Georgia completes sweep of Auburn

12486347Just when it seemed like J.J. Frazier could officially do no wrong, he did.  With 12 seconds left and Georgia leading 79-78, Frazier tried to force a pass through the teeth of the Auburn defense and it was stolen.  All of a sudden, Frazier’s Senior Night fairy tale ending seemed in jeopardy.  The Tigers inbounded the ball to Jared Harper with only 7 seconds left, and he promptly tossed up a three-pointer which missed and allowed UGA to hold on for its third straight win.

Other than Frazier’s mental lapse in the final moments of this contest, the Dawgs did an excellent job of taking control of this game when it counted down the stretch.  The two teams went into the final media timeout knotted up at 73-apiece.  UGA tightened up its defense when it counted, though, and they held Auburn to just 1 of its final 6 field goal attempts.

Even though J.J.’s turnover could have been incredibly costly, the Dawgs would have never even been in a position to win without him.  Frazier, who came into this game averaging 31 a night over the past three contests, fittingly scored 31 tonight against Bruce Pearl’s team. He knocked down 5 of his 9 shots from beyond the arc, and J.J. also scored on an array of tricky drives that I will sorely miss seeing inside Stegeman next season.  South Carolina’s Sindarious Thornwell may have been the leading SEC Player of the Year candidate a week ago, but I have to imagine that Frazier is giving him a serious run for his money at this point because what J.J. has done without the help of Yante Maten has been nothing short of miraculous.

The Dawgs started out super slow in this one as they allowed the Tigers to hit 4 three-pointers en route to a 20-9 lead a little over 10 minutes into the game.  UGA also struggled to contain Auburn on the offensive glass as they let the Tigers haul in 7 of their own misses.  In addition, Georgia turned the ball over 9 times before the break, so all things considered, the Dawgs should have felt fortunate to go into the intermission trailing 37-30.

UGA had trouble defending the perimeter for most of the night as Auburn knocked down 12 of its 27 three-point attempts.  But this is a Tiger team that can get hot from beyond the arc, where Auburn is making 9 three’s a game in SEC play.  Mark Fox mixed up zones and man in an attempt to close out on the Auburn shooters, but the Tigers were still successful from the outside.  Tonight’s game marks the 6th SEC contest in which they have made 10 three-pointers or more, and the 10th time overall this season.

While Auburn got after the glass early, Georgia won the overall rebounding effort by a count of 39-36, and much of that credit goes to big man Derek Ogbeide.  Ogbeide, who does the dirty work for this team night in and night out, entered this contest 3rd in SEC games in rebounding with 8 boards a night.  This evening, Ogbeide finished with a double-double, snagging 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points as he controlled the paint for the Dawgs.

The only other UGA player to score in double-digits was Tyree Crump, who poured in 10 points in 11 minutes off the bench.  Crump knocked down 2 of his 3 shots from beyond the arc, and he’s now scored 22 points over his last 28 minutes in the past 3 games.

Georgia is now 18-12 overall and 9-8 in the conference, and they now have a legitimate opportunity to punch an at-large NCAA berth ticket this Saturday with a win at Arkansas.

 

 

Advertisements

UGA does enough to hang on against LSU

12475030The narrative for Georgia’s (17-12; 8-8) basketball team has become incredibly predictable these days.  Basically, it goes something like this: with its best interior player watching from the sidelines, one undersized point guard continues to refuse to let this team lose.

Despite at one point holding a 17-point advantage in the first half, UGA found itself with the ball and trailing LSU 80-79 with only 6.9 seconds left.  The Dawgs got the ball to J.J. Frazier, who quickly split a double team before sprinting down the court and drawing a foul with less than 2 seconds left.  Frazier buried the two free throws, which gave UGA an 81-80 edge.  LSU attempted a full court pass, but it landed in Derek Ogbeide’s hands.  Ogbeide began walking with the ball as if the game were over, and fortunately for Georgia, the referees missed an obvious traveling violation and found a foul in the video replay that sent Ogbeide to the line with only 1.3 left.  Georgia would win 82-80, and more importantly, the Dawgs avoided what could have been a shameful home loss to a Tiger team that rolled into Athens with a 1-14 SEC record.

As refreshing as it was to see Frazier pull out another win for this team, the fact that Georgia relinquished its huge lead and almost lost to the worst team in the conference, even without Maten, is concerning.  After shooting 55% from the floor and building up a 44-37 halftime lead, the Dawgs began to unravel midway through the second half.  Georgia bolstered its advantage to 55-42 following an E’Torrian Wilridge three-pointer with 16:54 remaining.  But then UGA got careless with the ball, turning it over 7 times after the break.  The Dawgs also failed to defend the glass and allowed LSU to haul down 7 of its 11 offensive boards in the second half; the Tigers scored 14 second chance points to Georgia’s 6.  UGA came dangerously close to becoming the team that would snap LSU’s 14-game SEC losing streak.

Georgia escaped today, but it was so much closer than it should have been.  I fear that the offense is almost becoming too Frazier-centric down the stretch.  While obviously a team wants the ball in the hands of its best player when it counts, for the final 4 minutes of the LSU game the Dawgs merely stalled for 20 seconds before getting the ball to J.J. so that he could try to create something.  Frazier missed his final 5 field goal attempts, largely because the Tigers were dedicating nearly all their defensive resources to stopping him.  I’m not so sure this offensive strategy will work against a stronger opponent like Auburn, and I’m positive its not going to be enough against Arkansas.

But the thing is, even though Jordan Harris is also apparently injured, Mark Fox has other offensive weapons at his disposal, yet he continues to be reluctant to use them.  For the second straight game, freshman Tyree Crump came off the bench and buried a pair of three-pointers, only to spend the majority of the game on the bench.  Tonight, Crump played 8 minutes and scored 6 points and dished out 2 assists; Turtle Jackson played 32 minutes, scoring 9 points and handing out 2 turnovers.  Fox’s unwillingness to play Crump, even though he continues to provide perimeter offense, will certainly go down as one of the mysteries of this team’s season.

In addition to Frazier’s 29 points and 8 assists, both Ogbeide and Juwan Parker finished in double-digits as they scored 12 apiece.  LSU, who was led by Antonio Blakeny’s 20 points, also had 3 players end up in double-figures, with Brandon Sampson and Skylar Mays netting 15 each.

 

Dawgs bounce back at home with a 71-66 win over Mizzou

 

Hopefully during the postgame handshakes Coach Fox made sure to thank the Missouri assistant that started all the fracas on the court as Georgia (10-5) and Mizzou (5-9) headed into the locker rooms at halftime.  The scuffle fired up a Stegeman crowd that had been lulled to sleep as UGA played an incredibly uninspiring first half. The Dawgs returned to the court reinvigorated following the intermission, and they certainly fed off of the energy coming from a loud and exhuberent Georgia student section.

Georgia, who trailed the Tigers 26-20 at the break, opened up the second half with some full-court pressure and a sense of urgency.  The result: UGA turned Mizzou over 5 times in the first 6 minutes, and had a 39-32 lead after Pape Diatta capped off a 19-6 run with a beautiful left-handed reverse layup.

The Dawgs backed out of the press, though, and Georgia’s defense got lackadaisical.  The Bulldogs allowed Terrance Phillips, who led all Tiger scorers with 20 points, to bury 3 of his 5 three’s after the break.  By the 7:20 mark, Mizzou had taken the lead back from UGA following a free throw by K.J. Walton, making the score 52-51 in favor of the Tigers.

J.J. Frazier, however, took over in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points and snatching a team-high 5 steals.  Two of Frazier’s steals came back to back and proved critical down the stretch as he converted one into a layup and another into a mid-range jumper.  J.J.’s thievery gave his team a 62-54 advantage with 5:23 left in the game, and following a dagger from beyond the arc by Pape Diatta the Dawgs had a commanding 65-54 lead with just a little over 4 minutes remaining.

As exciting as the second half turned out to be for both the UGA team and its fans, the first half showcased the worst twenty minutes that this team has played all year.  Georgia managed just 2 field goals in the game’s first 12 minutes against a Missouri team that entered this game with an RPI of 263 and a loss to Lipscomb under its belt.  The Dawgs shot 33% from the floor and just 17% from beyond the arc as they tried to shoot over the top of Missouri’s 2-3 zone defense.  Much like South Carolina, Mizzou defenders swarmed around Yante Maten whenever he touched the ball inside.  Maten didn’t handle the extra attention well as he committed 4 of his team’s 12 turnovers prior to the intermission (UGA had 20 turnovers on the afternoon).  Georgia’s other leading scorer, J.J. Frazier, had just 2 points on 2 field goal attempts as he played as timid of a half offensively as I can remember.

But enough of the negatives. Even though this Tiger team will probably reside in the SEC cellar this year, this was a game that Georgia had to have and they got it.  Frazier shot it 50% from the floor, making it just the 5th time this year that he has hit that mark in a game.  While he missed both his three-point attempts, J.J. knocked down several mid to long-range jumpers which might help to restore his confidence.

Juwan Parker, who has scored in double-digits in all three of the conference games this year, finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds.  More importantly, though, is that the junior seems to have found his shot as he is hitting over 52% from the field in SEC contests.

Pape Diatta provide a huge spark off the bench for Coach Fox, scoring 12 points to go along with 5 boards.  I’m not sure what exactly Diatta has to do to steal more of Kenny Paul Geno’s minutes, but hopefully today he made a strong enough case to his coach.

Yante Maten just missed another double-double as he netted 17 points and snagged 9 rebounds, though his turnovers were quite unfortunate.

The future does not look bright for the Dawgs next week as they have a pair of road matchups with Ole Miss and Florida.

Georgia uses late run to snatch SEC opener away from Auburn

12336179SEC openers have not been Mark Fox’s specialty during his tenure in Athens as his teams have gone a combined 2-5.  Georgia (9-4) looked overwhelmed at the start of this game, and following a tip-in by Austin Wiley the Auburn Tigers (10-3) held a commanding 33-20 lead over the Dawgs just a little over halfway through the opening twenty minutes.  The sold out Auburn Arena was rocking as this hot Tiger team, coming off a huge road win at Connecticut, seemed poised to deliver a knockout punch to a shell-shocked group of Dawgs.

But UGA hung around.  J.J. Frazier got handsy, ratcheting up a game-high 5 steals.  Jordan Harris looked like a 4-star recruit, scoring 12 points on a combination of three-pointers and drives.  Yante Maten got hit with 2 quick fouls, but managed to only accumulate 1 more over the final 30-something minutes.  Even Juwan Parker, who’s jumper has been anything but consistent this season, buried a key shot from the corner that put the Dawgs up 90-80 with only 2:31 left.

Below are two major reasons why Georgia managed to pull off this 96-84 victory on The Plains:

Switch to zone 

The Dawgs tried to play Auburn in a man defense to begin the game and that strategy was rendered ineffective pretty quickly.  The Tigers pushed the tempo early, and UGA failed to close out well on the perimeter, which led to a barrage of Auburn three-pointers.  The Tigers hit 7 of their first 11 shots from beyond the arc and held a 36-26 advantage with a little over 8 minutes left in the first half after a triple from junior T.J. Lang.

Credit Mark Fox, however, for recognizing and reacting to Auburn’s pace by putting his team into a combination of matchup, 2-3 and 3-2 zones.  The Tigers missed their final 3 shots from the perimeter heading into the intermission, and they made just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc in the second half.  After hitting over 56% from the floor in the first twenty minutes of play, Auburn made only 37% of its field goal attempts following the break. UGA’s zone looks reduced the number of open shots from the outside for Bruce Pearl’s team, and it helped Georgia slow down the tempo of the game, which turned out to work very much in Dawgs’ favor.

Two-man game

In the latter quarter of this game, Georgia abandoned its typical half court offensive sets, which can become slightly rigid at times, and instead put the ball in the hands of its two playmakers. On nearly every possession, the Dawgs offense consisted of a high screen by Yante Maten for J.J. Frazier, and then those two would take it from there.  Maten, who led all scorers with 31 points, netted 10 of those in the game’s final 8 minutes.  Frazier, who poured in 27 points as well, scored 8 during the same stretch and dished out 2 of his 5 assists.  The UGA offense looked much more NBA-like than collegiate in the game’s final minutes, and Georgia closed out this contest with a  22-10 run after trailing Auburn 76-74 with 7:27 remaining.  After connecting on just 42% of its field goal attempts in the first half, Georgia almost knocked down 60% of its shots from the floor following the intermission en route to a season-high output of 96 points.

Clemson smothers Georgia in season opener

The strength of this Clemson Tiger team last season was its defense, and coach Brad Brownell road that defense on Friday night to a 74-64 victory in the season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs.  All night long, the Tigers pushed the Dawgs away from the basket, using a strong man-to-man to stymie the UGA offense.  Clemson held Georgia to under 43% from the floor, and they turned the Dawgs over 14 times inside Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers jumped on Georgia from the start, opening up a 21-9 lead less than 10 minutes in following a three-pointer from Avry Holmes.  Clemson star forward Jaron Blossomgame picked up two fouls early and sat for much of the first half, but guard Game DeVoe picked up the slack in his absence, knocking down two three’s before the break en route to 12 first half points.  The Tigers held J.J. Frazier to just 3 points prior to the intermission, which enabled them to head into the break with a 40-30 advantage.

The Dawgs closed the gap in the second half after Turtle Jackson hit a pair of three-pointers to cut the Clemson lead to 51-48 with 10:18 remaining in the game.  The Tigers jumped on Georgia immediately out the ensuing timeout though, going on a 12-2 run that was capped off by an old-fashioned three-point play by Donte Grantham, putting his team up 63-50 with 7:43 left.  This stretch by Clemson took the life out of the Dawgs, and Clemson kept UGA at bay for the remainder of the night.

DeVoe led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points, and Blossomgame chipped in another 13.

Yante Maten carried the Dawgs on the night, scoring 19 points to go along with 12 rebounds, posting his first double-double of the season.  Frazier was the only other UGA player to finish in double-figures, scoring 11 points; however, it took him a 5 for 13 shooting effort to get there.

Clemson’s defense definitely exposed a huge question mark that Georgia will have to address at some point this season: who will score other than Frazier and Maten?  Other than Derek Ogbeide’s 9 point-effort on a 4 for 5 performance, most of the other UGA players struggled.  Most noticeably among them being Juwan Parker, who shot an abysmal 3 for 10 from the floor. Coach Mark Fox must get offensive output from some of his role players, but I’m not sure Parker is a viable option.  He certainly has enjoyed shooting it from the perimeter during his time at Georgia, but unfortunately for the Dawgs Parker has made just 19% of his attempts from beyond the arc.  At some point, someone – either Parker or Fox – needs to decide that that’s not a productive shot for this team.

Teams are going to continue to overload their defense on Frazier this year, just like the Tigers did tonight.   Coach Brownell had his guards stick with Frazier even when he didn’t have the ball in an effort to force the four other UGA players on the court to beat them, and, for the most part, it worked.

Coach Mark Fox’s team will get a chance to earn its first win of the year on Monday night in Athens when they play host to the Bulldogs from Asheville, North Carolina.

Georgia-Clemson Preview

A couple of NCAA Tournament hopefuls will be squaring off on Friday night when Georgia travels to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers.  For now, UGA is in the “First Four Out” category of ESPN’s Preseason Bracketology, while Clemson was no where to be found.  Although, any bracket predictions being made before the season has tipped off should be taken lightly.

The strength of this Tiger team last year was its defense.  A rangy bunch, Clemson ranked first in the ACC last season in blocked shots at 5.2 per game, and they were third in fewest points allowed at 64.5 per contest.  Last year, UGA was plagued in numerous games by long stretches of offensive ineptitude, a weakness that Coach Mark Fox’s team must eliminate if they want to play into late March this year.

A year ago, the Dawgs manhandled the Tigers in Athens 71-48.  UGA was led by seniors Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann, who combined for 35 points to carry Georgia to the home win.  In that game, UGA limited Clemson superstar Jaron Blossomgame to just 5 points, which was almost 13 under his average.

Fast forward to 2016.  Georgia no longer has Gaines or Mann, and they once again will have to take on a Tiger team led by Jaron Blossomgame, a preseason First Team All-ACC selection.  Blossomgame is currently projected by NBADraft.net to go #17 in their 2017 Mock NBA Draft.  At this point, Georgia doesn’t have any players in that Mock.

This contest should present both a formidable challenge and an opportunity for UGA junior Yante Maten.  In the exhibition game last week, Maten had his way against the inferior competition from Fort Valley, Georgia.  Against Clemson, Maten will have his hands full dealing with a potential NBA first-round draft pick in Blossomgame.  That being said, there should be an NBA scout or two inside Littlejohn on Friday; Yante will have a chance to show them what he can do while going head-to-head with a probable prospect.

Friday’s season opener at Clemson could definitely have selection implications in March.  Coach Mark Fox’s team has the possibility of earning a quality win that could boost its NCAA resume, and we’re not even halfway through November.

Georgia can’t overcome slow start on The Plains

The fact that Georgia was even in a position to possibly tie the game in the waning seconds is a testament to J.J. Frazier’s heart.  Frazier, who score 24 of his game-high 29 points in the second half (he netted 11 points in final four and half minutes), went to the line with the Bulldogs trailing Auburn 84-81 and only 1.6 seconds left.  J.J. missed the first shot unintentionally, which forced him to have to miss the second intentionally with the hopes that the ball might kick out for a long rebound and a potential last second three-point attempt. None of that happened, though. Instead, Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers corralled the miss and the Tigers secured the home victory.

Kenny Gaines deserves a lot of credit for the late surge as well, hitting 3 three-pointers in the game’s final minute, giving him 23 points on the night.

Ultimately, though, the Dawgs could not overcome another sluggish first half.

In the game’s first twenty minutes, UGA made just 26% of its shots.  Auburn wasn’t much better at 38% from the floor, yet the Tigers held a 39-23 advantage at the break.  This lead was somewhat surprising considering that Cinmeon Bowers, who averages a double-double for Auburn, spent the majority of the first half on the bench with two fouls.

Despite Bowers’s absence, Maten could not take advantage, putting up a goose egg in the scoring department prior to the intermission, continuing his recent offensive woes.  Entering tonight’s contest on The Plains, Maten had connected on just 11 of his last 38 shot attempts.  Yanted ended up with 10 points and 8 boards, but this contest marked the 3rd straight game where Maten has had trouble offensively.

While Auburn leads the conference with nearly 9 three’s per game in SEC contests, the Tigers have only been making 33% of their attempts from beyond the arc. Tonight, however, Auburn torched Georgia from the perimeter, knocking down 11 three-pointers en route to a 46% shooting performance from the outside.

The Tigers were led by T.J. Lang and Jordon Granger, who scored 21 and 18 points, respectively.  These two also combined for 7 of Auburn’s 11 three’s.

Winning on the road in college basketball is not easy, and Georgia has the 2-8 road record to prove it.  But this was not a very good Auburn basketball team.  Actually, it’s a pretty bad Auburn basketball team.

The Tigers entered tonight’s contest at 4-10 in the SEC, second to last in the league.  Prior to this evening, Auburn had dropped 8 of its last 9 games. Not to mention that they have been playing without the services of Kareem Canty, who was removed from the team last month due to disciplinary reasons – at the time, Canty was the Tigers’s leading scorer.

Good teams don’t lose games like this one, even away from home.  But at 14-12 overall and 7-8 in the SEC, it’s starting to look like UGA is not that good of a team.

The NIT, which is Georgia’s only hope for a postseason experience at this point, is starting to look out of reach for Coach Mark Fox’s bunch.