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Friday, March 18, 2011

NCAA tourney blog: Georgia vs. Washington

Final: Washington 68, Georgia 65

And so it ends. A furious, improbable comeback falls short, and we are left with this:

After playing even with the higher-seeded favorite for a half, Georgia was undone by turnovers, defense and pretty much a lot of things in the second half. Sound familiar? It was the story of the season for Georgia.

I have to run and make deadline, but two quick thoughts:

- Georgia at least didn't have a bad showing here. It didn't lay an egg like Tennessee, and didn't give much ammunition to doubters who said the Bulldogs shouldn't have received a bid.

- In the macro sense, it was a successful season. The team went from three straight losing seasons to 21-12, making the NCAAs as an at-large for the first time in nine years. But in the context of just this year, the Bulldogs failed to close out a number of other wins, and you're left to wonder if this team maxed out or not. (I'm legitimately wondering, not asking rhetorically.)

7:41 left in second half, Georgia trails 53-44

We enter another timeout with Mark Fox yet again shaking his head at an official, the same one who called the goal-tending and just called an offensive foul that Fox didn't like.

Whatever you think about those calls, Georgia has clearly been out-classed this half. And it's also showing wear and tear: The Bulldogs are actually breaking the press, but then failing to attack the basket right away. That's a sign of fatigue.

10:50 left in second half, Georgia trails 49-39

Things have clearly gotten away from the Bulldogs, who are in danger of being run off the floor in Charlotte.

The Huskies have found their shooting stroke, which was predictable. But the Bulldogs have also failed to negate that by rebounding or playing with flow on offense. And now Jeremy Price has four fouls, after a charge call.

Price and Dustin Ware have been non-factors on offense, and Gerald Robinson has disappeared this half too. There's still a lot of time left, but Georgia is going to need a spurt soon, and some stops.

15:37 left in second half, Georgia trails 37-32

Not a good start to the half for Georgia. It hasn't played well so far, but it also wasn't helped by a very bad goal-tending call that negated a Travis Leslie dunk-back. Mark Fox continued to give the refs an earful after that one.

It proved a critical stretch: Isaiah Thomas knocked down a fadeaway on the other end, making it a five-point game. Remember that call, and that sequence, if Georgia doesn't pull back.

That said, the Bulldogs just haven't started well. Their defensive movement hasn't been what it was in the first half, and they're still sloppy on the other end.

Halftime: Georgia and Washington tied at 28

Well, here's a new one: A tie game at the half for Georgia. No big lead to lose, yet, although the Bulldogs did lead by seven at one point.

There's plenty for Georgia to be pleased about, and plenty to work on.

What's pleasing: The play and energy level of the top three players. Trey Thompkins (15 points and eight rebounds) continues to look like the dominant player he was expected to be, Travis Leslie is creating and showing his athleticism, and Gerald Robinson has a couple 3s and a nice drive. The Bulldog defense has also been high-level, though it started to break down late in the half.

What needs to improve: The Bulldogs have been sloppy (eight turnovers), which isn't too unusual, but to win this one they need to avoid the turnovers. The rebounding on the defensive end hasn't been up to par. The Huskies only tied it on the final possession because they got an offensive rebound. Maybe having Jeremy Price in there for a full half will help Georgia.

Basically, I still think Georgia looks capable of winning this one, especially with the longer timeouts helping stave off the depth advantage for Washington. But it will come down to the above factors, and keeping Huskies' star Isaiah Thomas from becoming a major factor. That will be a tough task.

3:45 left in first half, Georgia leads 23-18

Georgia's defense has been stifling. Washington star guard Isaiah Thomas has been held to just two points, and the Huskies look very uncomfortable in their half-court sets.

The cautionary note for Georgia is that the Huskies are also just missing a lot of shots that might start going down later in the game. But the good news if Georgia is causing a big part of that, as Washington isn't getting a lot of clear looks, and apparently not from comfortable spots.

7:39 left in first half, Georgia leads 20-16

The Bulldogs have had their mini-run, capped by Travis Leslie's midcourt steal and subsequent highlight-reel dunk. Overall, things are going well for the Bulldogs, with the exception of Jeremy Price picking up his second foul.

Price is either on or he's not, and he was not on the offensive end. But his rebounding had been solid. Interestingly, Mark Fox responded to having to take out Price by not only staying big, but going bigger: Marcus Thornton AND Chris Barnes went in to play alongside Trey Thompkins, who was eventually subbed in for by Donte' Williams.

It's been awhile since Fox did that, but he's giving Washington a look it didn't expect.

11:20 left in first half, Georgia trails 14-13

My impression so far: Georgia looks like it can hang with Washington from a talent and size standpoint. The question is whether it can last, given the extreme advantage the Huskies have depth-wise.

Mark Fox is riding with the starters so far, after subbing more liberally by this point in some of the previous games. I don't really blame him, as it looks like the Bulldog starters have the right energy. Plus these long timeouts can't hurt.

Georgia's early strategy was to get the ball to Travis Leslie. That didn't quite work out right away, so then it went in more to Trey Thompkins, and that helped spur the team to a 9-4 lead. Thompkins is up to seven points now.

15:57 left in first half, Georgia trails 4-3

It may be a case of the yips for both teams early in this one. The Bulldogs are missing a lot of close shots, although an alley-oop dunk from Travis Leslie was taken away because of an illegal screen call against Jeremy Price.

I like Georgia's defensive energy early, although the rebounding was a bit rough. Despite the lack of points, it looks like Georgia will be able to get the ball inside in its half-court set. Now it has to figure out a way to take advantage of Washington's misses and get some points in transition.

9:17 p.m.: Starting lineups announced

Georgia is starting its standard five: Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Price up front, and Travis Leslie, Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson in the backcourt. The only drama was with the opposition.

Washington’s versatility is such that head coach Lorenzo Romar spent the days leading up to the NCAA tournament debating whether to go bigger or smaller with his starting lineup. He went with the former.

Darnell Grant, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, was inserted into the starting lineup in place of 6-5 guard C.J. Wilcox. That left Washington with just one starter under 6-6: Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who is 5-9.

Grant had come off the bench during Washington’s three-game run to the Pac-10 tournament title, while Wilcox had started all three games.

Romar has started 10 different players this season, each with three or more starts. Thomas and senior forward Justin Holiday are the only two that have started every game.

8:35 p.m.: The Blog commences

The Georgia players, and head coach Mark Fox, have taken their seats to watch the second half of North Carolina-Long Island. So I figure it's an appropriate time to gear up the ol' gameday blog.

A word of warning: I hope to update the blog fairly regularly, but because of the lateness of the start I'll have early deadlines. That means I'll have to focus on my game story, especially as the game nears an end.

And that could be around midnight: The estimated start time is about 9:45, but it'll probably be closer to 10. Once North Carolina-LIU is over, there will be a 30-minute wait until the tip of the next game. And with the extra long timeouts and a 20-minute halftime ... yeah, settle in for a long night.


trumely said...

How big was the officials waving off of T. Leslie's putback dunk at the end of that game?

Steve said...

No quit. Proud of my dawgs. Sad that the season is over. Let's do it again next year.

Steve said...

"'re left to wonder if this team maxed out or not."

Two comments on this.

1. On the one hand, I'm buying into the fact that Thompkins just couldn't have been healthy all year. He looked so good starting in the SEC tournament, and he made himself some money tonight. If he had been healthy all year, you have to believe we would have closed some of those games.

2. On the other hand, our depth was horrendous. Barnes seemingly regressed, and Thornton never turned into a contributor. Even with a healthy Thompkins, the depth was going to kill us. Keep in mind, the last time the bench scored a SINGLE POINT was against Auburn.

I feel like Fox is on track. Now it's time to assert himself as a recruiter and keep the momentum. If Thompkins and Leslie both go, a small step back is inevitable. But we should end up in the postseason next year no matter what, even if it's the NIT.

Go Dawgs.

Anonymous said...

Fouling the 3 shooter with .02 on shotclock, is this team in a nutshell.O.K. talent poorly coached.