Georgia drops another game, falling 73-65 to Nebraska

The Georgia Bulldogs failed to collect a win during this year’s Charleston Classic, losing 73-65 to Nebraska in the ultimate consolation game this afternoon, marking their fourth consecutive loss of the young season.

The Dawgs entered the game with the worst team defense in the SEC, yielding over 77 points per game to opponents in four contests this year.  However, Coach Mark Fox’s team was not undone by its defense today; UGA’s shortcomings against the Cornhuskers came at the free throw line, where Georgia connected on just 16 of 30 attempts.  

After trading leads for much of the second half, Nebraska coach Tim Miles shifted his team into a 2-3 zone in an attempt to better defend Georgia’s Charles Mann.  This zone frustrated the Dawgs offensively, and Georgia managed to make just 5 field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game.  

The Dawgs closed the Nebraska lead to 63-59 on a Nemanja Djurisic three-pointer with 3:27 remaining, but the Huskers responded with a 10-2 run that saw the lead balloon to 73-63 with only 18 ticks left on the clock.

Georgia was led offensively by Charles Man, who finished the game with 16 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 5 assists.  Even though we are only 5 games into the season, Mann already looks extremely polished with the ball in his hands and I anticipate that he will go on to have a pretty big year.

Coach Fox also got scoring from forwards Brandon Morris and Marcus Thornton, who ended up with 14 and 13 points, respectively.  Thornton looks like a completely new player so far, finishing near the basket on a fairly consistent basis.

Nebraska had four players score in double-figures with Terran Petteway leading the way with 15 points.

While Georgia did hold a team under 80 points for the first time in five games, much of that was due to the fact that Nebraska coach Tim Miles went into a zone, slowing down the tempo of the game.

At this point in time, UGA is not a very strong defensive team.  Opponents routinely find cutters around the basket, and Coach Fox’s team struggles to close out around the perimeter, where team’s are making almost 36% of their shots from beyond the arc.

Georgia is scoring almost 16 points more per game through the first five games of this year compared to last season’s first five contests.  

Coach Fox’s team does not seem to be missing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s offense.

They could use KCP’s defense, though.

Kentavious-Caldwell Pope leaving after two years at UGA for NBA Draft

ESPN DawgNation reporter David Ching broke the story this afternoon that Georgia sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will forgo his junior and senior seasons and enter this year’s NBA draft.

While I would love for KCP to stick around for at least one more year, it is hard to blame him for taking the jump – his stock has been on a steady rise since the end of the season, and he appears likely to be taken in the latter part of the first-round.

Losing KCP, last season’s SEC Player of the Year, will be a devastating blow to a Bulldog team that had a legitimate chance of making next year’s NCAA Tournament, assuming Pope’s services.

Without KCP though, Coach Mark Fox will be looking for additional scoring from Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris. The starting lineup will most likely be those three aforementioned players, Donte Williams, and then it’s really a matter of take your pick between Neme Djurisic, John Cannon, Tim Dixon or Marcus Thornton (should he return from his knee troubles).

Coach Fox has two freshman coming in next season – Juwan Parker and J.J. Frazier – and he also has an offer on the table to a 6’7″ three-star wing from Columbus, Georgia named Harold Givens.

Matching last season’s 9-9 conference record should be a formidable challenge for the Dawgs next year, and besting it nearly impossible without an incredible overall off-season improvement from the current roster.

2012-2013 Season Wrap Up

Sorry for the lack of entries – I was unable to watch the LSU game due to work, and then I had to immediately shoot down to Amelia Island for a wedding, not leaving much time to write about Georgia basketball.

I was able to follow the flow of the UGA-LSU game on ESPN’s Gamecast however, and I was certainly amazed by the Dawgs’ ability to overcome a 20-point first-half deficit, almost tying the game with under a minute remaining.

At 15-17 overall, Georgia would be attempting to make history by getting an invite into the NIT, considering no team without a winning record has received a bid since 2006 when the selection committee removed the “must have .500 or better record stipulation”. Honestly, it feels like this basketball season is over.

All and all, I have to say I am pleased with what transpired on the court this year for Coach Mark Fox’s team. After an abysmal 2-7 start to the season which included home losses to Youngstown State and Iona, Georgia rallied to win 13 of their next 23 games, finishing at eighth place in the new fourteen-team SEC.

During the Dawgs’ initial slump, Coach Fox appeared to be gliding towards a hot seat. However, when conference play finished and UGA had won 9 games, members of the media began rumoring that CMF might be the league’s Coach of the Year (deservedly so). Florida’s Billy Donovan won that award, but I am not sure if what Fox did with this year’s UGA team isn’t more impressive.

Looking ahead to next year, any person who even remotely follows Georgia basketball knows that the success of the 2013-2014 teams relies heavily on whether Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns for another season or not. Should Pope return, UGA would possess a lot of offensive firepower with more-seasoned versions of Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris.

Mann, who was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team this year, could be an All-SEC first-team player by as early as next year. Towards the latter part of this season, Mann really began to come into his own at the point guard position, consistently attacking defenders and driving the ball to the rim. In three of UGA’s final six games, Mann got himself to the foul line for double-digit attempts – he finished with 14 or more points in all three of those games. With his size, his level of play can only go up as he gains maturity.

Should KCP choose to return, I think he would enjoy a lot less double-teams and traps next season as teams will have to pay more attention to Mann and Gaines – Pope may actually have the opportunity to show NBA scouts what he can do in one-on-one type situations.

A KCP-led Georgia basketball team would have a legitimate chance of finishing in the top five of the SEC, and I would feel pretty confident that they could earn an NCAA-berth.

However, if Pope decides to leave for the NBA in the next two weeks, obviously UGA basketball fans will have to temper and readjust their expectations.

Whether KCP stays or goes, Coach Mark Fox is going to have to play with less depth at the guard position, since both Vincent Williams and Sherrard Brantley will be graduating. Not that either of the aforementioned players were key elements of this season’s team, but both of them shot better than 36% from beyond the arc, consistently making key shots late in games for this young team this year.

Georgia’s two incoming freshmen – JJ Frazier and Juwan Parker – are both guards, but neither player will be ready to make significant contributions next season (ESPN rates each as a two-star recruit).

For the sake of the UGA basketball program, everyone needs to cross their fingers and hope that KCP wants to play one more year donning the Red and Black.

Dawgs end losing streak, survive Carolina 62-54 at home

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drew nothing but net from the wing on a three-pointer that tied Georgia 53-53 with South Carolina with only 10 seconds remaining, and the Dawgs would then stop the Cocks twice because of some weird officiating gaff before going into overtime (this portion of the game was extremely frustrating for anyone inside Stegeman because they were not telling us anything).

UGA then outscored Carolina 9-1 in the OT, and Georgia would leave Stegeman on Saturday evening with a much-needed 62-54 conference victory.

A loss to the Cocks would have been disheartening and difficult to overcome for a Bulldog team that held the lead in this game all the way up until the 8:47 mark in the second half, when Brian Richardson hit a three from the wing to put his team up 39-38.

Freshman Charles Mann, who chipped in 14 points for the Dawgs, had an opportunity to put his team on top when he went to the free throw line with 19 seconds remaining and Georgia trailing 51-50. But Mann choked, clanking both shots and giving USC a chance to further extend their lead.

Obviously, KCP’s three bailed Mann out and saved the day as the Dawgs took care of business in overtime.

However, the second biggest play that enabled Georgia to be in a position to win this game was made by sophomore Nemanja Djurisic. With only 52 seconds left and South Carolina leading 51-48, UGA found Sherrard Brantely wide open in the corner for a three, but the senior couldn’t knock it down. Fortunately for UGA, Neme corralled the weak side rebound, got fouled and cooly sunk both free throws, cutting the margin to just one point. If Neme doesn’t make those plays and the Cocks end up with the defensive board, Georgia would have had to foul and maybe KCP isn’t even in the position to make a game-tying three-pointer.

Neme ended up with 11 points and 6 rebounds.

All and all, this game was an extremely frustrating one to attend – both teams shot below 32% from the floor and neither squad hit more than 61% of their free throws. Georgia and South Carolina tallied up a combined 50 personal fouls, contributing to the marathon-like length of this nearly three-hour game.

All that being said, it feels a lot better knowing Georgia won.

Dawgs drop another heartbreaker, fall 62-60 at Arkansas

Arkansas’s leading scorer B.J. Young, who Georgia held in check for much of the night, swirled into the lane for a lay-up to put his Razorback team up 62-60 with just 5.3 seconds remaining in the game (granted, his basket may have been courtesy of an overlooked traveling violation).

On the ensuing possession, Georgia’s Vincent Williams took the ball the length of the floor and got a decent look at the basket on a runner as time expired, but his floater drew all glass, and UGA lost its second-straight road thriller.

Anyone who watched the first half of this contest probably found themselves mildly puzzled when Georgia held a 56-53 advantage with just 2:33 left in the game. The Dawgs were awful before the break, mustering only 18 points on 4 field goals. Georgia’s best player – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – entered the locker room scoreless following the game’s first 20 minutes of play.

Yet, Georgia managed to regroup at the half despite their lackluster effort before the intermission, which they entered trailing by 10 points.

The Dawgs’ second-half comeback was aided by the fact that Arkansas star Marshawn Powell spent much of the last 20 minutes of this game on the bench due to foul trouble. However, Powell came through in the clutch for his team, scoring 7 of his 11 points with under 4 minutes remaining.

Arkansas received a monster boost from the bench in Anthlon Bell, who knocked down 5 three-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points. Before tonight, Bell had not scored a basket in the team’s previous 9 games.

This loss – on the heels of the overtime loss at Ole Miss last Saturday – has to be a crushing blow to a Dawgs team that has come so close to pulling off road upsets in back-to-back games.

Tonight’s defeat puts Georgia’s conference record at 6-7, and they are now in a three-way tie with LSU and Texas A&M for 8th place in the SEC (though UGA does hold the head-to-head advantage over both of those teams).

Coach Mark Fox’s team will need to find a way to dig deep and regroup on a quick turnaround as they play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks at 2PM in Athens this Saturday.

Georgia hosts Alabama on Tuesday night

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4) may feel as though they are looking in the mirror on Tuesday night when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (15-8, 7-4) in Athens.

Both of these teams have been winning conference games with their defensive efforts, where they are ranked second (Alabama) and fourth (Georgia) in team defense in league play. The Tide, especially, have been suffocating SEC foes, limiting opponents to under 57 points a night.

Another major similarity between these two squads is that each team relies heavily on its backcourt to provide offensive. The Tide’s offense runs through junior point guard Trever Releford, who is netting 14 points and nearly 2 steals a night in SEC games this season.

A final manner in which these two squads are comparable is in their struggles to score baskets – Bama gets 58.7 points per conference game to Georgia’s 58.4. If the crew at ESPNU is anticipating offensive fireworks, they might be let down with what unfolds on the court inside Stegeman.

Alabama’s leading scorer in the paint is sophomore Nick Jacobs – an Atlanta native – who is averaging 6.7 points per game this year. Interestingly, the Tide are 6-1 in games in which Jacobs scores 8 points or more, so hopefully the Dawgs can limit his touches inside on Tuesday night.

For the most part though, Bama plays a four-guard line-up. so Georgia should look to take advantage inside with their superior size.

While it was refreshing to see the Dawgs win without a field goal from leading-scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Saturday, hopefully the game against Texas A & M was more of an anomaly than anything else.

A win on Tuesday evening and Georgia could catapult themselves into a tie for third place in the league.

As a fan of this Bulldog team, I have been finding myself scratching my head in amazement over the past day or so when I think about Georgia’s recent five-game run. The thought of UGA adding another win to this run is almost surreal.

However, a victory on Tuesday night might do more than shoot Georgia further up the league standings. Another successful effort by the Dawgs could garner some national media attention, and dare I say, put Georgia on the NCAA “Bubble”.

Georgia smothers Aggies in 52-46 win

The Georgia Bulldogs (12-11, 6-4) edged the Texas A & M Aggies 52-46 in Athens on Saturday in a game that lasted nearly two and a half hours, featuring 47 total fouls.

Anyone at the game yesterday that was hoping to see some offense surely left Stegeman a little disappointed. Both of these teams entered the game ranking 3rd and 4th in the SEC in team defense in conference games. Although, in a game where Georgia shot 32% from the floor and the Aggies managed to make only 24% of their field attempts, it was hard at times to decipher if we were watching really good defense or inept offense (or a little of both).

However, the Dawgs did secure the win – their fifth in a row – and even more impressively, Georgia won with out a single field goal from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. For the first time in his career at UGA, Pope failed to convert a shot from the floor. KCP, who was blanketed by Elston Turner for the entire game, managed only three field goal attempts, and he was just able to reach 10 points by the grace of 10 shots from the line. Fortunately for Pope (and the Dawgs), he was perfect from the line, helping him extend his double-figures scoring streak to 23 games on the year.

KCP’s inability to find shots on Saturday may have been a product of his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, where he held the Aggies leading scorer – Elston Turner – to just 2 field goals on 14 tries. Similarly to Pope, Turner scored the majority of his 13 points (9) from the free throw line.

For Georgia, the offensive stallion of the night was Nemanja Djurisic, who paced UGA with 13 points.

The Dawgs opened up a wide margin early in this game, building an 11-1 lead a little over five minutes into the first half following a Neme jumper. Georgia maintained its advantage for much of the half, taking a 25-16 lead into the intermission.

After the break, UGA pushed its lead to 30-18 with 15:45 remaining following a pair of free throws from Pope.

However, A & M point guard Fabyion Harris, who led all scorers with 17 points, ignited a ferocious Aggie run by hitting three shots from beyond the arc, and after a pair of free throws from J’Mychal Reese the Georgia lead had been cut to 35-32 with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

With the Dawgs teetering on the brink of collapse, senior point guard Vincent Williams buried a three-pointer on the other end, shooting the UGA lead back up to 38-32.

Sherrard Brantley would then hit a three from the wing with 7:02 remaining, and Georgia was back on top 43-32.

From this point UGA was able to salt away the rest of the game from the free throw line, where Georgia shot an impressive 25-32 on the night (78%).

Other than some last-minute shenanigans from the officiating crew in the waning seconds, the Dawgs cruised to the 52-46 victory for the most part after the Brantley three-pointer.

Credit Vincent Williams though, who scored 7 points in 16 minutes, and for the second-straight game made a clutch shot for his team late in the second half.

After the game, Coach Mark Fox praised his team for becoming just that – a team. He pointed out that everyone chipped-in in some way on Saturday, and he really sounded proud of the way this Georgia squad enjoys playing with one another.

Winning 6 of 7 games can do that for a team.