Coach Dennis Felton and the Georgia Bulldogs visited WKU on Saturday night, and honestly, I gave myself the full day on Sunday to recover before I attempted to write about this one. After a very emotional tribute to fallen Topper Danny Rumph, the Tops broke out in all black uniforms and in place of their individual names, they all had "Rumph" on the back of their jerseys. If that did not put a lump in your throat, then watching Coach Felton walk back into the UGA locker room before the game with tears streaming down his face surely did.
The irony of ironies is that Danny Rumph would have made a HUGE difference in this game. The Tops lacked a steady, level-headed PG, especially in the early going. FR Orlando Mendez-Valdez did an admirable job in his 14 mins (3 assists, 1 turnover), but he fouled out in that short span. Danny's measured passes and careful ball-handling sure would have helped the Tops on Saturday.
Thanks for everything, Danny. We still miss you...off and on the court.
15.29: Have I ever witnessed a worse start by a Topper team? Not that I can recall. Well, UGA hit their first four shots and have jumped all over the Tops to the tune of a 10-0 start. Some semblance of order is restored as WKU scored four straight to make it 10-4 at the first media timeout.
11.56: The Tops’ inexperience is being thoroughly exposed by a feisty
7.31: More of the same—our first-year PG Joemal Campbell (JC transfer) has been harassed into numerous turnovers and 5-second calls.
3.48: Hello! The Topper defense comes alive and has been able to speed up the Dawgs and cause numerous some turnovers of their own. Freshman F Matt Maresca came in and made an immediate impact with a nice turnaround baseline shot and another nice post move resulting in a miss, but a Wilborn tip-dunk. 30-22, UGA. The crowd, and the Tops, are back in it!
Half: UGA closes on an 11-4 spurt to lead 41-26 at the half. Although the Dawgs are a young team, it is apparent that their Sophomores and Juniors are battle-tested from having to play on a very short-handed team last season. This is the first test of high-level Division I hoops for MANY Topper players including two starters (PG Joemal Campbell and F Daniel Emerson) and significant bench players (F Mike Walker, PG Orlando Mendez-Valdez, F Matt Maresca, F/G Butch Jointer). While both teams turned it over a great deal, the Tops made a lot of mental errors through throw-aways, lack of strength with the ball (especially Campbell and Ty Rogers) and blown defensive assignments. Plus, the free throw shooting was horrendous (3-8).
15.33: Now, this is what a coach wants to see from his seniors! Seven straight points from G Anthony Winchester and then three straight from Elgrace Wilborn sandwich a
7.33: Wow…the Dawgs are playing STIFLING half-court D. It’s 57-43, and once again, the Tops are on the ropes. A run needs to begin right now.
4.37: And it does. Courtney Lee just made a lay-in to cut it to 61-54. This 11-4 run did not truly seem like a huge burst, but Lee has come alive during the stretch after being silent much of the night.
2.50: Another critical missed FT by
1.19: Unbelievably, WKU is still alive in this game. It’s 65-61 after UGA finally misses a FT and Lee finishes off yet another drive to rack. UGA is coming unraveled a bit on offense. The Tops just need that final push to get over the hump. It’s ripe for the taking!
0.15: A Winchester lay-in cuts the UGA lead to two (65-63), but the Dawgs’ lumbering center, Dave Bliss, somehow gets behind the defense on the press and makes an awkward lay-up and gets fouled by Benson Callier (67-63). He misses the FT and Lee cashes in two FT’s on the other end to make it 67-65. Then, in a move that must have made UGA coach Dennis Felton quake with frustration, FR G Mike Mercer hoisted up an ill-advised shot that was grabbed by WKU…and promptly thrown out directly of bounds by Callier, which in turn probably sent WKU coach Darrin Horn into an apoplectic rage.
0.10: After UGA made 1-2 at the line (68-65), WKU calls timeout and sets up an inbounds play that gets
Fifty-eight is numerical theme for this season so far. Last Tuesday vs. IUPUI, there were 58 fouls called during the game. In Saturday’s game vs. UGA, there were 58 turnovers—30 by the Dawgs and 28 by the Tops. WKU’s dynamic duo of
That is danger for fans of this Topper team. We see the talent and where they are going to be in February and not where they are right now. Horn will have to put on the lab coat and play chemist for awhile with this bunch of horses. They should have his full attention after losing a very winnable game at home—again, no slight intended to UGA. WKU is a very talented team with a lot of rotation issues to figure out.
It does not get any easier as the Tops travel to UAB on Tuesday. I will have a full preview tomorrow and a game log on Wednesday as I will be on hand in