Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Hoops weekend – contrasts in taking care of business

Monday February 28, 2011

Georgia’s men coasted to a 64-48 win over South Carolina Saturday night. It was Georgia’s biggest win and first breather since the rout of Mississippi State over a month ago. It also provided the Dawgs with a chance to face and overcome their second-half demons against a lesser opponent.

The starting frontcourt of Price and Thompkins combined for a nice 34 points, taking advantage of foul trouble to South Carolina’s only inside presence, Sam Muldrow. On the other end, the Dawgs held a +10 rebounding margin and held SC to 28% shooting (and an abysmal 1-of-19 from outside).

The difference in this game was second-half defense. Georgia only scored four more points in this rout than they did in the nail-biter in Columbia. But South Carolina’s comeback in that initial meeting was fueled by 47 second-half points. The Gamecocks converted Georgia turnovers and heated up from outside to roar back from that abysmal first half. This time the Dawgs kept up the intensity, avoided a slew of turnovers, defended the perimeter, and held the visitors to fewer than 30 points in the second half.

It wasn’t without a tiny bit of drama. South Carolina roared back to within 12 early in the second half, prompting a quick timeout from Mark Fox. Fox lit into the team, and apparently that was enough to head off another second-half collapse. The lead soon headed back upwards of 20 points, and South Carolina never seriously threatened again. Georgia went into full-on delay mode for the final six minutes and spent the time doing the basketball equivalent of running Chapas three straight times.

It was far from a perfect game, and there’s plenty to work on heading into the final week of the regular season. Despite controlling much of the game, Georgia only got two points off the bench in a combined 43 minutes. The starting guards only added 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and Robinson had nearly as many turnovers (6) as points (8). If Georgia is going to make much noise in the postseason, they really need Robinson to find his form.

The consensus is pretty clear about the South Carolina game: avoiding the loss was about as important as notching another win. The same holds true for Wednesday’s game against LSU, the final home game of the season and Senior Day for Price and Barnes. But avoiding the loss doesn’t mean going into a game with the tentative style of playing not to lose. Georgia did a good job of that against South Carolina and never let the stakes of the game get in the way of the moment.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Lady Dogs. As it turned out, they needed only to win one of their final three games to claim second place in the conference heading into this weekend’s tournament. They couldn’t. Winning at Tennessee was a lot to ask, and Georgia wasn’t even competitive in that game. But the last two games against Auburn and Florida were there for the taking, and Georgia missed two opportunities to secure very favorable position for this week’s SEC Tournament.

Georgia heads into the SEC Tournament with three straight losses and very little momentum – not exactly where you want to be for the postseason. Ten days ago, they were in great shape having posted one of their best results of the year against Kentucky. They enjoyed a two-game lead in the standings for second place. Since then it’s been regression back to some very basic mistakes: missed layups, unforced turnovers, attempting too many three-pointers rather than working the ball inside, and the lack of shutdown defense. That Georgia was in these last two games should show them what could be possible by eliminating some simple mental mistakes. But when something as basic as a layup has been an issue all season, it’s a reach to expect a much of a change at this point in the season.

You’d get the wrong impression about which Georgia team was on the bubble from what I just wrote, and the Lady Dogs still managed to claim the #4 seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament. That says a lot more about the relatively weak conference this year, but it’s still nominally a step forward from last season’s #6 seed. It means that Georgia will avoid playing on Thursday, and that extra day of rest can’t hurt a team already down one key reserve. It also means that Georgia’s now on Tennessee’s side of the bracket, but that won’t matter until Georgia advances beyond the quarterfinals.

The Lady Dogs will likely face South Carolina in the quarterfinals on Friday night at 7:30, but that’s not a given: South Carolina needed overtime to beat #12 seed Ole Miss during the regular season. If it does turn out to be SC, the two teams split home-and home back in January. We’ll have a look at the tournament field later this week.

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