Dawgs earn a moral victory in 83-79 loss to LSU

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I realize that teams and their fan bases take little pride in moral victories in the long run. However, for THIS Georgia Bulldog (10-15, 1-11) team in THIS season, the Dawgs and their supporters should take some solace from last night’s effort against the #19 LSU Tigers.

UGA went toe-to-toe with an LSU team that had just knocked off #5 Kentucky at Rupp earlier in the week. With 29 seconds remaining in this contest, Georgia had an opportunity to tie the game. Instead, Nic Claxton elected to drive it at the rim, and his shot sailed over the basket, but the point is that the Dawgs were still in it with less than a minute remaining against a squad that is now tied with Tennessee for 1st place in the conference.

Tom Crean’s team’s most glaring weaknesses this year have been turnovers and inconsistent defense, yet on Saturday both of those shortcomings were relatively unnoticeable. The Dawgs committed only 11 turnovers, and even though those led to 17 Tiger points, for a Georgia team that’s been giving it away 15 times a night in conference play, this felt like a “win”.

Sure, LSU put up 83 points in its win over UGA, but guess what? They’ve been doing that to just about everybody. The Tigers are netting over 85 points a game in league play, so if you’re a “glass is half full” kind of person you could see this as a minor victory for the Georgia defense as the Dawgs held the Tigers under their SEC average in points.

LSU coach Will Wade seemingly has a never-ending supply of 6’10”-ish bigs he can run into the game, which is probably why his team leads the SEC in offensive boards per contest at over 14 a clip. The Tigers’ big men attacked the glass ferociously Saturday night, and it yielded 19 second-chance points for LSU, but Georgia had 18 points of that variety themselves.

This Tiger roster is far more talented than the current one that Tom Crean is working with. LSU has three guards in Tremont Waters, Skylar Mars and Ja’Vonte Smart that can all instantly create offense off the dribble; UGA doesn’t have anyone this year who can do that (aside from Jordan Harris, at times). Crean mixed in some 2-3 zone with his base man defense in an effort to slow down Waters, but the SEC’s best point guard got his 20 points. Smart, who is an absolute luxury for Wade to bring off the bench, torched the Dawgs for 19 points as he attacked the rim relentlessly. Luckily for Georgia, Mars, who nets over 13 ppg, was limited to just 6 on Saturday.

Despite the disparity in talent level between these two teams, Georgia hung with this Tiger team for nearly 40 minutes. UGA shot over 47% from the floor and had four players finish in double-figures in a game that featured 7 lead changes.

The Dawgs didn’t look like a team that was in the midst of a 9-game conference losing streak on Saturday. They didn’t back down in a game against a ranked opponent, when that certainly was an option. In the end, UGA came up 4 points short to the Tigers, but Georgia basketball fans have to take some satisfaction in the effort this Bulldog team showed in what has otherwise been a forgettable season.

Jordan Harris’s improvement

Harris’s 12 points on Saturday marked the 6th time in the last 7 games that the junior has finished in double-figures in the scoring department. Harris is also hauling in over 6 rebounds a contest during that same stretch. Jordan, who has to be the best athlete on the team, has emerged as a player that can create offense off the dribble from outside the paint, something this team was sorely lacking in the previous two-thirds of the season. If he continues to finish out this season strong, Harris has a realistic opportunity to be a regular double-digit contributor on next season’s team.

Rayshaun Hammonds foul tracker

With his 4 personal fouls on Saturday against LSU, Hammonds has now officially tied last season’s total of 81 PFs. The Dawgs have at least 7 games remaining (including the SEC tournament), so Hammonds has an extremely legitimate shot at committing over 100 PFs on the season, considering that he is averaging 3.7 a night in SEC play. The sophomore’s inability to stay on the court is perplexing because 1) he’s not an overly physical player and 2) he MUST realize his importance to this team. Hammonds netted 13 points against the Tigers yesterday, but he only logged 25 minutes of game time.

Box Score:

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How Georgia’s offense and defense contributed to its 92-82 loss at LSU

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First, the defense

Tom Crean and his staff decided to mix things up a bit on the defensive end against LSU on Wednesday night in Baton Rouge, starting after the first make of the game when the Bulldogs (9-9, 1-5) jumped into a little token full court pressure. Even though Georgia only showed this look several times, it was refreshing seeing the Dawgs as the aggressors, especially considering how much press Crean’s team has seen this season. The intent was to slow down this LSU offense by shortening the Tigers possessions in the halfcourt, and it was effective through the first 5 minutes as UGA managed to build up a 13-8 lead.

UGA also showed a new matchup zone that incorporated some quick traps on the wings and in the corners, and this helped to stabilize things after a 14-0 Tiger run that ran the LSU advantage up to 22-13 at the 13-minute mark in the first half.

The zone sets befuddled the Tigers momentarily, but LSU quickly learned that Georgia had no intent of fulfilling its obligations in regards to backside rotations, and Will Wade’s team started getting to the rim with ease. The Dawgs looked like a team that just learned these zones this week. I mean, the Tigers had 48 points at the half (to UGA’s 36) and shot 50% from the floor, so Georgia’s junk zone looks certainly weren’t giving them too many issues offensively. LSU had players on two different occasions drive from beyond the arc straight to the rim for a wide-open dunk without facing any resistance from a single UGA defender.

Considering the talent and athleticism disparity that favored LSU, I totally understand why Crean didn’t feel comfortable playing the Tigers man-to-man, hence the new defensive sets. The problem, though, is that it just didn’t work as LSU finished with 92 points and made 50% of its field goal attempts. The Tigers had both its starting guards score more than 20 points in Tremont Waters (26) and Skylar Mays (20).

Final indication that UGA’s defense failed it tonight: Georgia shot 54% from the floor and 47% from beyond the arc and still lost by double-digits.

And…now the offense

Georgia appeared dead to rights when they trailed the Tigers by 16 with 11:12 left in the second half. However, UGA wouldn’t quit, and a slew of buckets by Derek Ogbeide, who scored 14 off the bench, coupled with a generally lethargic effort from Will Wade’s team for nearly 8 minutes saw the Dawgs trailing 78-71 at the game’s final media timeout.

Unfortunately, LSU responded with consecutive old-fashioned three-point plays that put them up 84-73 with 2:57 remaining, effectively icing the game.

However, the reason that Georgia found itself even sniffing striking distance was because the Dawgs played some of their best offense of the season during the aforementioned 8-minute stretch. UGA scored a slew of buckets on backdoor cuts that would have made former Princeton coach Pete Carril proud. Georgia’s wings slashed to the basket when the ball moved inside the three-point line, which led to 5 team assists during this span of the contest. This little snippet of the game was probably the best UGA has looked on offense since conference play began, and a lot of that can be attributed to how well the Bulldogs were moving without the ball.

Rayshaun Hammonds, who was held in check in the first half, scored 15 of his 18 following the intermission. The sophomore asserted himself on offense as he created opportunities for others off the dribble; he also did an excellent job of staying active and making himself available around the rim when he didn’t possess the ball. Hammonds was an integral part in Georgia’s ability to keep this game within reach deep into the second half.

With the good, though, must come the bad, and once again, Georgia had issues with ball security. Credit LSU for its defensive intensity. The Tiger guards were constantly harassing the UGA ball-handlers (11 steals), and the LSU bigs excelled at protecting the glass (5 team blocks). The turnover bug bit Tom Crean’s team once again, though, to the tune of 17 giveaways, and those mishaps proved costly as they led to 17 Tiger points. Georgia entered tonight’s game last in the SEC in turnover margin at -5.2, and it’s likely the Dawgs will remain in that slot after Wednesday’s showing.

Box score:

Dawgs outpace LSU 93-82 in Athens

 

After an abysmal midweek showing in Columbia against the Gamecocks, a rejuvenated group of Georgia Bulldogs – just 8 of them as opposed to 12 – unleashed a level of offense that hasn’t been witnessed this season.  Maybe the Dawgs were inspired by their absence from the FBI investigation that has become the massive scandal that is currently consuming college basketball?  That might be a stretch. Whatever the case, Georgia (16-12, 7-9) scored 93 points, the most they’ve scored all season in a game, and earned a must-win victory over the LSU Tigers.

The UGA offense certainly looked different from what we’ve been accustomed to this season.  The Dawgs pushed the ball up the court and actually got shots up early in the possession.  Teshaun Hightower, who was this week’s new starter, did a particularly good job of keeping Georgia playing at a faster tempo.  Georgia took 61 shots from the floor, which marked just the 2nd time this season that UGA has had more than 60 field goal attempts in an SEC contest.  And Georgia didn’t have one of its hallmark scoring droughts, to the delight of both Mark Fox and the fan base.

The Dawgs were able to get the ball into Yante Maten on the block before the Tigers were completely set on defense, which resulted in a lot of one-on-one opportunities for Maten, who played absolutely fantastic on the afternoon.  Maten finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks, and he looked like an NBA player as he had LSU’s Duop Reath playing on skates.  Maten got whatever he wanted around the rim, and he had several really nice jumpers from the wing in which he jab-stepped at the defender before pulling up for the shot.  Maten’s aggressiveness got Reath in foul trouble, and the LSU big, who averages nearly 13 points a night, scored only 1 point in this one.

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Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Tigers’ defense was basically nonexistent.  LSU either chose to not double Maten, or the the double was slow to converge.  The Tiger press was incredibly soft, which might have been the result of poor execution, or it could have just been by design.  LSU routinely had 4 defenders below the free throw line on its press, giving Georgia a number of 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 opportunities at the rim once they got the ball across half court.  The Dawgs had 15 fast break points.  I’d wager that’s the most points they’ve gotten off the break in an SEC game this season.  Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored a career-high 21 points, was a benefactor of all that fast-breaking.  The freshman scored the majority of his points around the rim or at the free throw line, and he is finally starting to show some of that aggressiveness on offense that was on display at the start of the season.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the Dawgs, however.  Georgia’s backcourt struggled to stay in front of the Tiger perimeter players as they moved the ball into the paint (where they got 34 points) with relative ease.  UGA also gave the ball away 16 times, and the Tigers converted those turnovers into 20 points. Georgia’s perimeter shooting was atrocious. The Dawgs hit just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc in the first half, and they finished the game 5 of 22 on triples. Luckily, there were lots of other ways to score against LSU’s porous defense that the ineffective shooting from the outside didn’t really hurt UGA that badly.

Although I find it bizarre that Georgia does not have a set starting five with 3 games left in the regular season, hats off to Mark Fox for going with what he feels like are his best 8 players.  At this point in the season, teams should not be playing 10 to 12 guys as Georgia has been unless you are running some fashion of a “40 minutes of hell” up and down type game, which UGA clearly is not.  Despite what Coach Fox said at his press conference following the wins against Florida and Tennessee, it’s not that I don’t like players like Mike Edwards and E’Torrian Wilridge. I just like it better when they are sitting on the bench.  With Jordan Harris apparently done for the year, I’d say the 8 guys that got all the minutes yesterday are the top players on this roster, and hopefully they continue to garner the lion’s share of court time.

Entering yesterday’s contest, Georgia had 6 quadrant 1 (Q1) wins, which tied them with 10 other teams in the country.  There were only 5 other teams in the nation with more Q1 wins.  Despite UGA’s less than stellar record, the Dawgs have a significant number of Q1 wins.  Although, in beating LSU, the Dawgs might have cost themselves one of those Q1 wins as the Tigers’ RPI will likely go below 75, and that would negate Georgia’s Q1 win in Baton Rouge earlier in the year.  Not to worry, the Dawgs have another Q1 opportunity this Wednesday when they host Texas A&M on Senior Night.

Box score:

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UGA bounces back with a 61-60 road win at LSU

The boxscore

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The ending

Georgia seniors Juwan Parker and Yante Maten both made incredibly important baskets for their team down the stretch of this game.  Parker, who finished with 9 points, calmly buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Dawgs on top 59-58 with only 57 seconds remaining. However, LSU pushed the ball down the court and quickly found Duop Reath on the baseline, where he connected on a jumper that reclaimed the lead for the Tigers to make it 60-59 with just 41 seconds on the clock.  The ensuing possession for UGA resulted in a three-pointer from the corner by Teshaun Hightower (which we will get to later) that missed, but fortunately for Georgia, Parker was able to corral the offensive rebound and get a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Coach Mark Fox had his team go to its bread and butter, Maten, and he delivered with a nice one-handed shot in the middle of the lane amongst multiple LSU defenders.  With Georgia up 61-60, LSU’s Tremont Waters had only a little over 5 seconds to get the ball down the court to hoist up a long three that missed the mark, and the Dawgs snuck out of Baton Rouge with a critical SEC road win.

Let’s talk a little bit more about that final 3:16

Coming out of the final media timeout, the Bulldogs led briefly – 56-55 – before Brandon Sampson hit a triple to make it 58-56 Tigers with 2:59 remaining.  For much of the second half, Georgia had made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Maten, who delivered as he scored 17 of his game-high 21 points after the break.  Logic would lead one to think that Maten would see multiple touches over Georgia’s final series of possessions, yet that was not the case.  Over the next 6 trips down the court, the only time the ball wound up in Maten’s hands was the last UGA possession in which he made the game-winner.  As mentioned above, Parker took one as well (and connected).  The other 4 Georgia shots were attempted by none other than freshman Teshaun Hightower, who was clearly enjoying his first start of the season.  During this stretch of game, Hightower attempted 3 three-pointers, and he missed all three; though, that’s not terribly surprising considering he’s now 4 for 22 on the year from beyond the arc.  He did have a nice steal and wound up at the free throw line, but he couldn’t convert those shots either (Hightower was 1 for 6 from the charity stripe on the night and is now shooting only 40% from the line on the season).  Hightower did have several strong drives earlier in the game. He also did an excellent job of making life difficult on LSU’s leading scorer, Tremont Waters, who finished with just 6 points (0 in the second half), which is more than 10 points lower than his scoring average.  But the freshman has to realize that this team needs him to do three things: defend well, push the ball and find ways to get it inside to Maten and Derek Ogbeide.  For now, that’s about it.

Offensive adjustments

Georgia’s first half of offense looked a lot like a continuation from the South Carolina and Missouri games.  LSU pressed out of made baskets, which forced UGA into taking a lot of shots late in the possession.  In the half court, the Tigers pushed up hard on their man defense, which caused the Georgia guards to struggle to get the offensive sets started.  It’s kind of scary how easy it is to defend UGA sometimes; Georgia’s guards can really struggle to create separation and perform as catalysts for the offense when faced with just a bit of pressure.  The Dawgs shot under 41% from the floor prior to the break, and they hit only 1 of 9 from beyond the arc.  Georgia trailed 34-24 at the half; they weren’t even on pace to match their SEC average of 62 points, which is the lowest output in the league.

Georgia made 5 of its first 8 field goals of the second half during the first 15 seconds of the possession.

Coming out of halftime, however, UGA briefly reinvented itself and actually pushed the ball down the court on consecutive possessions.  Georgia made 5 of its first 8 field goals of the second half during the first 15 seconds of the possession.  The result: UGA took a 44-41 lead with 12:19 left in the game following a three-pointer by Jordan Harris.  After scoring just 24 points the entire first half, the Dawgs had already tallied 20 in less than 8 minutes.  Considering that Georgia has been the worst offense in the league through 5 SEC games, maybe it’s time for Fox to consider employing this strategy (playing more up tempo) more often?

Second chances

LSU has been the worst rebounding team in the SEC during league play so far this season.  The Tigers have a rebounding margin of -5.4, which means they are basically being out-rebounded every single night.  Last night was no different, as the Dawgs won the battle of the boards by a tally of 25-21.  While UGA only registered 4 more rebounds than the Tigers, probably the most important place where the Dawgs won the glass was on the offensive end, where Georgia pulled down 13 rebounds.  Those boards led to 17 second-chance points for Coach Mark Fox’s team; LSU had just 5.  After yielding 18 offensive rebounds to South Carolina last Saturday, it was refreshing to see UGA give an opponent a similar treatment.

Up next

Georgia heads to The Plains this Saturday night to take on #17 Auburn, a team that is currently on a 14-game win streak.  The Tigers are 4-0 in SEC play, and their RPI is sitting at 7.

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.

 

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.