Georgia holds off Jacksonville in season opener

The Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) had Kentavious-Caldwell Pope last night and Jacksonville did not, which essentially was the reason that the Dawgs were able to fend off a pesky bunch of Dolphins that would not go away.  Pope scored 9 consecutive points for UGA with under 7 minutes remaining in the game to put his team up 61-48 with 5:31 left in the contest.  From that point, the Dawgs were able to salt away the remainder of the game from the free throw line, allowing them to walk out of Stegeman with a 68-62 victory.

KCP finished the game with a team-high 17 points, but the sophomore began his 2012-2013 season rather sluggishly –  Pope did not score his first point until he connected on a free throw with 1:32 left in the first half, and his first field goal came moments later in the form a dunk after KCP intercepted an errant Jacksonville pass (1 of his 6 steals on the night).

Though Pope finished with the most points last evening, Georgia’s MVP had to be sophomore Nemanja Djurisic, who poured in 14 points to go along with a career-best 12 rebounds.  Neme seemed poised on offense – making 5 of 9 shots – though I am sure the Montegro Express would like to eliminate his 4 turnovers.

Turnovers and poor defensive rebounding were the Dawgs’ achilles heel all night.

In his post-game conference, Georgia Coach Mark Fox noted, “We did not rebound the ball well in either half.”

While the Dawgs edged the Dolphins in the rebounding column by a tally of 40-39, UGA yielded an unacceptable 15 offensive boards to an undersized opponent from the Atlantic Sun.  Fortunately for Georgia, Jacksonville was unable to capitalize on the offensive glass, scoring just 7 second-chance points.  Something tells me that the Georgia bigs may be performing a host of block-out drills this afternoon before they settle in to watch the game on the Plaines.

The Dawgs did not value the basketball last night, coughing it up 23 times to the Dolphins (who had 21 turnovers themselves) in a sloppily played first game for both teams.  The major culprit of the contest – Marcus Thornton – led both teams with a game-high 6 turnovers to go along with 4 personal fouls.  Thornton’s turnovers and foul totals last night were greater than his points (4) and rebounding numbers (4) in 16 minutes of play.

Yesterday’s win was not the prettiest of the Mark Fox era, but it was still a win.

Hopefully the turnovers and ineffective rebounding can be chalked up to simple first-game jitters.  Georgia’s freshman trio of Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris played a combined 28 minutes against the Dolphins, and at times they all looked and played very much like freshman.

The Dawgs were also playing without their most skilled big man from a year ago, Donte Williams, who Coach Fox held out of the entire game, citing that Williams needed to learn to be more “responsible” (he did note that his offense was not drug-related).

Georgia begins the season 1-0 and they are set to take on Youngstown State in Athens on Monday night as part of the Legends Classic.

Gators wallop Dawgs 70-48 in Gainesville

If you had told me before tonight’s game that Florida’s Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton would be held without a field goal until less than 5 minutes remained in the first half, I would have speculated that the Dawgs were giving the Gators all that they could handle.

Apparently Florida is a pretty deep team though, and despite the slow start for Billy Donovan’s backcourt in this one his Gator team was able to find scoring from other sources.

After falling behind 7-0 right off the bat, the Dawgs were able to crawl back into the game and only trailed Florida 13-9 following a heady off-the-backboard-self-pass-basket by Nemanja Djurisic.  Djurisic’s first-half offensive production, which included 10 total points, was critical to keeping the Bulldogs from being blown out before the intermission.

Florida reserve guard Mike Rosario scored 7 unanswered points to open up an 18-9 Gator lead with 9:44 left in the half.  Then freshman sensation Bradley Beal went nuts from beyond the arc, knocking down 3 (of his 4) threes prior to the break which opened up a 33-13 Gator lead.

Thankfully Nemi was able to sink 2 open three-point attempts that enabled the Dawgs to head to the locker room trailing 35-21.

Florida was on cruise control for most of the second half though, increasing their lead to 47-26 with 16:53 remaining in the game, following an Erving Walker three-pointer.

Georgia did make one last push at the Gators late in the game, and they were able to trim the margin to 56-43 after Dustin Ware knocked down his second shot of the half from beyond the arc.  The Bulldogs 10-4 run, however, was probably aided more by Florida’s lack of interest at that point than by Georgia’s own play.

Whatever the case, the Dawgs’ success was short-lived and the Gators closed out the game with a 14-5 run, securing a 70-48 victory along with their first conference win of the season.

The game never really felt that close and aside from Nemi Djurisic, who finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds, most of the Georgia players looked overwhelmed and out-matched in Gainesville on Tuesday night.

Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal led the Gators with 17 points apiece, and sophomore big Patrick Young snagged 10 rebounds to go along with 8 points.

Georgia shot their typical 37% from the floor against Florida, and they were an abysmal 1 for 9 from the free throw line.  The Gators, on the other hand, hit 50% of their field goal attempts and made a stellar 15 of 18 free throws.

The result from Tuesday night’s game should not have come as a shock to many UGA basketball fans.  Along with being 0-2 in SEC play, Georgia has now dropped 10-straight contests at Florida, dating back to 2002.

As ESPN announcer Jimmy Dkyes mentioned 42 times on Tuesday night, the Dawgs are too thin inside and should be hurt by the lack of an inside game (thanks for the keen insight).  Despite the obviousness of Dykes’ comments, he is absolutely right and tonight’s game was just another example of how limited Coach Mark Fox’s team looks when playing against stronger opponents.

At Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Ouch.

Big East Bias, Travis Leslie and Recruiting

Big East Bias

After getting a record-setting eleven teams into this year’s NCAA tournament, only two remain from the Big East after the first weekend – Connecticut and Marquette.  Jay Bilas of ESPN, who has been a Big East cheerleader the entire season, now says that there wasn’t a “truly great team in the league“.

You know what other conference has two teams in the Sweet 16?  The SEC – and they only got five squads into the dance.  With Pittsburgh falling to Butler on Saturday night, the Florida Gators now have a very legitimate opportunity to reach the Final Four (assuming a win over The Jimmer and then the Butler/Wisconsin winner).

Hopefully next season the selection committee will remember that basketball is played competitively outside of the northeast region of the United States.

Travis Leslie

At this point, I don’t want to hold out hope that Trey Thompkins will return for his senior season.  He seemed so close to leaving after last year, that I can’t imagine that he returns for another one.  NBADraft.net currently has Thompkins listed as the 21st pick overall in their Mock 2011 Draft.  As much as I would love to see #33 back in Stegeman again next season, it seems like his game has developed about as far as it can at this level and he is ready to work in the NBA.

Travis Leslie, on the other hand, is a different story.  Leslie’s numbers this year were nearly identical to last season – 14.4 ppg/7.2 rpg in 2011 compared to 14.8 ppg/6.8 rpg in 2010.  However, there was a notable improvement in his jump shot, and he was not just a “dunker” this year.  Leslie made 13 three-point field goals this season, compared to only 6 the year before, and he shot a stellar 80.1% from the free throw line.

If Leslie could continue to work on his ball-handling in the off-season, I think he could have a serious offensive breakout season next year (and possibly bolster his stock into “lottery” status).

Leslie is not listed in the 2011 Mock Draft (first or second round), and on the website’s 2012 Mock Draft they have him going 31st.

He’ll obviously get tons more information regarding his stock over the next few weeks, but it could definitely be in his best interest to return to UGA for his senior season (and it would be a great lift for Coach Fox heading into the off-season).

Recruiting

Coach Mark Fox just picked up a verbal commitment from Nemanja Djurisic, a 6’8″/220lb power forward from South Kent High School in South Kent, Connecticut (by way of Podgorica, Montenegro).

ESPN’s “Bottom Line” on Djurisic:

Djurisic is solid in all aspects of his game and his biggest strength is his ability to do so many little things to help his team win games without having to score in high volume to make an impact. He projects as a solid role player at the high-major level or an impact player at the mid-major level.

Nothing to drool over, but as everyone knows, next year’s team definitely needs more big men – welcome to the Dawgs Mr. Djurisic!

Fox is targeting a couple other forwards to round out the 2011 class – Chris Bryant and Braeden Anderson.  Anderson, from Calgary, Alberta in Canada, is an intriguing prospect that stands 6’8″ and weighs 222 lbs.  He is apparently very gifted phsycially, but needs to work on his aggressiveness – he is considering Kansas, Arizona and Oklahoma (along with Georgia) so he must be fairly talented to garner such attention.

And who knows…maybe after the firing of Bruce Pearl the Dawgs might pick up a player from the Vols?