UGA does enough to hang on against LSU

12475030The narrative for Georgia’s (17-12; 8-8) basketball team has become incredibly predictable these days.  Basically, it goes something like this: with its best interior player watching from the sidelines, one undersized point guard continues to refuse to let this team lose.

Despite at one point holding a 17-point advantage in the first half, UGA found itself with the ball and trailing LSU 80-79 with only 6.9 seconds left.  The Dawgs got the ball to J.J. Frazier, who quickly split a double team before sprinting down the court and drawing a foul with less than 2 seconds left.  Frazier buried the two free throws, which gave UGA an 81-80 edge.  LSU attempted a full court pass, but it landed in Derek Ogbeide’s hands.  Ogbeide began walking with the ball as if the game were over, and fortunately for Georgia, the referees missed an obvious traveling violation and found a foul in the video replay that sent Ogbeide to the line with only 1.3 left.  Georgia would win 82-80, and more importantly, the Dawgs avoided what could have been a shameful home loss to a Tiger team that rolled into Athens with a 1-14 SEC record.

As refreshing as it was to see Frazier pull out another win for this team, the fact that Georgia relinquished its huge lead and almost lost to the worst team in the conference, even without Maten, is concerning.  After shooting 55% from the floor and building up a 44-37 halftime lead, the Dawgs began to unravel midway through the second half.  Georgia bolstered its advantage to 55-42 following an E’Torrian Wilridge three-pointer with 16:54 remaining.  But then UGA got careless with the ball, turning it over 7 times after the break.  The Dawgs also failed to defend the glass and allowed LSU to haul down 7 of its 11 offensive boards in the second half; the Tigers scored 14 second chance points to Georgia’s 6.  UGA came dangerously close to becoming the team that would snap LSU’s 14-game SEC losing streak.

Georgia escaped today, but it was so much closer than it should have been.  I fear that the offense is almost becoming too Frazier-centric down the stretch.  While obviously a team wants the ball in the hands of its best player when it counts, for the final 4 minutes of the LSU game the Dawgs merely stalled for 20 seconds before getting the ball to J.J. so that he could try to create something.  Frazier missed his final 5 field goal attempts, largely because the Tigers were dedicating nearly all their defensive resources to stopping him.  I’m not so sure this offensive strategy will work against a stronger opponent like Auburn, and I’m positive its not going to be enough against Arkansas.

But the thing is, even though Jordan Harris is also apparently injured, Mark Fox has other offensive weapons at his disposal, yet he continues to be reluctant to use them.  For the second straight game, freshman Tyree Crump came off the bench and buried a pair of three-pointers, only to spend the majority of the game on the bench.  Tonight, Crump played 8 minutes and scored 6 points and dished out 2 assists; Turtle Jackson played 32 minutes, scoring 9 points and handing out 2 turnovers.  Fox’s unwillingness to play Crump, even though he continues to provide perimeter offense, will certainly go down as one of the mysteries of this team’s season.

In addition to Frazier’s 29 points and 8 assists, both Ogbeide and Juwan Parker finished in double-digits as they scored 12 apiece.  LSU, who was led by Antonio Blakeny’s 20 points, also had 3 players end up in double-figures, with Brandon Sampson and Skylar Mays netting 15 each.

 

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Dawgs fall to Tigers 89-85

Three-point trouble

Despite being generally outplayed and out rebounded for the first twenty minutes of this one, Georgia found itself trailing LSU by just 3 points heading into the locker room, the score 33-30 in favor of the Tigers.  LSU struggled mightily from the perimeter before the break, missing all 7 of their attempts.

The second half was a different story, though.  The Tigers found their stroke from the outside, knocking down 6 of 12 shots from beyond the arc, which fueled the LSU win.

Georgia entered tonight’s game shooting over 40% from the perimeter in conference games, yet the Bulldogs shot an abysmal 6 for 23 from the outside.  Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier combined to shoot only 6 of 19 on the evening.

Fouls, fouls and more fouls

The referees in Baton Rouge whistled an astounding 55 fouls on Tuesday night.  This game marked the second time this season that the Dawgs have played in a game in which over 50 fouls were called (63 fouls were assessed in the Chattanooga game).  The game clock seemed to be moving in slow motion around the 10-minute mark of the second half, when nearly every trip down the floor resulted in a stoppage of play.

All of the fouling turned out to be more advantageous for the Tigers as they shot 55 free throws to Georgia’s 24. LSU standout Ben Simmons, who scored 22 points to go along with 14 rebounds, attempted 17 shots from the stripe himself; fortunately for UGA he only made 10 of those attempts.

Georgia’s leading scorer, Yante Maten, fouled out with over 9 minutes remaining in the contest, leaving with only 5 points in 20 minutes of play.

While LSU took more than double the free throws than UGA tonight, the Dawgs once again didn’t do themselves any favors from the line. Georgia entered this one making under 63% from the stripe in conference games, which ranks them 12 out of 14 in the league in that category.  This evening, UGA once again shot below 63% on its free throws, leaving precious points on the table in a game that Georgia lost 89-85.

 

Ball Security

Teams that want to go on the road and win conference games must protect the ball.

Georgia committed 12 turnovers against LSU in Baton Rouge, which is nowhere near their highest output of the season. However, the Tigers only gave the ball away 9 times, meaning that UGA once again finished a game with a negative turnover margin. The Dawgs came into this game with the 2nd worst turnover margin in the league in SEC games at -3.1. For a team that struggles enough as it is to score points, Georgia cannot afford to give its opponents extra offensive opportunities.

 

LSU bests Georgia 87-84 in 2 OTs

When Marcus Thornton tapped in a  Kenny Gaines miss with 1 second remaining to tie the game at 67-67 – sending it into overtime – it felt as though Georgia had been given new life.  With under 5 minutes remaining in regulation, UGA had trailed LSU 64-56, and the game had appeared to be slipping away from Coach Fox’s team.

However, Georgia kindly returned the favor to the Tigers in the first overtime, letting an 8-point lead vanish in less than 2 minutes, allowing LSU to push the game into a second overtime.  With the Dawgs leading 80-77 and only 29 seconds left, Charles Mann had a chance to ice the game from the free throw line.  Had Mann hit just one of two from the stripe, his team would have been in a great position to close out the game.  But alas, Charles missed them both, and LSU’s Tim Quartermann converted an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the game at 80, committing both teams to a second overtime.

The second overtime saw Coach Mark Fox’s team playing a bit short-handed, without the services of Neme Djurisic or Kenny Gaines; Neme fouled out at the end of regulation, and Gaines committed his 5th foul in the first minute of the second OT.  Even so, Georgia had two chances to tie the game in the waning 26 seconds, trailing 87-84, but Charles Mann turned the ball over twice, and UGA lost its second straight SEC game.

Mann may have been fouled from beyond the arc on his attempt in the closing seconds (Coach Fox certainly appeared to think so based on his arm movements). But even so, it’s hard to imagine the 61% free throw shooter converting three straight from the line in a high-pressure situation.

Mann, who was just one point and one rebound shy of a double-double, had a tough night controlling the basketball, giving it away 6 times.  His backup, J.J. Frazier, had 5 turnovers himself to go along with an 0 for 7 shooting performance from the floor.  Georgia followed up a sloppy second half against Arkansas with a 20-turnover effort in Baton Rouge, once again allowing ball security to plague them.

UGA’s scoring was again balanced, with five players finishing in double-figures.  Kenny Gaines led the way with 19 points, and Marcus Thornton chipped in 16 points and 16 rebounds en route to his 4th double-double of the season.  The Dawgs also got a nice effort – 10 points and 6 boards – from Cameron Forte, who played bigger minutes in the absence of Kenny Paul Geno (broken wrist).

Defensively, Georgia owned the glass, winning the rebounding battled 50 to 34.  However, the Dawgs failed to corral sophomore Tim Quartermann, who scored a game and career-high 27 points, hitting 6 of his 10 three-point attempts.  Quartermann, a native of Savannah, Georgia, was a recruiting target of Mark Fox’s two years ago – too bad he couldn’t land him, Georgia may have won this game.

LSU also got 15 points from Jalyn Patterson, a freshman from Alpharetta.

UGA is now 0-2 in conference play, and they are not going to win many games if Charles Mann doesn’t start playing better.  In the pair of games, Mann is a combined 4 of 14 from the floor, and he has 10 turnovers to just 5 assists.  Mann, who was selected to the preseason All-SEC team, has yet to play the part since league competition has begun.

Life doesn’t get any easier for the Dawgs as they must travel on Wednesday to Nashville to play on Vanderbilt’s raised floor – a venue where Georgia has not won in nearly a decade, dating back to February 4, 2006.

UGA secures huge road win and ends season 3rd in SEC

How will they replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s scoring?  Where will the offense come from?  Surely they cannot win as many games after losing the SEC Player of the Year to the NBA draft…

These concerns were the consensus question marks surrounding Coach Mark Fox’s team heading into the 2013-2014 season from just about every major media source that previews college basketball.  This year’s team was picked to finish somewhere around 10th or 11th in the SEC before the season began.

Sophomores Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines had different ideas.

Georgia’s backcourt combined for 44 of UGA’s 69 points today in Baton Rouge, hoisting the Dawgs on their backs and carrying their team to a critical 69-61 road win against LSU.

The UGA duo played lights out on Saturday with Gaines scoring 20 points for the 4th time in the last 7 games.  The sophomore was white hot in the first half, connecting on all four of his three-point attempts.

The entire Bulldog team was hitting shots before the intermission, making over 52% of their attempts from the floor.  The problem wasn’t UGA’s shooting, though, it was their ball security.  Georgia committed 13 first-half turnovers, yet they still managed to take 30-28 lead into the break due to some poor LSU shooting.

The Dawgs held a 21-18 advantage over the Tigers with 11:24 left before the half after a three from J.J. Frazier.  Georgia remained stuck on 21 points for nearly 6 minutes until Kenny Gaines hit a three to reclaim a 24-22 lead.  During that 6-minute drought, UGA committed 5 turnovers, and the only thing that kept them in the game was the fact that the Tigers could not find the rim.

In the second half, Charles Mann took over, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points and snagging 7 of his game-high 10 rebounds (yes, Mann secured his first double-double of the season in probably the most important game of the year).  Mann basically did what he does best: he got the line, where he made an incredible 12 of 14 attempts.

Georgia held an 11-point lead with less than 8 minutes left, and they were barely challenged for the remainder of the game other than a very brief LSU spurt that saw the Tigers cut the UGA advantage to 65-59 after an Anthony Hickey three-pointer.  Charles Mann immediately buried a pair of free throws that shot the lead back to 8 points, and Georgia notched its 12th conference win of the season.

As far as LSU’s offense is concerned, the Tigers were led by Andre Stringer’s 22 points.

LSU’s leading scorer – Johnny O’Bryant – was a non-factor, mustering only 5 points while committing 5 turnovers.   Coach Fox had a masterful game plan for JOB, doubling down on him at almost every opportunity.  O’Bryant appeared flustered with the UGA defense, which held him to a season-low in scoring in conference play.

For Georgia, this victory was absolutely enormous.

The Dawgs finish the year 18-12 overall and 12-6 in the SEC, giving them the 3-seed in next week’s conference tournament.

Georgia will get the winner of the Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt/Mississippi State game in the quarterfinals round on Friday night.

The NCAA selection committee may or may not have UGA on its radar, but after winning 8 of their last 10 games to close out the regular season the Bulldogs are making themselves harder and harder to ignore.

Dawgs in Baton Rouge playing for a chance to dance

Another bubbly Saturday

No, a win today over LSU will not punch Georgia’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament.  Georgia’s RPI of 79 is not attractive enough yet for them to be considered tourney material (yet).

A victory this afternoon would certainly boost UGA’s RPI (as would wins by Davidson, Temple, Western Carolina, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia Washington, Chattanooga, Colorado and Woffford, according to CBS’s Bracketologist Jerry Palm).

The RPI ranking system is an amorphous mess, and it is completely out of Georgia’s control.

The only thing that Coach Mark Fox and his team can earn for certain today is the 3-seed to the SEC tournament next week, and to do that the Dawgs must complete a season sweep of the LSU Tigers.

A key factor in UGA’s 91-78 home win over LSU earlier in the year was that the Tigers’ leading scorer – Johnny O’Bryant III (JOB) – was in foul trouble the entire game.  JOB played just 14 minutes in that game, which hampered LSU’s ability to score and defend inside.

When O’Bryant was in the game, however, he was extremely effective, scoring all 9 of his points in 10 minutes of the second half.

Speaking honestly, JOB is probably the best legitimate big man in the SEC, averaging almost 17 points and 8 rebounds a night in conference play.  If O’Bryant manages to avoid foul trouble this time around, UGA is going to have a much tougher Tiger team on their hands this afternoon.

Making matters even more challenging for the Dawgs is the fact that LSU is still in the hunt for an at-large bid themselves with an RPI rating of 64.

Today’s game should have a “playoff” feel to it.

Georgia’s three-point game

Throughout the season, broadcasters and journalists have type-casted this UGA basketball team as a hard-nosed bunch that likes to score the basketball close to the rim (which is fairly accurate), lacking in much of anything resembling a perimeter game.

Interestingly, though, with one game remaining in the season UGA currently sits at 3rd in the SEC in three-point shooting in conference games, knocking down nearly 36% of its shots from beyond the arc.

While the Dawgs only average a little over 5 threes a night in league play, I was surprised by the team’s successful shooting rate from the perimeter.

A big contributor to Georgia’s exterior offense has been sophomore Kenny Gaines, who is making almost 42% of his three-point attempts in SEC games, which is 4th in the conference.

Dawgs open up with Tigers in first-round of SEC Tourney

The first time Georgia (15-16,9-9) and LSU (18-11,9-9) met this season, the Dawgs rode Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 22 points en route to a 67-58 home victory – their first SEC win of the season. The victory over the Tigers set the Bulldogs off on a run in which they would win 5 of their next 6 games, with the lone loss coming at Florida.

LSU had a “UGA-like” resurgence as well following the loss to the Dawgs, which put them at 0-4 in league play. Since that game, the Tigers have posted a 9-5 conference record, notching wins over Missouri, Alabama and Arkansas.

A large part of LSU’s improved play has rested on the broad shoulders of sophomore big man Johnny O’Bryant III, who has put together an All-SEC calibre season. In conference play, O’Bryant averaged 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds. The 262-pound forward has registered 11 double-doubles in his 18 SEC games this year. In the loss to Georgia back in January, O’Bryant netted 16 points to go along with 14 boards.

Containing O’Bryant’s physicality in the paint will be a challenge for the Dawgs on Thursday. However, Georgia’s biggest challenge in their first tournament game could be more emotional than physical. After suffering yet another heart-breaking road loss at the buzzer in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, UGA must regain its poise and be ready to deal with a competitive LSU team.

No team in the SEC has had worse luck away from home than Georgia this season, with the Dawgs losing in overtime to Ole Miss as well suffering 2-point, 1-point and 3-point losses at Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Alabama, respectively.

Obviously, how deep UGA goes into the tournament in Nashville relies heavily on the play of KCP, the SEC Player of the Year. The sophomore averaged 18.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals in league games this season, and he played an integral part in all 9 of the Dawgs’ league wins. The true measure of an MVP is how important he is to his team’s success, and Pope – without question – has been absolutely essential to this UGA squad.

In the latest NBAdraft.net projection for the 2013 draft, the site had KCP going at the 30th pick of the first round – the last pick.

Win or lose on Thursday, hopefully it will not be Pope’s last game as a Bulldog.

Dawgs pull away from Tigers for 67-58 conference victory

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s body language last night gave the impression that he was tired of all the losing and REALLY wanted a win – hand-clapping between possessions, celebrating with teammates during timeouts, etc.

Though KCP finished with a game-high 22 points, his defense may have been the ultimate reason that Georgia (7-10; 1-3) wound up on top on Saturday.

With the Dawgs up 61-56 and less than 90 seconds remaining, LSU had the ball and a chance to make it a one-possession game. Pope would have none of it however, taking the ball from the Tiger guard for his 6th steal of the evening. On the ensuing possession, Vincent Williams was fouled, made both free throws and UGA found itself leading 63-56 with only 50 seconds left. At this point, the game was out of reach for the team from Baton Rouge, and Georgia would walk out of Stegeman with a 67-58 win – their first SEC win of the season.

LSU came into this contest with a bit of a turnover problem – giving it away nearly 18 times a game in conference play – and Saturday was no different as the Tigers handed the ball to the Dawgs 21 times. UGA capitalized on LSU’s carelessness, converting those turnovers into 19 points.

In his post-game conference, Coach Mark Fox praised his team’s defense, which limited LSU to just 36% from the floor. The Tigers’ 58 points marked their second-lowest offensive output of the year thus far.

The UGA bigs had trouble containing Johnny O’Bryant III – who ended up with 16 points and 14 boards – but Georgia did manage to corral the LSU backcourt for much of the game.

For Georgia, the only other player to score in double-digits was junior Donte Williams, who chipped in 14 points, 5 rebounds and a blocked shot in what was definitely his biggest game of the year.

While getting off the snide and securing that first SEC win must feel really good to this UGA team, the game with LSU was not played flawlessly. Once again, Georgia struggled mightily to handle a full-court press, turning the ball over 16 times last night. The Dawgs host the #10 Gators in Athens on Wednesday in a game that will certainly feature a lot of full-court pressure from Florida.

The victory over LSU puts UGA in a four-way tie at 1-3 with South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

Georgia has a very difficult week ahead of them with the aforementioned match-up with the Gators and then a road trip to College Station to play Texas A&M. However, if the Dawgs could steal one of those games, they could put themselves in a position to get back to .500 since the next two would be against Auburn and Carolina.

Funny how a win can serve to restore hope.