By Ken Cross
It has been a tough month for the Georgia Bulldogs as they have dropped six of their last seven games and have fallen to 4-8 overall in an unforgiving SEC that could receive as many as a record eight or nine NCAA bids
Defense and rebounding have been the major problem in the Bulldogs’ last three games as Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and No. 8 Auburn have taken advantage of those factors in handing UGa three straight defeats.
There were some glowing numbers in those areas in the three games. Mississippi State out-rebounded Georgia, 37-20 while shooting 51 percent. Vandy nailed 11 triples while shooting 55 percent and on Saturday, Auburn shot 51 percent, 44 percent from behind the arc, while out-rebounding Georgia, 31-27.
Georgia is still second in SEC gave in allowing 39.8 percent from the floor, but the current spiral downward has the Bulldogs concerned with just three weeks remaining before the SEC Tournament.
“For the third game in a row, our defense and our rebounding have disappeared on us,” commented Georgia coach Mark Fox, “We have got to find a way to get back to defending at a level that will give us a chance to win and rebound the ball. We have not done that the last three games and that is where it starts.”
Strangely, the Bulldogs have been out-rebounded by 2.5 per game in SEC play despite the fact that big man Yante Maten is third in the league at 8.7 per contest.
“I haven’t given up anything in my life,” commented Maten, who pleads the SEC in scoring at 19.7 ppg., “I am giving a message as a leader of this team that we don’t give up. That’s not how we roll at Georgia. We made our own bed so we have to fix it and keep rolling.”
In addition, the Bulldogs still need complementary scoring for Maten, who is the only double digit scorer on the team. The Bulldogs have missed guard J.J. Frazier all season with his playmaking, scoring, and leadership. Down the stretch, Juwan Parker, Tyree Crump, Turtle Jackson, or Teshaun Hightower would be candidates to step up consistently beside of the 6-10 senior.
Freshman Rayshaun Hammonds might be the most likely candidate to achieve that as his athleticism and length can go a long way in the post. He had struggled in the three games before Saturday by going a combined 1-of-12 and gathering only 11 rebounds. Saturday, he reasserted himself with a 14-point, 5-rebound effort in 34 minutes.
“Defensively, he still has some things to learn and get better at,” said Fox, “Offensively, he has had a tough month in just finding where he can consistently get his shots and just polishing his skill level to where he can take advantage of those.”
Fox has done an excellent job in putting his team in position to win games and to have game plans to execute. Now the Bulldogs have to grow along side Maten and put together some wins as they travel to South Carolina and Florida while hosting Tennessee, LSU, and Texas A&M in the next three weeks.
“I’ll take 100 percent of the responsibility and that’s an accurate statement, it’s on me,” noted Fox, “Now that’s totally on the coach to make sure the team is ready to go. Now, it’s up to individuals to get themselves emotionally and mentally ready to play. Now, we have to push those buttons and the responsibility totally falls on me.”