Posts Tagged ‘SEC’
Last night’s contest with Mississippi State had trap game written all over it. Sandwiched right in between last Saturday’s thrilling comeback over Tennessee and next Saturday’s showdown with SEC monster Kentucky was an unassuming matchup with another team brandishing a 5-7 conference record.
For the first twenty minutes of this one, Georgia looked as if they just weren’t all there. On offense, UGA clunked and clanked around the court as they turned the ball over 9 times and mustered a subpar 25% shooting percentage from the floor. J.J. Frazier, the hero from the game in Knoxville, went the whole half without a field goal, and his teammate, Yante Maten, managed only one himself. Defensively, the Dawgs played as if they hadn’t been made aware in the film room that the Maroon Dawgs could be dangerous from the perimeter. Missy State came into this game making 8 three-pointers a night in SEC games, yet by the intermission they already had connected on 6 of them.
Fortunately, somebody got the team some 5-hour energy at the break, and they actually came out of the locker room with a little poise. J.J. Frazier began to push the tempo more on offense, and the Dawgs went on a 12-3 run to start that half that erased the Maroon Dawgs 32-28 halftime advantage and gave Georgia a 40-35 lead after just 5 minutes of play.
The UGA offense snapped out of its funk and much of that had to do with Frazier, who started to resemble the player who dropped 29 points in Knoxville just a few days earlier. Frazier scored all 17 of his points last night in the final twenty minutes, 9 of which came off of three-pointers. Yante Maten took over in the paint, scoring 15 of his game-high 24 points following the intermission, and he snagged 5 more boards to give him 9 on the evening, just missing another double-double. As a team, UGA hit 67% from the floor over the game’s final twenty minutes of play as the Dawgs improved their shot selection as a team.
This game was actually tied at 54 apiece with 6:30 left, but UGA went on a critical 8-0 run that was capped off by a pair of free throws from Maten that saw Georgia take a 62-54 lead with just over 4:06 remaining. This stretch of game turned out to be too much for the Maroon Dogs to overcome as they couldn’t close the gap on UGA, and Mark Fox’s team earned the 79-72 home victory, which marked the Dawgs first SEC win streak since early January.
The offense wasn’t the only thing that underwent a metamorphosis after the break. Following the intermission, Georgia guarded much tighter on the perimeter and held MSU to just 3 second half buckets from beyond the arc. The UGA bigs played strong as well, holding the Missy State starting posts to just a 1 for 5 effort from the floor. Both Maten and Derek Ogbeide played incredibly sound post defense as they stayed on the floor and forced the MSU bigs to try to shoot over them.
The unsung heroes of this game for Georgia had to be Juwan Parker and E’Torrian Wilridge. Parker, who has officially brought the midrange jumper back to college basketball, quietly put together a 16-point effort after turning the ball over twice in the game’s first 4 minutes, and if his shot hadn’t been on last night then this contest could have easily turned out differently.
Wilridge seemed to benefit from the “first career start” mojo that Tyree Crump enjoyed on Saturday in Knoxville when he dropped 13 points on the Vols (Crump only played 5 minutes last night, which is certainly a head scratcher). On Tuesday, Wilridge earned Fox’s token start, and he did not disappoint as he peppered the stat sheet with 5 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. Three of his assists came during that 8-0 run that knocked the life out of MSU as Wilridge consistently got the ball inside to a cutting Maten.
With 47 seconds left on the clock and Georgia leading by just 2 points, J.J. Frazier hoisted the Georgia Bulldogs onto his shoulders and found a way to notch an old-fashioned three-point play to ice the game. Frazier’s converted free throw made it 76-71 Dawgs with only 21 ticks left, and Georgia ended up sneaking out of Knoxville with a 76-75 road win.
The enormity of this victory for an ailing basketball program is almost impossible to put into words. Let me set the scene: Georgia’s star player and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist, Yante Maten, hardly played in the second half, and he fouled out on a questionable offensive foul with over 5 minutes remaining in the game. For all intents and purposes, Georgia was down for the count. Except they weren’t. Tyree Crump, who garnered his first start of the season, scored 8 points during the final stretch of this contest, including a three-pointer that bolstered the UGA lead to 70-64 with just 2:26 left.
Tennessee brutalized Georgia to start the second half, going on a 17-5 run that saw the Vols open up a 53-39 advantage. The manner in which Tennessee scored during this stretch should have demoralized UGA as the Vols pounded the ball inside possession after possession. Yet for some reason, the Dawgs remained unfazed. Frazier scored 7 of his game-high 29 points during a critical 12-2 Georgia run that cut the UT lead down to 55-51.
The Dawgs absorbed a 30-point effort from freshman sensation Grant Williams. Only one other Tennessee player finished in double-figures.
Similarly, UGA had just one player besides J.J. Frazier – Tyree Crump – end up in double-digits. Crump scored a season-high (against Division I teams) of 13 points, and most of them came during the final quarter of this contest.
This win came out of nowhere, and while it is incredibly satisfying for Georgia basketball fans, it will surely leave many with a series of “what if” questions. What if the Dawgs didn’t melt down at Texas A&M? What if J.J. hit those last second shots against Florida and Kentucky?
For tonight, though, UGA fans should simply enjoy this win.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0 and sitting atop of the conference standings, and if they continue to play at this level they have a real shot at earning an automatic bid to this year’s NCAA tournament.
If only the Dawgs played in the Big South Conference then everything in my opening statement would be true. Georgia has played three teams from the Big South this year – UNC-Asheville, Gardner-Webb and Charleston Southern – and they trashed all of them. Sure, the Garder-Webb game was close at the half (UGA held a 3 point lead), but the Dawgs ended up coasting to a 77-59 win. Georgia easily bested UNC-Asheville, who is currently in first place in the league with an 11-2 record. Who’s to say that UGA couldn’t amass a similar or even better record if they were playing a Big South slate of games?
All of this is obviously parody, or maybe fantasy? The reality is Georgia is stuck in the SEC where they are 4-7 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak in conference games. Even though the Dawgs play in a Power 5 conference, they look a lot more like a mid-major, which is kind of sad considering they have two preseason All-SEC players on the roster.
But other than Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, this Georgia team doesn’t have the type of talent you expect from a Power 5 school. Juwan Parker would be a solid 6th man on a lot of quality teams, but the third scoring option? Parker, who at 6’3″ is grossly undersized for the wing position, is shooting less than 38% from the floor and below 18% from beyond the arc, yet he has taken the third most shots on the team.
I love Derek Ogbeide’s effort on defense. He is a committed rebounder and a shot-blocking threat. But his offensive game is not where it needs to be at this point. Ogbeide has essentially one move that he does nearly every time he gets a touch on the block: turn left, hook shot. And SEC teams have begun to take notice. Several times against Florida on Tuesday, the Gator defender overplayed Ogbeide so much to the left that it appeared that he was gifting him the right side of the basket, but Derek didn’t bite and still went left.
It’s too early to make assumptions on Jordan Harris and Tyree Crump. As highly-touted recruits, both players are capable of making tremendous jumps between their freshman and sophomore years, especially Harris since he actually gets regular court time.
But what about the rest of UGA’s cast? Guys like Turtle Jackson, Mike Edwards, Houston Kessler, Kenny Paul Geno, E’Torrion Wilridge. How successful would those guys be in the Big South? All of them get regular minutes on Coach Fox’s team, but none of them is the least bit dangerous with the ball in their hands, which gives opposing defenses an incredible advantage over Georgia, especially when more than one of them is on the court at once. At times this year, J.J. Frazier has appeared to be pushing it a bit and maybe taking some shots that he shouldn’t. But when Maten is on the bench, can you really blame him?
I’m not trying to slam any of these guys. I realize that they are just college kids that were offered an opportunity to play for UGA and they took it. The fact that they might be in over their heads is not their fault; it’s Mark Fox’s.
In year eight of his ten-year plan, this is the team that Fox has assembled. They turn the ball over a lot (more than 14 a game) and they do not shoot well from the outside (281st in the nation in 3PT%). Apparently, both of these aforementioned reasons have Fox indicating that it’s time to slow things down. I guess I need to pop over to Jittery Joe’s before the game today because seeing this team play any slower is going to potentially put me into nap mode.
Going slow is definitely an option that a coach has when his team has a talent deficit compared to their opponent, which has been the case for Georgia in most SEC games this year. But he also has the choice to speed things up a bit. Turtle, Edwards and Wilridge might not put the fear of God into too many defenders, but they are all long players that are highly athletic. When Maten is out of the game, why not utilize their main collective strength and put them in a full-court trap press, similar to the one that Texas A&M ran. Sorry, too soon?
Anyhow, imagine Edwards guarding the ball and then trapping with either Turtle or Wilridge (or Parker or Geno for that matter), depending on which side the ball goes. Presses can create offensive opportunities for stagnant offenses, yet Georgia barely ever does it.
The Dawgs have one and a half outside shooting threats and only two guys who can create their own shot. But they do have some athletes, and athletes can put pressure on ball handlers in the open court.
Mark Fox had to be experiencing déjà vu inside of Stegeman Coliseum this evening. In the loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Georgia’s offense went over 8 minutes without a field goal; this evening, the Dawgs pulled a similar disappearing act, going more than 6 minutes without a bucket from the floor. By the time Yante Maten finished an open dunk inside to end the drought, UGA (13-11, 4-7) trailed 63-52 with only 3:50 remaining, and the Dawgs would go on to lose 72-60.
But it wasn’t just poor shooting that did the Dawgs in on Tuesday evening. Believe it or not, this contest was actually close at times. With 16:00 left in the game, Florida held a slim 41-38 advantage. Mark Fox’s team got careless, though, and turned the ball over on the next three possessions, which enabled the Gators to push the lead to 48-40 during a critical stretch of this game.
On the night, Georgia gave the ball away 16 times, and depending on how some other SEC games shake out this week, UGA could be leading the conference in giveaways by the weekend. To make matters worse, Florida was opportunistic this evening, converting those Georgia TOs into 18 points. Yante Maten carried the torch with 5 turnovers as he had trouble protecting the ball inside against multiple Florida defenders. Jordan Harris gave the ball over 3 times himself, and he continues to get it stripped easily from his hands when he attempts to drive the ball at the defense.
Georgia struggled tonight offensively against a Florida team that is second in conference play in team defense, holding opponents to just 66 points a night. The Gators are bigger and more athletic than UGA, and every time Yante Maten touched the ball inside the Florida zone collapsed on him. Maten finished with 19 points and J.J. Frazier chipped in 18, but for the most part the Dawgs were stymied when they had the ball. Georgia’s lack of shooters always becomes painfully apparent when they are playing strong defensive units that can overplay Maten and Frazier. The Dawgs hit only 33% of their shots as a team, but everyone not named Maten or Frazier shot a collective 26% on the night.
Florida overwhelmed Georgia quickly at the start of this one as they jumped out to a 30-14 lead. The Dawgs, though, responded with a 15-0 run of their own to cut the Gators’ advantage down to 30-29. Florida went without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes of play during the latter portion of the first half, but Kasey Hill broke the spell by hitting a jumper with 1:45 left, which gave the Gators a 35-33 lead that they would take into the intermission.
Other than this stretch of play in the first half, UGA for much of the night had trouble handling Florida on defense. The Gators’ backup point guard, Chris Chiozza, was a matchup nightmare for the Dawgs as he knifed into the middle of the lane whenever he wanted. Chiozza led all Florida scorers with 15 points to go along with 4 steals, and he was one of four Gators to finish the game in double-figures.
These two teams played a tightly contested game and went to overtime a month ago in Gainesville, but it was pretty clear tonight that one team is trending upward and in the right direction, and the other team is Georgia.
Now the really bad news. This loss marks the first time in Fox’s career that he has dropped 5 consecutive SEC games. Furthermore, UGA has yet to earn a conference win against a team with a winning record in league play. Georgia is 0-7 against what ESPN deems the RPI Top 50, and the Dawgs have now lost 22 straight games over the past five seasons to teams in ESPN’s RPI Top 25.
After beating Vandy at home a week ago, it seemed like Georgia (12-8) had a few more games before embarking on what would be their most difficult stretch of conference play: @ Kentucky, @ South Carolina, Florida and @ Tennessee. Losing on the road to Texas A&M, a team projected to finish 3rd in the conference, in the bizarre fashion that UGA did is one thing. To get blown out at home, though, by an Alabama (12-7) team that was picked to end up 11th in the SEC is another. The Tide trounced Georgia 80-60 last night in Stegeman, and now the Bulldogs will carry a two-game conference losing streak into Lexington next Tuesday. Below are my thoughts on what went wrong last night:
Georgia is a team that prides itself on its defense, which is why the Dawgs entered last evening’s contest ranked 24th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to under 40% a night. That team didn’t show up on Tuesday, though. The rotations in UGA’s matchup zone last night were incredibly sluggish. Weak side defenders failed to shift quickly enough when the ball moved to the wing and the corners, leaving gaping holes in middle of the zone. Alabama took advantage, easily getting the ball into the paint, where the Tide scored 26 of their points. Bama came into this game with second-worst offense in league games, netting under 68 points a night; yet by halftime, the Tide had already scored 41 points, which was their highest output in a first half in conference play this year. Freshman Braxton Key, who is the only Bama player scoring in double-figures at 10.7 a night, completely had his way with the Dawgs and finished with a game-high 26 points. Riley Norris nearly doubled his season average as he scored 15 points on Tuesday, and he looked like Steph Curry doing it: hitting open three’s and dicing into the lane off the dribble.
The Dawgs effort around the perimeter wasn’t any better. The Tide hit 4 three-pointers before the break because Georgia’s zone was slow to react; the 5 three-pointers that Bama knocked down after the intermission happened because UGA looked as if it just wasn’t interested in running out. This was an Alabama team that was making less than 32% of its attempts from beyond the arc prior to Tuesday in SEC games, but the Tide sure looked comfortable from the perimeter last night as they buried 9 of 16 shots.
Devastating stretch to close out the first half
The Dawgs had a moment in the first half where they appeared ready to wake up and take control of this game. With UGA trailing 28-19 with 4:07 remaining in half, Juwan Parker hit a three-pointer and Yante Maten simultaneously got fouled underneath vying for position for the rebound. Since Georgia was in the bonus, Maten stepped to the line and hit a pair of free throws which cut the Tide advantage to 28-24 following the five-point trip.
Then the wheels came off. Bama responded immediately and went on a 10-0 run that sent their lead back up to 38-24 with just 1:27 left. About 30 seconds earlier, UGA lost its coach for the remaining 22 minutes as Mark Fox was quickly ejected for arguing a carrying call against Jordan Harris. Any hopes that Fox’s tirade might ignite his sleepy team were quickly dashed when Corban Collins hit a three-pointer with just one second on the clock, and the Tide took a 41-27 lead into the break.
Disappearing act by J.J. Frazier
J.J. has played pretty well for UGA this year, but by and large, he hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations after what he did a year ago. At times last night, I forgot that he was even on the court. Frazier, who came into yesterday’s contest netting a little over 18 points per SEC game, took just 3 shots in the first half. J.J. ended up with only 4 points, shooting an abysmal 2 for 9 from the floor and missing all 5 of this three-point attempts. Not only was his shot off, but Frazier missed on his lay ups, too. J.J. drew all glass on one of his fast break drives, which is a shot that he routinely finishes with contact.
Yante Maten led all UGA scorers with 20 points, which was impressive considering he faced double teams every time he touched the ball in the paint. But last night proved that Maten cannot do it alone, and when Frazier is held under double-digits the Dawgs are going to hard-pressed to beat anybody other than Morehouse.
The Dawgs (12-7) lost in truly bizarre fashion in College Station on Saturday afternoon. With a little over 16 seconds left, J.J. Frazier brought the ball up the court with his team trailing by a point. When the clock hit 5.6 seconds, Frazier found himself in trouble, facing a double-team near the perimeter. Fortunately, Frazier managed to find Yante Maten on the block, where he quickly turned and drew a foul going towards the bucket. At the moment, it appeared that Maten was headed to the line with a chance to put his team ahead of Texas A&M (9-9). The problem, however, was that the clock still showed 5.6 seconds. The officials gathered, discussed and determined that more than 6 seconds had eclipsed since the game clock ceased running, and they decided that the contest was over, giving the Aggies the 63-62 home win.
While this decision certainly deserves some explaining from the SEC’s league office, Georgia can hardly be that upset considering how horribly the Dawgs played down the stretch. After building up a 56-43 advantage with a little over 10 minutes remaining, UGA’s final 17 possessions resulted in 10 turnovers and a 1 for 7 performance from the floor. The Aggies full court trap press mystified Georgia and forced the Dawgs into 4 turnovers in the final 2 minutes of play. Texas A&M ended the game on a 10-0 run and stole a victory from the Dawgs in a contest that UGA led for the majority of the afternoon.
As bummed as I am regarding the loss, I’m equally curious as to whether Coach Mark Fox’s team actually has a press break offense. The A&M trap was tough, but nothing that a Division I team from a Power 5 conference shouldn’t be able to figure out. The Dawgs, however, seemed content to go the route of a broken record as they repeatedly inbounded the ball far too low and to the corner, making it incredibly easy for the Aggie defenders to trap Frazier. Not once during this nightmare of an ending did Georgia pass the ball into a player above the free throw line.
UGA’s offense over the last quarter of this game completely contrasted what it had done over the previous thirty minutes. For most of the afternoon, the Dawgs were highly efficient on offense, carving up the Aggies 2-3 zone by getting the ball to either the short corner or free throw line. Before the meltdown, Georgia hit over 46% from the floor and 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, and they had 14 team assists to just 7 turnovers. Texas A&M’s 10-0 run to end the game was payback for the one that UGA went on going into the intermission. Yante Maten and Tyree Crump hit back to back three-pointers to send the Dawgs up 39-29 at the half.
Defensively, UGA’s match up zone kept the Aggies in check. A&M made only 36% of its shots from the floor, and the team’s leading scorer, Tyler Davis, finished with just 8 points. The Aggies out-rebounded the Dawgs 40-38 and they hauled in 18 offensive boards, but when a team starts two 6’9″s and two 6’10″s that can almost be expected.
The Aggies were led offensively by Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg, who finished with 18 and 16, respectively.
Georgia had just two players finish in double-figures: Maten (19) and Frazier (11).
After committing only 6 turnovers on Tuesday against Vandy, the Dawgs returned to their careless ways, giving the ball away 17 times.
UGA now has two losses to teams with RPI’s above 100: Texas A&M (110) and Oakland (127). Both of these games will fall into the old “bad loss” category in regards to Georgia’s NCAA tournament resume, which took a major hit today in College Station.
Just a few days removed from a crushing overtime defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators, the Georgia Bulldogs (12-6, 4-2) collected themselves and managed to bounce back at home on Tuesday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4). Here are the keys that propelled UGA to the 76-68 home win:
Unselfish, efficient offense
Vanderbilt attempted to zone the Dawgs early in this game and UGA ate it up. Georgia did an excellent job of getting the ball into the short corners and finding gaps in the zone. When UGA players penetrated and drew extra defenders, the Dawgs opted to pass instead of forcing up highly-contested shots. Georgia dished out 16 team assists, which marks their highest total yet in SEC play. UGA shot over 45% from the floor, and the Dawgs had four starters finish in double-figures – Yante Maten and Juwan Parker led the way with 21 and 17, respectively. The Bulldogs also knocked down 40% from beyond the arc, and the majority of those three-pointers came on kick out passes from the paint. Lastly, UGA valued the basketball, turning it over just 6 times on Tuesday, which is a drastic improvement for a Georgia team that entered this contest average 16 turnovers per conference game.
Solid first half perimeter defense
Vanderbilt gets 40% of its offense from beyond the arc. The Dores came into Athens making over 40% of its three-point shots in SEC play. However, UGA held Vandy to just 1 of 9 from the perimeter in the first half, which enabled Georgia to take a 34-25 advantage into the break. Coach Mark Fox had his team in a lot of match up zone, and the Dawgs’ defenders closed out and contested nearly every Commodore three-point attempt. The second half was a different story though, as Vandy found its range and connected on 9 of 22 shots from beyond the arc. The Dores ended up with 10 three’s, which is just below their 10.8 average in SEC games, but they only made 34% of them. The Dawgs’ ability to contain Vanderbilt from the perimeter in this contest’s first twenty minutes proved crucial, and it may have been the difference in the game.
Vanderbilt, who only led for 1:35 of this game, had three opportunities to overtake the Dawgs last night. However, each time the Dores closed the gap, Georgia found a way to respond. After building up a 14-5 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the half, UGA’s offense took a breather and scored just 2 points over the next six minutes. With 7:33 remaining before the break and Vandy trailing 16-11, Yante Maten buried a big three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the UGA lead.
Vandy opened up the second half with a flurry of three-pointers, and after Jeff Roberson hit one from beyond the arc the UGA advantage had been cut to 42-39 with a little over 15 minutes left in the game. The Dawgs answered, though, as J.J. Frazier and Juwan Parker hit back to back three’s, and Jordan Harris stole a lazy Vandy pass and took it the length of the floor for an electrifying one-handed dunk, putting Georgia up 50-41.
The Dores last effort to catch the Dawgs came late in the game when Riley Lachance sunk a three to trim the UGA lead to 65-60 with 2:17 remaining. Once again, Coach Fox’s team responded to the pressure, getting the ball into the hands of Yante Maten, who was fouled and made both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Parker got a steal and was immediately sent to the line, where he too hit both attempts. With just 1:25 left, UGA had a 69-60 lead that Vandy would not surmount.