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.

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Georgia falls to South Carolina 64-57, making them 0-2 on the week

This week was a forgettable one for the UGA basketball program that is now 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.  Today’s loss in front of a sold-out crowd was a tough one for UGA fans to absorb.  The loudest it got inside Stegeman this afternoon came during a media timeout in which Kirby Smart and his son were featured on the jumbo screen above center court.  Here are my thoughts on what transpired in Athens today:

Eye-opening stats that jump out from this one (besides the 64-57 final score in favor of the Gamecocks):

46: the number of rebounds South Carolina pulled down in Athens today (UGA had 42). Carolina finished the game with an astounding 18 offensive boards.

27.1%: South Carolina’s field goal percentage.  Pretty hard to win a game when a team shoots this bad, but somehow Frank Martin’s squad pulled it off today.

14: Georgia’s turnover total.

52.6%: UGA’s 2nd half free throw percentage.  The Dawgs hit only 10 of 19 from the charity stripe following the break.

3: the number of thee-pointers that South Carolina hit when UGA had the Gamecock advantage down to 5 points or less.  The ultimate dagger, though, came at the 1:22 mark when Frank Booker buried a triple to make it 59-50, South Carolina.

I’ve spent the past hour and a half debating which facet of this game to delve into first: Georgia’s offense or its effort.  I’m more frustrated with the offense, so here goes:

UGA’s offense

Mark Fox’s offense is nothing if not pedestrian and uncomplicated, and it’s predicated on the point guard’s ability to get the ball down the middle of the court so that he can make a pass to one of the wings.  At this point, that wing will either dump it to the high post, wait for the high post to bring a ball screen, or pass it back out to a big at the top of the key (sometimes there’s a backdoor cut that comes in the paint for the guy up top to look for).  However, if Georgia doesn’t get a clear path to that first pass off to the wing, the whole thing falls apart; and that’s exactly what happened today in the first half.

South Carolina plays a physical man defense, and Frank Martin pushed his guards out high so that they could deny the ball to the UGA wings.  This move by Martin left Turtle Jackson with no one to dump the ball off to in order to get the offense going, and that resulted in Turtle doing a lot of dribbling and his teammates doing a lot of standing around. Turtle’s not the type of point guard that’s going to put a defense on its heels and trying to force him to be that guy is a nightmare scenario for Georgia.  UGA took just 23 field goal attempts in the first half and committed 7 turnovers.  Occasionally, the ball found its way into Yante Maten’s hands and good things happened as Yante scored 14 points before the break.  For most of the first half, though, it was an exercise in futility for the UGA offense, and the Dawgs went into the half trailing 37-29.

Georgia wouldn’t go away quietly, however. Coach Fox and his staff made some big-time adjustments at the half to kickstart the offense. Well actually, they made one: on-ball screens.  The Dawgs began screening up high for their guards right out of the gates to start the second half, and it helped to create some spacing and better looks.  Georgia made 4 of its first 6 field goal attempts following halftime, and they tied the game at 39 with 14:19 remaining on an old-fashioned three-point play by Juwan Parker, who ended up with 11 points.

The problem, though, was that Georgia continued to go to the ball screen every single possession.  Eventually, Frank Martin had his players switch the screens, or his bigs would edge out to provide help.  Coach Fox didn’t have a “Plan B”.  The result: UGA made just 3 field goals over the game’s final 12 minutes of play. 

It should be noted, however, that Georgia’s offense has always been fairly rigid under Coach Fox.  The past couple of years, that fact may have been masked from UGA fans because of J.J. Frazier’s incredible ability to score the ball from anywhere on the court past the half court line.  But Frazier is gone (as if that wasn’t glaringly obvious), and Georgia’s biggest question make coming into the season – its backcourt – is not looking like it’s up to the task.  Georgia is now averaging 62 points a game in SEC play, which is worst in the conference.  The Dawgs’ offense hasn’t looked right since the second half against Alabama. All of these offensive woes are on Fox because it’s his system and these are his players.

Georgia’s effort today (or lack there of)

The most consistent thing about this UGA team this year has been its defense and rebounding effort.  The Dawgs contested a majority of the Gamecocks’ shots this afternoon, but they failed to finish out possessions by limiting Carolina to just one attempt.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked my phone at halftime and saw that SC had 13 offensive boards at the half.  Not only that, but Frank Martin’s team was beating Georgia to nearly every loose ball.  Of the Gamecocks’ 14 second chance points, 12 of them came prior to the intermission.  Considering Carolina shot only 30% from the floor before halftime, it’s safe to say that their effort on the offensive glass played a huge role in their 8-point advantage at the break.

Miscellaneous things that I don’t understand

-E’Torrion Wilridge started again today, but he was pulled after 2 minutes and never returned to the game.  Wilridge averages 11.9 minutes a game on the season, which is the 10th most on the team.  When I played, it used to be that the best five players were known as the starters; those were the guys that garnered the most playing time because presumably they were the best players.  Fox’s use of Wilridge is mind boggling.  Is he one of the best five players?  If so, why doesn’t he play more? Or is Fox playing mind games with both opposing teams and UGA fans by not starting his best five guys?

-Tyree Crump scored 10 points in 13 minutes in the loss to Missouri earlier this week. Today, he entered the game and committed a bad foul on the perimeter that resulted in 3 free throws for the Gamecocks.  Crump was promptly yanked and never returned to the game, giving him 1 minute of play.  Crump is averaging nearly 0.5 points per minute (ppm) of play.  The only other Georgia player with a higher ppm average is Yante Maten at 0.6.  No one else is even close.  This team has a major scoring problem, yet the coach continues to keep one of his better scorers on the bench.  Sure, Crump isn’t a great defender, and he does occasionally make some unfortunate turnovers.  But so do Parker and Jordan Harris.  The difference, those two are allowed to make mistakes, and Crump simply is not.  I’d be shocked if he didn’t transfer after this season.

Missouri drills Georgia 68-56 in Columbia

DTPGBajVQAQZFGU.jpg-large.jpegThe Georgia Bulldogs (11-4, 2-2 SEC) offense took the night off in Columbia last night against the Missouri Tigers.  The Dawgs’ man defense was strong for the first 20 minutes as they stayed in front of Mizzou and limited the Tigers to just one shot (most of the time).  Georgia held Missouri, a team averaging 10 three-pointers a night, to just 1 prior to the break. When the Dawgs returned from the locker room following the intermission, however, Coach Fox’s team forgot to bring their defense with them.  When a team can’t score, it must rely on its defense.  If that team can’t defend either, then that’s trouble; and last evening, that was Georgia.

UGA basketball strategy under Coach Mark Fox is fairly simple: hard-nosed defense along with controlled tempo offense with a lot of touches inside for the bigs.  On Wednesday, Georgia didn’t really follow either of those scripts.

Offensively, the Dawgs just weren’t themselves.  Rather than feeding the ball into its bigs, UGA opted to settle for outside shots.  The result: Georgia shot just 3 of 10 from beyond the arc, and the Dawgs scored only 10 points inside prior to the intermission (UGA hit 7 of 21 3PTers in the game). The Dawgs finished this contest with just 20 points in the paint, which is one of this team’s lowest outputs in that category this season.

Yante Maten had a particularly off night – he didn’t even convert a field goal before halftime and ended up with only 9 points in the game.  The crazy thing was Mizzou didn’t even double Maten every time he got touches; Tiger freshman Jontay Porter made life extremely difficult for Maten as he caused him to take forced looks and miss inside. Conversely, Porter notched a double-double himself with 15 points and 10 boards.

However, Yante’s bound to have an off night every once in a while, and when he does Fox needs other players to step up – that did not happen last night.  Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump were the only Dawgs to finish in double-figures as they scored 10 apiece.  Juwan Parker (1-5) and Jordan Harris (0-4) combined for only 2 points on a 1 for 9 performance.  Both Rayshaun Hammonds and Derek Ogbeide had fairly forgettable games as they notched 7 points and 6 points, respectively.

After witnessing how fluid Georgia played last Saturday in its blowout of Alabama, it was uncanny how rigid they looked last night.  Against Bama, the Dawgs made the extra pass and found open shooters; they pounded the ball inside to their bigs.  Georgia finished that game with 13 team assists; they could only muster 8 assists on Wednesday.

The most frustrating part about this loss, though, had to be the complete lack of effort that UGA showed on the defensive end during the game’s final 20 minutes; it was vintage “The UMass game” from earlier this season.  Georgia’s bigs – Mike Edwards in particular – appeared as though they had never been asked to help guard an on-ball screen.  The whole team was disinterested in getting back on defense during Missouri’s transition offense, which resulted in numerous uncontested fast break points for the Tigers.  After hitting only 1 three in the first half, Mizzou hit 4 after the break.  The Tigers shot over 57% in the game’s final 20 minutes after making only 26% from the floor in the first half – getting a lot of wide open lay ups and dunks will certainly help bolster a team’s field goal percentage, though.

Despite all this doom and gloom, it should be noted that Georgia had a 23-20 lead at halftime.  Mizzou opened the second half with a 13-5 run, however, as they seized momentum back from UGA with 16:22 left and the Tigers leading 33-25 on a layup by Jordan Geist, who scored 10 points on the night (Mizzou had 4 players finish in double-figures).

Georgia made a run at the Tigers with a little less than 10 minutes remaining as they went on a 7-0 run, but Mizzou extinguished any hopes that the Dawgs held regarding a comeback as they responded with a 15-4 run themselves that was capped off by a bucket by Kevin Puryear that made it 57-44 with 6:01 left. The game was over.

After just playing a game in Columbia, the Dawgs will take on a team FROM Columbia this Saturday when Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks roll into town.  Considering last night’s debacle, I’d say the Dawgs need to win this one pretty bad to even up their record on the week and to get themselves over .500.  Personally, I was hoping for a big road win last night to help soften the heartache from the end of the National Championship game on Monday, but alas, the hangover continues.

Georgia clobbers Alabama 65-46 in Athens

The first half was close to perfection offensively for the Georgia Bulldogs (11-3, 2-1) on Saturday against the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-6, 1-2).  The second half? Meh.  While the offense slowed down over the second 20 minutes, the one thing that remained consistent for the Dawgs against the Tide today was defense, which won the afternoon for Mark Fox’s team.

Here’s what Mark Fox said about it:

“Our defense was very good. They have a very talented team, and obviously the leading scorer in the league in Collin Sexton.  And he was good. We didn’t hold him below his average so I’m not going to say we played great defense against him. But our team defense was very solid today, and was one of the keys to the win.”

The Bulldogs brought an incredible amount of effort to the defensive side of the ball Saturday.  The Dawgs stayed in front of the Alabama ball-handlers all afternoon.  Georgia held an Alabama team that entered today’s contest averaging 77 points a game to just 45 in Athens.  The Tide’s aggressive backcourt, led by freshman Collin Sexton, is very good at getting to the free throw line.  Mater of fact, prior to today’s match-up, they were taking 25 free throws per contest; however, this afternoon UGA only allowed Bama to get up 11 shots from the charity stripe.

Even though Collin Sexton got his points – 23 – which is slightly above his season average of 20.4 ppg, the key for Fox’s team is that they managed to hold the rest of his teammates in check.  Scoring has not been a problem for Bama this year as they have 3 more players on top of Sexton that average in double-figures, yet he was the only one to eclipse that mark today (to be fair, Dazon Ingram did not play and he gets 11.1 ppg).  John Petty, who had made 39 three-pointers coming into the game, hit just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc and finished with only 3 points.

The Tide shot under 30% from the floor and just 17% from the perimeter, and a big reason for their ineptitude was due to the tempo of this game.  Georgia set the pace of this contest early on and the slower game frustrated an Alabama team that likes to push the ball on every possession and get shots up quickly.  Avery Johnson tried to speed up the game in the first half with a full-court trap press, but Georgia ate it up, particularly well on a play when E’Torrian Wilridge brought the ball up the right side only to find a trailing Yante Maten dashing through the lane for a wide-open two-handed dunk.

Let’s talk a bit more about that first half.  If Georgia has played a better half of offense under Coach Fox against an opponent of this caliber someone will have to remind me because I cannot recall one.  The Dawgs were so composed as they moved the ball in and out of the Bama zone.  Georgia fed the ball inside to the bigs and scored 8 of its first 11 points in the paint.  When the Tide started to clamp down on the blocks, UGA made the extra passes to the perimeter and absolutely lit up Avery Johnson’s team.   Georgia’s passing was just so efficient in the first half, and UGA ended up with 15 team assists on the day. The Dawgs made 8 of 16 from beyond the arc prior to the break with 4 of them coming from Yante Maten, who finished the game in double-double land with 26 points and 11 boards.  Rayshaun Hammonds, who scored all 13 of his points before the intermission, hit 2 three’s as well and made a grown man’s post move on the right block on Georgia’s second possession.

The second half did not look like the first for UGA.  Alabama’s press started to frustrate Georgia’s guards and led to 9 second-half turnovers by the Dawgs.  Even when Georgia got the ball past half court, they played rushed offensively. They didn’t resemble the same team that shot over 48% from the floor, scored 44 points and dished out 12 assists in the first half.  UGA had a particularly inept stretch in the second half in which the Dawgs went without a field goal for nearly 6 minutes before Nicolas Claxton buried a three-pointer from the top of the key that put his team up 57-34 with 10:24 left in the game.  Again, even though the offense took the second half off, the defense did not and that’s how Georgia managed to pull off this blowout at home.

Despite the lackluster final 20 minutes, this win was huge for Georgia.  Just ask the AJC’s Seth Emerson:

If the Dawgs can continue to play half court-paced games, they will be a tough team to beat since Yante Maten is just so difficult for opposing teams to handle. The guy is a double-double machine with 7 on the year already, and as he showed today, he can score from a lot of different places.  The UGA guards are not a strength of the team, but they can be effective enough as long as the game’s being played at a slower tempo.

The Dawgs next game will be this Wednesday at Missouri.

 

Georgia evens up SEC record with 71-60 win over Ole Miss

The Georgia Bulldogs (10-3) notched their first conference win of the season with a 71-60 victory over the Mississippi Rebels inside Stegeman on Wednesday night.  The Rebels built up an early 11-8 lead with 13:40 left after a free throw by Markel Crawford, but once the Dawgs took the lead, which they did on a jumper by Jordan Harris to make it 12-11, they never looked back.  UGA went into the locker room with a 39-31 advantage, and the Dawgs basically coasted for much of the second half to secure the home win.  Here are some observations:

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The game was over when…

With the shot clock expiring and just 7:53 remaining, Ole Miss’s Dominik Olejniczar jumped out and fouled Juwan Parker on a hurried three-point attempt.  This play had to cause any remaining hair on Andy Kennedy’s head to instantly fall out.  The Rebels had scored just 1 field goal over the last 5 minutes of play, and after Parker knocked down 2 of 3 from the line, Georgia’s lead sat comfortably at 56-44.

Ole Miss’s offensive woes

To be fair, this wasn’t your grandfather’s Ole Miss (8-6) basketball team.  Though the Rebels came into Stegeman with a 1-0 SEC record after besting South Carolina in the opener, Mississippi had already lost games to Illinois State, South Dakota State, Utah and Middle Tennessee.

The Rebels run a spread out offense that looks to get shots up as quickly as possible, and unfortunately for them, they were not falling.  Ole Miss ended up hitting just 35% from the floor on the evening, and they only made 6 of 26 from beyond the arc.  Guards Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis, who came into Athens averaging more than 28 points between them, scored a combined 8 points on Wednesday night.  Georgia’s defensive effort was fair, but honestly, it didn’t need to be that great because the Rebels were chunking up misses at such a prolific rate.  There were a few moments, especially in the first half, where Ole Miss’s guards were able to blow by UGA defenders for some easy layups, but other than that, not much clicked for Andy Kennedy’s team.

UGA’s offensive heroes

The Georgia offense faced a combination of man defense mixed in with some junk zones on Wednesday, but overall the Rebels appeared rather disinterested in playing defense; honestly, Ole Miss just seemed ready to be back on offensive again.

The Dawgs pounded the ball inside to Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide, who both had their way with the Rebel frontcourt defenders.  Maten scored 14 of his 15 points prior to the intermission, but even more importantly, he brought a lot of energy to the UGA team.  Yante had several old-fashioned three-point play attempts in the first half in which he could be seen beating his chest in order to pump up his teammates.  After a hard-fought loss at Kentucky on Sunday, it was reasonable to believe that this UGA team might struggle to get up and be ready for this homestead.

Ogbeide finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds, and he really seems to be finding his niche within this UGA offense.  Derek has developed both a hook and up-and-under move (going to his left of course) that are starting to go down on a consistent basis for the Bulldogs.

Juwan Parker led all UGA scorers with 18 points on a perfect 4 for 4 effort from the beyond the arc.  Ole Miss’s defenders made little attempt to rotate when Kennedy had them in zone, which left Parker wide open on the wing for triple after triple.  The only time I recall him having a perimeter shot contested was the play mentioned above in which he was fouled on a three-point shot. The senior also snagged 11 boards and logged a double-double, which had to make him feel good considering his former teammate, J.J. Frazier, was courtside to bear witness.

And finally, welcome back Jordan Harris.  After an inconsistent start to the season, Harris once again looked the part of a high-profile recruit in last evening’s contest.  The sophomore scored 10 of his 12 points before the break, and that total included a pair of three’s.  This Georgia Bulldog team desperately needs more consistency in its perimeter shooting, and hopefully Wednesday’s night’s game shows that Harris is up to the task.

Next up

This Saturday the Dawgs will host an Alabama team that upset #5 Texas A&M at home only to lose at Vandy on the road the following game.  Both teams will be trying to stay above .500 in the conference, and it’s an excellent RPI opportunity for the Dawgs as the Tide are currently at 42, according to NCAA.com.

 

 

UGA leads Kentucky in the second half (again) only to fall 66-61

Even though Georgia led Kentucky for nearly 60% of the game, the whole time I kept waiting for that Kentucky run.  I knew it was coming.  Just like last year, when UGA jumped out to a 19-5 lead in Rupp before losing in overtime.  Or in Athens last year when the Dawgs were up 64-61 with a little over 5 minutes left only to lose 82-77.  In 2016, Georgia saw its 62-54 advantage evaporate over the final 13 minutes and turn into a 93-80 Wildcat win.  In 2015, UGA was up by 6 with over 5 minutes to go in Athens before Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns took over and willed Kentucky to the 72-64 victory.

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Depressed yet?  If so, that’s ok.  You should be.  When it comes to Kentucky, Georgia continues to be ever so close, but they just can’t seem to get over the hump and figure out a way to keep the lead until the clock hits zero.

As far as Kentucky teams go, this one doesn’t seem as gifted as the ones of years past.  Sure, they have three guys that are projected to go in the first round of next year’s NBA draft.  But, they don’t have a De’Aaron Fox.  Or a Malik Monk. Or: Julius Randle, Eric Bledsoe, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, John Wall…This year’s Kentucky team doesn’t seem to have a guy who can absolutely take over a ball game whenever he wants.  That player might emerge as the season progresses, but they aren’t there yet.

This was a winnable game for Georgia, yet they didn’t win.  Should the Dawgs be satisfied with another moral victory against Coach Cal as they have in years past?  I don’t know.

Here’s what happened: 

On defense:

Georgia’s effort on defense last night was nothing short of relentless. Coach Fox kept his team in man-to-man for the majority of the game, sprinkling in some zone occasionally just to give the Cats some different looks.  The Dawgs did an excellent job of staying in front of the opposition and closing out on shots.  Kentucky had only 6 field goals at the half.  On the night, the Cats shot only 31% from the floor.

The only time in this contest when UGA’s defense softened up a bit was down the final stretch when Kentucky went 5 of 5 from the floor over the last 4 minutes of play.  Both Alexander-Gilgeous and Wenyen Gabriel hit wide open three-pointers, and Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Gilgeous all got into the lane for fairly easy layups.  Alexander-Gilgeous finished the game with 21 points, but only two other Cats ended up in double-figures: Quade Green (15pts) and Diallo (10pts).

On offense: 

Georgia’s frontcourt flexed its muscles in Rupp Arena on Sunday evening as Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds scored 17, 13, and 12 points, respectively.  Maten also tallied 12 rebounds en route to another double-double.  The Dawgs scored 34 points in paint against Kentucky, and those three mentioned above accounted for 42 of the team’s 61 points.

The only problem is that this was exactly what Coach Cal had game-planned: make the UGA guards beat them. The Cats showed Georgia full-court pressure often, and even in the half court set the Kentucky guards were picking the UGA guards up as soon as they crossed the line.  The whole night the Georgia guards struggled to set up the Dawgs’ offense because they were constantly being forced to handle the ball well beyond the three-point line.

Turtle Jackson picked up 2 fouls in the first half and had to sit for nearly 13 minutes, and then he got tabbed for his 4th foul with almost 14 minutes left and Georgia up 42-35.  While Turtle is not the most deft ball-handler, he brings a calming presence to the Dawgs’ offense, and it’s quite noticeable when he’s not on the court.

With Turtle out, the Dawgs had to turn to Tyree Crump and Teshaun Hightower to run the UGA offense and that did not go so well.  Crump had a particularly off night, shooting just 1 of 9 from the floor and committing two costly turnovers that both led to Kentucky points.  Hightower missed both his shots, which came from beyond the arc (where he is now 1 of 13 on the year), and turned the ball over once himself in just 5 minutes of play.

The Dawgs had 5 turnovers as a team over the 5 minutes from when they held that 42-35 advantage, and with 8:03 remaining Kentucky took a 47-46 lead following a layup by Diallo.

UGA had 15 turnovers on the night and those turned into 19 Wildcat points.

Miscellaneous:

-Juwan Parker had a really nice old-fashioned three-point play in the second half to give UGA a 42-34 advantage with over 14 minutes left.  He committed a turnover a minute later and was buried on the bench by Fox for nearly the remainder of the game (he back in with 28 seconds left and the game basically over). In lieu of Parker, Fox went with Jordan Harris, who went 1 for 3 from the floor, grabbed 3 rebounds and committed 2 turnovers.  Neither Parker nor Harris is particularly strong on the perimeter defensively.  This certainly wasn’t Parker’s finest game as a Bulldog (5 points), but I don’t think he deserved 17 minutes to Harris’s 21 minutes, and it might have been nice to have a senior on the court while Kentucky was putting together its final run.  As far as Harris is concerned, I expected more growth from year 1 to year 2 from him considering he was a 4-star recruit, and so far I haven’t seen it.

-Georgia shot 21 free throws to Kentucky’s 38, although, when you play in Rupp Arena that’s kind of to be expected.  The Cats got 14 more points from the charity stripe than UGA in a game that was decided by just 5 points.

-Yante Maten, who struggled to get to 17 points on a 5 for 15 performance from the floor, has to be frustrated with this loss as he is still winless against the Cats for his career and he may not get another crack at them unless they run into Kentucky in the SEC Tournament.  Honestly, I feel for Maten.  It has to be irritating to lose to a new group of freshmen every year.

This loss doesn’t hurt the Dawgs’ NCAA Tournament hopes.  Georgia still has a chance to put together a really nice season.  But they have to get over it quickly because Ole Miss will be in Stegeman on Wednesday night looking for its second conference win.

 

 

UGA basketball preview

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Maten made over 48% of his 3PT attempts a year ago.

While UGA’s football team is currently in the midst of its best start since 2005, college basketball is just around the corner, so a bye week for the football Dawgs felt like the perfect opportunity to start talking some Georgia basketball.

Last season served as a breakthrough for the SEC in regards to its basketball prestige as the conference sent 5 teams to the NCAA Tournament, with 3 of those teams reaching the Elite 8.  Had Kentucky not lost at the buzzer to UNC, half of the Final Four would have been represented by SEC teams (with South Carolina being the other).  College basketball analysts are no longer discrediting the league as merely a “football conference”; CBS Sports posited over the summer that the SEC could get as many as 7 teams in this season’s  Big Dance.

Which brings me to Georgia.  The 2017-2018 campaign will mark year 9 of head coach Mark Fox’s 10-year plan.  In my humble opinion, UGA basketball has reached the point where it must reach the NCAA Tournament for this season to be considered a success, or the Dawgs might need to look elsewhere for leadership.  Last year’s team returned to the NIT only to be torched at home by the Belmont Bruins.  A similar conclusion to this year’s season is simply unacceptable.

Here are some reasons to be optimistic about Georgia’s chances of dancing in March:

Yante Maten. Yante Maten. Yante Maten.

Maten was named Co-SEC Player of the Year in the league’s preseason awards, and he was recently added to the watch list for the Karl Malone Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top power forward.  There’s a reason for this: Yante Maten should be hard to guard this year.  ESPN projects Maten will average 19.6 ppg, or the 4th highest scoring average in the nation.  Last season, Maten was virtually unstoppable when he received the ball in one-on-one situations in the paint, and I expect this season to be no different.  He also developed a three-point shot from the top of the key that connected over 48% of the time, and rumor has it that Maten can now make it from other parts of the perimeter as well.

Most likely, teams are going to use zone and help defense to double Maten as much as possible when he gets the ball on the block.  The benefactors of such an approach will be Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds, both of whom should serve as viable outlets for Maten when defenses collapse on him.  Ogbeide’s numbers have trended up since his freshman season, going from 4 points a game to over 7; this year Derek could easily average close to 10 a game, and he should be able to put up a number of double-doubles considering his rebounding prowess.  Hammonds, a 4-star recruit from Gwinnett County, should be able to contribute immediately on offense, especially since opposing teams will be forced to dedicate so much attention to Maten.

Another reason that the Dawgs could land an at-large bid is that their SEC schedule is quite favorable.  While UGA does start the conference slate with a New Year’s Eve road game in Lexington, they fortunately only have to play Kentucky once.  Georgia plays Texas A&M, Arkansas, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Missouri just once apiece as well; all of these teams were projected to finish ahead of UGA in the conference standings.  The Dawgs get two games each with both Tennessee and LSU, both of whom are expected to be SEC bottom dwellers this year.  Georgia also plays both South Carolina and Auburn twice, and while the Gamecocks and the Tigers will certainly be tough outs, it could be worse: Florida has to play Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Alabama both home and away.

Speaking of Florida, the Gators should be strong again this season as they return three starters from last year’s team, which was just a few possessions away from reaching the Final Four.  The Dawgs do play the Gators in both Athens and Gainesville this season, but that is Georgia’s only home-and-away matchup where UGA could be underdogs in both games.

Here are a few reasons as to why Georgia may go back to the NIT:

Losing J.J. Frazier is going to hurt.  Badly.  Frazier averaged over 18 points a game last season, or 26% of Georgia’s offense. He was the catalyst that got everything going. Frazier had the ability to completely take over a game on offense as he could score from both the perimeter and around the bucket.

Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris played sporadically as freshmen; they are going to be relied upon heavily as sophomores.  I expect both of these youngsters to show improvement on the offensive side of the ball, but I’m not so sure that either of them is ready to start scoring in double-figures.  Juwan Parker developed a midrange game last season that saw him average over 9 points a game. Parker could put up similar numbers this year, but it seems unlikely that he will score too much more since his offensive game is somewhat limited.  My biggest fear regarding the UGA guards situation is that Crump and Harris will yield too many minutes to Turtle Jackson, whom Fox may play more since he tends to be loyal to his upperclassmen.

If Georgia’s backcourt can’t find a way to make up for the departure of Frazier, the Dawgs may struggle to score over 70 points per contest as they did a year ago.  While Maten was predicted to get 19.5 a night by ESPN this year, it should be noted that that is just one point more than he netted last season.  Maten was great last season, and he should be great again this year, but when you start getting more than 18 points and nearly 7 boards a game, there’s not a lot of room for improvement on those already impressive numbers.

Fox will need either Crump, Harris or both to score in double-digits if this team doesn’t want to experience a drop-off on offense.

My prediction: Georgia goes 22-11 and earns an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.