South Carolina wins 4th straight against Dawgs, completes another season sweep



South Carolina’s best player, Chris Silva, went to the bench with 4 fouls with 11:14 remaining and his team up 52-42.  If a Georgia (15-2, 6-9) run was going to occur, this was the time for it.  Without Silva on the court, Frank Martin shifted his team into a zone that absolutely confounded the Dawgs.  Georgia couldn’t get the ball into the paint; rather, they settled to pass it around the perimeter and take shots from beyond the arc. Silva returned to the game nearly 9 minutes later at the 2:47 mark with his team still up 61-52. For UGA, it was an opportunity lost.  South Carolina won 66-57, completing the season sweep.

That makes 4 straight losses for Mark Fox at the hands of Frank Martin.  And just to clarify, this is a bad South Carolina team.  The Gamecocks are now 15-13 overall and 6-9 in the SEC.  They might have beaten Auburn last weekend, but they lost 6 straight before pulling off that miracle.

The aforementioned stagnant offense is just the icing on the cake in a game in which Georgia looked a combination of mystified and disinterested for much of the the night.  Maybe all the pressure from showing up in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology in the “Next Four Out” category got to the Dawgs?  How else can you explain how a team commits nearly as many turnovers (17) as they did field goals (21)?

Georgia’s guard play, which has been detrimental to this team all season, really let the team down this evening in Columbia.  The Dawgs were utterly careless with the ball, and when the Gamecocks switched into a trap press, UGA’s backcourt went into full-on panic mode.  I honestly do not understand why teams haven’t pressed Georgia more this year as ineffective as the Dawgs have been at handling that pressure.  South Carolina ended up getting 18 of their 66 points off of UGA turnovers.

But as a UGA fan, I’m used to Georgia struggling to put the ball in the bucket.  I mean, this was the 5th time this season the Dawgs have failed to eclipse 60 points in a game.

However, the lack of execution on the defensive end was rather surprising.  UGA’s defensive rotations out of its zone were abysmal.  South Carolina constantly had guys open all around the perimeter.  The Gamecocks entered this game making just 6 three-pointers a contest in SEC games, yet they buried 13 triples against the Dawgs tonight.  That is simply inexcusable.

Even when the Cocks failed to convert a basket, they still found themselves getting loads of extra scoring opportunities because Georgia couldn’t defensive rebound.  Considering that Frank Martin’s team hauled down 18 offensive rebounds against the Dawgs in Athens in the first meeting between these two teams, one would think that this would have been a point of emphasis this week in preparation for this game.  Yet, the Gamecocks came away with 16 more offensive rebounds by the time it was all said and done, and they ended up with 18 second chance points. In a game that had to be considered “must-win” for a Georgia team that is fighting to stay relevant in the NCAA Tournament discussion, the Dawgs lacked in effort, the one area of their game that should be present every night considering the dearth of outside shooters and dribble-drivers on this team.


In all honesty, this just wasn’t a very fun game to watch if you were a Georgia fan.  The Dawgs allowed the Gamecocks to go on an 11-3 run in the final stretch of the first half that gave SC a 42-27 advantage at the break.  In the second half, UGA got to within 6 points a couple of times, but then Carolina would get a putback off of a miss, or Georgia would fail to go over the top on a screen and Wesley Meyers would hit an open three (he hit 5 of them on the night).

The Dawgs have LSU on Saturday in Athens, and they desperately need a win as Georgia is now just a game away from being the SEC’s bottom team.


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.

Georgia fades down the stretch, loses again to South Carolina

A year ago the Georgia Bulldogs (13-10; 4-6) beat the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-4; 9-1) three times and knocked them out of contention for an NCAA tournament berth.  Today, South Carolina returned the favor, besting the Dawgs 77-75 at the Columbia Life Center on Saturday afternoon.  Any more talk of this Georgia team going to the Big Dance should be put on hold until UGA either wins 6 of its final 8 games, or a tornado is spotted approaching Nashville in early march for the SEC tournament.

Ultimately, Georgia was undone by one of its infamous offensive scoring droughts that have become a staple of Mark Fox’s teams over the past several seasons.  Yante Maten scored a bucket to make it 51-50 Carolina with 11:23 remaining in the game, only to see his team go the next eight and a half minutes without a field goal.  Juwan Parker hit a jumper with 2:50 left to snap the spell, but by then the Dawgs were still trailing 67-60.  Frank Martin put his team into a zone defense during this brutal stretch, and Georgia struggled to adjust when they were no longer able to rely on the J.J. Frazier and Maten two-man game.

The Dawgs also struggled to protect the ball today as they turned it over 15 times with Frazier and Parker leading the way with 5 apiece.  Granted, South Carolina is probably the best defensive team in the conference as they lead the SEC in defensive scoring (63), field goal percentage (39%) and three-point percentage (25%), but for UGA’s offense to completely stall over the final quarter of the game is inexcusable.

Defensively, the Bulldogs failed to close out effectively on the Gamecocks on the perimeter, where South Carolina connected on 11 of 24 from beyond the arc.  The Dawgs once again began the game trying to play Carolina in man defense, and Sindarious Thornwell made them pay as he hit 3 three-pointers in less than 8 minutes to put his team up 14-11.  In Athens last month, Georgia struggled to defend Thornwell and P.J. Dozier one-on-one due to their superior size over the UGA backcourt.  Today, it wasn’t much different as Dozier and Thornwell torched Georgia for 21 and 18, respectively.  When Georgia switched to its 2-3 match-up zone they were able to cover the perimeter better, but SC obviously still got theirs from the outside off of transition plays and offensive rebounds.

Georgia’s abysmal second half was a complete contrast to its first twenty minutes of play.  Prior to the intermission, UGA’s offense was deliberate, pounding the ball inside to Maten, who was able to score 10 points and get both Carolina bigs Silva and Kotar in foul trouble with 2 each.  However, all of that stopped following the intermission as Yante primarily saw double-teams with every touch and it became harder and harder for the guards to dump the ball inside.

The Dawgs were led by Maten and Frazier, who scored 18 apiece.

Georgia has now lost its last 4 SEC contests, and the going isn’t going to get anything but tougher heading into next week when UGA hosts #24 Florida on Tuesday night in Athens before heading to Knoxville next Saturday to take on Tennessee.


Georgia can’t overcome turnovers in loss to South Carolina

For a brief moment the Georgia Bulldogs looked poised to claim its first lead of the second half after Yante Maten buried a three-pointer from the top of the key with only 57 seconds remaining.  Trailing South Carolina 62-61, the Dawgs were just one mere stop from wresting away the advantage from the visiting Gamecocks.  But as luck would have it, Sindarius Thornwell, who had just returned from a six-game suspension, would score on a tip-in from his own miss on the ensuing possession, putting his team back up by 3.  J.J. Frazier turned the ball over the next time down the court and then fouled Hassani Gravett immediately.  Gravett made only one of two from the line, but Frazier forced an awkward three that caromed off the rim, and UGA would go on to lose 67-61.

The final minute of this game exemplified the major issues that plagued this Georgia team throughout the night: poor defense, turnovers and inconsistent offense.  The Dawgs tried to play USC in man defense for much of this game, but I’m not sure that they had the personnel for that strategy to work.  Coach Mark Fox doesn’t have the perimeter players to deal with Thornwell or fellow guard P.J. Dozier.  Both of these guys relentlessly drove the ball to the paint, where Frank Martin’s team notched 38 of its points (to UGA’s 19).  Dozier led all scores with 24 points to go along with 7 rebounds, and Thornwell recorded a double-double, scoring 19 points and snagging 11 rebounds.

Georgia didn’t really have it together on offense tonight either.  The Dawgs made just 36% from the floor and under 31% from beyond the arc.  Coach Fox’s team played incredibly sloppy in this one, turning the ball over 16 times, which led to 18 Gamecock points. UGA began the second half with one of its infamous scoring droughts, netting just 5 points in over 7 minutes of play.  The Dawgs only trailed Carolina 36-34 at the break, but following a Chris Silva Jumper with 12:51 left they found themselves down 48-39.  The free throw line, where UGA connected on 23 of 30 attempts, was the lone bright spot for Georgia, and honestly it kept them in the game down the stretch.

The Dawgs continued to pound the ball inside to Yante Maten, and despite facing multiple double-teams, he kept getting himself to the line.  Maten made 9 of his 13 free throw attempts, though he only shot 33% from the floor.  Yante did record another double-double as he pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds, but he never really got into an offensive rhythm as he constantly found himself surrounded by Gamecock bigs whenever he touched the ball inside.  All this pressure forced Georgia’s leading scorer into 6 turnovers.

Unfortunately, Maten wasn’t the only Dawg to hand the ball over 6 times.  Frazier committed 6 as well and never really got going on offense himself.  Much like Maten, J.J. collected the majority of his points from the charity stripe, where he sunk 9 of 10 attempts.  But Frazier’s efficiency from the field was far worse as he connected on just 30% from the floor and only 1 of his 6 perimeter shots.

The only other UGA player to finish in double-figures was Juwan Parker, who netted 12 points to go along with his 6 rebounds.

This loss was a tough one for Coach Fox’s team for several reasons.   One, it totally sucks the air out of any of the mojo that the Dawgs might have been feeling after that big road win at Auburn last week.  Two, Georgia still hasn’t recorded a solid RPI win.  South Carolina’s RPI was 54 coming into the game, and it would have been UGA’s highest to date had they pulled it off.  Finally, Georgia blew a solid opportunity to begin SEC play at 3-0 with lowly Missouri coming into town this Saturday.  However, now that that’s out the window, the Dawgs will be doing their best to get back above .500 in conference play.


Late surge lifts Dawgs over Gamecocks

With their postseason dreams on the ropes and a double-digit halftime lead all but gone, UGA dug in and found a way to win against #25 South Carolina over the final stretch of tonight’s game in Athens.

The Gamecocks, who shot just 21% from the floor before the break, started to knock down shots in the second half; after Duane Notice buried a three from the corner, USC trailed Georgia 50-48 with 6:34 left.

On the ensuing possession, Kenny Gaines tipped in a Michael Edwards miss.  Then he took a Carolina miss the length of the floor and finished over a falling Michael Carrera, putting the Dawgs back up 54-48 with 5:17 remaining.

J.J. Frazier, who played sparingly in the first half due to foul trouble, knocked down two huge three’s during this same time span.  The second one he hit falling into the UGA bench, yet he somehow managed to draw nothing but net, sending the Dawgs up 62-53 with under 2 minutes left in the game.  This shot by Frazier sent the Stegeman crowd into pandemonium, and Georgia won its first game of the year against a ranked opponent, downing the Cocks 69-56 in Athens.

Coach Mark Fox had to be pleased with his team’s defensive effort on the night.  Other than a few lapses at the top of the key in the second half, the Dawgs defended Carolina well, contesting nearly every shot.  The Cocks entered this evening’s contest making more than 44% of their shots from the field, yet UGA limited them to only 31% from the floor.  USC’s 56 point effort tonight was its second-lowest offensive output of the season.  On the year, Frank Martin’s team’s scoring has been incredibly balanced, with five players averaging in double-figures.  However, Sindarius Thornwell and Carrera were the only Gamecocks to finish with over 10 points tonight, scoring 18 and 11, respectively.

The Dawgs certainly were not spectacular on offense, shooting under 39% from the field, but as I mentioned above, Coach Fox’s team made shots when they needed to in this game.  Yante Maten led all UGA scorers with 18 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.  South Carolina’s Mindaugas Kacinas simply couldn’t handle Maten as Yante consistently drove the ball at him and scored on a series of acrobatic shots.

Kenny Gaines finished with 17 points, and Frazier and Charles Mann chipped in 13 and 11, respectively.

This win is easily Georgia’s biggest of the season, and not only because the Gamecocks are ranked in both the AP and Coaches Poll.  In addition to those accolades, Frank Martin’s team is currently sitting with an RPI of 28.

The Dawgs are 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the SEC, and with Tennessee knocking off #20 Kentucky this evening, Georgia has a chance to move into the upper echelon of the SEC standings this Saturday if they can hold serve at home against Auburn (Florida heads to Kentucky and USC visits Texas A&M).   If UGA wants to play any postseason games this year, then they have to put together a bit of a winning streak.

Again, Georgia has Auburn in Athens on Saturday, which is a game the Dawgs should win. Unless, of course, they are peeking ahead at next Tuesday’s prime time matchup in Lexington against Kentucky.



A big question going into tonight’s SEC Tournament game

South Carolina won its second game of the SEC Tournament in wacky fashion last night, converting three free throws with less than a second on the clock after an ill-advised foul by an Ole Miss guard.

The Cocks’ win sets up a third game between them and the Dawgs, with Carolina owning the regular season sweep over Mark Fox’s team. I couldn’t find any information as to whether South Carolina has ever beaten UGA three times in a season, so if anyone knows please post below.

At the moment, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is projecting Georgia as a 9-seed, and the network’s “Bubble Watch” has the Dawgs as a lock. However, maybe its just my nature as a long-time UGA basketball fan, but I still feel uncomfortable about Georgia’s NCAA Tournament bid should they lose tonight’s game to Frank Martin’s team, which would be UGA’s third loss to a squad with an RPI of 105.

Without further adieu, I pose the following question to some of the Bulldogs’ biggest basketball fans:

Dawgs lose 2nd straight game at home, falling to South Carolina

UGA played arguably its worst first half of the season tonight against South Carolina, and yet the Dawgs had a chance to win this game late in the second half.

After trailing 41-23 at the break, Georgia tied the game at 51 apiece with 4:31 left in the game after a pair of free throws from Yante Maten.

Georgia failed to secure defensive rebounds down the stretch though, and in the end, these lapses ended up doing them in. Mindaugus Kacinas tipped in a missed jumper to give his team a 53-51 lead with only 3:38 remaining.  On the ensuing possession, UGA held the Cocks from scoring on another jump shot, but Kacinas was there once again for the offensive board, which he promptly kicked to teammate Tyrone Johnson.  Johnson immediately buried a three-pointer, giving Carolina a 56-51 advantage.

The Gamecocks secured offensive rebounds on 2 of their next 3 possessions, which led to 3 free throws and eventually a 64-58 road victory.

For Carolina, this win marks just its third SEC road win in nearly three and a half seasons.

Georgia failed to lead once in this contest, and they quickly found themselves down 19-4 less than 10 minutes into the game.  The Dawgs shot just 33% from the floor before the break, and their defense was nonexistent.  In the first half, UGA yielded 7 three-pointers to the Cocks, enabling them to go into the intermission with 41 points – an incredible offensive outburst for a team that entered tonight’s game averaging just 58 points per SEC contest.

Georgia was led offensively by Charles Mann, whose 17 points were instrumental in helping the Dawgs mount a comeback.  However, Mann didn’t get much support as Kenny Gaines was the only other UGA player to finish in double-digits with 11 points.

After laying an egg at home against Auburn last Saturday, I expected the Dawgs to come out with a little more fire than they showed this evening.  Georgia started this game incredibly flat, digging themselves into a huge hole that they ultimately couldn’t escape from.

Coach Mark Fox has to be wondering what kind of damage his team has done to its NCAA tournament resume – something that looked rock solid a week ago.  The Dawgs are now 16-9 overall and 7-6 in SEC play, but they are falling fast in the conference’s standings.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has four SEC wins this season and two of them have come against UGA.

Blemishes now abound on Georgia’s schedule, with losses to SC (2), Auburn, Georgia Tech and Minnesota.  For Coach Fox, it might be time to start hitting the panic button as his team appears to be spiraling downwards, losing 4 of its past 6 games.

Marcus Thornton, who carried this team during the first half of this season, is averaging just 7.5 points a night since returning from his injury, failing to finish in double-figures in any of the last four games.

The Dawgs hit the road Saturday, traveling to Tuscaloosa where they will take on Alabama, a team that is currently 5-7 in league play.  With an RPI of 76, Bama does not offer UGA the opportunity for a quality win; however, a loss to the Tide could certainly be looked upon as another bad loss.