Georgia basketball wins another important game away from Stegeman

Just moments before the kickoff of yesterday’s SEC Championship game, Rayshaun Hammonds grabbed a rebound off a miss by Marquette’s Markus Howard, and then he calmly sunk a pair of free throws to secure a quality road win (73-66) for the Bulldogs in their victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles (5-3).

I should probably mentioned that William “Turtle” Jackson made 4 straight from the charity stripe prior to the 2 by Hammonds, and Turtle’s were incredibly important because Howard did connect on a three with 33 ticks left to make it a one-possession game at 69-66, Georgia.

The Dawgs won the game, in my opinion, during the following two stretches:

  1. After building up a comfortable 23-15 lead with just over 6 minutes left in the half, Georgia appeared to have taken control of the game and poised to go into the locker room with a sizable advantage.  Marquette started to get hot, though, and went on a 13-4 run that included three-pointers from Howard and Andrew Rowsey, whose shot put the Eagles up 28-27 with 1:03 left before the break.  Rowsey hit another triple to give Marquette a 31-28 advantage with 19 seconds remaining.  The Dawgs, however, immediately seized the momentum back on the following possession when Teshaun Hightower awkwardly dumped the ball off to Nicolas Claxton who quickly buried a three-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to lock the game up at 31 apiece heading into the intermission.
  2. Late in the second half, Georgia took a commanding 43-36 lead following the most powerful dunk that Mike Edwards has most likely ever done.  The Dawgs looked as though they had taken control of the game, but once again, Marquette responded, this time with a 12-4 run that was capped off by another Rowsey three that put his team up 48-47 with under 10 minutes remaining.  But UGA wouldn’t wither, and Yante Maten, who led his team with 13 points, hit an enormous jumper from the corner to put the Dawgs up 56-55 with 5:03 left. Hammonds scored on the ensuing possession on a dish from Derek Ogbeide, and a minute later Hightower hit a pair of free throws, and again UGA had wrestled back the momentum as they were now up 60-55 with 3:09 remaining.

Another big factor in this UGA victory was the Dawgs’ defensive intensity, which obviously must have been a point of emphasis from the coaching staff following Georgia’s win against Saint Mary’s, a game that featured zero defense.  The Dawgs held Marquette to just 35% from the floor and limited the Golden Eagles, who entered the game hitting over 38% of their 3PT attempts, to 33% from beyond the arc.  The Georgia guards frustrated the Big East’s leading scorer, Andrew Rowsey, into a 4 for 15 shooting effort, which led to 15 points, well below his season average (23.7ppg).

The only chink the Bulldogs defensive armor was that they couldn’t managed to contain Markus Howard, who spent half of this contest on the bench dealing with foul trouble.  Howard picked up two quick fouls to start the game and sat for the next 13 minutes before entering with a little over 6 minutes remaining in the half, only to pick his 3rd foul.  The effect: Howard had to sit for the first 7 minutes of the second half.  When Howard was in the game, though, he was highly productive as he scored a game-high 29 points in just 20 minutes of play.  The most disconcerting thing about Howard’s performance for Georgia had to be how easily he got the ball into the lane and to the rim, similarly to Saint Mary’s point guard, Emmett Naar, who dropped 21 points on the Dawgs in Fullerton, California.  So far this season, UGA’s backcourt has struggled to keep better point guards from punishing them in the lane, and that could be a problem once the Dawgs hit conference play because there are a number of good PGs in the SEC.

Other than Maten, the only other UGA player to finish in double-digits was Turtle, who scored 11 points to go along with 7 assists.  Tyree Crump ended up with 9 points on a 3 for 6 shooting effort from beyond the arc, and he may have wound up in double-figures, but he only played 10 minutes.  At some point Fox may have to consider inserting Crump into the starting five as he and Turtle are by far the Dawgs’ most dangerous three-point threats.  Their presence on the court gives Maten, who is going to be double-teamed all season it appears, viable outlets on the perimeter.

This game wasn’t a thing of beauty by any means; neither team had a field goal for almost 4 minutes to begin the second half.  But Mark Fox’s team once again got it done away from Athens against a team that may be dancing in March.  After a series of meaningless cupcake games at home to start the season, Georgia is slowly putting together a nice little NCAA Tournament resume.

 

Marquette drops Georgia 89-79 on a rainy afternoon in Athens

With the way Marquette shot the ball on Sunday, it was hard to determine whether it was raining harder outside Stegeman Coliseum or in it.

After trailing by as much as 16 points early in the second half, Georgia cut the Marquette lead to 72-70 with 7:06 remaining following a pair of free throws from William “Turtle” Jackson.  For a brief moment, UGA appeared to have resurrected itself from the land of the dead and looked poised to battle the Golden Eagles down the stretch.  That moment was fleeting, though, as Marquette went on an 11-0 run that was capped off by a Markus Howard three-pointer, which put his team up 83-70 with just 4:29 left.  Georgia wouldn’t climb out of this hole, and the Golden Eagles walked out of Stegeman with a 89-79 victory.

Howard hit 3 three-pointers on the night and finished with 15 points.  He was one of four Golden Eagles to knock down 2 or more shots from beyond the arc.  The last time Georgia had four players hit multiple three’s in one game was – er, quite a while ago, I’m guessing?

Marquette torched the Dawgs’ man defense for 8 three-pointers in the first half, only missing two.  After the intermission, Coach Mark Fox switched his team into a matchup zone which enabled them to close out better on the Golden Eagle shooters, limiting them to just 5 three’s on 26% shooting from the perimeter in the second half.  The Dawgs’ exterior defense wasn’t the only issue, though.  Marquette had their way with Georgia off the dribble, and UGA’s help defense on the inside was seriously lacking.  The Golden Eagles had four players finish in double-figures with Sam Hauser leading the way with 19 points.  In addition to all the scoring, Marquette thoroughly dominated Georgia on the glass, winning the battle of the boards by a tally of 42-31, and 15 of those rebounds were of the offensive variety.

As much as I would like to point to strategic mishaps that ultimately led to UGA’s demise in this one, I really do not think that that was the case.  Rather, Georgia simply doesn’t have the talent to play with and beat a team of Marquette’s caliber (or Clemson’s or Kansas’s, for that matter).  Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier scored 24 and 22, respectively, and the Dawgs’ hit nearly 50% of their attempts from the floor, yet that still wasn’t enough firepower to match Marquette’s 89 points.

This UGA team has a serious talent drop off after accounting for Maten and Frazier.  Center Luke Fischer, who is arguably Coach Wojo’s best player, only saw 7 minutes of court time in the first half due to foul trouble, and his team still took a 46-43 advantage into the break.  Wojo has five legitimate scoring threats who at any time can either take their man off the dribble or hit a perimeter shot.  How many guys like that does Coach Mark Fox have?

Right now, Fox has one guy who can consistently knock down outside shots (Frazier), and that is a problem.  Georgia got nice efforts out of Mike Edwards and Turtle Jackson, who netted 11 and 8 points, respectively, but they are just not a very scary team to defend.  If team’s can yield over 20 points to both Maten and Frazier and still win by 10, then the Dawgs’ postseason aspirations should go no further than the NIT.

UGA is now 5-3 on the season, and 0-3 in its attempts to secure a win against a team from another Power 5 conference.

Due to final exams, Georgia will have over a week to brood over this one before hitting the court again on December 14th, when the host Louisiana-Lafeyette.

Dawgs looking to hold serve at home against Marquette on Sunday

Disclaimer: I didn’t watch but the final 5 minutes of last night’s battle with the mighty Morehouse Maroon Tigers.  I had a dinner engagement that I couldn’t avoid.

I did, however, check my phone sporadically under the tablecloth throughout the evening, and I was stunned to see that Georgia (5-2) only led by 6 at the half, and that it took them nearly the entire game to put Division II Morehouse away.  The Dawgs padded their win column with the 86-72 victory, though it does nothing for their RPI status.

UGA’s next opponent, Marquette, played on Wednesday night as well.  The Golden Eagles destroyed Western Carolina – a Division I team – 90 to 44.  Let that sink in for a  moment. At the half, Marquette was already up by 38 points.

One could argue that this UGA team has played to the level of its competition so far this season.  Georgia won games that were closer than they should have been against UNC-Asheville, Furman and Morehouse, and the Dawgs lost fairly tight contests to both Clemson and Kansas.  Whatever the analysis, I think that the consensus among most UGA fans is that by this point we expected something slightly better.

Coach Mark Fox’s team will have another shot on Sunday at knocking off a Power 5 conference opponent, something Georgia has failed to do in its first two tries. After Sunday, the Dawgs will only have two such opportunities with games remaining against Georgia Tech and Texas.  If UGA wants to dance come March, they must win some of these more challenging out of conference matchups because the Dawgs are not going to be selected for the NCAA Tournament based on their SEC merits alone (UGA went 12-6 in the SEC during the 2013-2014 campaign and wound up in the NIT).

On Sunday, Georgia will host a Marquette bunch that is led by former Duke floor-slapper Steve Wojciechowski, who is in his 3rd year at the helm.  His team is currently 5-2 and has dropped games to both Michigan and Pitt.  The Dawgs will actually be the Golden Eagles’ second SEC opponent thus far this year as Marquette whipped Vanderbilt 95-71 in its season opener.

Coach Wojo’s team is led by 6’11” senior center Luke Fischer, who should keep Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards preoccupied for most of Sunday.  Fischer is averaging over 14 points and 6 boards a night.  Both of the Marquette guards stand 6’5″, and each of them – Jajuan Johnson and Haanif Cheatham – score in double-digits nightly, averaging 14 points apiece.  The Golden Eagles play at an up and down pace, pushing the tempo as much as possible.  So far, their offense has been quite prolific, racking up 87 points a night while shooting over 50% from the floor and nearly 39% from beyond the arc.  My guess is that Coach Fox will do his best to have his team slow this game down to a nearly grinding halt in an attempt to corral Marquette’s high-octane offense.

It’s still too early to say that Georgia has to have to this win, but they sure could use it.