Why Georgia lost to Florida on Saturday

There’s a reason the Florida Gators entered Saturday’s game with the 3rd best defense in the SEC in league games, and it’s because Mike White does a great job of mixing up his defensive looks. For nearly the entire game, Florida showed the Dawgs (9-8, 1-4) a full-court zone press on any makes or turnovers that they transitioned into a little half-court trap. The Gators ran some man-to-man, and they occasionally showed some match-up zone.

All of these sets were highly-effective at keeping the Bulldogs off-balanced offensively. Other than the initial stretch of the second half, Georgia’s offensive resembled a game of “Hot Potato” for much of this one. The Dawgs committed 20 costly turnovers in this game that led to 28 Gator points.

Another tactic that Mike White used with his team in zone was that he had his guys double Nic Claxton any time he touched the ball inside. This strategy worked well for Florida and really frustrated Claxton, who had 0 points in the first half. The sophomore had as many turnovers (4) as field goal attempts by the time the teams went to the intermission. Claxton would finish with 9 points in a game in which he constantly had defenders swarming him whenever he received the ball on the block.

Has anyone else noticed that Georgia has been pressed relentlessly for the majority of SEC play? Expect this trend to continue as teams will seek to exploit UGA’s glaring weakness – its guards – until the season ends on either Wednesday or Thursday of the SEC tournament. If you watch college basketball other than Georgia games, notice how good teams do not get pressed that often because it puts too much pressure on the defense to guard in transition. For UGA, though, this is not the case.

There were two stretches of this game that were particularly brutal for Tom Crean’s team. The first was the beginning of the game, which Georgia started out with 4 turnovers and misses on all 6 of its field goal attempts. Florida had an 8-0 lead less than 5 minutes into this game, which they basically used as a buffer for the remainder of the half as they took a 33-23 advantage into the break.

The other portion of this contest that was particularly hard to watch occured, unfortunately, in the final quarter of the game. After a nice drive and lay-up by Jordan Harris with 9:38 remaining, the Dawgs went on a nearly six-and-a-half minute drought that included 6 turnovers; the bleeding was stopped when Nic Claxton hit a pair of free throws to make it 55-50 Florida with 3:11 remaining.

This offensive lull was such a bummer after the offensive fireworks that the Dawgs displayed coming out of the locker room. Georgia started the second half red hot and went on a 19-7 run that enabled them to take a brief lead, and it served to wake up a Stegeman crowd that hadn’t really been given much to cheer for in the game’s initial 20 minutes.

Obviously, a large part of UGA’s struggles since conference play began can be attributed to the backcourt. However, guard play is not the only issue with this Georgia team. UGA’s frontcourt has begun to look rather ordinary as the Dawgs have gotten deeper into the SEC slate, particularly Rayshaun Hammonds.

Florida coach Mike White road his star player, Kevaughn Allen, during the last five minutes of the game, and Allen answered the call as he scored 7 of his game-high 13 points. Hammonds, who is still UGA’s leading scorer at 13.7 ppg, was nowhere to be found. The sophomore put up a goose egg and committed 4 turnovers; other than a big second half against Vandy, Hammonds has basically been a no-show in SEC play, where he’s now averaging just 5.4 ppg. Rayshaun’s inability to step and be an offensive leader is putting additional, and unnecessary, pressure on the Georgia guards.

I continue to see the hashtag #TrustTheProcess in regards to the program on Twitter, and I most certainly do. I have full faith in Tom Crean as both an innovative offensive coach and an excellent recruiter who will take this program to a higher level. However, I feel that this season is more about giving Crean a break for the dearth of talent that Mark Fox left behind at the point guard position, which is making life really hard for UGA in conference play.

Box Score:

8 thoughts on “Why Georgia lost to Florida on Saturday

  1. Hammonds has indeed disappeared for long stretches since conference play began. Without being too hard on him, necessarily, I would point out how Claxton appears to deal with in-game adversity. The double-teams were frustrating him, but that frustration never manifested itself in a lack of activity. While that partly has to do with his role (he often has the ball in his hands, and I believe there’s a rule in that case where you have to at least do something), his demeanor is that of someone trying to figure out how best to combat the situation. In the meantime, he’s playing active defense, and encouraging and imploring his teammates. I’m a big fan.

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    1. Claxton is WAY more assertive than Hammonds. As you mentioned, even when things are necessarily going his way, he’s still constantly around the ball. Hammonds’s confidence right now looks totally shook.

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  2. As well as Claxton has been playing this season, I sort of figured he would garner more attention. I also figured that Hammonds would be the beneficiary of this increased attention on Claxton. Unfortunately, the opposite has been true. Hammonds is the second-highest rated recruit we’ve convinced to play for us (behind KCP), so if he doesn’t step up, I’m not sure who does.

    I do “trust the process” because that is all we have this season, and that will probably be the case next season as well. I still like the prospect of building something better under Crean more than what we were doing with Fox, which was maintaining medicrocrity.

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    1. I too trust the process, but really I just want to get through this year. It’s just mind-boggling how barren Fox left the cupboard in regards to the point guard position. Maybe he thought J.J. had 6 years of eligibility?

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    1. Actually, I wonder how good Hagans would have been in Mark Fox’s offense. He clearly would have better than anybody else on our roster, playing for Fox or Crea’n, but I am afraid Fox’s system would have muted the prodigious talent this young man displays.If he is a one and done (which wouldn’t surprise me at all) then he made the right choice to make his case for the draft.

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  3. “I am afraid Fox’s system would have muted the prodigious talent”

    This was said about a “prodigious talent” we still have – who is now unleashed. And…?

    Can we stop beating that poor dead Fox? He can’t hurt us now.

    Now, let us assume that the current coach only lacks “his guys”. Point guards with smarts, vision, and lights-out shooting ability. It still might be a while before he gets them – assuming that UGA is their destination over, say…Virginia, or Kentucky.

    Anyway, what about the here and now? Do you write off a season? Or two? Do you instill your philosophy with players unsuited for it and wait? Or do you adjust according to what you have, and what you might get in the future?

    Very few programs are fairly certain that they can fill a wish list. So far, ours hasn’t been one.

    So, within the new coach’s system, are we using players effectively? Or are we trying to force a few square pegs in round holes?

    I ask to discuss, not attack.

    The consensus here is that our guard play has been abysmal. (Crean has said as much after a few games.) Accordingly, we have ball-handling by committee. We have a good sample size. What do the numbers tell us?

    I simplify greatly, and leave out a number of factors, but you will get the gist. Here are some numbers used to judge effectiveness of ball handlers.

    5 SEC Matchups: Players grouped by “Reasonably considered a guard [ a 1 or a 2]” and “Definitely not a guard” but seen dribbling a lot when playing – though to be fair, Fagan and Sagiunas don’t play enough to count much….and that might be a good thing)

    Jackson, William 13 – Assists/ 3 Turnovers
    Hightower, Teshaun 7 – Assists/ 9 Turnovers
    Crump, Tyree 4 – Assists/ 5 Turnovers
    Harris, Jordan 5 – Assists/ 6 Turnovers
    Fagan, Tye 1 – Assists/ 4 Turnovers
    Sagiunas, Ignas* 0 – Assists/ 2 Turnovers *DNP vs. KU

    Claxton, Nicolas 5 – Assists/ 14 Turnovers
    Hammonds, Rayshaun 7 – Assists/ 15 Turnovers
    Wilridge, E’Torrian 7 – Assists/ 4 Turnovers

    Who should be handling the ball for us?
    Who, as a ball handler, is helping others score vs. some form of liability when they have the ball?

    And I ask another question: How many of you noticed, when everyone was in a spread at the corners, our guards breaking towards the basket, ball in hand, and beating their mark on the first step or two, only to find no one breaking towards the basket with him? Is he expected to drive all the way to the hoop – making the shot through the branches – or somehow making the dish through the trunks of the trees? I ask because I thought I saw a lack of movement, and our guards “giving up” on a number of good moves. My imagination?

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  4. Its been tough to watch the Hoop Dawgs in conference play. Has any player ever improved less with 4 years of regular playing time than Turtle Jackson?

    There has to be a grad transfer at a mid-major that can come in and run the point for us next year. Crean has to fill that position or it will be more of the same.

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