Bulldogs host Rattlers in final game of 2012

Consecutive victories by the Bulldogs over Mercer and Southern Cal have garnered a smidgen of respect from ESPN’s Myron Metcalf, who writes the network’s weekly conference power rankings for the SEC. In the list that came out today, the writer had moved Georgia (4-7) out of the cellar and into the #13 slot (or second to last) – right above Missy State and just below Auburn. If Georgia could notch a win in Stegeman over the 4-7 Florida A & M Rattlers on Saturday they may see themselves climb even higher in those rankings.

FAMU came into the season with tempered exceptions, and thus far, they have been meeting them. After beginning the season with five-straight losses, the Rattlers won 3 of their next 4 before getting drilled 80-57 at Clemson on December 15th. While FAMU does score a decent number of points per game – nearly 73 – they have yet to provide much in the form of offense against any teams of substance.

The Rattlers have four players averaging in double-figures with junior guard Jamie Adams leading the way at 15.5 points a clip. Adams is a streaky shooter who is hoisting up nearly 7 three’s per game, yet so far this season he’s making only 26% of those attempts.

Coach Mark Fox has Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at his disposal, which should be enough to give UGA a significant edge over FAMU. KCP has been Georgia’s “Mr. Do Everything” this year, scoring 18.1 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Pope has already racked up two double-doubles this season, and his scoring and steals numbers have him ranked 58th and 23rd in the country, respectively, in those two categories. KCP’s improved play over the last few games has been so solid that it has landed him back on nbadraft.net’s 2013 Mock Draft, going #22 to the Chicago Bulls.

Since the team took final exams in early December, Georgia has looked like a completely different team, especially on the offensive end of the floor. During the Dawgs 2-8 start to the 2012-2013 season, Georgia looked mystified on offense all too regularly, with the team netting only 56.8 points per contest. However, during the last thee games (of which UGA has won two), Coach Fox’s younger lineup has really started to gel, averaging nearly 63 points a game in that same span.

A win over FAMU on Saturday would add a bit more confidence to a team that is trying to turn around its season.

Georgia improves to 4-7 with an afternoon win over the other USC

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played maybe his best 4 minutes and 35 seconds of offense as a Georgia Bulldog coming out of the intermission against Southern California on Saturday. KCP lit up the Trojans for 12 points during this time span, erasing USC’s 28-27 lead before Southern Cal even had time to let Coach O’Neill’s halftime speech sink in. Following Pope’s offensive barrage, the Dawgs held a 41-32 advantage with 15:25 remaining.

The Bulldogs took the lead after a KCP lay-up 20 seconds into the second half, a lead they would not relinquish. The Trojans cut the Georgia advantage to 3 points with 10 minutes left following a pair of free throws from Omar “The Pharaoh” Oraby. However, UGA quickly responded on the other end, sending the ball inside to John Cannon who was fouled and converted both free throws.

The game became a little dicey towards the end when Georgia began to lose its touch from the free throw line. The Dawgs, who had made 16 of 20 from the stripe in the game’s first 36 minutes, hit only 2 of 6 in the last 4 minutes of play. Fortunately for Georgia, the Trojan offense fell apart during the same stretch as USC missed both of its field goal attempts and committed 3 turnovers.

Strangely, Southern Cal elected not to foul during the last 35 seconds of the game, even though it was still a two-possession contest. The Dawgs obliged, ran the clock out and walked out of Stegeman with a 64-56 win.

This victory was a nice one for Georgia as a momentum-builder heading into the holiday, and it marks the team’s first winning streak of the season.

KCP was sensational in the game’s second half, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 points (on 10 of 14 shooting from the floor).

The Dawgs’ freshman starters – Brandon Morris and Charles Mann – both turned in solid performances, finishing with 10 and 9 points, respectively. Morris is looking more and more comfortable with the ball in his hands away from the basket, and he has the unique ability for a guy his size to be able to create off the dribble – Morris got 6 of his 10 points from the free throw line, due to the fact that he took the ball right at the rim for most of the afternoon.

Charles Mann peppered the stat sheet, adding 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to his final tallies. Aside from a shot he took late in the game (when he probably should have dribbled it out), Mann once again appeared cool and in total control of the UGA offense.

And last but certainly not least, I have to mention the workman’s effort put in today by big John Cannon, who netted 10 points and hauled in 7 boards against a huge USC frontline. For whatever reason, Cannon saw limited minutes in the second half, making his numbers even more impressive over just 20 minutes of play.

Other than Oraby, the Trojan offense struggled to find the basket in Athens today, hitting only 40% of their field goal attempts and just 26% from beyond the arc.

In merely a week ,this younger-looking Georgia lineup has won two of its three games, with the lone loss coming in overtime. Charles Mann and Brandon Morris have injected life into a UGA team that appeared hopeless a little over two weeks ago following a loss at Georgia Tech on December 4th.

If the law firm of Morris, Mann and Pope can continue to click offensively, this season has the potential to get interesting.

Iona outlasts Dawgs in OT to win 81-78

The good news for Georgia basketball fans is that the Dawgs played their most exciting and inspiring game in nearly a month, since the team traveled to Brooklyn and went toe-to-toe with Indiana and UCLA on consecutive days.

The bad news, however, is that the Bulldogs’ effort was not quite good enough to beat a 3-4 Iona team (now 4-4) in Athens.

Coach Mark Fox can certainly take away some positives from this game, especially the fact that two of his freshman – Brandon Morris and Charles Mann – set career bests in scoring, chipping in 12 and 18, respectively. Unfortunately, Morris and Mann’s performances were not enough to overcome a wretched team effort from the free throw line.

After making 4 of 5 from the charity stripe in the first half, Georgia proceeded to connect on only 16 of their next 32 free throw attempts. Even more appalling was the fact that UGA hit only 6 of their last 17 shots from the line in the game’s final 6 minutes (including the overtime).

Despite all of the team’s struggles from the stripe, UGA had a final shot at redemption when Neme Djurisic stepped to the line with an opportunity to tie the game at 79-apiece with 4 seconds remaining in overtime. Neme made the first and then left the second short, solidifying the Gaels’ road victory.

Djurisic’s inability to come through in the final seconds for his team was pretty much icing on the cake of yet another poor performance by the sophomore from Montenegro. Neme finished the game with only 4 points (no field goals) and 3 rebounds, turning the ball over a team-high 5 times.

Freshman Brandon Morris, who continues to get better, took advantage of his starting power forward position due to a sidelined Marcus Thornton and chipped in 12 points and 7 rebounds. More importantly, Morris gives Georgia a more versatile lineup that can run the floor, and I would hope that yesterday’s effort means that the freshman will keep taking more minutes away from Djurisic as the season progresses.

Iona got out to a quick start, relentlessly pushing the ball at a torrid pace that enabled them to build a 23-11 lead nearly halfway through the first half. Georgia, however, clawed their way back into the game and actually went into the intermission with a 37-36 advantage following a halfcourt shot by Kentavious-Caldwell Pope.

In the second half, Fox played a much quicker lineup to match the Gaels’ tempo, employing Kenny Gaines and Tim Dixon for a combined 20 minutes. The Dawgs played well at the faster pace, building a 48-41 lead with 13:09 left in the game.

That lead didn’t last long though, and Iona’s Lamont Jones – who scored a game-high 25 points – carried his team to the 81-78 victory.

After the game, Fox expressed that he felt that Georgia played Saturday’s game with a “very awkward lineup”. I guess I am confused as to what was awkward about it? Was it the fact that the younger, more athletic lineup was scoring better than any team he has had on the floor this season? Or maybe he missed the team’s usual slew of shot-clock violations?

I know Marcus Thornton’s knees are bothering him again and I do not wish harm upon anyone, but I hope that even as he begins to heel that both he and Neme will see less minutes throughout the season.

This Georgia team is now 2-7, with little hope of having a 10-win season. The time for Brandon Morris, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines is now, because Fox is going to need these three seasoned and battle-tested by next year if he hopes to avoid a similar debacle.

Georgia takes on Iona in Athens on Saturday

The Georgia Bulldogs (2-6) return to action on Saturday after nearly a two-week layoff from the hard courts to take on the Iona Gaels (3-4) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Georgia’s lackluster start to the 2012-2013 season earned them the esteemed position of “bottom rung” in the latest SEC Conference Power Rankings by ESPN. Considering this team’s first month of basketball I’d say that this week’s ranking was well-deserved, since the Dawgs’ only victories thus far have come over Jacksonville and East Tennessee State (both of whom possess losing records).

Despite the rather big hole that Georgia has dug themselves into, this holiday schedule does provide UGA with an opportunity to right the ship before they open up SEC play at #5 Florida on January 9th (eeek!). If Georgia were able to notch victories in their next five games – all of which are at home – the Dawgs could take a winning record into the conference schedule.

Though Iona is rolling into Athens with a 3-4 record, Georgia need be concerned about the Gaels because of their ability to score the basketball, something UGA has not shown a prowess for yet this season. Iona is netting nearly 79 points per game, and they have eclipsed the 90-point mark twice already this season. Georgia, conversely, has yet to crack 70 points in a game this year.

The Gaels run with a four-guard offense and they will look to push the basketball at every opportunity. Iona gets over 50% of its scoring from senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones and junior Sean Armand, who contribute 21.7 ppg and 19.9 ppg, respectively, ranking them 7th and 29th in the nation in points per game. Jones creates his points off the dribble, while Armand is a lights-out shooter, knocking down a robust 48% of his attempts from the three-point line.

If Georgia sleepwalks into the start of this game, as they have done in previous contests this season, they could find themselves trailing the Gaels by a wide margin. The Gaels buried Wake Forest 94-68 on November 17th, and they just lost an 81-73 heart-breaker to Rutgers last Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Iona should be unfazed by the confines of Stegeman Coliseum, and this team is highly capable of extending Georgia’s losing streak to three games.

As far as the Dawgs are concerned, I’d really just like to see something different, either offensively or defensively (or both). Before the Georgia Tech game, I highlighted the fact that UGA might benefit from playing a bit more up-tempo, considering the ineffectiveness of their halfcourt game. Hopefully this layover has given Coach Mark Fox some time to implement some press looks that could serve to move the ball up and down the court quicker. With athletes like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris, I see no reason why Georgia cannot attempt to play with a little more urgency.

Before this season began, Coach Fox expressed his excitement about working with and coaching this group of Bulldogs. Now, it’s time for his team to show us why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Georgia to play in-state rival Georgia Tech on Tuesday

The Georgia Bulldogs (2-5) will hit the road again on Tuesday for a short trip down to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2).

After dismissing leading scorer Glen Rice, Jr. from the team last season, Brian Gregory looked as though his Jackets might be facing a rebuilding year this season as they tried to replace Rice’s offense.

While Georgia Tech hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboards at 61.5 points per game, they do feature a balanced attack with three players averaging in double-figures.  The Jackets are led offensively by senior Kammeon Hosely, freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt and senior point guard Mfon Udofia, who are scoring 11.2, 11 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.

Georgia will also get their first look at Robert Carter, the versatile freshman big who chose Georgia Tech over the Dawgs earlier this year.  Carter has been slowly easing himself into the flow of the college game, netting 7.8 points to go along with 5.7 boards.

The Jackets, much like Georgia, entered the season with tempered expectations following the loss of some key personnel from last year’s team.  However, at this point it appears that Georgia Tech’s season is moving in a different direction than Georgia’s, especially considering the Jackets have a win over NCAA Tournament-regular Saint Mary’s under their belt.

Georgia needs someone to step up and shoulder some of the offensive load, or losing regularly is going to become the status quo of the season.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is getting nearly 18 points a night, with the next closest scorer being Neme Djurisic’s 8.3 a clip.

As a dedicated fan of this UGA team I am ready to see something different Tuesday evening.  Playing 40 minutes of halfcourt basketball is not working for Georgia; Coach Mark Fox simply doesn’t have the big men for the Dawgs to run such a deliberate offense.  I would like to see Georgia play a little more up-tempo (maybe even press) to see if it doesn’t help them create some easier scoring opportunities.

Brian Gregory is 1-0 against UGA.  Will he take his win streak to two games over the Dawgs, or will the Georgia fans (if there are any) inside the McCamish Pavilion be chanting, “Just like football!”

South Florida tops Georgia 64-53 in SEC/Big East Challenge game

In his post game comments, Mark Fox lamented his team’s defense, saying that it “failed them” throughout the game tonight.

I think when Coach Fox watches the tape of his team’s 64-53 loss to South Florida tomorrow he is going to see that the offense was Georgia’s Achilles heel in this contest, especially down the stretch.

Donte Williams got a stick-back to tie the game at 50-apiece with 4:04 remaining, following an array of UGA offensive rebounds and flailing Bulls’ bodies.

After this basket, however, South Florida’s defense clamped down on the Dawgs, forcing Georgia into a slew of poor offensive possessions in which the ball circled the perimeter until a last-second shot was tossed up by a UGA player in an attempt to beat the shot clock.

The Bulls closed out the last 4 minutes of the game with a 14-3 run that crushed any hopes that Georgia might have had of stealing a game on the road in the newly constructed Sun Dome arena.

The South Florida offense was extremely balanced on Friday night with four players finishing in double-figures.  The Bulls were led by sophomore point guard Anthony Collins, who poured in 17 points to go along with 10 assists.

On the flip side, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only Georgia player to score in double-digits, netting 19 points while shooting 50% from the floor.  When the Bulls heightened their defensive focus on KCP late in the second half it really exposed just how one-dimensional this Georgia team can be offensively.

Donte Williams was a ghost for much of the night, scoring 2 points on just 4 field goal attempts, while Neme Djurisic couldn’t find the rim, hitting only 3 of his 13 shots from the floor.

John Cannon tied his season-high with 8 points to go along with 3 rebounds, yet he spent the final quarter of this game on the bench.  Cannon appears to be the most gifted offensive big man on this team, and I think it’s imperative that he is on the floor during key stretches of games to take some of the pressure off of Pope.

Lastly, the Dawgs must get more production from the point guard position.  Against the Bulls, Vincent Williams and Charles Mann combined for a total of 3 points and 4 assists in 40 minutes of play.  When Georgia sees zone defenses, it is up to these guys to penetrate and draw defenders so that the zone breaks down (like how Gerald Robinson, Jr. did the past two years).

Looks like the Bulldogs will have to wait a bit to start their first win streak of the season.

Georgia visits South Florida in SEC/Big East Challenge

Georgia’s (2-4) basketball game at South Florida (4-2) this Friday night will likely go relatively unnoticed by most of the Bulldog Nation considering Saturday’s impending SEC football championship game.

However, this matchup with the Bulls should provide the Dawgs with a formidable challenge against a team that will likely be on the NCAA Tournament bubble late in the season.

South Florida is coming off its best year in the program’s history, winning 22 games as well as advancing two rounds in the 2012 Big Dance.  The catalyst from last season’s team – sophomore point guard Anthony Collins – returns to join a group of veterans that hope to make some noise once again in the postseason.

Collins, a consensus preseason Big East Second-Team selection, is netting 7.8 points to go along with 8.2 assists, ranking him 4th in the country in that category.  Despite his small stature, he is considered a lock-down defender who can wreak havoc upon opposing point guards.

The Bulls’ leading scorer this year has been Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, a senior big who is getting 13 points and nearly 7 boards per contest.  Fitzpatrick has a surprisingly soft touch from the outside, where he is knocking down over 40% of his three-point attempts.

Since the loss to Indiana, Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been doing a much better job of letting the game come to him offensively.  In both of the losses to IU and Southern Miss, KCP appeared to be pressing a bit, making only 9 of his 36 field goal attempts.

However, against UCLA and East Tennessee State, a relaxed Pope connected on 10 of his 22 attempts from the floor.  In addition, KCP took only 14 three-pointers in those two games (of which he made 6), almost half the number he shot in the previous two contests.

Last Friday, Georgia carved up ETSU’s zone, dishing out 21 team assists and hitting over 63% of their field goal attempts – easily the team’s best shooting performance of the season.  I am intrigued to see what kind of defense South Florida coach Stan Heath throws at the Dawgs now that they have proven that they can move the ball effectively inside a zone.

Junior big Donte Williams appears to have shaken of the early season cobwebs that plagued him the games against IU and UCLA, notching 12 points and 3 blocks in the matchup with ETSU.

This game will provide the Bulldogs with the opportunity to win consecutive games for the first time this season, and it will also be the first game this year in which the Dawgs have the full force of their starting five at the tip-off.

Georgia picks up win at home against East Tennessee State

The Georgia Bulldogs (2-4) put on a shooting clinic on Friday night in front of sparsely filled Stegeman Coliseum in a 54-38 win over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.

The Dawgs connected on 63% of their field goal attempts, marking their best field goal percentage in a game this season (or last for that matter).

The Buccaneers showed Coach Mark Fox’s team a heavy dose of zone defense for the entire night, which the Bulldogs quickly figured out and exploited by getting the ball into the high post which allowed them to hit a number of backdoor cutters (Donte Williams).

ETSU actually jumped out in front of Georgia 11-10 after a three-pointer from freshman Lester Wilson with 12:13 left before the break.  UGA responded with a 15-0 run that saw them take a 25-11 advantage with less than 5 minutes remaining till halftime.  Georgia finished out the first half strong, taking a 31-13 advantage into the intermission, and the Buccaneers were never really able to recover from this deficit.

Twice in the latter part of the second half ETSU pulled within 11 points, and each time they were met with a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer that helped to bolster the Dawgs’ lead.

KCP, who finished with a game-high 13 points, also snagged 7 rebounds and dished out 4 assists to go with his timely three-point baskets.

The Bulldogs were extremely efficient on offense, dishing out a season’s best 21 assists to only 17 turnovers.  Donte Williams, the beneficiary of many of those backdoor passes, chipped in 12 points, which mostly came in the form of thunderous baseline dunks.  Georgia’s offense last night looked much more like the version of basketball that UGA fans enjoyed when Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie were still donning the Red and Black.

Even though the opposing team was undersized and missing its starting backcourt, it was encouraging to see how well the Dawgs handled playing against a zone defense.  Much like the UCLA game, Georgia once again made a conscious effort to get the ball into the paint, which led to 28 points.

If this team is a work in progress, then maybe we are starting to see the beginnings of a turnaround after the dismal start that saw UGA drop consecutive home games to Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi.

I’m not so sure that the Georgia team from two weeks ago would have won last night’s contest quite so handedly.

Bruins outlast Dawgs 60-56 in consolation round of Legends Classic

The Georgia Bulldogs dropped their fourth consecutive game on Tuesday night, losing a hard-fought battle with the #11 UCLA Bruins.  Despite the fact that the Dawgs are in the midst of a losing streak, as a fan, I am much more encouraged by what I saw transpire in Brooklyn over the past two days.

Last week, Georgia appeared outmatched in both of its games against Youngstown State and Southern Mississippi.  However, Coach Mark Fox was able to reach his team and demand more before the games in New York, which saw the Dawgs go toe-to-toe with the #1 and #11 teams in the country (Indiana and UCLA, respectively).

Last night’s game against UCLA was the first time this season we have seen Georgia play patiently on offense, working the ball inside and back out until they found the best shot.  Fox’s team dished out 15 assists to just 10 turnovers, marking only the second time this year they have been on the plus side of that differential (reminiscent of Georgia’s first two teams under CMF).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did not attempt a shot until less than 7 minutes remained in the first half, yet at the time his Bulldog team was leading 22-14.  KCP, who had been pressing a bit lately, allowed the game to come to him on Tuesday, finishing with a team-high 16 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

Despite Pope’s improved play, he did commit a costly turnover on a critical possession in which Georgia trailed UCLA by 3 points with less than a minute remaining.  The Bruins trapped KCP at the top of the key, and Kentavious fell awkwardly to the ground while attempting a pass against his body to the right side of the court.  Unfortunately for UGA, the Bruins’ Norman Powell made one of the ensuing free throws, giving his team a two-possession advantage that the Bulldogs were unable to overcome.

UCLA played last evening’s contest without regular starter David Wear, which opened the door for freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad to make his first collegiate start.  Muhammad took advantage of the opportunity, responding with a game-high 21 points.

Georgia’s scoring was more balanced against the Bruins than it has been all season, with three players – Donte Williams, Neme Djurisic and John Cannon – finishing with 8 points.

Though this Bulldog team is clearly a work-in-progress, if they can bring the same effort and intensity that they played with in Brooklyn to all of their games I think that this bunch may win more games than people might have predicted seven days ago.