UGA offense frostbitten in loss to Vanderbilt

UGA offense frostbitten in loss to Vanderbilt
January 30, 2014, 3:30 pm
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ATHENS, Ga. — It seems the Georgia basketball team cooled off with the weather.

With a thin blanket of snow still covering the Classic City, the Bulldogs (10-9) lost to Vanderbilt 59-54 on Wednesday night thanks to an especially poor showing on offense, falling to 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference in the process.

Just how poor was Georgia on the attacking end? The team shot 27.3 percent from the field and ended an abysmal 4-for-23 from behind the arc, with three of those 3-pointers coming in the final minute of the game. A little under 40 percent of the team’s points came on free throws (20). And guards Taylor Echols and Juwan Parker, who both saw increased action filling in for the injured Kenny Gaines (thigh), shot a combined 2-for-17.

“I think you got to be assertive. We were just kind of existing on offense. We didn’t establish ourselves in any way, shape or form,” said Marcus Thornton, who went 1-for-7 himself on the night.

The Bulldogs typically have not taken a high-volume of perimeter shots this season, but they did against the Commodores. Head coach Mark Fox attributed the increase, at least partially, to offensive immaturity and an inability to create a lasting presence in the paint.

“I thought in the first half that we settled for 3-point shots,” Fox said. “We were so weak-minded that almost half our shots in the first half were 3-point shots. Their defense deserves credit for that, but there were opportunities to get it inside of there.”

Vanderbilt’s defense certainly played its part in preventing Georgia’s shooters from mounting a comeback run. Though Charles Mann managed 20 points and Brandon Morris (12 points) also reached double-digits, the team was unable to capitalize once the Commodore shooters (who hit six 3-pointers and led a pair of 7-0 runs in the first half) slowed down.

“They played hard defense, kept switching from man to zone, so that kind of throws your rhythm off a little bit,” Parker said.

Even trailing by as little as three points early in the second half, UGA simply could not swing the game back in its favor.

“Early in the game, our defense was soft and they had some threes and it’s hard to run when they’re making baskets. There were some chances to run, and we didn’t really seize the moment,” Fox said. “We’ve got to steal easy opportunities when they’re there.”

Clearly, the loss of Gaines has hurt quite a bit. Both he and Parker (hamstring) were banged up during Saturday’s blowout loss to Kentucky, and Parker – a freshman who went 0-for-10 from the floor against Vanderbilt – simply struggled to make anything happen.

“Trust me, I won’t forget it,” he said. “It’ll just motivate me. I might get in the gym tonight and hit some shots. I got to hit something before I leave the gym.”

Considering the number of shots missed, Georgia turned in a respectable effort on the defensive end of the court, out-rebounding the Commodores 38-35, recording eight steals and limiting them to two 3-pointers in the second half. Forward Rod Odom logged a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Dai-John Parker scored 15 of his own, but as a team Vanderbilt finished below its season averages in points and field-goal percentage per game.

The difference was undeniably Georgia’s shooting, or lack thereof, and the fact that it came at home against a team that had lost four of its last six games has to sting.

“We didn’t want to come out like this,” Mann said. “We haven’t been playing like this lately. It doesn’t feel good. We’re looking forward to bouncing back on Saturday.”

The Bulldogs will try to get back on track Saturday when they travel to face the Auburn Tigers (8-9, 0-6 SEC).