After opening up big halftime lead, Georgia loses heartbreaker to Arizona State

Leads are not safe when it comes to Georgia Bulldog (5-4) athletics. Nicolas Claxton’s last-second attempt to tie the game drew nothing but air, and Arizona State snuck out of Athens with a 76-74 win in a game that they led for just a little over two minutes.

The Dawgs’ final possession was questionable, at best. I’m going to err on the side of Tom Crean and venture that he did not call a timeout to tell his team to inbounds the ball to Claxton so that he could go the length of the court against future NBA lottery pick Luguentz Dort.  Unfortunately, thought, that’s how it played out, and Georgia, not surprisingly, came up short in a game that it led by 14 points at halftime.

Georgia’s defense for the first twenty minutes was unrecognizable from anything we’ve seen from this team this year.  UGA’s guards stayed in front of the Sun Devil guards (for the most part), and everyone that Crean ran onto the court closed out with a sense of purpose on every ASU player that received the ball.  The Dawgs limited the Sun Devils to just 32% from the floor (just 16% from beyond the arc) in the first half. Luguentz Dort, who entered the game netting 22 a night, had only 5 points through the first 20 minutes of play.

UGA’s leading scorers – Rayshaun Hammonds, Nic Claxton and Tyree Crump – played superb from the start.  Hammonds hit a pair of triples, and he had the Sun Devils on their heels defensively as he attacked the basket and drew fouls.

Tyree Crump, who has been playing so much looser than in his previous two years in Athens, scored 16 points prior to the intermission.  Crump didn’t just hit three’s either, though he did knock down two; he also found points off the dribble and on cuts without the ball.

Claxton was simply the best player on the court in the first half as he scored 7 points, grabbed 10 boards and swatted 3 shots.  Claxton’s versatility makes him such a weapon for Tom Crean.  He can defend every position (he blocked two of Dort’s shots before the half), and he can bring the ball up the court immediately upon rebounding it, which really helped to ignite the tempo of this UGA team’s offense in half number one. 

Georgia went on a huge 12-3 run that included a triple from Tyree Crump and an athletic finish by Rayshaun Hammonds that bolstered UGA’s first half lead to 43-29 with a little over 2 minutes remaining before the break; the Dawgs would take a 47-33 advantage into the half.

Everything that went well in the first half failed to carry over to half number two, though. ASU opened up the second half with a 13-7 run that was fueled in part by 2 UGA turnovers.  After 5 minutes of play, the Sun Devils had cut the Dawgs’ double-digit halftime advantage to 54-46.   Georgia’s defense had no answer for Arizona State guard Remy Martin, who led all scorers with 21 points. Martin got into the paint whenever he wanted, and when he wasn’t driving, he was dropping the ball off to Romello White, who chipped in 16 points and seemed to have his way with the Georgia bigs inside.  ASU followed up its 32% first half performance from the floor with a much-improved 50% effort after the break.

One stat that will not show up in the box score that was devastating for Georgia was Arizona State’s ability to answer UGA three-pointers: ASU followed up three consecutive Georgia triples with a triple themselves in the second half, and that certainly aided their comeback effort and eventual win.

Foul trouble was a killer for UGA on Saturday night. Derek Ogbeide picked up 2 fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game, which tested UGA’s frontcourt depth, or lack thereof, early. Anytime Mike Edwards is forced into playing additional minutes, one can assume that things are not going as planned for the Dawgs.  Ogbeide picked up his 4th foul less than 4 minutes into the second half, and Rayshaun Hammonds fouled out with over 4 minutes remaining in the game.

Crump, Hammonds and Claxton, who combined for 38 first-half points, scored a total of 9 points between them in the game’s final 20 minutes. Credit ASU coach Bobby Hurley for making the defensive adjustments necessary to take that trio completely out of rhythm.

Considering how large of a halftime lead Georgia held over this Sun Devil team at home, this loss feels tough. Maybe that’s because it came so close on the heels of the football team’s collapse against Bama in Atlanta two weeks ago. Who knows? 

However, the Dawgs’ effort in this game completely surpassed my expectations, and if you had told me this morning that Georgia would have the ball with a chance to tie or win at the end of the game I would have taken it in a heartbeat. This team IS getting better. If you don’t believe me, just rewatch the game against Georgia State last month in the Cayman Islands. The Dawgs were pegged to finish 13th in the SEC before the season started, and after tonight, I would be shocked if Tom Crean’s team didn’t end up several spots higher than that initial forecast.

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6 thoughts on “After opening up big halftime lead, Georgia loses heartbreaker to Arizona State

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by the ball movement and what looked to be an organized offense in the first half, having been led to expect a run and gun somewhat disorganized mess. However, Hurley’s adjustments at the break took us out of whatever rhythm we had offensively. We lack a point guard and the Hagans flip hurts. Who steps up? It is pretty obvious that Turtle leaves a lot to be desired in that role. On the positive side, these guys are so much more fun to watch than Fox’s plodding teams. They look like they are beginning to get the hang of Crean’s style of play but must learn to react more positively to adjustments and changes in the flow of the game.

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  2. UGA let a big game slip away! Dawgs need some on court leadership! Crean seems to be turning team around but Fox keeps coming to mind with this team. We have to find a way to close out games and my goodness can we work on out of bounds plays in game ending situations. Turnovers are killing dawgs. Protect the ball please!
    I personally would have rather seen Crump starting the 2nd half. We are much better when we play uptempo ball. Crump looks so relaxed and he appears to be headed into a permanent starting role. Turtle gives us nothing! If we can stay out of foul trouble and learn to close games UGA can really upset some folks in conference play.
    Did we really think we were getting Hagans? Dawgs were only used as bait! He wanted to go to Kentucky the entire time.

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  3. Sigh. I was hoping that the ghosts of the past were exactly that… past. But, alas, here they were in the Steg. We looked really tight and focused in the first half, but fell apart in the second half. Still, though, on the whole, we played a good game, and I am really impressed with Claxton and Hammonds. They will be matchup problems all year. I was also glad to see Wilridge get some quality minutes and play well. He is our best defender and even contributed offensively yesterday.

    This is a rebuilding year… we just need to remember that. If we lose games like this next year, then that will be concerning. This year, though, just enjoy watching the underclassmen and our new shiny coach’s up tempo style of play.

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  4. I had to remind myself of the same thing yesterday: rebuilding year. But man, if Georgia had a point guard this would be a sort of dangerous team. Though I suppose there are a lot of teams in the nation that wish they had a really good point guard.

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  5. The sequence at the end of the game was troubling to say the least. Somebody (Crump) needed to come to the in-bounder instead of leaving him stranded on the play that led to the last turnover. And then, as hoops stated, the final play cannot be Claxton going the length of the floor. We may not be good this year (although I agree we have a competitive frontcourt if they can stay in the game), but attention to detail is not a function of talent. Gotta do better.

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