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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fleeting Thoughts: UGA vs. Tennessee Hoops Edition

A few words about last night's dominant Georgia win over Tennessee...

-- If you had told me in November that Georgia would have a 25-point lead over anyone in the second half of an SEC game this year, I would have assumed you had just been swimming in a vat of bourbon.

-- Instead, Georgia is probably about eight plays away from being 12-5 overall and 4-0 in the SEC with wins over four ranked opponents in its last five games.

-- Having said that, Mark Fox's Dawgs are still just 9-8 and 1-3 in conference, which means there is a lot of work left to do.

-- That work probably needs to start with the guard play. The Travis Leslie-Trey Thompkins combo is solid, Price had a nice night off the bench, Jackson has been very good defensively… but the guard play has been really inconsistent. And the Dawgs still had 18 turnovers Saturday, with UT holding a 20-14 edge in points off TOs.

-- The last time Georgia beat a team ranked as high as the Vols were, I was living on the opposite coast, weighed 30 pounds less and had never written a story for a newspaper in my life. (And yes, I think the weight and writing issues are related.)

-- Tennessee is definitely not as good as its No. 8 ranking suggests, but that was a solid basketball team, and Georgia absolutely crushed them. Officially the game was played at Stegeman. Unofficially, it was behind a woodshed.

-- I can't figure how Bruce Pearl didn't end up with a technical in that game.

-- Travis Leslie's numbers for the night? Nineteen points, nine boards and seven assists. Four of his rebounds were on the offensive end and he matched his two turnovers by making two steals. Kid is a player.

-- Oh, and he added another signature dunk to his highlight reel. Now, part of me has some concerns that all those flashy dunks are starting to get in his head, and it's just a matter of time before he misses one and ends up in Fox's dog house. But here's what he had to say after the game: “I don’t really get nervous when I dunk. I just go up there.”

So, nothing to worry about.

-- And as for his highlight dunk last night, here's how he described it: “That was an old-time dunk. I haven’t done it in a while. When I was on the break, I really didn’t know what I was going to do, and I just tried it. And I made it.”

-- Kudos to the fans, who not only turned out in big numbers but were loud and enthusiastic throughout. As a northerner, I have no room to comment on the commitment of football fans. Up north, we treat college football the same way we treat breakfast -- we like it, but if we're busy, we'll just grab a pop tart and not think twice. But I do know a thing or two about what a college hoops game is supposed to feel like, and that was a fun environment last night.

-- And while we're on the subject of fans, there were quite a few Tennessee fans there who stayed pretty loud until the game was well in hand late in the second half. Thinking back to how bad UT was before Bruce Pearl got there, it was really almost like looking into the future of what Georgia could be with Fox -- a day when Dawgs fans not only fill Stegeman routinely, but show up to annoy the folks in opposing stadiums, too.

-- And a bit more on the fans…. Can we please stop with the "Over-Rated" chant? Why do you want to call the team you just beat overrated? That's essentially diminishing your own accomplishment? Isn't it better to assume Georgia just beat a very good team rather than one that was simply lucky to be ranked so high? If anything, fans should chant "Under-Rated" for the Bulldogs.

-- That said, kudos for the "Lane Kiffin" chant in the final two minutes.

-- I must agree with Blogging Pantslessinflatable mascots just creep me out.

-- On the other hand, friend of the blog Tom Fell -- a.k.a. Rocky -- made two runs to the top of Stegeman yesterday. That's bringin' it!

-- On the other other hand, this guy went a little bit overboard. That's peanut butter, by the way.

-- Bruce Pearl's kid looks like he should be on "Jersey Shore." He's like "The Situation" without the abs. Or a jump shot.

-- Don't think this win meant something? Here's Albert Jackson's take: “This is my first time beating Tennessee, and I’m just so happy for myself, my team, the program. If I could rank this in victories I’ve had, besides the SEC tournament, this is one, two or three. It’s just amazing to see the fans into it, to see my teammates, to see my coach and his confidence just building in us. I can’t explain it. I couldn’t take the smile off my face in the locker room.”

-- Seriously, the Dawgs thump UT on Saturday. On Wednesday, Andy Landers' gals pulled off a big win over Pat Summitt's Lady Vols. And last week Sundiata Gaines had one of the signature shots of the NBA season for the Utah Jazz. Um… when did UGA become a basketball school?

-- OK, one more thing about the crowd… part of that sell-out crowd was a hefty contingent of top football recruits sitting alongside the entire UGA coaching staff. (And I think my favorite part of the game was watching Mark Richt absolutely demolish a bag of popcorn… it was riveting theater for some reason…. oh, and he can also play a little ball.)

(And another side note... that video is from the blog of Connor Nolte, a junior on the UGA hoops team who transfered from Furman. You might want to bookmark it or follow him on Twitter.)

Anyway, back those recruits. Here's the speech I'm guessing a few of them heard afterward: "Georgia isn't exactly a basketball school. In fact, we had a coaching change last year, and we're only .500 this year. But did you hear the noise in that building? Did you see how the crowd reacted to the big plays? Did you feel the energy? Now picture yourself in a Georgia uniform on a Saturday this fall with 10 times as many fans watching you play. Imagine how much they'll love you." That'd be a tough pitch to turn down, and it's another great reason for the fans to be patting themselves on the back this morning.

OK, a few more quotes following Saturday's big win…

Dustin Ware on the energy in the building...
“It was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like that. It was so fun just hearing a sold-out crowd screaming and just honoring as hard as we played. Hopefully we keep giving them performances like that.”

Travis Leslie on playing in front of a sell-out crowd…
“We’ve been waiting for it for a while and we finally got it. We couldn’t let them down.”

Trey Thompkins on the team's attitude...
“We have been fighting, and everyone knows that. But fighting ain’t gonna win it for you. You’ve got to go get it. Everybody’s fighting, and we understand that. We’re going to keep fighting forward so we can keep getting wins.”

Albert Jackson on the team's confidence last week, following three straight losses...
“We know how good we can be because we see it. Coach breaks the game down into mistakes, how we lose the game. When you see that and you see, dang, a few less mistakes and we win the game, it gives you confidence as a player because you know what you can do if you eliminate preventable mistakes that you can control.”

Jackson on closing strong...
“Even in the last two minutes of the game, it was only a 14-point game, and when you have good players and good shooters, that can be cut down real quick. I think why you could see Coach still being so into the game and why you could see players getting on each other so much is because we’ve seen a game slip away from us. I don’t think that will ever happen again as long as Coach Fox has anything to do with it


rbubp said...

It is really nice to see what UGA can do with a real coach even after only half a season. Those who didn't know Fox, didn't think his name was big enough, wanted trash like Bobby that crow now, please. (And pay more attention to basketball?)

Dawg '85 said...

I have to admit yesterday's game was the first UGA hoops game I've looked forward to and watched start to finish on TV... they just haven't seemed relevant or exciting for years. After watching most of the Miss St game, I felt they had the talent and coaching to be good and it was a matter of time that they would learn how to close out big games and win.

Coach Fox is the real deal. My eyes told me the Dawgs play good D, understand their offensive scheme and spacing, and rebound with tenacity. 2 stats revealed during the telecast tell me more about how Fox has instilled the importance of fundamentals: from worst to 1st in SEC in FT% in one year, and UGA has outrebounded all SEC opponents this year... that is coaching.

Regardless of how many more big wins they get, this team is entertaining to watch. Thompkins has such a solid all-around game, Travis is a rare freak athlete and excellent passer, and I love the other role players... I am fascinated watching how Fox uses the different skill sets of Ware, McPhee, Price, Jackson, et al... they each seem to know their role and how it fits into the team concept.

Yesterday was a testament to how quickly Fox is changing the culture of UGA hoops... I'm a fan and I'll be watching... that says alot!

PatinDC said...

Don't forget the Lady Dawgs!

I wish I could see the games up here inthe North....only ACC..

MikeInValdosta said...

you've got to swim somewhere

Anonymous said...

spike is awesome and been around for year (an inflatable on a football sideline is creepy - like the Husker)and I would say that I would be upset if he were ever allowed in Sanford Stadium but in Stegeman he is perfect and the kids love him.

NCT said...

Um, and Bruce Pearl looks like he ought to be on The Sopranos.

Regarding Leslie's highlights: I read that Fox had Dominique speak to Leslie, and Dominique counseled him on the importance of play on the ground, not just play in the air. I realize Leslie wasn't alive when Dominique played at UGA, but it's nice to have even one superstar from our history that is enough of a permanent star in the basketball firmament that age is not an issue.

NCT said...

Oh, and the Lady Dawgs' game was on Thursday, not Wednesday. I liked the tweet from (@dawgsonline): "Just like Thurs-day (clap-clap-clapclapclap)"

FreshmanDawg said...

As a student, I love recruiting weekends. Knowshon and Matty Stafford sighting downtown last night, and Mark Richt ate at a dining hall... priceless. Do they seriously bring in old gridiron stars just to lure recruits, or were they just hanging out in Athens? Because between Grantham's new scheme, that exciting game last night, and getting to chill with Knowshon and Stafford, I can't see how any recruit went away from this weekend not loving UGA.

knob creek said...

swims in a vat of bourbon every weekend

yes, I'm working on a good buzz

btw... we got some damn good Dawgs on the Saints...
Charles Grant and Jon Stinchcomb

and Asher Allen on the Vikings.

I'm taking the Saints