South Carolina too physical for Georgia (again)

Featured

Become a Georgia basketball fan at your own risk. That’s probably the single-best piece of advice that I could impart upon anyone considering entering the world of fandom for this program.

Because being a fan of the basketball Dawgs means that you have to endure rollercoaster-like conditions. How else does one explain how Georgia, who recently cruised past SEC power LSU, just dropped their 10th straight game to Frank Martin’s team?

Let’s be perfectly clear: this year’s South Carolina team is BAD. They coasted into Athens on nothing but the fumes of a 6-game losing streak in which they were yielding 82 points a contest, yet they held this UGA team to just 70 on Saturday, which is below Georgia’s season average (76.7). This South Carolina squad is not the defensive juggernaut they made themselves out to be this afternoon. They came into this one 12th in scoring defense and 11th in field goal percentage defense, and still their matchup zone managed to give Georgia fits. The Gamecocks have Jedi mind control over the Dawgs, plain and simple. That’s the only explanation that I can muster as to why a team with 4 SEC wins (half of them coming against Georgia) has now beaten Tom Crean’s bunch by 20+ points in both meetings this season.

Georgia’s defense, which had been improving as of late, was a no-show today. UGA hadn’t given up over 90 points since the 115-point effort by Alabama; not surprisingly, the Dawgs won 2 of 3 since that fiasco. After today, though, Georgia has now given up 90+ points 6 times in league play, and they’ve been on the losing end of all of those contests. South Carolina’s 91 points today were a season-best for this team. The Dawgs were slow to close out on the perimeter, something has plagued this UGA team, and the Cocks made them pay as they connected on 10 triples. SC hit almost 44% from beyond the arc, which is 13 percentage points higher than their SEC average. If anyone can help a team reach its offensive potential its Georgia.

Frank Martin’s guards completely overpowered Georgia as 4 players from the Carolina backcourt finished the game in double-figures. Sophomore guard Jermaine Couisinard led all scorers with 23 points as he bested his previous SEC-high this year of 18 points, which also came against Georgia. Trae Hannibal notched 15 points to tie his season-high in conference play; this was just his 4th time this year in which he eclipsed 10 points. Watching the game, the SC guards appeared so much more physical than the Dawgs, and they really seemed to impose their will on the UGA defense. It’s quite mind boggling as to how a team that has been as pedestrian as South Carolina has this year can make the talent gap between the Cocks and Dawgs appear insurmountable for Tom Crean’s team.

Georgia’s offense was as disappointing as its defense. The Dawgs shot just 36% from the floor and gave the ball away 19 times. Sahvir Wheeler, who was coming off the first triple-double in school history, followed up his best game of the season with arguably his worst. The sophomore couldn’t facilitate offense in the half court as he ended up with only 7 points on a 2 of 13 shooting performance (including 0 for 4 from beyond the arc). Probably the most glaring stat of the afternoon for Wheeler though were his 7 turnovers as he couldn’t create space between himself and the SC backcourt.

Despite all of Georgia’s faults, the Dawgs were within striking distance in this game with a little over 14 minutes remaining. UGA overcame a 41-29 halftime deficit to trim the Carolina lead to 48-44 after an old-fashioned three-point play by Andrew Garcia. However, the next stretch of play that transpired was just brutal for Georgia, and ultimately sealed the fate of this game. Over next 6 minutes, UGA went just 1 of 7 from the floor and committed 4 turnovers, and that ineffectiveness allowed the Gamecocks to build up a 66-48 advantage. Game. Set. Match.

Georgia’s consolation prize for this drubbing is that they get a week to lick their wounds and figure out how on earth they are going to slow down Alabama next Saturday. Holding the Tide under 100 points would certainly be a good start if the Dawgs want to keep their 6-seed in tact for the NIT.

South Carolina continues its dominance over Georgia

Featured

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-6, 2-6) beat Kentucky a week ago, which ended a 14-game losing streak to the Wildcats. Many thought (myself included) that such a win could help ignite this team and that they might use that victory as a stepping stone to build upon. Unfortunately, the Dawgs have gone only backwards since P.J. Horne’s buzzer beater. After losing to Florida over the weekend, Georgia traveled to Columbia and got drubbed 83-59 in what was easily this team’s worst performance in SEC play.

The fact that Georgia yielded 23 offensive rebounds that led to 23 second-chance points for South Carolina is disappointing for Tom Crean’s team, but it should hardly be surprising. Georgia entered this contest with the worst defensive rebounding percentage (62) in SEC play. The Dawgs have been allowing opponents to snag nearly 14 offensive boards a night in league games. These are the consequences when you have a roster with no players taller than 6’8″. UGA regularly plays three-guards on the court together with some combination of Sahvir Wheeler, Justin Kier, Tye Fagan and K.D. Johnson; the Dawgs are a small team that plays small. Georgia is built to give up points in the paint, and South Carolina obliged as they put up 44 of them.

What was more shocking to me was how stymied UGA looked against SC’s zone defense that Frank Martin allegedly installed just three days ago. Despite what was on display in Columbia on Wednesday evening, Georgia had been pretty solid on the offensive end in conference play. Prior to this debacle, UGA was 6th in scoring (76.6), 2nd in field goal percentage (45.7) and 4th in 3PT% (35) in SEC games. However, the triples were not falling for Tom Crean’s team against the Cocks, but that didn’t stop them from taking them; Georgia shot an astounding 4 of 26 from beyond the arc. P.J. Horne missed all 7 of his triple attempts, and he’s now a cool 0 for 13 over his past two games. Someone might need to think about changing his green light to yellow, at least for a game.

Schematically, UGA took a fairly mundane approach to attacking the Gamecock zone. For more times than I can remember, Georgia ran one or two bigs up high to screen for the point guard, and that was about the extent of the action on offense. Tom Crean’s offense against the zone has traditionally had guys filling those soft spots along the baseline so that when penetration occurs Georgia has players ready to receive the ball near the rim. Tonight, that kind of movement just wasn’t happening. Instead, the Dawgs shot just 32% from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times en route to their lowest offensive output in a league game this year.

One final thought: South Carolina has established complete dominance over Georgia’s basketball team. The Cocks have now won 9 straight over the Dawgs, and barring some unexpected miracle in Athens later in the season, Georgia is in jeopardy of being swept by Frank Martin’s team for the 5th consecutive year. How did things get this way? Georgia has been ranked higher than South Carolina in recruiting rankings the past 3 seasons, yet SC’s roster appears so much more talented. Be honest: who on UGA would start for the 2-3 Gamecocks? I mean, their leading scorer, Keyshawn Bryant (19 points against Georgia) doesn’t even start!?!?

Georgia plays better in OT loss to South Carolina

Featured

When these two teams locked up in Athens over two weeks ago, the Dawgs were trailing 27-5 with a little over 6 minutes left in the first half. In that game, UGA didn’t even look like they deserved to be on the same floor as South Carolina.

On Wednesday night in Columbia, the Dawgs almost pulled off their 3rd straight win in as many games despite playing the final 3 minutes of overtime without 3 starters: Rayshaun Hammonds, Toumani Camara and Jordan Harris. Georgia had a chance to tie the game with 4 seconds left, but the referees chose to award Maik Kotsar a charge instead of a block on Sahvir Wheeler’s final drive.

Here are some quick thoughts on tonight’s game:

Ant Man put on a show

Tonight’s game was really the first time that Edwards absolutely took over in an SEC game. No matter who Frank Martin put on the freshman, he found a way around. Carolina didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Edwards, and he ended up with 36 points to go along with 7 boards.

Edwards’s numbers were even more impressive considering how much attention he was garnering. USC played primarily man defense the entire night, and whoever was on the Ant Man typically denied him the ball as soon as he crossed half court. Edwards ended up bringing the ball up himself in the point guard role on a number of possessions just so he could be assured of a touch. When the freshman drove, Carolina readily had one to two defenders shading over to double- and triple-team him.

This was definitely a performance in which it was obvious which player on the court was destined for the NBA in the immediate future.

UGA’s defense was virtually nonexistent

Thank goodness Tom Crean’s team found a rhythm on the offensive side of the ball because the Dawgs provided little resistance on the defensive end. I thought after the subpar effort at Vandy last weekend, Georgia would return to a form that more resembled how they played against Auburn a week ago. That just wasn’t the case.

Whether the Dawgs were in man or zone, they did not communicate effectively enough to keep the Gamecocks from scoring around the rim. Rotations were either too slow to react or just didn’t happen. At halftime, Carolina had already dunked the ball 4 times to go along with 10 layups. By the time the final horn sounded, USC had punished Georgia for 54 points in the paint as they shot 66% on two-pointers. Alonzo Frink, who entered this contest netting a meager 4.3 a night, looked like Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday as he torched UGA for a career-high 22 points.

As I mentioned, Hammonds fouled out and so did Camara. Georgia’s defense continues to be the Achilles Heel of this squad, and that’s primarily because this team does not have a true big man.

Final thoughts

There isn’t a ton of solace in moral victories, but when your team is 4-11 in conference play, sometimes you have to take what you can get. Jordan Harris logged just 10 minutes last night before eventually fouling out. Sahvir Wheeler played only 6 minutes after the break and Hammonds played 9; both guys were in foul trouble for the final 20 minutes of regulation. Yet UGA still had a chance to win in OT.

Georgia trailed 59-52 with over 12 minutes remaining after a 9-2 Gamecock run in the second half. But just like in the game against Vandy, the Dawgs didn’t wilt; instead, they responded with a 13-4 run of their own that saw UGA recapture the lead 65-63 following a pair of free throws from Edwards. Georgia recently started a trend of getting themselves back into games and overcoming deficits, on the road nonetheless.

It’s going to be difficult for UGA to climb out of that Wednesday slot of the SEC tournament considering they trail Arkansas by 2 games with just 3 games remaining. However, the way this team has been playing away from home gives some hope to the possibility that they could win several games on a neutral court in Nashville, Tennessee.

Up next:

Arkansas

Postseason projection:

At 14-14, Georgia is on the outer parts of the NIT bubble and going to need a strong finish to work their way into the bracket.

Box score:

It’s official: Frank Martin owns UGA

Featured

Frank Martin has built a program at South Carolina that regularly features teams that emulate the toughness of their hard-nosed coach. This year’s brand of Gamecocks is no different. From the opening tip, it was painfully obvious just how much more physically imposing this USC squad is compared to the Tom Crean’s Dawgs (12-11, 2-9).

Martin’s team didn’t play any matchup zone last night in Athens. Rather, his bunch strapped it up and played an imposing version of man defense that UGA hasn’t seen yet this year. The Dawgs couldn’t get into any sort of offensive rhythm as they turned the ball over 19 times. All that motion and movement that Tom Crean’s offense is built on was nowhere to be found; South Carolina didn’t allow it. Other than Anthony Edwards, UGA didn’t have anyone that threatened this Gamecock team.

Carolina held the Dawgs to under 35% from the floor and they frustrated Georgia into an abysmal 3 for 24 effort from beyond the arc. Remember when Crean said that UGA was going to shoot the three more in his opening presser? It would be cool if they could start making a few more of them. Georgia is now connecting on just 28% of its attempts from beyond the arc, which puts them at 12th in the league in that category.

Edwards finished with 16 points on a forgettable 4 for 13 shooting night, but to be fair to the Ant Man, he was the only Georgia player that seemed capable of facilitating any sort of offense against Carolina. Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler combined for 9 points on a 3 for 12 effort from the floor.

To put it bluntly, this game was never fun to watch. Georgia started 1 for 17 from the floor and turned the ball over 9 times in the first 13 minutes. With a little under 7 minutes remaining before the break, the Dawgs trailed 25-5. USC took the air out of Stegeman early, and they never let it back in. UGA finished the first half shooting just 24% from the floor, and they went into the intermission trailing 38-20.

Frank Martin’s South Carolina teams have now won 7 straight games against the Dawgs. Let that sink in. Those types of losing streaks are forgivable against a blueblood like Kentucky. Against South Carolina, though, not so much. Martin’s last two recruiting classes have been ranked 55th and 45th in the nation, yet his team has a NET ranking of 65 and is trending towards an at-large berth to this year’s NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks actually BEAT Kentucky earlier this year.

Based upon what’s transpired thus far, it’s hard to remain hopeful for much that is left on this Georgia team’s slate. I wonder what Edwards’s mindset will be for the final third of the season? He’s in a similar position as Nic Claxton was last year: stuck on a team with 2 conference wins and an NBA Draft just a few months away.

Stats from the South Carolina that jump off the sheet:

  • Points off turnovers: USC 25, UGA 4
  • Points in the paint: USC 40, UGA 22

Up next:

At Texas A&M on Saturday (Yay! One of UGA’s 2 SEC wins)

Postseason projection:

Nada

Dawgs fizzle in season finale against Gamecocks

I think it’s safe to say that the South Carolina Gamecocks officially own the Georgia Bulldogs (11-20, 2-16) on the basketball court. After today’s 66-46 drubbing at the hands of Frank Martin’s team, the Dawgs have now dropped 6 straight contests to the team from Columbia.

All things told, this was a tough week for Georgia basketball. After 4 consecutive, heartbreakingly close losses, the Dawgs finally pushed through and earned a surprise upset win at Florida last Saturday. UGA followed their 2nd SEC win of the season with a pair of duds, with the one today being slightly more bearable to take in than the no-show against Missouri on Wednesday. If you are a fan of offense, then this week failed you terribly as the Dawgs scored a total of 85 points in both games. Sheesh.

Despite the lopsided final score, Georgia actually had an opportunity to get itself back in the game in the second half (the first half was almost Missouri-level painful, but we’ll jump into that a little later).

Coming out of the break, the Dawgs showed a full court 1-2-2 zone press that really tripped up the Gamecocks as they scored just 5 points in the initial 11 minutes of the second half. Following a pair of free throws from senior Derek Ogbeide, the Dawgs trailed Carolina 49-39 with 9:05 left. Considering that Georgia was down by 23 points at the break, it seemed unbelievable that the Dawgs had a shot to cut the lead to single digits after the atrocious 20 minutes of defense that Tom Crean’s team “played” in the first half.

Even though the Gamecocks managed only 2 field goals after nearly 13 minutes of play had transpired in the second half, the Dawgs failed to trim the Carolina advantage to under 10 points.

Other than some early sparks from both Derek Ogbeide and Nic Claxton, Georgia’s offense was fairly subpar on Saturday in Columbia. As has been the case all season, UGA couldn’t hang on to the ball as the Dawgs turned it over 20 times, and the Gamecocks converted those extra possessions into 24 points. Offensively, the Dawgs have done way too much dribbling and one-on-one basketball this week, which is not a good look for this team. Georgia has been at its best this season when the ball and players are constantly shifting and moving to different spots on the court. However, in today’s game, much like against Missouri, the Dawgs just didn’t look very poised on offense. It’s possible that with Rayshaun Hammonds done for the year, some of his teammates may be ready to call this season a wrap as well.

Tom Crean’s team had a field goal drought of 8:08 in the first half, and they followed that up by not scoring a field goal for the final 10:29 of this game. Even though they were losing multiple close games, this UGA team was still fun to watch; lately, that hasn’t been the case, and I have zero clue as to what this team’s mindset could possibly be as they head into the first round of the SEC tournament set to rematch a Missouri team that just held them to 39 points in Stegeman on Senior Night.

The only silver lining from this one is that it’s the last time that Georgia has to face Chris Silva, who had 24 points on the afternoon; he’s been an instrumental part of the Gamecocks’ current win streak against the Dawgs.

In addition to turnovers, here are a few more things that Georgia doesn’t do well:

  • Defensive rebound: UGA entered this contest tied for 12th in the SEC in offensive rebounds allowed, and they gave up another 13 today against South Carolina. The strength of this Georgia team is supposed to be its frontcourt, yet the Dawgs can’t keep opponents off the glass, which is confounding.
  • Turn teams over: not only is Georgia one of the worst teams in the conference in regards to turnovers, but the Dawgs are last in the SEC in forcing opponents into turnovers (9.9) – South Carolina committed just 9 today. Tom Crean preaches deflections and how critical they are and have been in his defensive systems, but Georgia fans have yet to see what that actually looks like; hopefully that strategy becomes more concrete next season.

Box score:

Poor defense and a weird last possession result in another UGA loss

For the final 4 minutes of this game, Georgia (10-11, 1-7) played solid base defense against the South Carolina Gamecocks. USC’s last 5 possessions before UGA was forced to foul looked like this: turnover, three-pointer, turnover, turnover and missed shot. That’s some impressive defense at crunch time, and for that the Dawgs deserve a lot of credit. Had Georgia secured the missed jumper by Hassani Gravett with less than a minute left and the Gamecocks leading 83-80, UGA would have had chance to tie the game. The Georgia defense put this team in a position to win at the end of this contest.

The problem, however, was that the Dawgs looked perplexed defensively for the previous 36 minutes. Defensive rotations were too slow and sometimes nonexistent. How else do you explain allowing the SEC’s 11th best three-point shooting team (32%) to go 11 for 16 from the perimeter? Carolina buried nearly double the number of triples they had been averaging a night in league play, and on the road no less. In the first half, USC’s guards hit 3 three-pointers from the corner baseline spot that were painfully uncontested.

In his post game, Tom Crean had the following to say regarding the perimeter defense:

“We are improving. But we have got to stop hurting ourselves with not getting our hands up, with not communicating the switch.”

I wholeheartedly agree. However, Crean might want to be a little more liberal with his timeouts in the future because he could use them to remind his players of all of these things he discussed in his press conference. South Carolina is a terrible three-point shooting team, but even average shooters can be made to appear better than they are when their looks to the basket are basically unimpeded. The Dawgs may be handicapped offensively due to a dearth of talent in the ball handling department, but all of these players should be capable of playing sound defense for 40 minutes.

To be fair, there wasn’t much defense being played by either team on Saturday, which should have been expected since the Gamecocks entered this contest with the worst team scoring defense (79.3) in SEC play and Georgia the second-worst (77.9).

That last possession by Georgia was a real head-scratcher. Considering that Crean removed his team’s best perimeter shooter, Tyree Crump, in favor of Derek Ogbeide, I assumed that the Dawgs were going to attack the basket as they trailed 85-80 with just 33 ticks remaining. Instead, both Turtle Jackson and Nicolas Claxton tossed up clunkers from the beyond the arc, and the Gamecocks corralled the 4th miss to earn another trip to the free throw line. Game over. Carolina wins 86-80.

A special shout out goes to the Georgia bench for performing admirably this afternoon. The Dawgs reserves outscored the Carolina bench 36-22, and they played a key role in helping UGA close an early double-digit deficit. Derek Ogbeide led all Georgia scorers with 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds, and today’s game marked his third straight SEC contest in which he has finished in double-figures in scoring.

Jordan Harris, who missed the last two games with concussion symptoms, gave Crean his best minutes of the season as he notched 11 points off the bench. Harris played with a lot of intensity, and his athleticism is hard to miss – he’s always around the ball as he secured 6 boards and forced 4 steals.

Looking ahead, it’s hard not to speculate on just how many conference games this team can win. The Dawgs have multiple ranked opponents still scheduled to travel to Athens, and all of those contests will be challenging for this team. At this point, it’s hard to envision this bunch winning an SEC road game (although I would LOVE to be proven wrong).

Georgia’s worst conference performances in the past 20 years were Dennis Felton’s final season, in which that team won 3 SEC games, and his second year in Athens when the Dawgs managed just 2 league victories during the regular season. My best estimation, and again, I pray that I am incorrect, is that this team will not eclipse 3 conference wins this year.

Box score:

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

DWmbvB5XkAAW1e6

sc-ugauga-sc

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.