When a team’s Achilles Heel is scoring, that team cannot afford to dig themselves into too deep of a hole. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Georgia did on Saturday night in its 72-57 loss in Starkville against Mississippi State.
The Dawgs played arguably their worst half of basketball of the season tonight in the first half against the other Bulldogs. Georgia turned the ball over 9 times before the break, and UGA failed to secure a single offensive rebound (Georgia got out-rebounded 37-20 in the game). The Dawgs seemed disinterested in playing defense for the first 20 minutes of play, and that trend continued into the second half as well. The Missy State guards faced little resistance on the dribble drive and the Georgia bigs offered zero help on the inside when penetration reached the paint. UGA’s offense isn’t built to overcome large deficits, which was why Mark Fox’s team appeared doomed as they headed to the locker room trailing the Maroon Dawgs 37-21.
Here’s the box score:
As already mentioned, Georgia’s defense was abysmal. Even though the Maroon Dogs entered tonight’s game with the 9th best offense in SEC Play (69 ppg), UGA felt that it didn’t have the personnel to line up and play man defense. Rather, Georgia sat in a soft zone that Lamar Peters carved up to the tune of 20 points. If a Missy State guard got past a member of the UGA backcourt (something that occurred regularly this evening), the Georgia bigs failed to play anything that resembled help defense. The Maroon Dogs scored on numerous backdoor cuts and alley-oops because Mark Fox’s team didn’t communicate in its zone. Missy State, who was shooting just 43% from the floor in conference play, knocked down over 50% of its field goal attempts against Georgia on Saturday.
After scoring 72 points earlier this week against the Gators in Athens, the UGA offense got back to its stagnant ways against the other Bulldogs in Starkville. Yante Maten, who ended up with 13 points on a frustrating 5 for 12 performance from the floor, faced double-teams for much of the night. Although, even when Maten had one-on-one opportunities against State’s Abdul Ado, he struggled to convert against the athletic shot blocker. In short, Maten had a tough night. Georgia’s not going to be successful on offense in games in which Maten struggles.
There weren’t many positive takeaways offensively from this game considering the Dawgs put up just 57 points. However, one of the lone bright spots had to be the play of Pape Diatta, who scored 12 points on a perfect night from the floor in which all his shots came from beyond the arc. Diatta injured his ankle in the preseason, and he’s played sparingly this year so far. I’m not sure if his resurgence in minutes was related more to his health or the fact that Jordan Harris was suspended from the team indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Diatta was brought to Georgia to make triples, and since that is something that this team rarely does I’d say he earned a few more minutes of playing time moving forward based upon his performance this evening.
Question that I must have answered: How does Mark Fox choose his starting five and playing rotations?
Tyree Crump earned just his second start of his career against Missy State, and the sophomore scored 13 points on a 4 of 9 shooting effort. Crump now joins E’Torrion Wildridge and Teshaun Hightower in an illustrious group of Georgia players that have now started in games this season as well as spent entire games on the bench. Remember Hightower? He started a couple of games in a row earlier on in league play, yet now he barely takes his warm up off. Crump has either not left the bench or played just a minute or two in multiple games this season. How do these disparities in playing time exist? How can a player go from zero to minimal playing time, to starting, to back to no playing time again? I almost wonder if Georgia’s 5th starter is chosen by a Rock Paper Scissors tournament each week, and the loser is relegated to the pine for the night. If I were an AJC reporter, I’d be throwing these types of questions at Mark Fox every. Single. Week.
Georgia has 5 Top 50 RPI wins, which is solid. But Georgia also has a record of 13-9 overall, and they are now just 4-6 in SEC play. If the Dawgs don’t get above .500 in the conference, they’ll be playing for an NIT bid at best. Georgia heads to Nashville on Wednesday to take on Vanderbilt in a building where Mark Fox coached teams are just 1-5 against the Dores.
After Vandy, the remainder of UGA’s schedule is just brutal to say the least: