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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fleeting Thoughts: Georgia-Alabama

A few quick thoughts about Georgia's game last night vs. Alabama and the season overall…

-- Given the amount of attention that was given to Georgia's perceived interest in Anthony Grant last year, and considering the fact that they both took over programs at the same time, there's likely to be an ongoing comparison between Grant and Mark Fox for the next few seasons. So far, Fox 1, Grant 0. And that score isn't as close as the game last night was.

-- With eight minutes left to play, I looked up Trey Thompkins' lowest scoring tallies of the season because it looked like he might be in line for one of his worst games of the year. At that point, he had eight points and had been a non-factor throughout most of the game.

His final line: 21 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists on 9-of-12 shooting.

The last time a player put up a 21/17 line was 1998 and his name was Jumaine Jones.

-- Last night's game was sort of bizzaro Georgia. All year, Fox has been preaching the need for better play defensively and better performance on the boards. All year, it has been Georgia's strong shooting from the free-throw line and ability to take advantage of fast-break opportunities that has kept them afloat.

So what happened Saturday? The Dawgs started out 2-of-12 from the charity stripe but were dominant on defense and finished with a 39-27 advantage on the boards.

-- Oh, and something to be said for being mentally tough: After that 2-of-12 start from the line, the Dawgs rallied to finish by hitting 11-of-12.

-- While Thompkins' numbers jumped off the page at game's end, the guy who probably didn't get enough credit was Dustin Ware. He finished with seven assists and just two turnovers and drained a huge 3 late to put the Dawgs in command. He added to that by connecting on all four of his free-throw attempts in the final minute of action.

-- After Jeremy Price's big game in place of Albert Jackson last week, there was reason for optimism that he might be on the right track toward a breakout conclusion to 2010. Instead, he's tallied just eight points in his past two games, including just two points (and no boards) in only nine minutes of work last night.

-- On the other hand, Chris Barnes has shown some nice signs of life of late. After playing exactly 11 minutes in each of his previous four games, Barnes was Fox's secret weapon against Alabama, going 4-of-4 from the field -- including the night's signature dunk to cap Georgia's scoring -- and posted a season-high 10 points while adding five rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes of work.

“I’ve been hard on these guys the last couple of days because I didn’t like how they defended our last ballgame," Fox said. "Chris was the one guy that was just alley-cat tough enough to fight back, and I thought he’d have a good ballgame.”

-- While a regular-season win against an also-ran Alabama team is certainly not the most noteworthy victory of the year for Georgia, it did mark a few milestones:

It was win No. 12 for the Bulldogs -- tying their total from last season in five fewer games.

It was win No. 4 in SEC play for UGA -- one more than they had all of last year.

It was the first time Georgia had beaten a team from the SEC West since it toppled Arkansas to conclude its miracle run to the conference championship in 2008.

-- Georgia led 30-29 at the half last night. So far this season, they have been tied or led at the halfway point in nine of 12 SEC games. And they won one of the three in which they didn't lead at the half.

-- Georgia has only lost five games this season by more than 10 points, and only two of those have come during conference play. Last season (when the SEC was markedly worse as a conference), Georgia lost 11 games by more than 10 points, and all but one came in conference.

-- Again, the home-court advantage has been big for the Bulldogs. UGA is now 0-10 on the road, but an impressive 12-3 at home this season.

“This, for our program, is progress," Fox said. "Every game is a chance to make progress. We understand that we still have not gotten over the hump on the road. We’re a lot better team on the road than we were on those first couple of trips. We’ve got everybody bringing their sneakers now. We’re growing. But if you look back to when we started, Stegeman wasn’t a home-court advantage. I heard somebody say, ‘Let’s tear it down, it’s too old.’ Well, it’s been pretty good to us. We have to keep making steps forward, and today was a step forward.”


Anonymous said...

Great stuff, as usual David. One thing that really impressed me during the game was the way Fox "communicated" with the officials. After Price got his 4th foul, Fox was really animated with the official(s). I'm sure being a rookie coach in the conference means you have to earn some calls. But Fox makes his point, then leaves it alone. He even elicited a smile or two from one of the refs.

As for our play...this was a fun game to watch after the sluggish start. Bama has always given us fits in our own gym. When we were down by 11, I just about gave up as I watched via ESPN.360. Trey really did step up, not only with words but with action.

Crank It Lax said...

That was a really interesting game to watch... not the most spectacular playing of the season, but they made up for it with grit and heart.

I was most impressed because the crowd was not nearly as big a factor as the previous home wins. Early on there were a ton of empty seats, but the Dogs didn't seem to be dependent on the crowd for energy... although it certainly helped toward the end.

Turnovers were really a huge problem through the first 2/3 of the game... they can't give up the ball at that rate and hope to win.

Our half-court offense looks really sluggish at times. When they don't get penetration or inside looks, AL effectively took McPhee out of the game. When they weren't forced to double inside, the Tide players were left to sworm on the edges. Ricky needs space against bigger, more athletic defenders.

But this is a very fun team to watch, and I look forward to the stretch and tourney.

Anonymous said...

Fox is the real deal, and I cannot wait to watch what he builds, and how the program improves once the Stegasauras is brought into the new millenium.

As bad as I dogged Felton, Leslie and HT3 are as talented a duo as UGA has had, right up there with Kessler/Green and Carlos Strong/Shandon Anderson.

Of course, Felton was just going to let Leslie flunk out without any effort to get the kid back on track.

I was perusing the SEC stats this morning, and noticed that we are leading, or are right at the top in FT% and FG%.

Fox reminds me of Harrick in that he can design a play to get us an open shot every time down court. One can count on one hand the number of open layups we got off designed plays in the Felton era.

With the addition of Gerald Robinson next year, and if Price will dedicate himself to getting into shape and refining his game, we should be an NCAA tourney team. The SEC East is going to be absurdly loaded next year, but we should be right in the thick of it.