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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

Will Wayne Chism Play?

According to a news report out of Knoxville, TN, Tennessee center Wayne Chism has not practiced the past week, while getting treatment for his injured ankle and hip.

He was a “game time” decision last Saturday in the Vols game at Kentucky.  He didn’t start the game, but Chism did play 30 minutes and finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds.

Another report from GoVols.com revealed that Pearl may be shuffling his lineup somewhat in anticipation for tonight’s game against the Dawgs.  More specifically, that Tennessee center/behemoth Brian Williams could play a lot more minutes tonight than he played in his first two games back from suspension.

Who knows if and how much Chism will play, but one thing’s for sure: The Dawgs have Bruce Pearl’s full attention.  The Vols remember getting dominated in Athens, and they are on the verge of the first 3-game losing streak of J.P. Prince’s career at UT.

With their backs against the wall, how will the Vols respond?

Nobody knows, but one thing is for sure – this should be a very intense game.

Georgia Visits Knoxville

leslie
Will the Vols fans get to see any of Travis Leslie's high-flying dunks on Wednesday?

The Georgia Bulldogs basketball team heads to Knoxville, TN on Wednesday to take on Bruce Pearl’s #20 Tennessee Volunteers (18-6 overall; 6-4 SEC).

Georgia snapped a 10-game losing streak with their thrilling 78-63 blow-out win over the Vols in Athens back in January.

The game on Wednesday will be played at the Thompson-Boling Arena, a place where the Dawgs haven’t won since February 21, 2001.

The road as been anything but kind to Georgia this year, as they are now 0-8 overall and 0-5 in the SEC in true away games.  An outside observer would certainly not give the Dawgs much of a chance in this one.

Georgia, however, is coming off a 66-61 comeback victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks, and looking to build a little momentum.

Tennessee has lost two straight road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and surely this team will be excited about getting home in front of their own fans.

With the dismissal of All-SEC forward Tyler Smith back in early January, senior center Wayne Chism has done a marvelous job of leading this team.  In SEC play this season, Chism is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game.  He is the team’s best inside scorer and certainly the Vols’ “go to” guy in the clutch.

Senior wingman J.P. Prince has been a “do everything” sort of player for Tennessee.  In SEC games, he is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.  Prince is also an excellent defender, who can make it very difficult on the opposing team’s perimeter players with his long body and athleticism.

On the perimeter, the Vols are led by sophomore Scotty Hopson and senior point guard Bobby Maze.  Hopson is averaging 11.8 points in conference games, and he has hit 39.2% of his three-point field goals on the season.  Maze is scoring 9.8 points a game in SEC play.

Off the bench, Bruce Pearl has gotten solid play from freshman forward Kenny Hall, who is scoring 5.1 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds in SEC play.  Junior guard Melvin Goins has scored 25 points over the last two games against Vandy and Kentucky.

Since the last meeting between these two teams, Pearl has reinstated junior center Brian Williams.  Williams has only played a total of 3 minutes in his first two games back, but the 6’10” 267lb Vol is a load inside and could see a significant increase in playing time against the Dawgs’ big frontcourt.

Here is how the Dawgs can pull off an upset in Knoxville on Wednesday: (and yes I understand Georgia hasn’t won a true road game this year)

Zone Defense

Tennessee does not shoot the ball well.  As a team, the Vols are knocking down 42.1% from the field, and only 29.7% from beyond the arc!  In the game in Athens, Fox used a packed-in 1-2-2 zone against Bruce Pearl’s Vols and it frustrated Tennessee into shooting 42.3% on field goals and 18.8% on three-pointers.  As long as the Dawgs’ defenders can contest shots by Hopson, and keep track of Chism when he slips out to the perimeter Georgia should be able to hold the Vols offense in check.

Who’s Got the Better Bench?

In the game in Athens, Georgia’s bench outscored Tennessee’s 16-13.  This was due in large part to the play from EA and Jeremy Price.  In 15 minutes of play, Anyaorah finished the game with 7 points and 4 assists.  Price gave Coach Fox 9 points and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes.  These two guys (along with Vincent Williams and Chris Barnes)  have got to be able to come into the game and contribute.

Outscoring the Vols bench this time around could be more difficult for the Dawgs.  Remember that in the last game Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were just being eased back into the rotation following their suspensions.  Add in the return of reserve center Brian Williams, and it is easy to see how the Vols bench could be up to the challenge on Wednesday.

Play Smart Trey

As evidenced by the Auburn game last week, Georgia becomes a much different team when Trey Thompkins is not on the court (that’s what happens when your leading scorer and rebounder and team-leader leaves the game).  I guarantee that Bruce Pearl’s staff took note of this, and I would be willingly to bet that Chism and the other Tennessee frontcourt players attack Trey in the paint on offense.  Albert Jackson and Jeremy Price need to give Thompkins help on the inside, and Trey needs to be careful not to pick up silly fouls because as he goes so go the Dawgs.

A Little Bit of Mojo

Everyone knows that Georgia is 0-8 in true road games this season, and on paper they really don’t have much of a shot to pull off the upset at Tennessee (last I checked UGA was an 11.5 point underdog in this one).  However, for some reason this team thrives against stout competition, as evidenced by the Dawgs 3-2 record against ranked opponents this year.  A lot of Georgia basketball fans thought the Dawgs had a chance of getting their first road win at South Carolina (didn’t happen), and even more thought that Georgia would certainly nab one at Auburn (didn’t come close to happening).  Maybe Wednesday night the Dawgs will steal a game that no one expects them to?  Before dismissing this possibility, please think back to this season’s SEC opener at Kentucky in which Georgia came very close to shocking the then ranked #3 Wildcats on their own court…

The game tips off at 8PM EST and will be televised on Peachtree TV – channel 7 for Comcast and 802 for Comcast HD.

Anyone else giving Georgia  a chance in this game?

Georgia Hosts Tennessee

mcphee
The "Braveheart" Special: McPhee vs McBee

This Saturday, Georgia will be playing host to Bruce Pearl’s #8 Tennessee Volunteers in Athens at 5:00PM EST.

This will mark the Dawgs fourth-ranked opponent in their last five games.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably well aware of the drug/gun scandal that several Volunteer players were involved in.

The result of that incident: senior G/F Tyler Smith was kicked off the team and reserves C Brian Williams, G Melvin Goins and Lithonia, GA native G Cameron Tatum were suspended indefinitely (Goins and Tatum were actually re-instated onto the team earlier this week).  These four players represented 40% of this team’s offensive production through the first 12 games of the season (Smith was the team’s leading scorer last year and was averaging in double-figures again this year).

Amazingly, this Tennessee team has won five games in a row with the help of only 6 scholarship players and a mix of walk-ons.  Two of those wins were against #3 Kansas and #22 Ole Miss…go figure?

This Vols squad is led in the backcourt by Scotty Hopson, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince (6’7″ brother of NBA player Tayshaun Prince).  In his sophomore season, Hopson is leading Tennessee in scoring (13.5) and 3-point shooting (40.6%).  His wiry 6’7″ frame allows him to shoot over defenders from the outside, but Hopson is not afraid to take the ball to the rim as well (he had a couple of very impressive dunks against Alabama).

Maze and Prince are chipping in 8.8  and 7.0 points/game, respectively, though neither of them is much of a shooting threat.  Both of these guys play great defense, and rarely turn the ball over.

In the frontcourt, the headline name for UT is senior C Wayne Chism.  If you have never seen Mr. Chism play, he’s easy to spot with his white headband that he sports about 3″ too high on his forehead.

Chism is the Vols leading rebounder at 6.5 per game to go along with 12.1 points.  He is also actually a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 39% of this 3-point attempts.

In the last five games, these four leaders have stepped up their efforts to compensate for the loss of their four suspended teammates.  All of them are averaging more points per game than their season averages – Chism 15, Hopson 14, Maze 12, Prince 9.4.

Off the bench, Tennessee has gotten great play from sophomore F Renaldo Woolridge (6’8″, 208lbs) and freshman F Kenny Hall (6’8″, 220lbs).  Over the past five games, Woolridge is averaging 7.4 points/5.4 rebounds and Hall is giving the Vols 8.4 points/6.0 rebounds (both guys only average 4.8 points/game on the season).  Kenny Hall (from Stone Mountain, GA) is very active on the offensive glass, so the Dawgs better be aware of where he is on the court when shots go up and get a body on him.

I watched this team win at Alabama on Tuesday night, and it was interesting to see how their style of play has been affected by the loss of the suspended players.  Bruce Pearl’s past teams at Tennessee have thrived off running a full-court press for a majority of the game, dictating a fast tempo and forcing opponents into turnovers.  However, with less personnel at his disposal, Pearl’s team has been forced into playing a half-court game.

Bruce Pearl has never lost to the Dawgs since his arrival at Tennessee in 2005.  His Vols have won 10-straight against Georgia, and will be looking to make it 11 on Saturday.

Georgia’s Keys

Men vs Boys – Wayne Chism is the only UT player that weighs 240lbs or more (he’s listed at 246).  The Dawgs have 4 guys that tip the scales over that 240lb plateau – Chris Barnes – 240, Trey Thompkins – 247, Jeremy Price – 264 and Albert Jackson – 265.  Georgia needs to make the most of this size advantage and bang down low on the thinner Vols.  Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee should be looking to dump the ball down to the Georgia bigs early and often.  The Dawgs are third in the SEC in rebounding margin (+4.1), and in Saturday’s game UGA needs to continue its domination on the glass.

Kiddy Pool Depth – This “key”  is somewhat tied into the first one in that it is focused on Georgia getting the ball inside early.  Tennessee’s depth chart got axed by 33% after the scandal, which means that when a starter goes off a walk-on player enters.  The Dawgs need to look to draw fouls on offense so that they can get into the Vols’ bench.  This would give Georgia a rare talent-advantage over an opponent (usually its the Dawgs that are doing more with less).

From Downtown!!! – Guess where Georgia ranks in the SEC at 3-point field goals made per game?  If you guessed last, then “Yes! You are correct, Sir!”.  The Dawgs are shooting only 33.2% from behind the arc, and making merely four 3’s a game (and McPhee is making 2 of them per contest).  I’m not saying that I think that UGA should start chunking up 24 3-pointers a game like Mississippi State (Dawgs shoot 12/game), but it would be nice if they could take & make just a couple more.  Thompkins is second on the team in 3pt% at a solid 39.1%, yet he has only taken 23 shots from there on the year.  I wouldn’t mind if Trey started looking for a few more (like one or two) three-point shots a game…a couple more 3’s would remove some pressure on offense, and help open things up more in the paint.

Bonus Note:

Saturday’s game will give fans a rare chance to see a match-up between two walk-ons, both presumably of Scottish decent.  If you haven’t guessed, I am referring to the Dawgs senior guard Ricky McPhee and Tennessee’s freshman guard Skylar McBee.

McBee made headlines when he hit a 3-point field goal with time winding down on the shot clock to all but seal the Vols upset victory over the then #1 Kansas Jayhawks.  He received offers to play at East Carolina, Marshall, Santa Clara and Winthrop, but elected to stay close to home and walk-on at UT.  This was probably a wise decision since he has been playing 15.5 minutes per game, contributing 4.8 points.

The elder McPhee (also known as the Pride of Lawrenceville) transferred to Georgia after two seasons at Gardner Webb University.  This season, McPhee has started every game for the Dawgs and is averaging 9.8 points in 30.4 minutes.  He has also established himself as Coach Fox’s best perimeter defender (and is certainly a crowd/blog favorite).

It will be interesting to see if these two players defend each other at all on Saturday.  Both of them continue to serve as inspirations to future walk-ons and Scotts everywhere.

– I will be heading up to Athens with a few buddies for this one…  If you can’t make the trip, the game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network and 750AM radio.

Any other thoughts on what Dawgs need to do to win this one?