Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Reports: Georgia vs. Florida. It’s like figuring out a Rubik’s cube while taking Fireball shots. And the Dawgs are quite a surprising puzzle right now away from home. We’re 2-0 on the road in the SEC with double-digit blowouts against two good teams.
The latest was a 69-47 shellacking of Ole Miss last Wednesday night. Now, things get swampy as we had to Gainesville. Outside of Tom Petty, pretty much everything associated with Gainesville, FL is garbage in my opinion. Next to the North Avenue nerds, there’s nothing I detest more. From jorts to mullets, there’s nothing redeemable about the locale. The Dawgs were unlucky enough to draw Kentucky and Florida as two of the five teams we play twice this year. I don’t think there’s any doubt we need to go at least 1-3 in those four to make the Big Dance. However, before we get carried away talking about rednecks that mud wrestle at weddings, let’s look back at the Ole Miss game.
The Dawgs and Ole Miss were both ice cold to start the game Wednesday night. The score was 30-18 at half. This was coming from an Ole Miss team that scored 88 in their previous game. So their lack of offense was somewhat surprising to say the least. Maybe we should just chalk it up to outstanding defense? Maybe, but they were just really bad that night. And while the Dawgs weren’t setting the rim on fire, we were able to keep Ole Miss at arm’s length all night long. I believe the closest the game got in the second half was seven points. The Dawgs were led, as usual, by Yante Maten’s 15 and 11 double-double and JJ Frazier’s 17. Juwan Parker chipped in 12 points. The big stat of the night, though, in my opinion, was the 22-25 for 88% number at the free throw line. That really kept the Dawgs in total control of the game. That led to another great road win against a solid team. Now, let’s talk about the true enemy.
The Dawgs have been awful in Gainesville the last 15 years. Not only has Mark Fox not won down there, the last time the Dawgs won in Gainesville was in 2002 when Chris Daniels and Fred Gibson had big games for the Dawgs. That’s right, Fred Gibson! He sunk four huge FTs down the stretch to seal the deal while doing the Gator Chop between shots. If I remember correctly, the closest game Coach Fox has had down there is a nine point loss and it’s easy to see why. They thrive on forcing turnovers through pressure.
During Coach Fox’s tenure at UGA, we’ve been really bad at hanging on to the ball. Whether it be bad hands from some of our big men or bad decisions from our guards, we’ve not done a good job against many teams. I think we had 20 the other night in our only SEC loss. That’s really been the only part of Coach Fox’s Xs and Os that has been sub-par. So we have to get that under control. If you can beat their press, it leads to easy baskets. However, if you don’t, it also leads to easy baskets. Just not for the good guys. So common sense says the only way to win down there is limit the TOs to 12 or less. Do that, and we have a shot. They’re overrated in my opinion. If it’s close, I think we can win. The problem is we’ve not been able to keep it close down there in quite some time.
So we know what’s on the line. A win and the Dawgs sit at 4-1. I’ve said it before 11-7 gets us in the NCAA Tourney under most circumstances. A win in Gainesville makes the road to 11 wins a lot easier. We still have road games at UK and USCe. They’re the other two teams that are undefeated in the SEC at the moment. So the schedule ain’t our friend this year. A road win against a major rival and Top 25 team not only propels the Dawgs into the race for the SEC regular season crown, it would also put them back on the national map. The Dawgs haven’t had many major upset wins since Coach Harrick left. So this a change to turn things around. And it starts against a team famous for it’s redneck fans. Go Dawgs!