Dawgs fight to the bitter end in 2nd one-point loss in a week

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Despite the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs (10-17, 1-13) have now dropped 12 straight SEC games, I’m convinced that they have to be one of the most entertaining teams stuck in a double-digit losing streak in the history of college basketball. This team has every reason to throw in the towel, yet, even though they are routinely down by 10 points or more, the Dawgs refuse.

The first time UGA could have quit was…

After opening up an 18-15 lead nearly 8 minutes into this contest, Georgia’s 2-3 zone rotations slowed, and Ole Miss began to find a rhythm from the perimeter, where they canned 6 triples in the final 10 minutes before the break. UGA’s offense, which appeared overwhelmed by the Ole Miss half court trap, coughed the ball up 7 times (12 overall in the first half) during this stretch, which helped to open up the Rebels’ transition offense. All of this ugliness resulted in a 39-29 advantage for Kermit Davis’s team at the break as the Dawgs once again fell apart at the close of the first half, which has become a staple of this team.

Instead, this happened…

Tom Crean coached them up at halftime, and Georgia reentered the court a team transformed. The Dawgs figured out the Rebels’ 1-3-1 trap as they started to drive the ball into the soft spots of the zone. UGA’s defense was forcing turnovers themselves as they caused Mississippi to give it away 5 times in the initial 5 minutes of the second half. With 15:07 left, Turtle Jackson buried a three-pointer that capped off a 17-4 Georgia run that saw the Dawgs take a 46-43 advantage.

The second time the Dawgs could have quit was…

After going back and forth for nearly 6 minutes, Mississippi’s star guard, Breein Tyree, who is netting nearly 19 a night in SEC play, took over the game. Tyree, who the Dawgs had held relatively in check for most of the afternoon, suddenly became unguardable. The junior scored 12 of his team’s next 14 points on a barrage of drives and triples, and following his three-pointer with 4:04 left, his Rebels held a commanding 67-60 lead.

Personally, at this point, I thought the game was over. This 12-4 run by Ole Miss seemed insurmountable considering the Dawgs had already overcome one large deficit. I was fully ready to watch the Rebels salt the remainder of this contest away.

But then Jordan Harris happened…

If the previously mentioned 6-plus minutes of gametime were the “Breein Tyree Show”, then the final segment of this game should be known as “The Jordan Harris Hour”. The junior from Iron City, Georgia single-handedly brought the Dawgs back into this one in this game’s final moments. Harris contributed 7 points, 2 rebounds and a steal in the last 4 minutes of play, and he put his team in a position to win in the closing seconds (he finished with 15 points on the afternoon).

About that last play

I know Tyree Crump hit the triple that tied the game against Missy State earlier in the week, but he probably wasn’t positioned to repeat that feat on the Dawgs’ final possession Saturday. Crump, who missed the last-second attempt against the Rebels, had to take the shot from well beyond the arc.

I realize that Claxton was surrounded by Ole Miss defenders, but look who is wide-open under the basket – none other than the star of “The Jordan Harris Hour”, Jordan Harris.

I’m sure that Claxton will want that pass back when he watches the film.

Final thoughts

Just like in the losses to LSU and Missy State, the Dawgs earned another moral victory on Saturday in the 72-71 loss to Mississippi. No one really likes moral victories, but for some reason with THIS team THIS season they don’t feel THAT bad.

After a lackluster offensive performance in this contest’s first 20 minutes of play, Georgia came out of the intermission and canned over 65% of its shots from the floor. The perimeter defense was frustrating as slow defensive rotations and UGA defenders going under screens allowed Ole Miss to hit 12 triples (4 more than their SEC average) on a 43% shooting night from the arc. However, defensive lapses have been a hallmark of this squad this season, and maybe I’m just growing numb to them.

Bottom line: Georgia had an opportunity to steal a win on the road against what is most likely going to be an NCAA tournament team, and they came up 1 point short for the second time in a week.

The Dawgs are losing games, but they haven’t lost an ounce of fight, which is certainly encouraging for what the future could hold in the Tom Crean era.

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Late surge helps UGA cruise past Ole Miss in Oxford

12356596After trailing by double digits for much of the second half, Mississippi tried to mount a comeback down the final stretch of the game.  Following a jumper by Breein Tyree, the Rebels had cut the Georgia (11-5; 3-1) lead to 53-44 with 5:37 remaining.  The Ole Miss (10-6; 1-3) crowd, which hadn’t had much to cheer about for the previous thirty-something minutes, finally started to come to life. On the ensuing possession, however, J.J. Frazier delivered a crushing three-pointer, which sent the Dawgs’ advantage back up above 10 points.  Frazier’s bucket sparked the Georgia offense, which had connected on only 37% of its previous attempts, and the Dawgs closed out the game by making 5 of their last 9 shots en route to a 69-47 blowout of the home team.

Offensively, it just wasn’t Ole Miss’s night.  Of course, it didn’t help that the team’s leading scorer, Deandre Burnett, who averages 19 ppg, left the court with an ankle injury with about 4 minutes remaining before the break, after scoring just 3 points.  Unfortunately for Andy Kennedy’s team, Burnett wouldn’t return to the game.  The Rebels’ second-leading scorer, Terrance Davis, netted 9 of his 12 points quickly after the intermission, but he eventually had to sit for a large chunk of the second half due to foul trouble.

Usually, when a team’s best players aren’t on the court, that team is going to struggle to score the basketball.  Ole Miss came into the game shooting 44% from the field; on Wednesday night they hit under 28% from the floor.  The Rebels were making over 36% from beyond the arc, but this evening they failed to make more than 10% from the perimeter.  Even the free throw line flummoxed them: Ole Miss hit just 53% from the stripe, which was a far cry from its season average of 75%.

But it wasn’t all just bad shooting and a lack of personnel.  Coach Mark Fox’s team did an excellent job of mixing in their zones with man defense, and the UGA perimeter players for the most part effectively closed out on the Rebel shooters.

Georgia was led offensively by Frazier and Yante Maten, who scored 17 and 15, respectively. Frazier looked more comfortable from beyond the arc, where he knocked down 3 of his 7 attempts.  Maten notched another double-double as he snagged a team-high 11 boards, and the junior scored all but 2 of his points after halftime.

All and all, though, UGA didn’t look that great on offense.  Ole Miss ran an extended 1-3-1 zone that transitioned into a 2-3 for much of the night, and it served to limit the number of good looks at the basket for Georgia.  The Dawgs seemed unsure of how to attack the pressure, which should be a major concern going into the Florida game.  Georgia connected on only 40% from the floor and less than 28% from beyond the arc in Oxford, and I fear that a similar effort in Gainesville this Saturday could leave the Dawgs on the receiving end of a blowout.

Once again, UGA had trouble taking care of the ball.  After turning it over 20 times last weekend against Missouri, Georgia committed another 14 tonight in Mississippi.  Mark Fox’s team took a 30-18 advantage into the intermission, but had they not given the ball away 10 times in the first half, UGA could have been up by 20 points or more at that point.

The biggest positive takeaway on the night for the Dawgs offensively has to be their efficiency from the free throw line, where Georgia sunk 22 of its 25 attempts.

This victory is UGA’s second conference road win of the young SEC season, and it marks Georgia’s best RPI win to date as the Rebels came ranked 38th.

The Dawgs return to action this Saturday at high noon against the Florida Gators in Gainesville, a place where Mark Fox has yet to win.

 

 

 

Georgia loses a heartbreaker in Oxford

With 3.8 seconds remaining in the game, Georgia got the ball into Charles Mann’s hands near half court, providing the Dawgs with a chance at a  reasonable last second shot.  Mann’s pass to Kenny Gaines was deflected, though, forcing Gaines to take an off-balanced three-pointer that careened off the rim, giving Mississippi the 72-71 home win.

UGA yielded 29 points to Stefan Moody, though none were bigger than the two he hit to send his team up by one with less than 4 seconds remaining (even though it appeared as though he needed three steps to get that basket).

The Dawgs put up a gutty effor on the road, falling just short in Oxford on Saturday night.  Georgia played the final stretch of this one without its star player, Yante Maten, who fouled out with 3:36 remaining in the game; Maten left with a team-high 20 points and 9 rebounds, his team clinging to a 64-62 lead.

Neither team shot the ball well in Oxford on Saturday, with both squads hitting just 36% from the floor.  Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines were the only other Bulldogs to finish in double-figures for Coach Mark Fox, scoring 15 and 14, respectively.  Gaines’s points, however, came at the expense of a 3 for 14 shooting performance.

Georgia looked like it was going to get run out of the gym early, falling behind 19-11 with 12:50 left before the break after a layup by Rashad Brooks.

The Dawgs didn’t flinch, though. Rather, UGA responded with an impressive 16-2 run, capped off by a pair of free throws from Charles Mann that gave Georgia a 27-21 advantage. The Dawgs would go on to take a 44-35 lead into the intermission.

But Georgia went ice cold in the second half, hitting just 7 of its 24 field goal attempts.  Slowly but surely, Ole Miss cut into the UGA lead until it had been whittled down to nothing.

The biggest bright spot off the Georgia bench had to be Derek Ogbeide, who scored 9 points to go along with his 10 boards, falling just a basket shy of his first career double-double.  The Rebels opted not to guard starter Houston Kessler from the outside, which leaves one wondering just how long he will continue to see more minutes than Ogbeide, who seems far more productive than the senior at this point in the season.

This loss leaves UGA at 1-2 in conference, and it’s going to sting for a bit.  The Dawgs appeared to be on their way to their first SEC road win of the season before Moody knifed his way to the basket and put his team on top.

Georgia will need to get over this loss quickly, though,  as they have two difficult home games on the horizon next week against Tennessee and #21 Texas A&M.

Dawgs win late night, set up rematch with Kentucky

Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson does just about everything he can to draw attention to himself at all times.

Ironically, Georgia put together its best overall team effort of the season en route to an exciting 75-73 win that went late into the evening on Friday in the Georgia Dome.

After Charles Mann gave UGA the go ahead layup to make it 74-73 with 16 seconds remaining, Andy Kennedy called timeout to get his team ready for its final possession.

Georgia fans nervously suffered through this endless 30 seconds, waiting to see if Coach Mark Fox’s team had one last defense stand in them.

Fortunately, they did.

As soon as the ball touched Henderson’s hands he launched an off-balance three from the wing that glanced the side of the rim before falling into Marcus Thornton’s hands.

Thornton got one of the two free throws, giving UGA a 75-73 advantage.

The Rebels’ Jarvis Summers – who was unstoppable, scoring a game-high 26 points on the night – couldn’t connect on his last-second attempt from the corner and the Dawgs earned a chance to play Kentucky today in the semifinal round of the SEC tournament.

Charles Mann led UGA with 16 points, but credit the Georgia reserves and role players for stepping up big and keeping the Dawgs in the game in the first half.

Mann, Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton all picked up two fouls before the break, causing them to miss a ton of time in the first half.

With Ole Miss leading 18-7 and nearly 13 minutes remaining before the intermission, things were looking bleak for the Dawgs as their star point guard had to take a seat after picking up his second foul.

Freshman J.J. Frazier came to the rescue though, connecting on a pair of threes and a floater in the lane, scoring 8 of his 11 points in the game’s first half.  Frazier’s spark off the bench was instrumental in the UGA comeback, and his scoring helped the Dawgs go into the half down by only a basket.

Brandon Morris did miss a couple close shots down the stretch, but he finished with 12 points on an array of drives from the wing.

In just 23 minutes, Marcus Thornton nearly notched another double-double, netting 9 points to go along with a team-high 11 rebounds. Thornton was aggressive when he received the ball in the paint, enabling him to shoot 10 free throws on the night.  Thankfully for Georgia, Thornton made 7 of those attempts, several of them coming at critical moments down the stretch.

Marshall Henderson did manage to score 19 points, but I think it is safe to say that he may have shot his team out of the game.  UGA’s Kenny Gaines and Juwan Parker tirelessly chased Henderson all over the court, frustrating the Ole Miss senior into a 2 for 16 performance from beyond the arc.

Now, I’ve never been to Rupp Arena, but I have a decent idea of what it might be like after sitting through the Kentucky-LSU game last night.  Mark Fox was quoted earlier in the week as saying that he is tired of hearing about “Catlanta”, but his complaints had no effect no the Big Blue nation’s travel plans.

The Dawgs will be playing just an hour from Athens today in the Georgia Dome, but that arena is going to seem pretty hostile to Coach Mark Fox’s team.

If Georgia can weather the initial storm and get the game played at a half court pace, they could frustrate this young Wildcat team into forcing it a bit.

When these two teams met earlier this year in Lexington, Kentucky routed the Dawgs 79-54 – however, Georgia was playing without its second-leading scorer (Gaines), and the Dawgs were within 8 points with 12 minutes left in the contest.

If UGA wants into this year’s NCAA tourney, then they need to get into tomorrow’s SEC championship game.

Actually, CBS’s Jerry Palm thinks Georgia needs more:

Georgia and Ole Miss to meet this evening in the Georgia Dome

The Georgia Bulldogs begin their SEC tournament tonight with a rematch against Mississippi.

Ole Miss utilized 42 combined points from guards Jarvis Summers and Marshall Henderson on Thursday night to power the Rebels past its in-state rival Mississippi State for a 78-66 tournament victory.

Last night’s win was by no means a cakewalk for Ole Miss as they trailed the Maroon Dogs 44-35 at the half.

The fact that Henderson and Summers tallied over half of the team’s points should not come as much of a surprise since this duo averaged 50% of the Rebels’ scoring in conference play this season.

UGA won the first meeting between these two teams in thrilling fashion in Athens when Charles Mann hit a free throw with just a second remaining to put his team up 61-60.  In that game, the Dawgs’ Kenny Gaines notched 21 points and played pretty solid defense on Henderson, particularly in the game’s second half.  In addition, Georgia completely dominated Ole Miss on the glass, out-rebounding the Rebels 49-34.

The Dawgs, in my opinion, come into this game at a slight disadvantage since they have yet to play a game in the Dome.  The Rebels could be a little more comfortable shooting the ball to start this contest since they already have a game under their belt.

Consensus among college basketball media and just about everyone who reads this blog is that UGA needs to win two games in this tournament to be considered for the NCAA tourney.

Tonight marks Georgia’s first opportunity to make its case.

 

Rebels Edge Out Dawgs 80-76

With the Rebels up 78-76, Ole Miss guard Eniel Polynice was in-bounding the ball under the Dawgs’ basket with 5 seconds left on the shot clock (26 ticks left in the game).  Travis Leslie was defending his man with his back to Polynice.  Polynice then proceeded to throw the ball off Leslie’s back, stepped in-bounds to pick up the ball and then finished with a lay-up over Trey Thompkins to put the Rebels up 80-76 with only 11.5 seconds left (essentially sealing the win and making it on to Sportscenter’s “Top Plays”).  What a disheartening way to lose?!?!

Georgia came out of the gates running and gunning (certainly not the Bulldogs style), with Thompkins leading the way.  Trey hit his first 6 field goal attempts and had 13 points before the game was even 10 minutes old (unfortunately he went scoreless for the next 19 minutes).

Mississippi tried to dictate a fast-paced game early by coming out in an extended 3-2 zone defense, trying to jump into the pass lanes.  Georgia handled it very well and was successful in getting a lot of cutters going to the rim.  The first half was played a bit sloppy by both teams, but the Dawgs held a 43-42 lead at the half (I couldn’t believe UGA had 43 points at the half!).

Countless basketball analysts always preach about the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half as being the most important of the game…last night’s contest was no exception.

The Rebels came out of the half in an intense man defense that was forcing the Georgia guards to work well outside the perimeter (making it difficult for them to get the ball inside).  In the first 9 minutes of the second half, Thompkins only attempted 2 field goals and didn’t score until he knocked down a pair of free throws for with 10:57 remaining.

Georgia also came out in the second half in a man defense (they played mostly zone in the first) and this may have been a costly mistake.  Rebels’ star Terrico White attacked UGA defenders off the dribble and netted 8 points in the first 3 minutes…opening up a 52-47 lead.

Georgia did eventually drop back into a zone was able to draw even with Ole Miss with 9:35 left in the game.

If you look at the box score it’s tough to find reasons why Georgia lost this one.  The Dawgs had only 13 turnovers (half of the number they had against Kentucky) to go along with 14 assists (a positive assist/turnover ratio).  UGA out-rebounded the Rebels 36-31 and got to the free throw line more (34 attempts for Georgia, 26 for Ole Miss).

I thought that all and all the Dawgs played pretty well and just lost a close game to another ranked opponent.

Travis Leslie put in another great effort, scoring 17 points, grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 4 assists.  His streak of appearing on ESPN’s “Top Plays” ended at two, although he did make a couple of plays that I thought were possibly worthy – an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Trey Thompkins (same as play against Tech); a come-from-behind block that he made on a fast break.

Ricky McPhee hit 5 of 9 field goal attempts and finished with 15 points.  He did surrender those points to Terrico White at the start of the second half, but that was a tall order asking McPhee to guard one of the SEC’s best guards.

From the bench, I thought that Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price both gave the Dawgs solid contributions.  In merely 8 minutes, Barnes scored 4 points and pulled down 4 boards.  Price attacked the offensive glass all night, bringing in 6 offensive rebounds and 8 in all (if only he could have knocked down one of his two put-backs in the last 1:30 of the game Georgia would have tied it up).

Moving forward, UGA is going to have to get more production from the back-up point guard position.  Against the Rebels, freshman PG Vincent Williams had 4 turnovers in only 6 minutes!  When Dustin Ware wasn’t in the game, the offense essentially came to a halt.

I haven’t said anything up to this point, but I do not understand the role that sophomore Russian Drazen Zlovaric plays.  In 6 minutes last night, he clanked two jump shots.  On the season (142 total minutes played), he is shooting a robust 25% from the field (8 of 32) and has yet to connect from behind the arc in 6 attempts.  What exactly is his role?

As it stands, Georgia is now 8-7 on the season and 0-2 in SEC Play.

What’s everyone thinking?

Rebels and Dawgs Seeking First Conference Win

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Dawgs taking on their 3rd straight ranked opponent

Mississippi (12-3) is ranked #21 in the AP poll and #23 in the Coaches.  Seeing a trend here?  Wednesday night’s game in Athens will mark the Dawgs’ third straight game against a ranked opponent (Georgia Tech & Kentucky being the other two).

Ole Miss returns all five starters from last year’s team, along with freshman forward Reginald Buckner.  Buckner (6’8″, 233lbs) has provided some much-needed size on the inside for the Rebels, averaging 2.2 blocks and nearly 5 rebounds per game.  Last season Ole Miss finished 10th in the conference in blocks at 3.3 a game; this year they are 4th in the conference at 6.2 a game.

The main thing that the Rebels do well is score (a very important part of the game of basketball).  Ole Miss is  leading the SEC in scoring at 83.6 points a game.  They have five players that average in double-figures (balanced enough?).

Leading the way for the Rebel attack are guards Chris Warren (junior) and Terrico White (sophomore), who are both averaging 16.7 points per game (or 40% of Mississippi’s offense).  White exploded on to the SEC basketball scene last year as a freshman, averaging 13.7 points and winning the league’s SEC Freshman of the Year award.  He built up a reputation as a Sky-Walker after throwing down a monster dunk on Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson last season.  White flirted with the idea of going pro following his freshman year, but unfortunately for Georgia he decided to come back and give college another try (and thus has Ole Miss ranked and ready to get an NCAA tournament bid).

It will be  a homecoming game of sorts for Ole Miss reserve, Zach Graham, who is providing some effective bench production at 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds a game…Graham is a native of Suwanee, GA.

Ole Miss is leading the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.31, which is probably fairly common of teams that return a lot of players.  They play smart with the basketball and will probably not be very intimidated by the fact that they are on the road.

“Keys to the Game”

Play to Your Strengths – so far this year it seems that the Dawgs have been most successful when they slow the game down, and get physical inside (with Thompkins, Barnes, Price and Jackson UGA is equipped with a plethora of meaty bigs).  Georgia is actually 4th in the conference in rebounding margin at +3.2 a game.  Georgia needs to dictate a slow pace in this one so that their bigs can have time to get down and work the offensive and defensive glass.  One way to slow things down considerably is to pack it in and run a half-court zone defense.  Mississippi State did this for a majority of the second half in their upset win at Ole Miss last Saturday…I think the Dawgs would be wise to mimic this strategy.

“Help! You know I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody.  Help… – The Dawgs’ starters (or the “Big Four” as I like to call them) are playing way too many minutes.  Ware and McPhee each average just under 30 minutes a game, while Thompkins is notching 28.9 and Leslie 25.4 (and all four go well above their averages against stronger opponents like Georgia Tech and Kentucky).  This cannot continue if Georgia hopes to finish the season strong.  Several bench players need to step up and become regular contributors…Jeremy Price, Chris Barnes and Ebuka Anyaorah, I am definitely looking your way on this one.  All three of these guys have provided sparks off the bench in games this year, but none of them have done it on a night in/night out basis.

Other notes:

– Terrico White and Trey Thompkins were teammates last summer on the USA’s Under-19 basketball team

– Since losing at home to Wofford, Georgia has won 6 straight at home

– Travis Leslie is averaging 1.5 ESPN “Top Plays” highlights per game over the last two contests

The game tips off at 8pm Wednesday night and will be televised on the SEC Network (aka Peachtree TV)…as always on the radio at 750AM.