Jan. 28, 2014
About the Game
Georgia and Vanderbilt stage their only 2014 matchup in a Wednesday night contest in Athens. Both teams arrive at this game with 10-8 overall records. The Bulldogs have a 4-2 mark in SEC games while the Commodores have a 2-4 record.
Most recently, Georgia is coming off a 79-54 loss at 14th-ranked Kentucky. The short-handed Bulldogs played without either of their `2' guards. Kenny Gaines (thigh bruise) and Juwan Parker (hamstring) both made the trip to Lexington but sat out the game. The resulting lineup caused a significant shift in strategy and also produced a season-low contribution from the Bulldog bench (7 pts.). Still, Georgia managed to become just the third Kentucky opponent to outrebound the Wildcats (35-32) this season. It continued a prevailing trend through these early SEC games; the Bulldogs have outrebounded five of their six league opponents and tied the other (Florida).
Individually, Georgia got 15 points from sophomore Brandon Morris against Kentucky, an SEC career high for the Lithonia native. Georgia's only other double-figure scorer was redshirt junior Marcus Thornton, who has maintained career-best production through the first phase of the SEC schedule. Thornton is Georgia's No. 3 scorer and its top rebounder through six conference games.
Wednesday's matchup is the 137th all-time meeting between Georgia and Vanderbilt in basketball. Vandy leads the series 87-49, including a 63-62 victory in last season's only meeting on Feb. 27 in Nashville.
Georgia recently wrapped up what turned out to be the most challenging portion of its 2014 schedule. The Bulldogs played six RPI Top 100 opponents in their past eight games. The difficulty of its recent schedule, combined with wins over three of those Top 100 teams, caused Georgia's own RPI rating to jump nearly 150 spots in the past month.
|F||2||Marcus Thornton**||6-8||235||RJr.||Atlanta, Ga.||7.7||5.8|
|F||15||Donte' Williams***||6-9||225||Sr.||Ellenwood, Ga.||5.8||5.3|
|F||31||Brandon Morris||6-7||215||So.||Lithonia, Ga.||9.4||3.7|
|G||4||Charles Mann*||6-5||210||So.||Alpharetta, Ga.||13.1||3.0a|
|G||12||Kenny Gaines*||6-3||195||So.||Atlanta, Ga.||12.0||2.5|
#Assists Per Game
|F||0||Rod Odom||6-9||212||Sr.||Central Islip, N.Y.||14.0||5.7|
|F||35||James Siakam||6-7||215||RJr.||Douala, Cameroon||7.9||5.2|
|C||30||Damian Jones||6-10||235||Fr.||Baton Rouge, La.||11.3||5.4|
|G||11||Kyle Fuller||6-1||188||Sr.||Moreno Valley, Calif.||11.1||4.1a|
|G||24||Dai-Jon Parker||6-3||190||Jr.||Baton Rouge, La.||6.6||3.9|
Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record at Vanderbilt / Years: 287-184 / 15th season
Overall Record / Years: 410-247 / 20th season
Assistant Coaches: David Cason, Yanni Hufnagel, Tom Richardson
Georgia vs. Vanderbilt
Wednesday's game is the 137th all-time meeting between these two schools in basketball. Vanderbilt leads the series, which began in 1914 and has been renewed annually since 1951, by an 87-49 count.
In the 54 years that Georgia and Vanderbilt played a home-and-home series. Georgia swept the series just seven times and not since 2001.
Vanderbilt took last season's only matchup by a 63-62 score on Feb. 27 in Nashville.
Oddly, these two programs have met twice in post-season play on their respective home courts. Georgia defeated Vandy at Memorial Gym in the 1991 SEC Tournament second round. Seven years later, Georgia defeated Vandy at Stegeman Coliseum in the NIT third round, earning a trip to New York for the NIT Final Four in the process.
A geographical breakdown of the series follows:
Games in Athens: UGA leads 33-28
Games in Nashville: Vandy leads 54-13
Neutral-Court Games: Vandy leads 5-3
Georgia's win last Wednesday over South Carolina was its eighth consecutive home victory. That matches the longest such streak of the Mark Fox era, established first during the 2010-11 season. The most recent home win streak longer than eight games was an 11-game run that covered the 2007-08 seasons. Before that, Georgia put together a 13-game win streak at home during the 2002-03 seasons. Going back farther, Georgia had a 15-game win streak that covered the 1989-91 seasons.
These most recent games have seen Georgia's rotation come into much sharper focus. The Bulldogs did not have a single player averaging 30 minutes through the pre-conference slate. Charles Mann and backcourt mate Kenny Gaines are currently averaging over 32 minutes in SEC play. Additionally, fellow starters Marcus Thornton and Brandon Morris both recorded career highs in minutes during the past week of play.
Charles Mann's knack for frequent trips to the free-throw line is no secret. As a freshman last season, he had the fifth most free-throw attempts of any SEC player (170). In the Alabama game Jan. 11, when he went 13 of 18 from the line, his 18 tries were the most by a Georgia player in 10 years and the fourth most in UGA history.
Much has been made of the new enforcement of existing rules, as well as new rules, this season. Thus far, as all participants adjust to these changes, the volume of called fouls rose in the beginning but has leveled off recently. There has been an average of 41 fouls called in each of Georgia's games thus far this season, compared to 36 fouls per game last season.
Perhaps no statistic has had a greater effect on Georgia's fate this season than in rebounding. Simply stated, when the Bulldogs have outrebounded their opponent, they've mostly won. When they haven't, they've lost. In Georgia's 10 wins, the Bulldogs have compiled a +12.1 rebounding margin, most recently a +12 margin vs. South Carolina. Their rebounding margin in seven losses is -3.2. The lone exception to this rule? Last Saturday's loss at Kentucky, which the Bulldogs outrebounded 35-32.
Additional findings in the wins vs. losses:
> Kenny Gaines is Georgia's leading scorer in its 10 wins (12.6 ppg). Charles Mann, UGA's leading scorer overall, leads Georgia in its seven losses (15.2 ppg) but has only the No. 2 average in its 10 wins (11.4 ppg)
> Not surprisingly, Georgia wins the free throw-shooting competition when it wins the game. The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents by an average of 21-14 in their 10 wins. Conversely, their opponents have won that battle by a 21-16 in Georgia's eight losses. In addition, their opponents have shot 79.2 percent from the line in those eight games.
Georgia began this season amidst low expectations...externally, anyway. The Bulldogs were picked by the media that cover SEC basketball to finish 11th in the 14-team league, ahead of only South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee were picked 1-2-3 in the same poll. Additionally, no Bulldogs were selected to the 16-player pre-season All-SEC lists.
One effect of not having Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on this year's team: last year, 30 percent of Georgia's total field goals were scored from 3-point range. This year, just 18 percent thus far have come from beyond the arc. Perhaps another way to view this difference: last season's Georgia team averaged scoring 22 points in the paint area. This season, that number thus far has risen to 34.2 points in the paint.
Most discussion involving KCP's absence has revolved around its effect on the Georgia offense. Little discussion has pertained to its effect on the Georgia defense, which this year has allowed its opponents a .403 overall field-goal percentage, .352 from 3-point range, compared to .388 and .329, respectively, with KCP in the lineup last season.
On Dec. 28, when Colorado sank all 26 of its free-throw attempts, it marked the first time in almost 19 years a Bulldog opponent had shot 100 percent. Tennessee went 10x10 against Georgia on Feb. 11, 1995. That was 584 games ago. For Georgia, it's been 772 games since its last 100 percent shooting night...back to Jan. 14, 1989 vs. Vanderbilt (12x12).
Georgia has now shot at least 50 percent from the field eight times this season. That equals the number of 50 percent shooting games over the previous two seasons combined.
Staff Changes for 2014
For the first time of his 4+ seasons in Athens, head coach Mark Fox made changes to his immediate coaching staff. Three-year UGA letterman (2002-04) Jonas Hayes was promoted from Operations Coordinator to Assistant Coach. A native Atlantan, Hayes returned to UGA in 2012 after serving as an Assistant Coach at Belmont Abbey in North Carolina for five seasons. He had also assisted the programs at South Carolina State, Morehouse and his alma mater, Douglass High School, after graduating from UGA in 2004.
Hayes, whose twin brother Jarvis continues to play professionally overseas, became the first Georgia basketball alumnus to hold a full-time assistant's position on the staff at his alma mater since Mark Slonaker assisted Hugh Durham from 1989-95.
To replace Hayes in the Coordinator's position, Fox hired Byron Samuels in May of 2013. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native, is a veteran of the collegiate ranks whose career includes head coaching stops at Hampton, Radford and, most lastly, at Hillsborough Community College, where he coached recent UGA alum John Florveus. Samuels is a veteran of SEC basketball, having assisted four Tennessee teams that earned NCAA Tournament berths.
Offense on the Uptick
One thing is apparent through the early going this season: Georgia's offense appears to be measurably more effective than last season, even without its best scorer from 2013. In 12 of 18 games thus far, the Bulldogs have scored well over their seasonal average (60.8) of last season. The team's overall shooting percentage has also risen from 40.8 of last season to its current mark of 45.5.
Already, Georgia has shot over 50 percent from the field in eight games, more than twice as often as in all of 2012-13.
About the Schedule
Conference expansion manifests itself in many strange ways, not the least of which occurs in scheduling. Georgia fans noticed this oddity most recently as their football team has traveled to Auburn in consecutive seasons.
This season their basketball team will experience one of the oddest quirks to its schedule in years. Kentucky will not travel to Athens for a game this season for the first time since the 1962-63 season. Same for Tennessee. For Florida, which also won't play a game in Athens this season, the last time it didn't play in Athens was in 1961-62. The Gators are the most frequent opponent in UGA hoops history.
It took a World War to keep all three schools out of Athens together in the same season the last time. Not since the 1943-44 season -- when Georgia dotted its schedule with random groups like Lawson General Hospital and Robins Airfield -- has this phenomenon occurred.
Georgia and the SEC
Following are a few tidbits about Georgia's history in the SEC:
Georgia's all-time record in SEC games, covering 80 years, is 502-733 (.406). That ranks 10th of 12 SEC members (excluding Missouri and Texas A&M).
Georgia can claim one SEC regular-season championship (1990), one regular-season divisional title (2002) and two SEC Tournament crowns (1983, 2008).
Georgia has had just two AP SEC Player of the Year: Dominique Wilkins in 1981 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last season. Other superlative post-season awards include Coaches' SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Rashad Wright in 2004), AP SEC Newcomer of the Year (Jarvis Hayes in 2002), and Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Dave Bliss in 2008).
Wilkins was the first of four Georgia players to lead the SEC in scoring at season's end. He averaged a league-best 23.6 points per game in 1981. Others to follow him have been Vern Fleming (19.8 ppg in 1984), Jumaine Jones (18.8 ppg in 1999) and Jarvis Hayes (18.6 ppg in 2002).
Georgia has an all-time SEC Tournament record of 40-51. The 2008 tourney marked the first time since 1997 that Georgia has reached the finals.
Fox Best at Molding Talent
Blogger and hoops junkie Dan Hanner of RealGM.com penned an article in February of 2012 that anointed Georgia head coach Mark Fox as the top coach in college basketball at player development. Hanner used a complex formula to rate college coaches. Among Hanner's many observations he writes, "Mark Fox has truly been fantastic at getting the most out of his players."
The top five in the Player Development category include Fox; Bo Ryan (Wisconsin); Craig Robinson (Oregon State); Lorenzo Romar (Washington); and Mike Montgomery (Cal).
Perhaps the most tangible proof of Fox's talent development is the number of NBA draftees and current pros that have played for him. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became the 11th player under his tutelage to get drafted by an NBA club. He was the fourth 1st-rounder.
Fox Also Tops at Producing Grads
Head Coach Mark Fox must also receive some degree of credit for developing high-performing students in the classroom. Since his arrival in April of 2009, no fewer than 14 Georgia basketball players have earned their undergraduate degrees. Every player that has exhausted his eligibility at UGA under Fox has completed his degree.
Prominent among this group of 14 includes Damien Wilkins - nephew of UGA great Dominique Wilkins - whose last year of eligibility came in 2004 and who has played professionally in the NBA ever since.
Last summer the Georgia program was recognized by the NCAA for its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scored of 990, which ranked among the top 10 percent of all men's basketball programs.