The Georgia Bulldogs (10-11, 2-6 SEC) head to The Plains on Wednesday to take on the Auburn Tigers (11-12, 2-6 SEC). The loser of this contest will earn sole possession of the SEC’s second-worst record.
The Auburn Tigers are 8-5 while playing at home this season, but their SEC home record sits at an abysmal 1-3 (the only win over 3-6 Alabama).
However, if there is one team in this conference that you can get healthy against on your home court it’s the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs are win-less in seven true road games, including 0-4 in SEC away match-ups.
The Tigers style of play is best described as chaotic. They look to press teams, run the court and shoot threes. And when I say “shoot threes”, I mean like no other team in the conference. Auburn is hoisting up 25 three-pointers a game in SEC play, accounting for nearly 43% of their overall field goal attempts!
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are only making 32.5% as a team from beyond the arc. However, they are leading the SEC with 8.13 three-pointers made a game (mostly due to the sheer number of shots that they take).
Auburn’s backcourt features seniors DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller (a native of Manchester, GA), along with sophomore Frankie Sullivan. The tallest of this bunch is Waller, who stands at a mere 6’2″. This might explain their fondness for the long ball.
DeWayne Reed leads the Tigers in both scoring and assists, averaging 16.0 and 4.4 a game, respectively. Sullivan is the most accurate shooter on the team, knocking down 39.7% from three-point range and scoring 13.4 a game. Waller shoots 37.6% from beyond the arc, and is averaging 12.9 points.
Seniors Lucas Hargrove and Johnnie Lett round out Auburn’s starting frontcourt. Hargrove (6’6″) is the team’s leading rebounder with 7.1 a game to go along with 13.3 points. Lett is the taller of the two, standing at 6’8″ and weighing 210 pounds – he only nets 2.3 points a night. Lett starts most games, but he actually yields a lot of playing time to reserve 6’10” senior center Brendan Knox. Knox is averaging 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds in only 20 minutes of play.
Auburn plays a lot of guys off the bench, but none of them average more than 3.5 points per game and thus seem unworthy of being mentioned.
Keys to the Game
Winning After A Win
Georgia followed up their win over Georgia Tech with a loss at Kentucky (forgivable). The Dawgs followed up their win over Tennessee by getting blown out in Gainesville (not as forgivable). Georgia is coming off its third win of the season over a ranked opponent (Vandy), and now the team heads back on the road…seeing the pattern here? Hopefully Fox has everyone on the team focused on the upcoming task at hand, as opposed to rejoicing in last Saturday’s upset of then #18 ranked Vanderbilt. It seems unlikely that Georgia could take Auburn lightly, especially since UGA has yet to win a game away from Athens this season. But these are 18 and 19-year old kids, so anything is possible.
As I mentioned, Auburn likes to apply full-court pressure and play at a fast pace. The Tigers are tied for second in the conference with 7.38 steals per game. Georgia is last in the SEC in turnover margin at -5.5, and the Dawgs are giving the ball away 17.3 times a game. If Georgia’s guards are careless with the ball (see Missouri, Kentucky, Miss St or Florida games) and can’t handle the press this game could get ugly.
However, if UGA breaks the press and turns this thing into a half-court game, I don’t see how Auburn can compete. The Tigers are last in the conference in scoring defense, surrendering 77.2 a game in SEC play. The Georgia bigs will have a distinct size advantage inside and should look to exploit it all night. Auburn’s SEC rebounding margin is -1.5 per game, which is to be expected considering their small lineup.
Coach Mark Fox will want his guys to play half-court ball and totally dominate the paint.
Mix It Up
The last two games, Georgia has played primarily man-to-man defense the entire game (which I love). However, due to Auburn’s preference for shots from outside the three-point line, it might be beneficial to the Dawgs to mix in some of their 1-2-2 zone as well. Offenses can struggle when they face multiple defensive sets, and the 1-2-2 zone will still allow Georgia to contest three-point attempts (the 1-2-2 zone worked very well against MSU earlier in the year – another team that likes to chuck it)
Several of this blog’s regular commentors have mentioned the marked improvement in Georgia’s passing game since the arrival of Coach Fox. As of February 6th, 2010, the Dawgs are leading the SEC with 15.0 assists per game!
Not to fluff Coach Fox’s feathers too much, but his UGA squad is also leading the conference in field goal and three-point percentage at 49.2% and 42.7%, respectively.
Thank you Triangle Offense!
Don’t forget to vote for Travis Leslie as the Best Dunker in the SEC