It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say it, but it was a winning weekend for both of Georgia’s basketball teams. Both squads got back into the win column after a disappointing home loss, and both have a good opportunity to build on those victories with some winnable mid-week games.
The men pulled off a surprising road win on Saturday at Texas A&M. In their first visit to College Station, the Dawgs got on top and stayed there, opening up a lead that grew to 17 points in the second half. The Georgia offense became stagnant and the hosts made their push, but Georgia, to their credit, made just enough plays and held A&M scoreless in the final minute. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, as usual, was the story – he was incredibly efficient on offense with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting including a 50% night from behind the arc. He was also Georgia’s leading rebounder by a wide margin with nine boards. The team made their free throws, limited their turnovers, and won the rebounding battle. That’s what it takes to win on the road.
As tough of a season as it’s been, it’s been – relatively speaking – a good stretch for the team. They’ve won two of three and were up on Florida at halftime of Wednesday’s game before the wheels came off. The math is fairly simple – Georgia is going to score somewhere in the high 50s or the low 60s – no more. They won’t stay close in a shootout. If they can hold the opponent in that range, we’ll have a game. The team isn’t going to become an offensive dynamo, but there are still opportunities for other players. Georgia still needs KCP to have a good game to have any chance, but when you get things like Brantley’s mini-hot streak in the second half or valuable minutes from Tim Dixon or six blocks scattered throughout the box score, it will occasionally be enough to come away with a win even on nights where no other player sniffs double-figures in scoring.
Though no SEC opponent is a sure win for a team in Georgia’s position, they’re in as favorable of a stretch as the schedule has. After six conference games, the Dawgs are just one game out of the league cellar, but they’re also tied for 7th place with an astounding seven teams at 2-4. A couple of wins over the next few weeks could move Georgia to the top of that logjam, and they’ll be facing several teams stuck right there in a similar position.
The women had a week to stew over their embarrassing home loss to Texas A&M. Though just their third loss and first home loss of the season, the Lady Dogs looked completely outclassed and punchless against a good-but-not-great Aggie squad. The bye week gave the team a chance to rest and dwell on the loss, but the lackluster effort stayed with the team until they were shut out of their practice gym mid-week. It’s insane that a team that hadn’t actually won anything could ever get complacent, but that’s what we heard after the A&M loss and also what we heard after the season’s first loss at Illinois.
It turns out that this tumultuous week was just what the team needed – at least in the short team. Florida caught a ticked-off Georgia team on the wrong day. The Lady Dogs roared out to a quick double-digit lead, and Florida never mounted a serious challenge. They led by 19 at halftime and eventually pushed the lead over 30 before Florida got it back under 20 in garbage time. Though Georgia didn’t really shoot lights-out, they had a balanced attack and were able to get points both in transition and from the halfcourt offense. Neither team shot well from outside, but Florida shot just 34% from the floor and was an abysmal 5-of-14 from the line.
Andy Landers continues to experiment with his deep roster. Small forward Krista Donald started and responded well with 11 points despite low minutes as the team manages her damaged knee. Anne Marie Armstrong came off the bench and played with more energy than she’s shown so far in SEC play, finishing with 7 points and a big 9 rebounds. Freshman Tiaria Griffin continues to embrace the starting role and finished with 12 points. Though the offense got sloppy at the end of both halves, the effort was so much better than in the A&M game or even in earlier wins against Arkansas and South Carolina.
The Lady Dogs host Alabama on Thursday in a rematch of a high-scoring but comfortable Georgia win in Tuscaloosa earlier this month. Another strong effort should see them push their winning streak to two games, but extending it to three games will be tough, and they can’t pat themselves on the back too hard for the Florida win. After Alabama, Georgia visits #5 Kentucky next Sunday in a game with SEC title hopes at stake. At 5-2 in the league now, Georgia is just outside the top four, and they’ll need to keep winning in order to keep pace with the SEC leaders.