UGA beats Tennessee and lives to play another day

Even with Yante Maten back, Georgia still relied heavily on J.J. Frazier down the stretch today in Nashville. With the game tied at 47-47 and a little over 6 minutes remaining, Frazier asserted himself on a day in which UGA’s offense was rather stagnant and scored 8 of his team’s final 12 points. J.J. notched 6 of those 8 points at the free throw line as he attacked the teeth of the Tennessee defense in the latter part of this one.

But all of Frazier’s efforts could have been for not if he and his teammates hadn’t held strong on the Vols’ final possession. Trailing 59-57, Tennessee had a chance to tie or take the lead, but the Dawgs forced the Vols offense outside the three-point line, and Admiral Schofield’s attempt from beyond the arc fell short. Tennessee’s decision to not go back inside to freshman Grant Williams, who had been heating up over the final minutes of this contest, will certainly be a decision that coach Rick Barnes will revisit when he watches tape. Either way, UGA held on for the 59-57 win and earned another rematch with Kentucky on Friday.

The biggest story of this game had to be the return of Yante Maten, who finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Maten looked rusty for sure as he committed 5 turnovers and a step slow at times defensively. But overall, he and the other Georgia bigs did an amazing job of containing Williams, who lit the Dawgs up for 30 points earlier this season in Knoxville; today, Williams only scored 6.

The Dawgs were led offensively by Frazier, who netted 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds, giving him an uncharacteristic double-double.

This game as whole was rather sloppy for Georgia, and they were fortunate to get the win. The Dawgs looked incredibly clunky on offense as they turned the ball over 15 times and attempted only 46 field goals (of which they made 43.5%). Much of Georgia’s struggles on offense can most likely be attributed to a combination of first game jitters along with the task of working Maten back into the rotation. As good as Yante is and as happy as everyone in the Bulldog nation is to have him back, this team did learn to play without him, and this game showed that they had to adjust to having the big man back in the lineup.

The Dawgs played much stronger defensively than they did last Saturday against Arkansas. Georgia’s matchup zone yielded 7 three-pointers to the Vols, but the Dawgs rotated much better on Tennessee’s movement and limited the number of easy looks for the Vols’ bigs. After giving up 48 points in the paint to Arkansas on Saturday, UGA held Tennessee to just 12 points in the lane. Furthermore, the Georgia defense limited Tennessee to under 32% from the floor.

Georgia plays at the same time tomorrow against Kentucky with an NCAA at-large bid on the line.

 

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Dawgs upset Tennessee in Knoxville

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.

 

Dawgs beat Vols 78-68, completing season sweep of UT

Georgia freshman Kenny Gaines only played 8 minutes on Saturday, but he made the most of his time on the floor late in the game against the Vols. With Tennessee trailing UGA 50-45 and under 6 minutes remaining in the game, Charles Mann found Gaines in the corner where the frosh cooly buried a three-pointer, putting UGA back up by 8 points.

Gaines hit another monster three from the baseline minutes later, helping to extend the Dawgs’ lead to 62-50 with less than 3 minutes remaining.

Kenny put the stamp on the UGA victory by finishing a three-point play the old fashioned way off of another assist from Mann, giving Georgia a 67-58 advantage with only 1:25 left.

Prior to tip-off in this one, Fox had listed Gaines as a “game time” decision – thankfully, Gaines’s heel bruise seemed good enough to play on and Kenny was able to play a major role in Dawgs’ win.

A major concern for Georgia heading into today’s game with Tennessee centered on dealing with the Vols’ star point guard, Trae Golden, who had been scoring 19 points per game during the team’s recent six-game winning streak.

Charles Mann – UGA’s freshman point guard – stepped up and played his best game of the season while taking Golden completely out of his game. On offense, Mann took the ball right at Golden en route to the rim at nearly every opportunity, getting to the line for 14 free throw attempts (of which he made 12). Mann’s aggressiveness led to a career high 18 points to go along with 8 assists, and he had Golden in foul trouble for the entire game.

Defensively, the 6’4″ freshman was too tough for UT’s point guard, limiting the smaller Golden to merely 4 points on an abysmal 1 for 10 shooting performance.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had his hands full on defense for much of the afternoon as he was matched up on Jordan McRae, who finished up with 35 points before fouling out.

However, KCP gave Georgia another excellent effort inside Stegeman today, scoring 25 points and grabbing 9 boards – just one short of his fifth double-double of the year.

UGA did an excellent job inside dealing with the UT bigs, who came into this contest with some of the better rebounding numbers in the SEC. Georgia outrebounded Tennessee by a count of 38-34, and the Dawgs scored 30 points in the paint to the Vols’ 14.

The win today puts Georgia at 8-8 in the conference and 14-15 overall, giving UGA a realistic shot of getting into this season’s NIT Tournament, should they manage to win another game or two.

This loss may have devastating consequences for Tennessee as the Vols have now dropped two games to the Dawgs (RPI 141), and I imagine they will find themselves on the outside of the NCAA Bubble tomorrow morning.

For Georgia, showing the ability to bounce back from such a difficult loss at Vandy on Wednesday to grab a victory against a very hot team displays a lot of maturity.

The atmosphere inside the Steg this afternoon was energetic as the home crowd of nearly 10,000 fans enthusiastically voiced their support of this young Bulldog team.

I anticipate an even bigger crowd on Thursday night when Georgia hosts the John Calipari-led Kentucky Wildcats.

Georgia looking to bounce back at home against red-hot Vols

Since enjoying a five-game winning streak that saw their conference record boost to 6-4, Georgia has been slumping as of late, losing four of the past five contests. Three of those losses – Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vandy – came on the road, and all ended in heartbreaking fashion for Coach Mark Fox and his team. In each of those three games, Georgia had an opportunity to win at the end, but they failed to do so.

In the middle of February, the Dawgs seemed poised to avoid the opening round of Wednesday games in this year’s SEC Basketball Tournament. However, the loss to Vandy coupled with the difficulty of UGA’s remaining schedule has left the door open for the possibility of Georgia ending up with one of the dreaded bottom four seeds. The Dawgs wrap up SEC play with games against Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, all of whom are currently sitting on or around the NCAA bubble, meaning they can ill-afford a loss to a team like Georgia (RPI of 141). Each one of these opponents will be trying to avoid a letdown against UGA, and the Dawgs should receive an intense effort from all of these squads.

On Saturday, UGA will host the hottest team in the conference – Tennessee – for a rematch inside Stegeman. Since losing to Georgia back on February 6th in Knoxville, the Vols have reeled off six-straight wins, including upsets of Kentucky, and most recently, Florida.

When Georgia and Tennessee first met last month, the Vols were without starting point guard Trae Golden, who was dealing with a hamstring injury. In the 68-62 home loss to the Dawgs, Tennessee struggled offensively without their primary ball handler, turning it over 13 times.

Since returning to Coach Martin’s lineup, Golden – a junior from Powder Springs, GA – has been sensational, scoring nearly 19 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds and 1 SEC Player of the Week award.

Tennessee’s other two stars – Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes – have been playing out of their minds lately as well. Over the past 6 games, McRae has been averaging 20 points a night, and he ranks third in the league in conference scoring at 18.3 per contest.

On the inside, Stokes has owned the glass, leading all SEC players at 10.5 boards per league game. Stokes has registered 12 double-doubles already this season, and he is a major reason why the Vols have outrebounded opponents in 11 of the past 12 games.

In a cruel twist of fate, Georgia may be without freshman Kenny Gaines once again on Saturday as he is still dealing with a deep heel bruise – he will be a game time decision, per Coach Mark Fox. Gaines was instrumental in UGA’s win at Tennessee last month, sparking his team with 12 points off the bench.

If Gaines cannot go for Fox, Georgia will need Charles Mann, Brandon Morris and Neme Djurisic to step up and provide offensive support to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who will most likely be blanketed by Vols’ defenders all afternoon.

Georgia bests Vols 57-53 in OT thriller, picking up first SEC win of 2012

In a span of what couldn’t have been more than 9 seconds, Georgia‘s (10-8; 1-3) Nemanja Djurisic blocked a shot and took the ball coast-to-coast, finishing with a running lay-up off the glass that put his Bulldogs up 52-50 with only 2:17 left in the overtime portion of the game.  If I hadn’t seen this progression of plays with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed that they had actually transpired.

Regardless though, the Tennessee Volunteers (8-10; 1-3) wouldn’t go away, and senior Skylar McBee buried a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to reclaim the lead at 53-52 with just 2:03 remaining.

The Dawgs came out of a timeout and ran a designed backdoor cut that saw Gerald Robinson, Jr. receive a pass and then immediately dish it to a slashing Donte Williams who finished the play with a basket while being fouled.  With Georgia now leading 54-53, Williams stepped up to the free throw line for a chance to finish the three-point play.

Donte missed the free throw attempt, but Kentavious-Caldwell Pope sneaked into the lane and snagged the offensive rebound.  Despite the fact that Georgia failed to capitalize on KCP’s board, Nemi was able to tie up the Tennessee defender on the rebound, giving the Dawgs the ball (because of the possession arrow) once again.

This play was absolutely huge for Georgia, who was leading by a point, since it gave them a new shot clock with only 41 seconds left in the game.  Tennessee Coach Martin forced his team to foul GR2, who calmly made both free throws, giving his team a 56-53 lead with only 27 seconds left.

After a Trae Golden miss on the other end the game was Georgia’s and the Dawgs ended up winning by a final score of 57-53.

The effort plays at the end of overtime by KCP and Nemi were indicative of the workman-like effort that Georgia gave Coach Mark Fox for 45 minutes on Wednesday night.

Sophomore Donte Williams definitely brought his lunch pail with him to Stegeman, bringing down a team-high 8 rebounds to go along with 11 points.  Williams looked comfortable playing with his back to the basket again tonight, and he’s now scored in double-figures in two straight games.

The Dawgs came into the game with some of the worst team defense statistics in the conference, yet they were able to hold the Vols to their second-lowest offensive output of the season.  UGA limited Tennessee to under 40% from the floor and just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc, while forcing the Vols into 20 turnovers.

Tennessee was led offensively by Trae Golden, who finished the game with a hard-earned 16 points.

Robinson carried the Bulldogs offensively with 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.  This game certainly wasn’t one of Gerald’s better shooting performances as he finished only 6 of 19 from the floor.  However, when the game was on the line Georgia was able to count on their senior leader, who scored the game-tying lay-up with 18 seconds left in regulation as well as the two aforementioned free throws at the end of OT that helped the Dawgs pull away with the victory.

The two halves and overtime of basketball played in Athens tonight could in no way be classified as “pretty”, with both teams combining for just 4 three-pointers on 34 attempts.  I’m sure the Stegeman rims are sore after playing host to a game in which neither team broke the 40% field goal barrier.

Sometimes teams just find a way to win by grinding it out though, and that is exactly what the Georgia Bulldogs did tonight at home in Athens.

The Dawgs picked up their first win of 2012 and they no longer have a goose egg in the SEC win column.

Coach Fox and his team should enjoy this victory because they sure earned it.

This Saturday the Bulldogs get Ole Miss at home with an opportunity to get to 2-3 in conference play.

Big week for UGA basketball starts with Tennessee on Wednesday

Coach Mark Fox’s team has gotten out to an 0-3 start in conference play, but this week presents the Bulldogs (9-8; 0-3) with a great opportunity to dictate the direction of the season.  Georgia’s first three SEC opponents have all been conference contenders, with a combined SEC record of 7-2.

The Dawgs get Tennessee and Ole Miss at home over the next four days (who are a combined 2-4 in SEC play), and both games are potentially winnable for UGA (the second being more winnable than the first).

Should Georgia buckle down in Athens and take both of these contests they could be sitting at 2-3 by week’s end, giving themselves and UGA fans reason to look ahead to the remainder of the season.

A split would be less satisfying and might leave the Dawg Nation with some reasonable concerns heading into next season.

If Georgia can’t defend the Steg and they drop both games then, well, it’s going to be a LONG, LONG season.

Wednesday night’s opportunity pits Georgia against the Tennessee Volunteers (8-9; 1-2), who may be one of the tougher sub-.500 teams in the nation.  The Vols’ arduous schedule has already seen them play games against Duke, Memphis (twice), Pittsburgh, Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky (with the Gators being the only team out of that bunch that UT beat).  Tennessee did lose to all of the previously mentioned teams not named Florida, but four of the six losses were by just 5 points or less.

Unlike Vols’ teams of late, this bunch actually shoots the basketball pretty well, knocking down 46% of their field goal attempts and 38% of their three’s.

Sophomore point guard Trae Golden has been rock-solid for the Volunteers so far this year, leading his team in both scoring and assists with 14.2 and 5.4, respectively.

The other Tennessee player averaging in double-figures is junior behemoth Jeronne Maymon, who is netting 11.5 points to go along with a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game.  Maymon appears to be carved out of stone at 6’7″ and 265 pounds, so the Georgia bigs best be ready to bang on Wednesday evening.

If the Dawgs hope to right the ship this week in Athens then they are going to have to tighten up their team defense.  Through the early portion of conference games, Georgia is second to last in points allowed (73.7) and field goal percentage defense (52.2%).  These are not acceptable defensive results for a team struggling on the offensive end of the court, where the Bulldogs are tallying only 57.7 points per contest in SEC play (also second to last).

Another area on the floor where Georgia has really been getting man-handled is on the boards.  The Dawgs at the moment sport a -7.3 rebounding margin in conference games, which is better than just one other team – Arkansas.

Georgia desperately needs the Dustin Ware of late December 2011 to return to being an active member of this team’s offense.  In the final three holiday games before the new year, Dustin was netting 15.3 points and canning almost 57% of his shots from beyond the arc.  Since the SEC season began Ware has been a virtual ghost, averaging under 6 points and hitting only 27% of his three-point attempts.  His fellow guards – Kentavious-Caldwell Pope and Gerald Robinson, Jr. – could sure use some scoring support in the backcourt.

The tip is at 8:00PM and Georgia should be prepared for a physical game with the Volunteers inside Stegeman.

Will the Dawgs notch their first conference win of the season on Wednesday?

Dawgs Basketball Tickets Available Online

The 2010-2011 University of Georgia basketball tickets are now available for purchase online at Georgiadogs.com.

If you go to this link for tickets and enter the Promo Code “BULLDOGS” you will be taken to a page where you can buy tickets online for the upcoming Dawgs basketball season.

This year they have added a wonderful “Flex Package” which allows you to select any five home games (while quantities last) for the economical price of $60.00.  My recommended “Flex Package” would be: Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Xavier and Vanderbilt.

But that’s just me.

The beautiful thing about the “Flex Package” is that you can pick any five home games you want, even if those five include Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas State, High Point, Charleston Southern and Eastern Kentucky.  This may not be the most popular “Flex Package” (and may leave the folks at the ticket office scratching their heads) but for a mere $60.00 you can make it a reality!