Kentucky too much for Georgia

Any notion Georgia (19-14) might have had of playing another close game with Kentucky (27-5) in today’s SEC tournament were quickly put to rest by a Wildcat team that came out determined to defend UGA better than it had during the regular season.  The Cats halfcourt defense suffocated Georgia and forced the Dawgs to start its offense well outside the three-point line.  J.J. Frazier constantly found himself surrounded by Kentucky defenders, and even when he didn’t have the ball a Wildcat defender was usually right on him playing deny defense.  Yante Maten, who still didn’t look anywhere close to 100%, struggled to score the ball around the rim.

Kentucky certainly wasn’t at its best offensively, but Georgia’s woes on that end of the  court made it impossible for the Dawgs to seriously threaten Coach Calipari’s team.  Georgia shot just 30% from the floor and turned it over 7 times in the first half, yet they only trailed the Cats 32-25 at the break.  A decent finish to the half – capped off by a corner three-pointer from Tyree Crump – offered UGA a glimmer of hope going into the intermission.

That hope, though, was dashed almost immediately by Kentucky at the start of the second half.  The Dawgs began the half with a turnover and 3 misses, and the Cats quickly pushed their advantage to 38-25.  UGA would only score 5 points for more than 8 minutes to begin the second half, and by the time Juwan Parker knocked down a jumper with 11:43 remaining the Dawgs had fallen behind 47-32.

Kentucky pushed its lead to 18 points after a monster dunk by Bam Adebayo with 9:54 left, making it 50-32.  Georgia couldn’t manage to cut the lead to under double-digits again, and the Wildcats essentially cruised to their first win of the SEC tournament.

Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aron Fox went for 20 apiece, but for the most part, Georgia defended the Cats pretty well.  The Dawgs contained Malik Monk, who they held to just 2 points, and they limited Kentucky to only 38% from the floor.

But ultimately the Dawgs’ offense did them in.  UGA finished with 13 turnovers, with J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten leading the way with 3 each.  Frazier and Maten scored 15 and 12, respectively, but they combined for just 7 for 28 from the floor, which just isn’t good enough for a team hoping to upset the SEC’s best team.

Georgia’s NCAA tournament hopes are just about done.  If there’s any silver lining, I did read that UGA could potentially receive a 2-seed in the NIT.




Dawgs take Kentucky to overtime before losing 90-81

The Georgia Bulldogs (13-9) were a J.J. Frazier floater away from stunning the #8 Kentucky (18-4) Wildcats on their home floor and giving Coach Calipari his first ever three-game losing streak as the team’s skipper. But J.J.’s shot drew all glass (similarly to the Florida game) and sent the game into overtime, where the Dawgs simply ran out of magic.  The Cats overpowered Georgia in the extra 5 minutes and snapped its two-game losing streak by pulling out the 90-81 home win.

What went well for Georgia…

The Dawgs were at their best at the beginning and end of regulation.  Coach Mark Fox could not have scripted a better start for this game as his team jumped out to a 12-0 lead after barely 3 minutes of play.  Kentucky came out and tried to play the Dawgs in man defense and that just didn’t work.  Yante Maten scored the game’s first 7 points, and 4 of those came in the paint over the Cats’ Bam Adebayo.  The Dawgs connected on 9 of their first 10 field goals and held a 19-5 lead with 14:07 left before the break.

UGA played equally strong over the latter stretch of regulation.  With just 6:26 remaining and the Cats leading 66-58, the game started to feel as though it was slipping away for Georgia.  But the Dawgs would not relent.  Frazier scored 9 points over the last 6 minutes, making off-balanced lay ups and hitting an off the dribble three-pointer to bring his team within 2 points.  Freshman Jordan Harris stepped up as well and made an old-fashioned three-point play and later hit a shot from beyond the arc with 1:56 left that actually put the Dawgs up 73-71.

What didn’t go well for Georgia…

Coach Cal realized quickly that his team was struggling to defend Georgia in man, so he switch them into zone so that the bigs could double down on Maten whenever he touched it in the paint.  The result: Maten went scoreless over the final 18 minutes of play before the intermission and the Dawgs made only 3 of their final 15 shots from the floor.  After scoring 12 points before Big Blue Nation could find its seats, Georgia managed just 17 points over the final 16:48 of the half.

UGA failed to limit Kentucky to just one shot for much of the night.  Despite opening up a huge lead to begin the game, Georgia and Kentucky went into the break knotted up at 29 apiece because the Dawgs could not defensive rebound.  The Cats shot just 29% from the floor before halftime, but thanks to 11 offensive boards that led to 13 second chance points, they were able to claw their way back into the game.  Before it was all said and done, Kentucky would have 17 offensive rebounds and a whopping 24 second chance points.

Georgia’s matchup zone worked well for much of the night, but occasionally superstars just take over, and that’s exactly what happened inside Rupp Arena last evening.  Malik Monk, who only scored 6 points prior to the intermission, scorched the Dawgs for 31 over the final 25 minutes of this one.  Monk hit 7 three-pointers on the evening, many of which were with a hand in his face.  And it was Monk who delivered the contested baseline jumper over the outstretched arms of Derek Ogbeide to tie the game at 76, which forced this contest into overtime.

The other Wildcat that UGA failed to corral was Isaiah Briscoe, who has to be one of the most physical guards in the country.  Briscoe tirelessly pounded the ball inside and got himself to the line, where he scored 11 of his 23 points.  In addition to the offense, the Cats’ point guard hauled in a team-high 11 rebounds.  Ultimately, Monk and Briscoe were too much for Georgia to handle in Lexington, and I shudder to think of how UGA will match up with this Kentucky team when they come to Athens with the services of starter De’aaron Fox, who was out last night with a stomach bug.

Final thoughts…

Maten and Ogbeide played great, scoring 22 and 18, respectively.  Ogbeide also snagged 13 boards en route to a double-double.  These two dominated the inside on offense, and they really forced Calipari to change the way he wanted to defend the Dawgs.

Frazier had kind of a tough game until the final moments, but he did end up with a gutty 23 points, though it came at the expense of an 8 for 21 shooting effort.

But credit Coach Fox’s team for putting up a heck of a fight against a top 10 team in a building where they lost by 34 points a year ago.



Kentucky whips Georgia in Lexington

Here are some of my thoughts from that 82-48 shellacking:

Epic scoring drought

Georgia, a team that has had its offensive issues as of late, took it to a whole new level in Lexington on Tuesday night.  To be specific, Kenny Gaines hit a three-pointer to cut the Kentucky lead to 19-13 with 13:36 left in the half, and then UGA didn’t score a field goal for the next 18 minutes.  Let that sink in for a second.

By the time Charles Mann finally broke the dry spell on a lay up in the second half, Kentucky’s lead had grown to 52-26 with a little over 15 minutes remaining in the game.  Not making any field goals for nearly half the game is a recipe for disaster against just about any college basketball team, but it’s especially detrimental when it happens at Rupp against the #22 Wildcats.  Georgia’s 11 field goals tonight set a season low for Power 5 conference teams (UGA hit just 22% of its attempts from the floor).

Kentucky experienced an offensive rut of its own in the first half, going almost 7 minutes without a field goal, which allowed the Dawgs to get to within 6 points. Coach Calipari’s team snapped out of its funk, though, while Georgia didn’t, ending any hopes that Coach Fox’s team might have had of keeping the game close heading into the intermission; Kentucky led 42-24 at the break.

Kentucky’s backcourt dominance

UGA came into Rupp hoping that its backcourt would carry them on the road.  Unfortunately, the Dawgs trio of J.J. Frazier, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines were simply outplayed by the Wildcat guards.  Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis scored 24 and 14, respectively, with Murray knocking down 6 of his 10 three-point attempts.  In addition to his 14 points, Ulis had 8 assists and 3 steals, and he had J.J. Frazier’s number from the opening tip.

Frazier, Gaines and Mann combined for just 21 points, hitting 5 of their collective 24 attempts from the field. Frazier, who had only 4 of those points, failed to connect from the floor, missing all 8 of his attempts.

Turnover differential

The Dawgs do not have the firepower on their roster to go into Lexington and play sloppy, and yet, that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night for Coach Fox’s team.  Credit the Wildcats – they have great athletes and Calipari does get them to play hard man defense. But Georgia was extremely careless with the ball on Tuesday, turning it over 15 times. Unfortunately, Kentucky committed just 7 turnovers, so Georgia gifted the Wildcats, who made over 52% from the floor, an extra 8 possessions.  The culprit for 6 of UGA’s turnovers was none other than senior Charles Mann.

Georgia is now 13-9 overall and 6-5 in the SEC. Sadly, UGA just made its second consecutive appearance on ESPN’s “Bubble Watch” prior to tonight’s game. But after suffering their second beatdown to a ranked team on national television, the Dawgs are more than likely off that bubble now.

UGA has a couple of days off before hitting the road again to take on Missy State in Starkville this Saturday night.



Dawgs relinquish halftime lead, lose to Kansas State

J.J. Frazier’s last-second desperation shot looked like it was in fact tipped in front of the rim by a Kansas State (6-1) defender.  However, the ball still just barely glanced the rim, so either his shot was going to be an air ball, or it might have barely glanced the front of the rim.

Either way, Georgia lost 68-66 to the Wildcats, a team that Sports Illustrated projected to finish last in the Big 12 heading into the season.  For Georgia (3-3), dropping a game at home that they controlled for much of the first half has to be frustrating.  Once again, UGA shot the ball well – 45% – and lost.

The Dawgs went up 42-37 with 15:50 left in the second half after a jumper from Yante Maten. For some reason, though, over the next 9 minutes Yante didn’t attempt a single field goal.  To make matters worse, Kenny Gaines took just two shots during the same time frame, hitting one of them, before knocking down a pair of free throws that dropped the KSU lead to 56-55 with 6:16 left.  The Dawgs failed to get the ball to their two hottest players during a critical stretch in the second half, and the Wildcats capitalized by taking the lead.

Maten and Gaines, who finished with 20 and 17 points, respectively, have established themselves as Georgia’s best offensive players.  Yet, for a major chunk of the second half of this game, they took a combined two field goal attempts.

The Dawgs have to do a better job of recognizing that Maten and Gaines demand touches, especially in the latter part of a close game.

Coach Fox’s team had far too many second half possessions that ended with Frazier, who made only 3 of his 10 shots, hurling up a rushed shot to beat the shot clock.

Georgia’s defense held the Wildcats to under 40% from the floor, but UGA once again struggled to limit second chances as they allowed Kansas State to pull down 16 offensive rebounds.  Defensive rebounding has been a hallmark of Mark Fox coached teams at Georgia during his tenure, but this year’s team seems to be struggling when it comes to holding teams to just one shot.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber enjoyed balanced scoring from his team tonight in Athens, with four players finishing in double-figures.

Coach Fox’s team has played two power conference teams this year – Seton Hall and Kansas State – and they are 0-2.  If the Dawgs cannot find a way to be successful against these bigger schools it could turn out to be a long SEC season for Coach Fox’s team.




Kentucky Edges Georgia 66-60

During the 2009-2010 season, Mark Fox’s first as Georgia’s basketball coach, the Bulldogs (14-6; 3-4) were forced to play a lot of zone defensive sets due to a lack of depth.  Coach Fox stressed that he preferred to play man-to-man, but he just didn’t have the personnel.

Before the start of this season, Coach Fox, on numerous occasions, expressed that this year’s team would play primarily man defense because of the bolstered bench support.

In Georgia’s 77-70 win over Kentucky earlier this month in Athens, the Dawgs used a physical man-to-man defense to frustrate the Wildcats offensively.

So why did Coach Fox have his team start the game on Saturday in a 3-2 zone?  And even further, why did he keep them in it for the entire first half (and chunks of the second)?

The strength of this Kentucky team is its perimeter shooting – they shoot 40% as a team from beyond the arc, which ranks 12th in the country.

In the first half on Saturday, Kentucky moved the ball around Georgia‘s zone, connecting on 6 of 12 from three-point range and building up a 39-24 halftime lead.  Freshman Doron Lamb, the Cats’ sharp-shooter/zone-buster, torched the Dawgs in the first half, knocking down 3 three’s en route to 11 points (he finished with a game-high 19 points).

Before the first media timeout, Georgia had already committed 3 turnovers and trailed 11-4.

During the game’s second half, Coach Fox got his team out of the zone and matched up with the Cats in a man defense.  After shooting 51.7% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc in the first half, Kentucky looked flustered offensively after the break, hitting only 31.8% of their field goal attempts.  The Cats followed up their 6 first-half three-pointers with a goose egg in the second, going 0 for 5 in their perimeter shot attempts.

Georgia fought and clawed till the end, and actually cut the Kentucky lead to 59-53 with 2:07 left following a Dustin Ware three-pointer.  On the next trip down the court, the Dawgs got a stop and had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but Trey Thompkins missed an open three-point look.  Kentucky’s Darius Miller got the rebound, got fouled, made two free throws and essentially sealed the game with the lead up to 61-53 with only a minute remaining.

The final score ended up 66-60 in Kentucky’s favor, and Georgia now finds themselves in the midst of their first two-game losing streak since dropping back-to-back games to Notre Dame and Temple back in 2010.

The missed three was a theme for Thompkins on Saturday, as he finished the game 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.  Trey only played 11 minutes in the game’s first half due to foul trouble, and he ended up with just 9 points on the day.  This was the first time this season that Thompkins failed to score in double-figures.

But misery loves company, and Georgia’s Travis Leslie wasn’t about to let his teammate struggle on offense all by himself.  Leslie was an icy 0 for 7 on field goal attempts Saturday, finishing with only 5 points.

The Dawgs are not going to win many games when their preseason All-SEC First Team players (Thompkins and Leslie) combine for just 14 points.

The only Georgia Bulldog that bothered to show up in Rupp Arena was junior Dustin Ware.  Ware led all Bulldog scorers with 18 points, and his 4 three-pointers were critical in keeping the game from becoming a blowout.

Georgia’s only other player to score in double-figures was junior Gerald Robinson, Jr., who contributed a quiet 12 points.  GR2 began conference play like a man possessed, averaging 18.0 ppg in his first five games.  In the last two games however, Robinson has looked tentative and reluctant to create, leading to just 19 total points.

The Dawgs are now anchoring the cellar in the SEC East with a 3-4 conference record.  At the SEC media days conference in October of 2010, Florida Coach Billy Donovan predicted that Georgia would win their side of the league.  At this point, with 5 of the remaining 9 games coming on the road, its starting to look like an 8-8 SEC record is more likely, with a 9-7 record being a “best-case scenario”.

Things don’t get any easier for Georgia, as they begin the week with a trip to Arkansas on Wednesday.  The Razorbacks are 4-3 in SEC play, and they are coming off a huge 89-78 victory in Nashville over Vanderbilt.  They dropped Tennessee at home 68-65 as well, so the Dawgs best not take them lightly.

Georgia gets Auburn at home on Saturday, so if they can collect themselves and get a win in Fayetteville Wednesday night, they have an opportunity to make this a big week.

The key word being “opportunity”.