I admit it. I stayed up past my usual bedtime tuesday night to watch Dennis Felton's Bulldogs fall 61-55 to the Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena. In my book there's no shame to losing to Kentucky at Rupp, especially when they come to the gym on a torrid winning streak. Still, losing divisional games hurts. There are no two ways about it. My thoughts on the game in no particular order:
Coach Felton definitely has "his guys" playing for him. The best part of that game was the fact that we went down 20-4 to start it and still had a legitimate shot to win in the last 5 minutes. I've gone on record as saying that I'm not a big fan of the moral victory, but this one was significant. The team didn't quit, just like they didn't against Tennessee. We lost, but we lost to a better basketball team. It frustrates the hell out of me that there are still so many better teams out there five years into the Felton regime, but them's the breaks. I can't fault the kids at all for the level of hustle, especially on defense. There were some breakdowns, yes, but I don't think they resulted from lack of effort. They resulted from youth and exhaustion, neither one of which we can do anything about right now.
Now about those last five minutes. It was pure torture. Forget waterboarding. The federal government shouldn't be allowed to subject its own citizens to watching the Dennis Felton Lack of Motion Offense, especially on the road. Every team shoots the ball worse on the road than they do at home, but going the final 6 minutes of the game with nothing but a run-and-gun 3 pointer from Zack Swansey with 12 seconds left just isn't going to cut it. I got the distinct impression that the team was really pressing down the stretch, and the harder they pressed the fewer shots fell. That may be a lesson that helps out next season. This season it's yet another hard knock lesson learned.
And we continued to have trouble with such basic skills as inbounding the ball and finishing contested layups (I think we missed at least 8 of these around the basket, but I stopped counting). Not to mention the patent-pending "Felton Freefall" in which otherwise competent shooters go 5 minutes or more looking as if they have puttheroundballinthebasketlikeNaismithintended-aphobia.
I for one am having to seriously reevaluate where this program is. It occurred to me the other night that whoever we replace Yata Gaines with is going to be a downgrade. God bless the guy, because if he were playing at Tennessee or Memphis he'd be a Player of the Year candidate. Instead he's playing his butt off in basketball Siberia. Next year we will still be youngish in the frontcourt, only without Dave Bliss. We'll be finding our way in an SEC that will not be as young as it was this season, against Kentucky and Florida teams that will likely be on the upswing. Next season just doesn't look encouraging, though I suppose that barring some FSU football-style mass suspensions, it couldn't be worse than this year from a personnel perspective.
Feel free to leave your musings, frustrations and observations in the comments. What is your take on the state of the UGA basketball program? Is it really that bad? Are we right around the corner from respectability?