The last play of the game was actually designed for Tyree Crump. While the ball was being in-bounded to Turtle Jackson, Yante Maten attempted to set a high screen to free up Crump, but Tyree’s man went over the top and denied Crump the ball. Georgia needed 3 points and there were only 5 seconds left, so Turtle hoisted up a shot from well beyond the arc that didn’t come close, and UGA lost for the second time in a week.
The Dawgs didn’t lose to Tennessee on that last play, though. Georgia only scored 19 points after the intermission as they shot 29% from the floor and 1 of 6 from the perimeter. UGA gave the ball away 9 times in the second half, and Tennessee converted Georgia’s turnovers into 13 points.
Yante Maten, who’s faced two of the premier bigs in the SEC this week in TAMU’s Robert Williams III and Tennessee’s Grant Williams, had another tough night offensively. Maten scored 18 points, but those points came at the expense of a 5 for 15 shooting effort. That makes Yante 10 for 33 from the floor this week; I can’t imagine there is a player in the league that’s more determined to play well in the SEC Tournament next week. Much like in the game against TAMU, Maten missed shots around the rim that he’s knocked down consistently all season. Conversely, Williams had a monster game inside as he scored 22 points before fouling out with over 3 minutes remaining. He is a load inside and plays with a lot of physicality, which clearly wore on Maten because UGA’s big man, much like on Wednesday night, appeared to be exhausted down the stretch. Or maybe it’s this season that is wearing down Maten.
The first half came out of nowhere. After the disappointing letdown earlier in the week to TAMU, I was shocked at how poised Georgia looked for the first 20 minutes of this one. There were no signs of a hangover from the TAMU loss whatsoever. The Dawgs had just 2 turnovers before the break, they shot 53% from the floor, and they hit 7 of 12 from the perimeter. Tennessee began the game in a full-court man press, but Georgia looked unfazed. The Dawgs got into a stacked set that allowed Hammonds to flash the middle and receive the ball so that he could then hand it off to Turtle to bring down the court. Easy, peasy, right? This didn’t look anything like the UGA team that has struggled to make outside shots and move the ball efficiently against a press; this looked like an NCAA Tournament team. Georgia had maybe its best possession of the season late in the half: Maten drove, kicked it to Hammonds in the corner, who swung it to Turtle on the wing, who found Crump on the opposite wing, where he buried a triple. The Dawgs had 8 team assists before halftime, and they went into the locker room with a 42-34 advantage.
-Even though Crump’s turnover with 39 seconds left and Georgia trailing 62-61 proved to be costly, I was pleased to see Fox sticking with him down the stretch. Crump played great off the bench before the break as he hit two triples and scored at the rim on a drive from the top of the key – I’d almost forgotten what it looked like to have a Georgia guard score on a dribble-drive. Crump’s first half performance obviously caught the attention of Vols coach Rick Barnes because he had his defenders playing full-on deny on Tyree out of the their man defense. If Georgia had another guard that could penetrate and get into the lane, they might have been better equipped to take advantage of Tennessee’s lack of help defense on the perimeter.
-After scoring 10 points on Wednesday night against TAMU and playing what were arguably his best minutes to date as a Bulldog, Teshaun Hightower logged just 1 minute in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. That can be explained by…
-Admiral Schoefield and Grant Williams combined for just 16 points in the Vols’ loss in Athens last month. Yesterday, the two Tennessee bigs contributed 45 of their team’s 66 total points, and Schoefield hit a huge shot with less than 30 seconds left that bolstered his team’s lead to 64-61.
-Georgia concludes the season with a 16-14 record overall, and they finished 7-11 in the SEC. That’s the Dawgs worst conference record under Coach Fox since the 2011-2012 season in which Georgia went 5-11 in the league before being knocked out of the SEC Tourney in the first round by Vanderbilt, who UGA plays on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
-I checked the weather forecast for St. Louis for the next 10 days: it’s going to be cold, cloudy and there might be some scattered rain. A decade ago, Georgia won the SEC Tournament and saved Coach Dennis Felton’s job for another season with a lot of help from a tornado that ripped through Atlanta and forced the games to be played at Georgia Tech in front of players’ families only. The Dawgs could certainly use some sort of similar natural intervention if they are going to win this week’s conference tourney, but it doesn’t look like another tornado is in the cards.