This week was a forgettable one for the UGA basketball program that is now 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. Today’s loss in front of a sold-out crowd was a tough one for UGA fans to absorb. The loudest it got inside Stegeman this afternoon came during a media timeout in which Kirby Smart and his son were featured on the jumbo screen above center court. Here are my thoughts on what transpired in Athens today:
Eye-opening stats that jump out from this one (besides the 64-57 final score in favor of the Gamecocks):
46: the number of rebounds South Carolina pulled down in Athens today (UGA had 42). Carolina finished the game with an astounding 18 offensive boards.
27.1%: South Carolina’s field goal percentage. Pretty hard to win a game when a team shoots this bad, but somehow Frank Martin’s squad pulled it off today.
14: Georgia’s turnover total.
52.6%: UGA’s 2nd half free throw percentage. The Dawgs hit only 10 of 19 from the charity stripe following the break.
3: the number of thee-pointers that South Carolina hit when UGA had the Gamecock advantage down to 5 points or less. The ultimate dagger, though, came at the 1:22 mark when Frank Booker buried a triple to make it 59-50, South Carolina.
I’ve spent the past hour and a half debating which facet of this game to delve into first: Georgia’s offense or its effort. I’m more frustrated with the offense, so here goes:
Mark Fox’s offense is nothing if not pedestrian and uncomplicated, and it’s predicated on the point guard’s ability to get the ball down the middle of the court so that he can make a pass to one of the wings. At this point, that wing will either dump it to the high post, wait for the high post to bring a ball screen, or pass it back out to a big at the top of the key (sometimes there’s a backdoor cut that comes in the paint for the guy up top to look for). However, if Georgia doesn’t get a clear path to that first pass off to the wing, the whole thing falls apart; and that’s exactly what happened today in the first half.
South Carolina plays a physical man defense, and Frank Martin pushed his guards out high so that they could deny the ball to the UGA wings. This move by Martin left Turtle Jackson with no one to dump the ball off to in order to get the offense going, and that resulted in Turtle doing a lot of dribbling and his teammates doing a lot of standing around. Turtle’s not the type of point guard that’s going to put a defense on its heels and trying to force him to be that guy is a nightmare scenario for Georgia. UGA took just 23 field goal attempts in the first half and committed 7 turnovers. Occasionally, the ball found its way into Yante Maten’s hands and good things happened as Yante scored 14 points before the break. For most of the first half, though, it was an exercise in futility for the UGA offense, and the Dawgs went into the half trailing 37-29.
Georgia wouldn’t go away quietly, however. Coach Fox and his staff made some big-time adjustments at the half to kickstart the offense. Well actually, they made one: on-ball screens. The Dawgs began screening up high for their guards right out of the gates to start the second half, and it helped to create some spacing and better looks. Georgia made 4 of its first 6 field goal attempts following halftime, and they tied the game at 39 with 14:19 remaining on an old-fashioned three-point play by Juwan Parker, who ended up with 11 points.
The problem, though, was that Georgia continued to go to the ball screen every single possession. Eventually, Frank Martin had his players switch the screens, or his bigs would edge out to provide help. Coach Fox didn’t have a “Plan B”. The result: UGA made just 3 field goals over the game’s final 12 minutes of play.
It should be noted, however, that Georgia’s offense has always been fairly rigid under Coach Fox. The past couple of years, that fact may have been masked from UGA fans because of J.J. Frazier’s incredible ability to score the ball from anywhere on the court past the half court line. But Frazier is gone (as if that wasn’t glaringly obvious), and Georgia’s biggest question make coming into the season – its backcourt – is not looking like it’s up to the task. Georgia is now averaging 62 points a game in SEC play, which is worst in the conference. The Dawgs’ offense hasn’t looked right since the second half against Alabama. All of these offensive woes are on Fox because it’s his system and these are his players.
Georgia’s effort today (or lack there of)
The most consistent thing about this UGA team this year has been its defense and rebounding effort. The Dawgs contested a majority of the Gamecocks’ shots this afternoon, but they failed to finish out possessions by limiting Carolina to just one attempt. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked my phone at halftime and saw that SC had 13 offensive boards at the half. Not only that, but Frank Martin’s team was beating Georgia to nearly every loose ball. Of the Gamecocks’ 14 second chance points, 12 of them came prior to the intermission. Considering Carolina shot only 30% from the floor before halftime, it’s safe to say that their effort on the offensive glass played a huge role in their 8-point advantage at the break.
Miscellaneous things that I don’t understand
-E’Torrion Wilridge started again today, but he was pulled after 2 minutes and never returned to the game. Wilridge averages 11.9 minutes a game on the season, which is the 10th most on the team. When I played, it used to be that the best five players were known as the starters; those were the guys that garnered the most playing time because presumably they were the best players. Fox’s use of Wilridge is mind boggling. Is he one of the best five players? If so, why doesn’t he play more? Or is Fox playing mind games with both opposing teams and UGA fans by not starting his best five guys?
-Tyree Crump scored 10 points in 13 minutes in the loss to Missouri earlier this week. Today, he entered the game and committed a bad foul on the perimeter that resulted in 3 free throws for the Gamecocks. Crump was promptly yanked and never returned to the game, giving him 1 minute of play. Crump is averaging nearly 0.5 points per minute (ppm) of play. The only other Georgia player with a higher ppm average is Yante Maten at 0.6. No one else is even close. This team has a major scoring problem, yet the coach continues to keep one of his better scorers on the bench. Sure, Crump isn’t a great defender, and he does occasionally make some unfortunate turnovers. But so do Parker and Jordan Harris. The difference, those two are allowed to make mistakes, and Crump simply is not. I’d be shocked if he didn’t transfer after this season.