The Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia State Panthers played a second half on Wednesday, though it wasn’t really necessary. The Panthers took 3rd place in the Cayman Classic with a 91-67 thrashing of UGA, but Ron Hunter’s team won this one well before intermission.
The Dawgs committed 15 of their 18 turnovers in the first half, and those mishaps led to 17 points for Georgia State before the break. The most astonishing thing regarding Georgia’s offensive sloppiness was that State wasn’t doing anything special on defense to create pressure: no press, no halfcourt trap, no extended man. UGA, rather, just didn’t value the basketball, and that, coupled with some atrocious man defense, resulted in Georgia trailing GSU 51-32 at the half.
Georgia’s defense at the moment can be described as discombobulated at best. Against the Panthers, the Dawgs looked completely lost. They didn’t communicate on ball screens. The UGA guards cannot stay in front of anyone, and there doesn’t seem to be any recognition of where the other team’s shooters are on the court.
Georgia State hit 8 triples in the first half, and they shot over 54% from the floor. Malik Benlevi, who’s been a 40% shooter from beyond the arc the past two seasons, knocked down 5 of his game-high 8 threes prior to the break. Allowing an opposing player to make 8 three-pointers in a game is simply inexcusable. Jeff Thomas, another near-40% efficient three-point shooter, hit three himself before halftime. Tom Crean’s voice must have sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher when he was going over scouting for the Panthers because the Dawgs were utterly baffled as to how to defend GSU.
I realize it’s a rebuilding year. Tom Crean WILL improve this program because he’s been proven to be an effective recruiter. At the moment, his offense doesn’t look so hot, but that’s more a matter of a lack of personnel than a knock against Crean’s tutelage. The Dawgs are shooting a decent number of three-pointers like he promised, but they’re just not making many of them – UGA is 31% on the year from the perimeter, and they made just 5 of 18 today against Georgia State. The offensive woes, however, are forgivable (for now).
The confusion and lack of effort on defense, though, is something that cannot be pardoned. The Dawgs played 12 guys for much of the afternoon, so there’s no reason for anyone to feel fatigued. Georgia’s players should be coming into the game with a much greater level of defensive intensity, especially considering that they will probably play less than 20 minutes of the entire game. All five of Georgia State’s starters finished in double-figures, with Benlevi leading the way with 24 points.
Today’s game against Georgia State was about pride, and UGA didn’t show much of it. Even though the Panthers were pegged to win the Sun Belt, the Dawgs have to be more competitive against the smaller school from Atlanta.
Georgia has games on the horizon against both Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech, and it’s going to be interesting to see where UGA ends up in the pecking order in regards to the state of Georgia’s basketball rankings.