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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.


PJ said...

Go Dawgs!!

Mark Fox is currently on the top of my "Buy Beer to:" list.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ever play the Madden from several years ago that had a setting that kept the computer close?

That is how UGA plays basketball. It seems like every game they have a chance to blow the opponent out, but as soon as we go up by 7-9 points, we immediately begin throwing the ball away, taking bad shots and forget to play defense.

Whenever Ware goes out of the game we get discombobulated. As usual, we should be ahead by 10-12 but have left the opponent in the game.

I have no doubt this will come down to the wire and we have nobody to stop Thomas one-on-one.

Anonymous said...

Our guys are out of gas in first half

Anonymous said...

Blown 7 point lead again. Doesn't look good for the second half.

Anonymous said...

Fox should be substituting Thornton for Price instead of Barnes. Thornton's skill will make the defense more honest and get Trey better touches.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Gerald Robinson would score better than AJ did on the Wonderlic?

He refuses to comprehend the idea of time and place. So frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Why is thompkins bringing ball up the court he can't get into the offense

Anonymous said...

Either Fox is actually a really good coach and we just are not that talented, or we have two NBA picks and Fox is not adequately coaching them.

I have thought all along that this team has underachieved vastly, but maybe they just really are not that good?

Frustrating to watch either way.

Anonymous said...

We are incapable or too stubborn to run a fast break. There are times when it is appropriate to run, and we NEVER take advantage of them. So frustrating.

Anonymous said...

This team is so awful to watch, they have had a good season but they go through spurts where it is painful to watch

Anonymous said...

FIRE FOX ! Another stupid hire like Ray Goof and Ron Jirsa.

Anonymous said...

I have never seen such an apathetic starting 5. They do know they are playing in the NCAA tournament, right?

Aladawg said...

Same pattern same show. Second half disaster after second half disaster. The opponent adjusts and we have nothing new. Break the press, then work the ball OUT to mid court. We have a long long way to go. Firefox........This will be as good as it gets


Aladawg said...

Another lead, another loss. Good heart but rotten job. Nothing gained with all the main players gone. Same ole same ole!

Anonymous said...

Why this much effort in the last 49 seconds? too little too late. Pathetic.

Rick said...

Good game and great season, dawgs. The Georgia faithful are proud of you. You may have come up short but you put up one hell of an effort at the end of the game. What a great turnaround from last season's losing record. Sure there is still room for improvement in a lot of areas but some fail to realize how MUCH we've improved in one year. Hold your heads up high and be proud.

Go Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

Starting 5 next year:


Donte Williams will have to put on 20 lbs to get meaningful minutes.

Next year may be a 15 win team, unless Caldwell is off-the-charts good.

I really think Trey and Leslie could both stand to come back, and the NBA is going to face a long, long lockout, but I don't see either of them staying.

I am still scratching my head about this year's squad. Not sure if they overachieved or underachieved.

Carey said...

I'm still proud of the way the dawgs played tonight. While we certainly should have won a couple more games this year, we have to realize that this program is in rebuilding mode. Sure Thompkins and Leslie are definite NBA talents that will most likely be gone next year, but we simply have no depth. That, in my opinion is the reason why we have had so much trouble this year and it is a problem that will get better over time with some good recruiting from Fox.

I'm looking forward to good things out of this bulldog basketball program, and I like the direction we're heading in- that's something that I haven't been able to say in a LONG time.

Wade Wilson said...

Good game, Dawgs.

Ignore the trolls with unrealistic expectations.

The TRUE Bulldog faithful are proud of you.

Thank you Coach Fox for making our basketball team relevant and giving us an exciting season.

Can't wait till next year!

Sic 'em Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

Yea yeah..... Same ole story. Just like our football program. Wait til next year.. Im Sick of moral victories and some of our mamby pamby fans who doesnt demand better. This team didnt improve as the tear progressed. Same mistakes over and over. Jury still out on Fox.

Yup said...

Good points, Anonymous!

Oh wait, nobody gives a rat's ass what anonymous posters think.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Proud of my Dawgs no matter what. They didn't give up until the clock hit zero and you can't ask for any more than that. Go Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

No one gives a crap what Yup says any ignorant fo name Yup my as well be posting under annon

Anonymous said...

I am not sure either way on Coach Fox jury still out, people say wait for his recruiting classes, all the freshman on this team he recruited and none are good enough to log valuable mins. He has mr basketball for state of Georgia and can't get him good enough to play. Don't know why they did not play more can't be any worse than Barnes. If don't play them now they have no experience for next year be lucky to make nit next year, then is the program still on the rise

BulldogBen said...

Valiant effort at the end and I'm proud they showed up to play. Never gave up. They should hold their heads up for that.

That said, our undoing, like Seth said, was the same problems that plagued us all year.

Thompkins is gone and Leslie is 50/50 probably. If both leave, are Barnes and Thornton really the future of this program?

Caldwell, as stated earlier, will have to be the 2nd coming of Dominique for this team to make the tourney again, much less get past the 1st round.

I'm sorry to the apologists, but Georgia should be a place where we expect to make the tournament every year. I know history and tradition dictate that we shouldn't but if not, what the heck are we doing?

Solid season this year and a building block. Now is where the real work begins.

Anonymous said...

I've been disappointed all year, but I have to say that I'm extremely proud of the heart the Dawgs showed the last 2-3 minutes of the game. I think that kind of fire was missing the past couple of months.

I think this was a great season in the macro sense but disappointing in the micro sense. The lack of scoring off the bench killed UGA this year, so hopefully Coach Fox will be able to recruit so that we have more than a 6 man rotation in the future.

Anonymous said...

Making the NCAA this year is going to give fans false sense where this program is, if leslie and thompkins leaveaybe three years before back in the tournament

Anonymous said...

Unless I'm mistaken BulldogBen, Barnes is a senior, so he's gone too.

Anonymous said...

Barnes is senior him and price

BulldogBen said...

My bad. Y'all are right.

Jesus. Worse than I thought.

BulldogBen said...

The last minute or so was a blur of stress and anger but who airballed the free throw in that last minute for the Dawgs? Was that Barnes?

Anonymous said...

BulldogsBen, not sure if it was within the final minute, but it was Barnes