from Nick Suss
March 15, 2014, 10:11 a.m.
Stories via the Red & Black
By Nick Suss
At the end of the game, Charles Mann didn’t care that he had four fouls.
He just wanted to play his game.
“I just played me,” Mann said. “I just play like me. I stay aggressive, looking to score, stay with my teammates, keeping my head up and don’t let the past calls get to me.”
With 16 seconds remaining in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinal matchup against Mississippi and his Bulldogs team down by one point, Mann did just that. Attacking the ball after a missed shot by sophomore forward Brandon Morris, the sophomore guard picked up the rebound, drove through the lane and lofted shot into the basket.
That shot was all the Bulldogs would need. Just 16 game seconds later, and after an insurance free throw made by junior forward Marcus Thornton, Mann’s shot propelled the Bulldogs into the SEC Semifinals by a score of 75-73.
“Brandon just missed the layup and it bounced my way and I just wanted to keep it up there and just attack the rim,” Mann said of the shot. “Hopefully the shot could connect, which it did.”
It was that sort of play which put Mann into the precarious situation he was in. As Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy was quick to concede, Mann has made his success at UGA as a “dribble-drive player,” cutting through the lane and creating fouls on the opponent’s end. But in a game such as Friday’s where 51 total fouls were called, Mann would have been justified to be hesitant.
Mann wasn’t the only Bulldog in foul trouble. At halftime, four of the Bulldogs’ five starters had two fouls, with only Morris exempt from that distinction. By the time the game had ended, the Bulldogs had been called for 22 fouls, a small sum when compared to Mississippi’s 29.
Georgia coach Mark Fox doesn’t believe the players or the referees should be blamed for the high volumes of fouls called. In fact, Fox said he believes that the culprit is the rules themselves.
“It’s just so hard to call the game now with the new rules,” Fox said. “Officials have an impossible job. It’s just that the new rules are so hard to interpret. It’s just a tough game to call right now with the way the new rules are worded, I think.”
In addition to playing a bit overzealous with fouls, Fox said he thought the team didn’t react well to the circumstances of the game, playing shaky and nervous from the game’s onset perhaps through its finish.
“I thought that it took us a long time to relax,” Fox said. “The start of the game, we looked way out of character. I thought at the beginning of the game we were sped up, and just the event got to us. We did some things in the first half where we were out of sync, and I don’t think some of our guys ever did.”
The rushed nature of Georgia’s play style was reflected in shooting percentage. Shooting just 35.8 percent from the field through the entire game, the Bulldogs were even worse in the second half, mustering just a 27.6 percent shooting percentage in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Free throws ended up being the Bulldogs’ saving grace. In all, the team made 31 free throws on the night, 21 of which in the second half, en route to a 73.8 percent performance from the free-throw line on the night.
The Bulldogs also benefited from poor shooting on the side of the Rebels. Senior star Marshall Henderson still accounted for 19 points for Mississippi, but his 5-for-21 shooting performance including a 2-for-16 night from behind the three-point line represented Mississippi’s night in a microcosm.
The Rebels scored a lot of point by virtue of taking a lot of shots, but were still barely able to eclipse the 40 percent mark by field-goal percentage. The Rebels were, like the Bulldogs, also mired with foul trouble, as five Mississippi players finished the game with four of more fouls, two of which fouling out.
The Bulldogs will resume play Saturday in Atlanta in the next round of the SEC Tournament against Kentucky. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 3:30.
Georgia Transitions to Kentucky
By Cody Pace
For the first time since it won the Southeastern Conference Tournament in 2008, the Georgia men’s basketball team is headed to the semifinal round.
The path there wasn’t pretty. After a two-round bye, the Bulldogs played Mississippi where they shot just 36 percent from the field but manage to pull out the 75-73 win on 31 made free throws.
With a finish time after midnight, Georgia will have a quick turnaround with their matchup against No. 2 seed Kentucky scheduled for approximately 3:30 Saturday.
“This is what they work hard for, this is March,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I won't need to sleep tonight. They'll need to sleep. When you're 21, 20 years old, I could probably stay up all night and still have some energy the next day. Fortunately, they won't do that. But they'll be hopefully ready.”
The Bulldogs will need to be ready to face the Wildcats. Their last encounter, in Lexington, Ky., Georgia lost 79-54 and began a three-game losing streak.
This time, sophomore guard Charles Mann promises it’ll be different.
“We'll be ready,” Mann said. “We're healthy. So like I said, the outcome will be different. It's going to be a hard-fought battle. It ain't going to be like last time.”
Mann’s argument has merit. The last time the teams met, Georgia was without its two shooting guards, sophomore Kenny Gaines and freshman Juwan Parker. Redshirt junior Marcus Thornton, a forward, was forced to play the center position.
“Tonight Marcus Thornton started at the center spot for us, when we went to Lexington, he started the game at the two spot,” Fox said. “We had a crooked lineup with a couple guys injured. We just kind of patched together a game plan up there that we thought would give us a chance. Now we have to have a different game plan because we have all of our players.”
The disadvantage for Georgia is that Fox has a limited amount of time to come up with the game plan. But as Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy saw it, Georgia may not need to look far to find a good comparison for how Kentucky plays.
“[Georgia has] got much more physical along their front line, they’re very, very good at attacking the glass, very similar to Kentucky,” Kennedy said. “When Gaines makes shots, those other guys are doing a tremendous job off that backboard to give them second and third chance opportunities. Again, very similar to what you see with the Wildcats.”