Temple hands Georgia its first loss of the season

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Derek Ogbeide’s turnaround hook with 7 seconds left was just a tad long, which allowed Temple to secure the rebound and eventually bury a pair of free throws to seal the 81-77 home win, their third of the season. The fact that the Dawgs (1-1) even had the ball with a chance to win at the end of this game was nothing short of miraculous considering that they trailed the Owls for the majority of the contest.  I mean, UGA fell behind Temple 77-70 with 2:25 left after Quinton Rose hit what appeared to be a dagger as the shot clock nearly expired.  Georgia’s effort in this one should give fans optimism of what this season could hold if the Dawgs can show improvement on both sides of the ball.

To be fair to Tyree Crump, though, a big reason why Georgia even found itself in a position to win was because of the junior’s offensive explosion that came on toward the end of the second half. Crump scored 10 of his 16 points over the final 5 minutes of the game. He’s definitely looking more comfortable in Crean’s offense compared to how he’s appeared in his previous two seasons with the Dawgs.  Crump hit a pair of threes, but he also scored multiple buckets around the rim off drives, which is a part of his repertoire that we’ve yet to really see from him.

While Ogbeide came up short (technically long) at the end for Georgia, his play throughout this game enabled the Dawgs to keep within striking distance of the Owls.  The Georgia senior tallied his first double-double of the season, netting 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds.  Ogbeide’s upper-body strength caused problems for the Owls inside as the senior repeatedly drew contact and finished around the basket.  

The same problems that plagued the Dawgs in the opener against Savannah State reared their ugly head again tonight in Philadelphia.  For starters, Georgia gave the ball away 20 times, and those turnovers led to 22 Temple points.  That makes UGA 2 for 2 on the year in coughing the ball up 20 times in a contest. Georgia’s ball security didn’t hurt them as bad against overmatched Savannah State, but it crippled the Dawgs this evening.  When a team loses by just 4 points on the road, it’s really hard not to look at those turnovers and wonder what might have been if that total had been just 5 less.  I realize that turnovers are going to happen with this team, especially considering the tempo that Tom Crean wants for his offense.  But the pace of this game didn’t cause the turnovers this evening; most of them can be attributed to just plain sloppiness. 

Also, much like in the Savannah State game, Georgia did not play strong enough defense on the perimeter.  Temple’s Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston each went for 25 points, and guard Nate Pierre-Louis added 16 himself.  The Owls’ stars moved the ball into the teeth of the UGA defense with ease, which led to both Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds playing in foul trouble for much of the game (Hammonds fouled out in the final seconds of play).  Georgia’s backcourt has to do a better job of staying in front of opponents so as to protect the bigs inside defensively.  Hammonds, who buried a clutch three-pointer to cut the lead to 79-77 with 27 seconds remaining, scored 13 points in just 17 minutes of play.  If the Dawgs are going to win on the road, they need Hammonds on the court.

The biggest surprise of the night statistically had to be that Georgia outscored Temple in the paint 42-30, and that the Dawgs took just 10 shots from beyond the arc.  At the half, Georgia had attempted only 3 three-pointers. This shot selection varied tremendously from the opener in which UGA put up 27 attempts from the perimeter.  

Tom Crean’s team got its first taste of real competition tonight, and they weren’t quite ready.  However, considering that this was just the second game for a team that is playing in a new system for a new coach, the end result wasn’t all negative (not to mention that Georgia had to fly up for the game TODAY due to technical difficulties with the plane). The real test for UGA will be how much they improve as the season progresses, which was something that Mark Fox teams struggled to do in the latter part of his tenure as the Dawgs’ head coach.

On a personal note, I’m going to be traveling and running a 30-kilometer race in Moab, Utah over the first half of Thanksgiving, so I’ll be following the games via my phone for the next few contests leading up to the holiday tournament in Grand Cayman.

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Georgia thrashes Temple 84-66 in Athens

The Georgia Bulldogs (9-2) have just two losses on the season: one to a San Diego State team with an RPI in the low 50s that just knocked off #12 Gonzaga, and the other to a mediocre UMass team.  At the time, the game against the Minutemen seemed to have exposed a host of weaknesses harbored by Georgia on both the offensive and defensive ends.  Now, however, that loss seems more like an anomaly.

Today, the Dawgs played probably their most complete game of the season in UGA’s utter domination of a Temple Owl squad that rolled into Athens sporting a lofty RPI of 11.  This game was Temple’s first regular season game ever inside the state of Georgia, and I’m pretty sure the Owls aren’t eager to come back anytime soon after what transpired inside Stegeman on Friday. Georgia’s defense, which has become the strength of this team, set the tone early with an aggressive man-to-man approach.  The Owls had no answer for the UGA pressure as Temple seemed content to stand around and play isolation basketball for much of the first half.  The Owls’ strategy might have been more effective if they had a few NBA prospects on their roster, but unfortunately for Temple coach Fran Dunphy they do not, and all that happened was his team was forced into a lot of hurried looks.

After jumping out to a 7-2 lead with just under 16 minutes left before the intermission, Temple scored only 2 points in over the next 8 minutes and found themselves down 19-9 with 7:23 remaining.  The Owls shot less than 31% from the floor prior to the break, and they quickly became the victims of a blowout as they entered the half trailing Georgia 43-24.

Temple shot the ball better in the second half, but the Dawgs still limited them to under 40% from the field on the afternoon.  Georgia is now 44th in the nation in team field goal percentage defense, where they are holding opponents to just 39.7% from the floor.  Temple’s Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston, Jr. entered this contest averaging a combined 33 ppg; today they scored only 15 on a combined shooting effort of 6 for 26.  The only Owl that provided Georgia with any trouble was Obi Enechionya, who scored 27 points (21 of them coming from beyond the arc).

Just like in the Tech game, Georgia’s frontcourt dominated the glass, out-rebounding Temple by a tally of 32-18.  UGA is now 38th in the country in rebounding margin as they are snagging over 7 more boards a night than their opposition.

As good as the defense was on Friday, the Georgia offense was not to be outdone.  Coach Fox’s team deliberately pounded the ball inside from the start, and Georgia got 34 of its 80 points in the paint.  Yante Maten was unstoppable as he posted another double-double in which he scored 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds.  Maten also did a phenomenal job of handling the Temple double-teams as he patiently found his teammates when the Owl defenders approached him.  Georgia reversed the ball around the perimeter consistently this afternoon, which resulted in the Dawgs getting several easy dunks on beautiful entry passes from the top of the key.   Georgia shot over 47% on its field goal attempts, and UGA had 14 team assists; they now have 31 in the past two games.

Young Nicolas Claxton played his best game yet in Athens as he just missed a double-double on a 14 point, 9 rebound effort; Claxton had several dunks that were unfairly cruel to the Stegeman rims.  Hopefully Claxton has finally shown Fox that he is ready to take over the majority of Mike Edwards’s minutes.

After building up the large halftime advantage, Georgia coasted unimpeded for most of the afternoon.  Midway through the second half, Temple threatened to close the gap when they cut the UGA advantage to 54-40 with 10:53 left on a tip-in by De’Vondre Perry.  Maten missed a jumper on the next possession, but Rayshaun Hammonds kept it alive on the glass and eventually Claxton came down with the offensive board and was fouled.  After making the first free throw, he missed the second, but Maten snared the offensive board and wound up at the line himself where he promptly buried both free throws.

On the ensuing UGA possession, Turtle Jackson sunk a three-pointer from the wing, and then he canned another jumper from the baseline the next trip down that bolstered the Georgia advantage back up to 62-43 with 9:19 remaining.  This response by Georgia had to be demoralizing for Temple, and it felt like the game was over at this point.

SEC play begins on New Year’s Eve in Lexington as the Dawgs have the daunting task of taking on perennial league powerhouse, Kentucky.  However, Georgia should be riding a nice wave of momentum into that contest after back-to-back impressive performances against Georgia Tech and Temple.  This is also the earliest in the season that the Dawgs have played Kentucky in a while, and that’s definitely a positive for Georgia.  Coach John Calipari’s teams at Kentucky typically don’t play their best basketball until around the time the SEC Tournament approaches as it takes the young squads time to learn how to play with one another.

If UGA ever had a chance to steal a win inside Rupp Arena, this is it.  Wouldn’t that be a nice way to end 2017?