3rd place in the Wooden Legacy

William “Turtle” Jackson willed in a pair of free throws to give his team an 83-79 lead with just 16 seconds remaining, and that buffer was enough to hold off Saint Mary’s as the Gaels failed to score quickly on the ensuing possession; center Jock Landale got a bucket, but only 1 second remained on the clock, and Georgia ended up knocking off the #21 team in the nation 83-81 in overtime for its first win against a ranked opponent in two years (#25 South Carolina).

The Bulldogs used the off day in Fullerton on Saturday to totally reinvent themselves offensively as Mark Fox’s team didn’t resemble anything of the squad that lost to San Diego State and just snuck by Cal State-Fullerton.  Georgia worked the ball inside to its bigs from the start and scored 16 of its 28 points in the paint prior to the break.  The Dawgs took shots earlier in possessions, and they only turned it over 9 times in 45 minutes of play, while dishing out 14 team assists.  Georgia shot over 50% from the floor and made more than 41% of its attempts from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs had five players finish in double-figures with Tyree Crump leading UGA with a career-high 17 points (Yante Maten finished with 16).

The Dawgs weren’t the only ones enjoying being on offense as the Gaels turned in a nice effort themselves in the game that defense forgot.  Saint Mary’s shot over 50% from the floor, but that’s to be expected when a team scores 58 of its points in the paint.  Georgia’s Derek Ogbeide was left on an island to deal with All-American Jock Landale, and that strategy did not pan out well for Ogbeide as Landale torched UGA for 33 points to go along with his 12 boards.  I kept expecting for Fox to switch his team into a zone so that he could give Ogbeide some help inside, but it never happened.  Landale enjoyed an array of one-on-one situations on the block in which he peppered the Georgia bigs with a combination of hook shots and up-and-under moves.

UGA also struggled to corral Saint Mary’s point guard, Emmet Naar, who got into the lane all afternoon en route to 21 points (12 of which came prior to the break).

Aside from the less than stellar defense, credit the Bulldogs for never backing down in a game against a potential NCAA Tournament team.  The Dawgs held a 35-34 advantage at the half; Georgia pushed its lead out to 58-50 with a little over 11 minutes left in regulation following a three-pointer by Tyree Crump, only to see that lead vanish down the stretch.  UGA actually trailed the Gaels 69-67 with 3:06 remaining, but a clutch jumper by Juwan Parker (14 points) and an incredibly strong take by Turtle Jackson (15 points) on the Dawgs’ final possession allowed UGA to push Saint Mary’s to overtime.

The biggest and most obvious takeaway from this tournament has to be the emergence of Turtle as a legitimate scoring threat and key part of the offense.  Jackson averaged 16 points over the past three games, and I can’t imagine the junior is excited to leave Fullerton after making 47% of his three-point attempts in the Titans’ gym.

Nicolas Claxton has also turned out to be a nice early-season surprise for the Dawgs as he is long and incredibly active off the bench.  Claxton played 20 minutes today, and though he wasn’t quite as productive (3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 blocks) as last game, he is constantly around the ball and really attacks the glass.  I realize that Mike Edwards was dealing with some food poison related issues this past weekend, but it’s hard to not see him yielding minutes to the freshman moving forward.

This win comes at the heels of a pair of underwhelming performances in the Wooden Legacy tournament, and it has to give this Georgia team a spark of confidence that it most desperately needs as Mark Fox’s team comes home to prepare for another challenge away from Athens when they play at Marquette as the undercard to next Saturday’s SEC Championship game.