Up next for UGA: Georgia Tech

 

The annual in-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech (6-3) has not been kind to Coach Mark Fox in recent years.  Prior to last year’s win in Athens, a game in which J.J. Frazier scored 35 points, Georgia (7-3) had lost four in a row to the Jackets.  With losses already to Clemson, Kansas and Marquette, the Dawgs are running out of opportunities for solid non-conference wins, meaning that Tuesday’s contest against the Jackets is one that Fox’s team must have.

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J.J. hit 6 three-pointers when these two teams met in Athens last year.

Georgia Tech, who was projected by both SI and USA Today to finish 14th in the new 15-team ACC this year, has endured a rocky start to the season.  After needing overtime to win their exhibition game against Shorter, the Jackets won 4 of 5 to start the season.  The problem, however, was that the lone loss came at home to Ohio.  Tech has dropped road games at both Penn State and Tennessee, yet they somehow pulled off a shocker at VCU, upending the Rams 76-73 in OT.

Coach Josh Pastner did not inherit a lot to work with for his initial campaign as the Jackets’ skipper.  Tech returned just one starter this season – Quinton Stephens – and he only netted 5 points a game a year ago.  This season, though, Stephens has been getting almost 12 points and 8 rebounds a night.

The surprise of the year thus far for Pastner has to be the play of center Ben Lammers, who is leading this team in both scoring and rebounding.  After averaging just 3.6 points and 4 boards a night last year, Lammers is pouring in 15 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.  Lammers is an excellent passer, and at 6’10”, he can can see the whole floor when he has the ball at the top of the key, where Tech likes to run a lot of its offense.

The most talented guard on the Jackets roster has to be junior Tadric Jackson, who is scoring just under 13 points a contest.  The former 4-star recruit out of Tift County spurned an offer from UGA and wound up going to school in Atlanta instead.  This season, Tech is 4-1 in games in which Jackson has scored in double-figures; they are 1-2 in the games that he has failed to eclipse the 10-point mark.

This Tech team is not afraid to press full court defensively, which is something that Georgia has not see a lot of so far this season.  The Dawgs should definitely expect to see full court pressure on Tuesday, as Pastner will want to make it as difficult as possible for UGA to dump the ball down into Maten in the half court set.

While its unreasonable to demand another 35 points out of Frazier, Coach Fox must get better play from his senior guard.  J.J. has shot over 40% from the floor in only 4 of the team’s 10 games this year, and if Georgia hopes to sneak out of Midtown with a win they are going to need Frazier to shoot it well Tuesday night.

Georgia Tech edges Dawgs 80-71

Any coach, player or fan knows that the most critical parts of a college basketball game are the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. A team can either build or lose momentum heading into the break, and they can either set or lose the tone coming out of intermission.

On Friday night in Athens, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets dominated this 8-minute section of the game, resulting in their second straight win in the Classic City (something that hadn’t been done since the 1960-1961 seasons).

After playing slightly behind for the majority of the first half, Kenny Gaines actually gave UGA a 31-30 lead following a pair of made free throws. Juwan Parker scored on the ensuing possession, and Georgia held a 33-30 advantage with 4:11 remaining before the break.

Tech, however, used 5 points from point guard Trae Golden and two Georgia turnovers to go on a 13-5 run to close out the half, with the Yellow Jackets leading 43-38 after 20 minutes of play.

They Yellow Jackets opened up the second half with a 12-2 run, and after another Golden three-pointer Tech found itself holding a commanding 55-40 advantage with 16:46 left in the game.

The Dawgs were never able to cut much into this lead, and Tech cruised out of Athens with a 80-71 victory, their third of the season.

Georgia Tech was lead offensively by Trae Golden, who finished the game with a team-high 18 points.

As a team, UGA played fairly well defensively, limiting the Jackets to under 39% from the floor. Tech did get several easy baskets along the baseline due to some slow rotations by the Georgia bigs, but other than that Coach Fox had to be pleased with the defensive effort.

Offensively, Georgia looks too much like a one-man show. Sophomore Charles Mann shouldered the scoring load for the Dawgs, putting up a career-high 24 points (including a scorching 4 for 4 performance from beyond the arc). Unfortunately though, Mann also led UGA with 7 turnovers – however, some of those can be attributed to a lack of help around him (at times it looked as if Mann was just trying too hard to create offense).

After two scrimmages against UNC-Pembroke and Wofford, Georgia got its first taste of real Division I competition and Charles Mann appeared to be the only player ready to make something happen with the ball in his hands.

UGA’s lack of an inside presence (once again) allowed the Jackets to extend their defense to the perimeter, placing added pressure on Mann and fellow sophomore Kenny Gaines, who ended up with 13 points, but it was at the expense of a 3 for 10 shooting performance.

Coach Fox will need an inside player to step up and take some of the pressure off Mann and Gaines if this team hopes to find much success this season.

Wreck Tech

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Will the Dawgs have the "Eye of the Tiger" on Tuesday night?

In 1976, Sylvester Stallone created an iconic boxing figure in his film directorial debut, Rocky.  Rocky Balboa  glorified the heart of the underdog and achieved success against all odds.

Why the 1976 reference?

Because this was the last time that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won a Men’s basketball game in Athens, GA.  Seems unbelievable doesn’t it with all of the talented players and teams that Tech has had over the years (Mark Price, Danny Manning, Tom Hammonds, Duane Ferrell, Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson, Matt Harpring, Stephon Marbury)?

For the Bulldogs to keep their home winning streak alive Tuesday night against the Jackets, I think they are going to need a “Rocky Balboa “-esque performance because this GT team is very talented.

The Jackets come into this game 11-2 and ranked in both polls – #20 in AP; #17 in USA Today.  Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology edition has Tech entering the NCAA tournament as a 7-seed.

Georgia Tech had one  of the top recruiting classes coming into this season, and those talented freshman are producing early:

  • F Derrick Favors – 12.4 pts, 8.8 rebounds
  • PG Mfon Udofia – 11.2 pts, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists
  • G/F Brian Oliver – 7.2 pts, 41.4% from 3pt

The Wramblin’ Wreck’s front court features junior Gani Lawal and senior Zachery Peacock, who are averaging 14.8 and 9.5 points, respectively.

This team shoots the ball well (47.2% FG), plays great defense (only allowing 60.5/game) and they are big inside which allows them to control the glass and bring down 42.8 rebounds a game.

The good news for the Dawgs is that this Tech team hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent all season (not that UGA has either) – CBS Sportsline has the Jackets strength of schedule at 179; UGA’s is 130…so there is a slight possibility that this Tech squad has built up its 11-2 record against weaker opponents.

Another bonus for the Dawgs is Tech’s next opponent – the Jackets play host to #5 Duke on Saturday and could get caught looking ahead…

Keys to the Game

“Under Pressure” – the Queen and David Bowie hit song should be the Dawgs’ mantra Tuesday night.  This Jackets team has struggled with turnovers so far this year, averaging nearly 17 a game and ranking them 51st in the country in basketball’s ugliest statistical category.  Mark Fox should consider utilizing the full-court zone trap press that features Travis Leslie up front and on the ball…this could create some easy buckets for the Dawgs and get Tech out of their half-court offense.

“Jackson, Barnes & Price, LLC” – Albert Jackson, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price have got to give Georgia quality minutes against the Jackets.  I always feel confident that Trey Thompkins will get his rebounds, but sometimes the other forwards make me a bit nervous…UGA needs them to step up and work hard on the glass to help limit Tech’s second-chance opportunities.

Marquee Matchup – Last year Trey Thompkins scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in an ugly game in which the Jackets won 67-62 in Atlanta.  Gani Lawal scored 15 points and added 14 rebounds.  It’s safe to say that they ended in a draw (though Lawal’s team won the game).

This year, I anticipate Trey winning this matchup.  He has improved more both physically and statistically since last year’s rookie campaign, while Lawal’s numbers have remained almost identical.

The crowd for this one should be primarily red and black since the Georgia Tech football team plays Iowa at 8:15pm in the Orange Bowl.  Hopefully the UGA faithful can bring a lot of energy and get the Dawgs nice and fired up.

I think that on paper the Georgia Tech team is more talented (vegas has them at a 6-point favorite), but I remember a situation back in November 2009 where a Georgia Tech football team was also considered “better on paper”.

This game will be televised on CSS beginning at 7:00PM EST.

What’s everyone thinking about this one?  Will Travis Leslie come onto the court with “I Run This State” on his eye black or arms?