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Friday, March 11, 2011

SEC tourney hoops blog: UGA vs. Alabama

Final: Alabama 65, Georgia 59 (OT)

Brutal. Just brutal. Georgia led by 14 with 7:33 left in regulation, and instead it may have frittered away its season. We'll have to see how the NCAA tournament selection committee feels about it on Sunday night.

The Bulldogs may still be in the field, but the next two days promise to be very nerve-wracking for the team's hopes. It could have ended any questions, but once again, they couldn't hold what seemed a commanding lead.

Story of the season.

End of regulation: Georgia 53, Alabama 53

Yup, it happened again. The Bulldogs have yet again blown a big second-half lead, and if they can't win this one in overtime, it will be the most important blown-lead loss of the year.

It was almost the most stirring last-second victory, but Dustin Ware's banked-in prayer was negated by Mark Fox's timeout. The result of that was an airball from Trey Thompkins.

You could just tell the knowing panic in the faces of the Georgia players as the lead evaporated there. Now they have to recover.

2:02 left in second half, Georgia leads 52-49

Alabama may not have much of a half-court offense, but its defense is solid, and it just forced enough turnovers to get back in this game. And Georgia has seen this scenario before.

The Bulldogs discombobulated on offense again, falling prey to the trap. The same thing happened at South Carolina. They'll need to collect themselves to hold on here.

5:39 left in second half, Georgia leads 49-36

As I just tweeted (I have to copy myself sometimes) Georgia has taken control of this game. The score, the tempo, and the energy all are on its side. But there's still plenty of time left.

Still, Alabama is showing its offensive impotence, which it will have to overcome if it can pull off the comeback. When Charvez Davis isn't nailing 3s, the Tide just don't have very much.

11:24 left in second half, Georgia leads 40-32

This game is entering a pretty crucial stretch. Georgia's lead has been between six and 10 for awhile now, and if it can extend the lead, or at least keep it around 10, that's great because Alabama is not a high-scoring basketball team.

That said, Georgia's two best post players are alternating in with three fouls. So Travis Leslie continues to take it upon himself, and is now sitting at 21 points, two off his season high.

The Bulldog rebounding has been very good so far, a necessity considering how many poorly the Crimson Tide are shooting.

14:47 left in second half, Georgia leads 36-28

The Bulldogs have started this half slow offensively. Luckily for them, Alabama isn't a strong offensive team, so the lead remains eight.

One worrisome sign is Trey Thompkins picking up his third foul, just now before the media timeout. I imagine Mark Fox will take Thompkins out and try to buy as much time as possible without his star. The problem is, Jeremy Price also has three fouls, and I don't imagine a frontcourt of Chris Barnes and Donte' Williams or Marcus Thornton in this important a game.

Halftime: Georgia leads 30-21

Things got a bit sloppy in the final few minutes, and almost a bit chippy. But the final minute boded well for Georgia: Travis Leslie drained a jumper, and Alabama couldn't convert around the basket in the final seconds.

As we all know, Georgia has blown its share of halftime leads. On the other hand, Alabama is only 1-5 when trailing at halftime. And it had the lead at Tuscaloosa last Saturday.

3:44 left in first half, Georgia leads 28-19

Well, that was a somewhat important sequence of basketball there: Three straight 3s by Georgia, by three different players, and in about a minute the game goes from tied to a nine-point Georgia lead.

First Gerald Robinson, who up till then had missed all his shots. Then Dustin Ware, who celebrated with a whoop as he went back downcourt. And then after a nice steal by Jeremy Price - who honestly had been having a pretty bad game so far - Trey Thompkins nailed a 3 from the corner. Timeout, Alabama.

That sequence could end up being the story of the game, if the lead holds up. But there's plenty of time.

7:30 left in first half, Georgia leads 19-14

Mark Fox called a timeout a minute ago, seemingly for the purpose of yelling at his team. He also spent the subsequent defensive possession constantly snarling at his players.

It seems Fox is worried about his players slouching off and this turning into a sloppy game, just like happened in Tuscaloosa. Georgia got off to a hot start in that game too.

I also think the Georgia offense is going to be geared towards getting the ball inside, at least for as long as it can be. Trey Thompkins just scored on a nice hook shot, as Georgia caught Alabama in transition and was able to dart the ball downcourt and in to Thompkins.

11:45 left in first half, Travis Leslie 13, Alabama 12

Apparently, Travis Leslie came to play in this one. The Georgia junior is dominating so far, scoring 13 of his team's 17 points as Georgia leads by five.

Georgia is using Leslie's athleticism, posting him up inside, and running ball screens to allow him to get to the basket. It's been a thing to behold so far, but I'm sure Anthony Grant is working on something to combat it during the current timeout. So look for things to perhaps open back up for Trey Thompkins, or Dustin Ware from outside.

15:28 left in first half, Alabama leads 9-8

Georgia came out firing and jumped out to leads of 6-0 and 8-2, but Alabama has awoken. The Tide have sped the game up the last few possessions, a tempo more to their liking.

That illustrates the difference in opponents from yesterday: When Georgia jumped out early, it was able to almost dictate the gameplan, getting the ball inside with impunity. But Alabama has the athleticism and, with JaMychel Green inside, the ability to hold its own in the paint.

Pregame thoughts

- When I arrived here on Thursday morning, I had a pretty good idea that I'd be back for another day. This time? It could probably go either way.

Georgia and Alabama seemed pretty evenly-matched when I saw them play just six days ago, and this one is on a neutral court. Yes, it's an hour from Athens, but judging by the fans I saw milling outside the Georgia dome, the Crimson Tide will have a fair share in the stands. At a minimum it shouldn't be as dead inside as it was for the Georgia-Auburn game.

My inclination is that Georgia won't play as sloppy as it did in Tuscaloosa, where it committed 16 turnovers, Dustin Ware had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time in SEC play, and point guard Gerald Robinson was a horrendous 2-for-12 from the field. And I also tend to think the Bulldogs will have an answer this for Charvez Davis, who had five 3-pointers last week. Trey Thompkins also looked like a different player on Thursday, and if he carries that into this game, Georgia will be tough to beat.

Plus, Jeremy Price did very little in Tuscaloosa (6 points, 5 rebounds), and his production often mirrors whether Georgia wins.

But Alabama still has JaMychal Green inside, and it didn't get much from its other guards (Trevor Releford and Senario Hillman) last week. So while I'd say the point spread - Georgia by 2 - is fair, let's just say I wouldn't want to tell you how to bet.


Anonymous said...

man, they can't close a win.

Anonymous said...

UGA doesn't belong in the NCAA tournament. As many games that they've lost big leads in (and ultimately, lost the game), they just don't deserve it. I love UGA, but this team doesn't know how to hold a lead against a good team. They try to milk the clock and, don't really set up a good shot. They miss free throws, can't tip in close shots and don't play good defense (i.e., Alabama time and time again driving through the defense for lay-ups and getting offensive rebounds). Maybe next year they'll be better, but not this year. If they get in, they'll be 1 and done.

Anonymous said...

This team does not deserve to go to the NCAA Tournament. I'm not sure they deserve an NIT invite.

DWH said...

Pathetic. Typical "trying not to lose" mentality as opposed to "trying to win" at the end of games. This team doesn't deserve to go to the tourney. I can't think of one game this year that they won that they were underdogs in.

Anonymous said...

N-I-T, N-I-T, N-I-T!

Anonymous said...

I think Coach Richt just plays scared, he and Bobo don't know how to put the throttle down and just let them go when things are going good.

Oh wait

"dawgs outfoxxed" said...

This team has improved , not ncaa quality.I have watched this team fold over and over,It is easy to see that comes from the coach. On court coaching is not his "thing". I am dying to hear what he planned on doing with .8 seconds(he watched the entire implosion quietly.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is Wow. I don't understand the TO with .8 seconds. That was just plain stupid. Seem to remember Coach Eddie Munster allowing his player to make the final 3 with the clock running out. What did Fox think he could accomplish? And just like Florida again, that was when the game was lost...when OT started.