It was over when…
Georgia had a poor stretch of play with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game in which they turned the ball over on 4 consecutive possessions. Prior to this run of sloppiness, UGA held a 59-45 advantage over the Jackets. Despite the Dawgs’ willingness to give the ball away, Tech failed to capitalize; they got it down to 59-50, but then Georgia started attacking the rim again and getting to the free throw line. With 4:50 left, Yante Maten capped off an 11-3 run with a pair of free throws to make it 70-53 in Georgia’s favor.
Welcome back offense
After taking the day off last Saturday in Amherst, Georgia’s offense came back to life on Tuesday night in Athens. Other than the aforementioned stretch of turnovers, the only other real moment of struggle for the Dawgs offensively came right at the start of the game when the Jackets showed a little junk press in which their guards trapped the ball-handler. Georgia seemed a bit caught off guard by the full-court Tech pressure, and after a few hurried shots, the Jackets had built up a 7-3 lead. But that didn’t last long as UGA took a 20-17 advantage on a Juwan Parker three-pointer less than 9 minutes into the contest, and the Dawgs would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game.
Honestly, it was hard to believe that this UGA team was the same one that I watched play just a few day ago against UMass, in a game in which Georgia failed to establish any sort of offensive rhythm. Against Tech, Georgia’s offense was firing on all cylinders. Jackets’ Coach Josh Pastner started his team off in a 1-3-1 zone in the half court set, and UGA did an excellent job of attacking the soft spots in the zone. Both Turtle Jackson and Juwan Parker had nice drives in which they attracted multiple defenders and then found Derek Ogbeide underneath for several easy baskets. Maten made a beautiful pass from the elbow to a cutting Rayshaun Hammonds, who finished with an uncontested dunk. I loved seeing Hammonds, who ended up with 11 points, slide into the lane when Yante received the ball on the high post – hopefully the Dawgs will run more of this action going forward as it is a great use of Hammonds’ size.
Pastner’s most confounding coaching move of the game though had to be his decision to play Maten one-on-one. I only remember one UGA possession in which Yante was doubled on the block. Pastner has to regret how he attempted to defend Maten because the SEC POY torched the Jackets for 24 points on a 9 for 13 shooting effort. Yante hit an uncontested three-pointer and then a jumper from just inside the arc on the subsequent possession that made it 36-32 UGA with under a minute before the break. It almost felt like Tech had done zero prep on Maten, because anyone who’s watched the senior play this season knows that Yante needs to be doubled in the paint, and he should not be left alone at the top of the key, where his jumper is quite lethal.
Georgia’s offensive numbers were downright gaudy: 58% from the floor, 47% from 3PT and 17 team assists. Following the intermission, UGA shot a scorching 71% from the floor.
No second chance points for Jackets
To be fair, Georgia only got 6 second chance points themselves, but that was because the Dawgs just weren’t missing shots. Tech, however, finished with only 5 second chance points, and that was due to Georgia’s bigs successfully limiting the Jackets to just one opportunity per trip down the court.
The Dawgs definitely appeared more alert defensively last night than they were against UMass on Saturday. Georgia contested nearly all of the Jackets’ three-point attempts and held them to just 2 of 13 from that range. Leading scorer Josh Okogie scored 21 points, but he had a hard time getting there as he made only 5 of his 16 shots.
The only player that UGA couldn’t hold down was senior point guard Tadric Jackson, who did most of his damage in the first half, where he scored 13 of his 17 points. Similarly to other opposing point guards this season, Jackson faced little resistance from Georgia’s backcourt and got the ball into the lane with relative ease. At this point, the Dawgs really don’t have a guard that can lock down a strong ball-handler, and I’m not sure who on this UGA roster can fill that role.
This win had to be a huge relief for Coach Fox, his team and the UGA fan base. After last weekend’s debacle, I’m sure everyone was a little on edge coming into this rivalry game. Considering that Tech had an RPI of 235 as of Tuesday, Georgia had little room for error as a loss to the Jackets might have pulverized any NCAA Tournament hopes that the Dawgs were harboring. But credit UGA – they cleaned up both sides of the ball and won easily for the second year in a row against their in-state rival.
Georgia returns to action this Friday with a great RPI opportunity when they host the Temple Owls (RPI 10).