They double-teamed him. They threw junk traps at him when he crossed half court. At times, Alabama even had a defender completely face guarding him without any help responsibility. Tide coach Avery Johnson threw the kitchen sink at Georgia’s J.J. Frazier, and in the end, none of it worked. Frazier scored 11 of Georgia’s final 12 points and helped guide his team to a 60-55 road win over an Alabama team that is trying to position itself for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
J.J. seems to be saving his best basketball for the finish of his UGA career as he followed up last Saturday’s 36-point effort in the loss to Kentucky with a 28-point game tonight in Tuscaloosa. Frazier once again put the Dawgs on his back and dropped 17 points in the second half, but one play in particular truly typified the toughness and fight that he brings to this team, night in, night out. With over 4 minutes left in the game, Alabama took a Derek Ogbeide miss and quickly pushed it up the floor with a chance to take its first lead of the night, only to have Frazier chase down point guard Dazon Ingram and strip the ball away. J.J. then jetted past the lone Tide defender and soared for the basket, which pushed the UGA advantage up to 54-51. Just when Alabama appeared poised to take control of the game’s momentum, Frazier masterfully stole it right back.
While J.J. was certainly fantastic in this contest, Georgia definitely missed Maten inside. After opening up a 30-18 halftime lead in which the Crimson Tide shot an abysmal 22% from the floor, Georgia’s failure to handle its business on the defensive glass allowed the Crimson Tide to creep back into the game. Alabama ended up with 17 offensive rebounds, which is 3 more than their SEC average, and they scored 17 of their 55 points off of second chance points. In contrast, the Dawgs managed to grab only 3 offensive boards, and they were out-rebounded by a count of 42-30.
Even though Bama has been one of the more inept offensive teams in conference play, credit the Bulldogs for holding them to 16 points under their SEC game average. The Tide had two stretches in the first half – one of 7 minutes and one of 5 – in which they were unable to convert a field goal.
For UGA, Frazier was the only player to finish in double-figures, while the Tide had three guys end up in double-digits, with Ar’Mond Davis leading the way with 17 points.
Ultimately, Coach Mark Fox’s team has to be breathing a huge sigh of relief as they avoided losing their 5th conference game this year in which the Dawgs held a lead in the final 4 minutes of the game. In addition, Georgia proved that while it will certainly be more difficult, they are capable of winning without Yante Maten.
The Dawgs have a super short turnaround before returning home to play the LSU Tigers in Athens on Saturday evening.
After beating Vandy at home a week ago, it seemed like Georgia (12-8) had a few more games before embarking on what would be their most difficult stretch of conference play: @ Kentucky, @ South Carolina, Florida and @ Tennessee. Losing on the road to Texas A&M, a team projected to finish 3rd in the conference, in the bizarre fashion that UGA did is one thing. To get blown out at home, though, by an Alabama (12-7) team that was picked to end up 11th in the SEC is another. The Tide trounced Georgia 80-60 last night in Stegeman, and now the Bulldogs will carry a two-game conference losing streak into Lexington next Tuesday. Below are my thoughts on what went wrong last night:
Georgia is a team that prides itself on its defense, which is why the Dawgs entered last evening’s contest ranked 24th in the country in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to under 40% a night. That team didn’t show up on Tuesday, though. The rotations in UGA’s matchup zone last night were incredibly sluggish. Weak side defenders failed to shift quickly enough when the ball moved to the wing and the corners, leaving gaping holes in middle of the zone. Alabama took advantage, easily getting the ball into the paint, where the Tide scored 26 of their points. Bama came into this game with second-worst offense in league games, netting under 68 points a night; yet by halftime, the Tide had already scored 41 points, which was their highest output in a first half in conference play this year. Freshman Braxton Key, who is the only Bama player scoring in double-figures at 10.7 a night, completely had his way with the Dawgs and finished with a game-high 26 points. Riley Norris nearly doubled his season average as he scored 15 points on Tuesday, and he looked like Steph Curry doing it: hitting open three’s and dicing into the lane off the dribble.
The Dawgs effort around the perimeter wasn’t any better. The Tide hit 4 three-pointers before the break because Georgia’s zone was slow to react; the 5 three-pointers that Bama knocked down after the intermission happened because UGA looked as if it just wasn’t interested in running out. This was an Alabama team that was making less than 32% of its attempts from beyond the arc prior to Tuesday in SEC games, but the Tide sure looked comfortable from the perimeter last night as they buried 9 of 16 shots.
Devastating stretch to close out the first half
The Dawgs had a moment in the first half where they appeared ready to wake up and take control of this game. With UGA trailing 28-19 with 4:07 remaining in half, Juwan Parker hit a three-pointer and Yante Maten simultaneously got fouled underneath vying for position for the rebound. Since Georgia was in the bonus, Maten stepped to the line and hit a pair of free throws which cut the Tide advantage to 28-24 following the five-point trip.
Then the wheels came off. Bama responded immediately and went on a 10-0 run that sent their lead back up to 38-24 with just 1:27 left. About 30 seconds earlier, UGA lost its coach for the remaining 22 minutes as Mark Fox was quickly ejected for arguing a carrying call against Jordan Harris. Any hopes that Fox’s tirade might ignite his sleepy team were quickly dashed when Corban Collins hit a three-pointer with just one second on the clock, and the Tide took a 41-27 lead into the break.
Disappearing act by J.J. Frazier
J.J. has played pretty well for UGA this year, but by and large, he hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations after what he did a year ago. At times last night, I forgot that he was even on the court. Frazier, who came into yesterday’s contest netting a little over 18 points per SEC game, took just 3 shots in the first half. J.J. ended up with only 4 points, shooting an abysmal 2 for 9 from the floor and missing all 5 of this three-point attempts. Not only was his shot off, but Frazier missed on his lay ups, too. J.J. drew all glass on one of his fast break drives, which is a shot that he routinely finishes with contact.
Yante Maten led all UGA scorers with 20 points, which was impressive considering he faced double teams every time he touched the ball in the paint. But last night proved that Maten cannot do it alone, and when Frazier is held under double-digits the Dawgs are going to hard-pressed to beat anybody other than Morehouse.
I think most UGA basketball fans would agree that Mark Fox’s first season has been a pleasant surprise. This year we have seen Trey Thompkins develop into one of the best post players in the SEC. Travis Leslie’s improvement and play has been exceptional, and he has shown up on ESPN’s “Top Plays” nearly as often as Kentucky’s John Wall.
This team has won a slew of games that on paper it probably shouldn’t have – Georgia Tech, Illinois, Tennessee and Vanderbilt – and has lost some very close games to some very good teams – Kentucky, Ole Miss, Miss St, Tennessee.
Overall, we want to think that this year’s team has improved from the dismal 2008-2009 campaign in which the Dawgs finished 3-13 in the SEC and had their coach fired before season’s end.
But sometimes the proof is in the pudding, and it sure would be nice to justify this improvement with a win over Alabama (4-7 SEC; 14-11 overall) on Saturday. A victory against the Crimson Tide would give Georgia (3-8 SEC; 11-13 overall) its 4th SEC win (one more than last year), a wonderful piece of supporting evidence that this program is in fact moving in the right direction.
Alabama is led by first year coach Anthony Grant, who like Mark Fox, is transitioning from a mid-major schedule to the rigors of the SEC. Grant was extremely successful at his last job with Virginia Commonwealth, leading the Rams to the NCAA tournament 2 out of the last 3 years.
And also like Fox, Grant’s Crimson Tide squad has beaten several big name teams this year – Baylor, Michigan, Mississippi State and Arkansas. The Tide have suffered three one-point losses this season in SEC games, making them a mere 3 points away from possibly being 7-5 in the conference.
The strength of this Alabama team is its intense, pressure defense. The Tide are first in the SEC in scoring defense, surrendering only 61.4 points a game (they rank 55th nationally in this statistical category). They are holding SEC opponents to only 40.8% shooting from the field, and 26.8% from beyond the arc. The Tide have held opposing squads under 60 points seven times this season.
On the offensive side of things, the picture is not as pretty for Alabama. The Tide rank 11th in the conference in scoring offense at 61.1 per game, and have struggled in the half court set due to inconsistent outside shooting.
Alabama returns four starters from last year’s team that beat the Dawgs in Tuscaloosa 75-70.
Senior point guard Mikhail Torrance and sophomore forward JaMychal Green are leading the Tide in scoring in conference games at 14.8 each. At 6’5″, Torrance is a tough match-up for most point guards in the league. He likes to push the ball up the court and get his team into transition quickly (remember that they don’t score as efficiently in the half court). He is also a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 35% of his three-point attempts. Torrance compliments his scoring with a team-leading 5.4 assists per game.
JaMychal Green is the scoring , rebounding (7.1 in SEC play) and shot-blocking leader (1.88 per game) in the Tide’s rather large frontcourt. He is a very skilled athlete at 6’9″/220 lbs, and rumor has it he turned down Kentucky to come to Tuscaloosa. Green is has posted 5 double-doubles already this season.
Junior Chris Hines starts at the other forward position, however, fellow junior Justin Knox rotates into the game quickly as these two guys share a lot of minutes. Hines is 6’8″ and 220 lbs, while Knox stands at 6’9″ and tips the scales at 240 lbs. Neither of these players scores many points (Hines – 3.3; Knox 5.7), but both provide some serious beef inside defensively.
The other two starters for the Tide are both natives of the state of Georgia, freshman forward Tony Mitchell (6’6″) and junior guard Senario Hillman. Mitchell has had a very solid freshman campaign, averaging 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and making 34% of his three’s in SEC Play. Hillman is another one of the Tide’s three-point threats, connecting on 34% of his three’s and averaging 7.8 points in conference games (he also scored 19 on Georgia in last year’s game).
Coach Grant’s team does not have a lot of depth, as they only play roughly eight guys night in, night out. Junior guard Charvez Davis and senior point guard Anthony Brock are the only other reserves (other than Knox) that typically see the floor. Both of these guards are hitting nearly 37% of their three-point attempts in SEC play, so you have to be aware of where they are on the court.
A Couple of Keys
A phrase that is used and manipulated by corporations everywhere nowadays in an attempt to attract consumers. In regards to the basketball game being played on Saturday, I am referring to Alabama’s JaMychal Green. Green has struggled with foul trouble all season. He has fouled out of three games, and he has committed four fouls in eight other contests. He is such a big part of Bama’s offense and defense that it would be very beneficial to the Dawgs if they could get him on the bench (or better yet, out of the game).
Jeremy Price needs to do a better job of making strong post moves, and getting Green up in the air. In the Tennessee game, Price’s offensive attempts against Wayne Chism were too slow and deliberate. He was unable to get Chism to commit fouls, and rather, Wayne usually just blocked Price’s shots.
Hopefully Thompkins and Price can attack the Alabama defense and get Green to pick up some early fouls.
Potentially Dangerous Situation
As we know by now, Georgia’s guard play has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for this team all season. The match-up that Ware, McPhee, Leslie, EA and Vince Williams have against the Crimson Tide on Saturday does not look favorable for the Dawgs. Alabama’s pressure-style of man defense coupled with their long bodies (Torrance at 6’5″ and Mitchell at 6’6″) could make it very difficult on Georgia’s undersized guards. UGA is last in the SEC in turnovers at 16.5 a game!
How will the cookie crumble on Saturday?
Something’s Gotta Give
As mentioned earlier, Bama is locking down SEC opponents on defense, holding teams to 40.8% from the field and 26.3% from three-point range.
Georgia is currently second in the conference in both field goal and three-point percentage, at 47% and 38.2% respectively. The Dawgs are shooting slightly better at home in SEC games, hitting 47.8% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc.
The game tips off at 4:00PM EST.
If you aren’t heading to Athens, the game can be seen on Comcast’s Peachtree TV (channel 7; HD channel 802).