December 15, 2012

Free throws doom Dawgs

Is there anything more frustrating than watching your team go to the free throw line and miss shot, after shot, after shot?

Georgia head coach Mark Fox doesn't think so.

Free throws have been an issue for the Bulldogs much of the season, but nothing quite like what happened Saturday during Georgia's 81-78 overtime loss to MAAC member Iona.

It wasn't pretty.

The Bulldogs (2-7) went to the line 37 times but converted only 20, including just 5 of 16 in the overtime period, enabling the visiting Gaels to secure the three-point win.

"That was a tough loss. I'm sick of losing as our team is but we've got to play better basketball. That's taking nothing away from Iona because they made a lot of big baskets to beat us. But we missed 16 free throws in the second half alone and it's hard to win basketball games when you do that. Our team has not learned how to win yet."

Apparently, the Bulldogs haven't learned how to shoot free throws, either.

But despite their struggles, Georgia had a chance to tie the game when Nemanja Djurisic went to the line with four seconds left. Djurisic made the first shot, but missed the second with Sean Armand grabbing the rebound and subsequently made both of his free throws to account for the final score.

Fox was at a loss to explain his Bulldogs' struggles.

"I think we've shot over 6,000 free throws in practice, over 6,500 free throws in practice and we're shooting over 75 percent," Fox said. "But we can't transfer that to a game and that's extremely frustrating because those that you saw tonight were so critical."

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards to lead the Bulldogs - can't explain it either.
"We practice free throws all the time, in practice, before games and after games," he said. "It shouldn't be a big deal, but it was tonight and we can't let it happen again."

Georgia's ineptitude at the charity stripe wasn't the only statistic that jumped out from Saturday's game.

The Bulldogs held a 48-26 rebounding advantage over Iona, which attempted 36 three-pointers, converting 12.

"I thought our guys just battled the whole game," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "Obviously, we don't have the size or athleticism but they just fought hard and found a way to win. They guys made the extra pass and different guys made some big shots for us."

Armand made one of the biggest late in the second half, when he buried a three-pointer to send the game into overtime tied at 66-66 after the Gaels trailed 48-41 with 13:09 to play.

Freshman Charles Mann equaled Caldwell-Pope with a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, although he struggled from the free throw line, going just 7 of 13.

Fellow freshman Brandon Morris made his first career start in place of an injured Marcus Thornton (knee) and finished with 12 points.

"We played a very awkward lineup tonight, a very young lineup - three freshmen (Morris, Mann and Kenny Gaines) in the lineup for most of the game - with Brandon Morris forced to play the 4 due to injuries this week," Fox said. "I thought we were really limited to what we could do offensively because he had only been there for two days, but under the circumstances I thought he competed well. We just made too many mistakes."

Georgia will try to end its worse nine-game start since 1977 with a win against Mercer Tuesday morning (11:30).

"We're off to a worse start than I anticipated although I still like our team. We're not playing complete enough to win, but I'll tell you, there are prep schools that play that are older than ours," Fox said. "We're still making young mistakes, but it's a disappointing start and it's my job to get us to start winning some games and we haven't done that yet. I still like our team; I told them that tonight - we've just got to make a couple more steps forward."