Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs visited the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night for a late evening date with the USC Trojans. The Red and Black rode into town on a four-game losing streak to face a Southern California club that had scored as many as 60 points just twice in its last eight games, five of which were losses.
Unfortunately, the contest followed what has become a familiar pattern for the Athenians, as Georgia played evenly with the host squad for 20 minutes before collapsing in the second half, but a late surge by the visitors permitted the Classic City Canines to exit the City of Angels on the right side of a 63-59 decision.
The two teams went to the break tied at 25 following a first half in which the Fox Hounds had been the more patient team. In the opening period, Georgia shot better than 40 per cent from the field (9 of 21) and exactly 60 per cent from beyond the arc (3 of 5) while draining two-thirds of the squad’s free throws (4 of 6). The Men of Troy had taken more shots (31 from the field; six from three-point range) but hit a lower percentage of them, while the Bulldogs turned seven Trojan turnovers into as many Georgia points.
Despite those advantages for the Red and Black, and despite Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s nine points in the opening 20 minutes, the score was knotted because USC pulled down eleven defensive rebounds while allowing Georgia only one offensive board and holding the visiting Athenians to two second-chance points.
The Trojans took the lead early in the second half, aided greatly by the home team’s torrid free throw shooting and the Bulldogs’ inability to buy a basket from the charity stripe. Playing from behind and unable to work the ball inside, the Classic City Canines were compelled to launch long-distance shots. At the other end of the floor, intermittently solid defensive efforts were spoiled by untimely fouls and poor rebounding.
Nevertheless, the Fox Hounds succeeded in keeping the contest close, putting themselves in a position to tie the game with four and a half minutes remaining and take an improbable one-point lead a minute later. Down the stretch, the Bulldogs drove inside, swiped the ball from the Trojans, and padded their lead with clutch free throw shooting, particularly by Caldwell-Pope, who also drained a critical three-pointer as part of the freshman’s 12-point second half.
By finishing strong, the Athenians managed to sink half of their free throws (6 of 12) and three-fourths of their three-point field goals (6 of 8) in the final 20 minutes, scoring six fast-break points and adding 11 off the bench to come away with the win.
It was Edna St. Vincent Millay who observed, “Life isn’t one damn thing after another. It’s the same damn thing again and again.” So it is with this iteration of Mark Fox’s Bulldog basketball team. Southern California does not field a good basketball team, and it is cause for concern any time a club is made to rely too heavily upon low-percentage long-range shots, so it is not yet the time to proclaim that this team has turned a corner in any meaningful sense; too much of what went wrong was too familiar for us to believe this squad has made a great leap forward. Even so, a small step forward remains a step forward, and this game therefore must be viewed as a move in the correct direction, however slight it my have been.
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! Although we mentioned last month that we were planning a Dawg Sports group outing to next Friday’s home game against Furman, scheduling conflicts have arisen for several of the contributors. As a result of these conflicts, and the low level of interest expressed by the readership, we will NOT be arranging such an outing at this time. We regret any inconvenience, but, if interest waxes during conference play, we will consider attempting to schedule a group outing to a home game later in the season.
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