Georgia beats Citadel 95-86 in the game that defense forgot

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The most glaring disparity between the Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) and The Citadel Bulldogs (0-2) was that UGA had Anthony Edwards and the other Bulldogs did not. Edwards scored a number of important baskets down the stretch in this game, but none were more critical than his answer to Hayden Brown’s bucket to make it a one possession game (87-85, UGA) with 3:04 left. On the ensuing possession, the Ant Man floated from underneath the goal to somehow find a crease to stick in a lay-up that Georgia desperately needed that put the Dawgs up 89-85 with 2:40 remaining.

Edwards finished with a game-high 29 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He is so good with the ball around the rim that I hope that he doesn’t just settle for perimeter shots as he did at times tonight, especially when he’s knocking down just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Georgia’s guards could be really good

In addition to having a potential NBA lottery pick on the roster, UGA has two solid guards in freshman Sahvir Wheeler and graduate transfer Donnell Gresham.

Wheeler is so good at getting everyone involved in the offense. At one point in the first half, he penetrated into the lane on three consecutive possessions and dished out assists to Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump and Amanze Ngumezi for 7 straight Georgia points. He has a knack for drawing the attention of multiple defenders, which translates into scores of open looks for his teammates. Wheeler played an incredibly productive 21 minutes in which he scored 10 points and handed out 8 assists. The fact that he nearly notched a double-double in just half the game is somewhat astounding.

While Gresham does not possess the dribble-drive threat of Wheeler, he provides Georgia with a steady presence from the perimeter both offensively and defensively. The senior shot over 40% from beyond the arc during his tenure at Northeastern, and hopefully Coach Crean can find ways for him to get more looks moving forward with this UGA squad. Gresham ended up with 10 points on a 2 of 4 shooting performance from the perimeter, and he was one of the few Bulldog defenders that understood defensive positioning in this one as he snagged 5 boards to go along with 3 steals.

What’s up with Georgia’s defense?

The guy I mentioned at the top of the post – Hayden Brown – scored a career high 26 points tonight in Stegeman. Last year, he averaged 7.2 a night. The Dawgs should be embarrassed about how easy Brown made things look tonight in Athens, because he is not a 20+ points a night kind of player.

The UGA defense – both the halfcourt and transition – is still a work in process. WAY too often the Charleston Bulldogs had players skating free to the bucket against Georgia’s defense nearly unopposed. Currently, UGA’s help defense is super sloppy, which is a big reason Citadel scored 86 points and shot almost 50% from the field. Georgia’s perimeter defense needs work, too, as the Dawgs were slow to close out all night on shooters, and Citadel took advantage by canning 14 triples (42%). This was surprising considering that Citadel was second in the country last year in three-point attempts per game (36); it’s their modus operandi, if you will, which made me think Georgia would have appeared better prepared.

At what point does the green light turn red?

I’m aware of the old adage that basically says that you never tell a shooter not to shoot because they will eventually shoot themselves out of a slump. However, did Tyree Crump reach that tipping point this evening? Crump hoisted up three-pointer after three-pointer despite not having a ton of success; he finished 2 for 11 from beyond the arc. The senior has the potential to become a real hinderance to this team’s offense if he is going to continue to take shots from the outside on nights when he clearly just doesn’t have it.

Final thoughts

This was just the second game of the season, so the Dawgs continue to get a pass for sloppiness and missteps. Hopefully this team can find a way to improve quickly because after Delaware State this Friday the schedule becomes more daunting as they have Georgia Tech and the Maui Tournament on the horizon.

But hey, it could be worse. I mean, at least they didn’t lose to a mid-major on their home court like Kentucky tonight.

Box score:

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Dawgs overwhelm WCU late

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Quite possibly the biggest takeaway from Georgia’s 91-72 win over Western Carolina tonight in the season opener is that there really aren’t any significant takeaways. Last year, the Dawgs opened the season by blowing the doors off of Savannah State 110 to 76, and many fans clamoured that the “Tom Crean Era” of offense had officially begun. In reality, Georgia had one of the least efficient offenses in 2019 SEC play as they struggled to score points in league games.

Obviously, people didn’t expect the Catamounts, who were projected to finish 7th in the Southern Conference prior to the start of the season, to hold a 58-57 lead with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the game. But this is an incredibly young Georgia team playing in its first game together EVER. UGA has its own little Kentucky-like situation going on right now, and it’s on Tom Crean to determine the best combinations of his new talent with returning starters Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris (when he returns December 20th from his 9-game suspension for an “internal matter”).

Here’s what went well:

Freshman sensation Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards lived up to all of the hype that’s been following him around since he set foot in Athens. Edwards finished with a game-high 24 points to go along with 9 boards. His three-point shot appeared effortless as he buried 4 of 7 attempts, and 3 of those came in the second half and helped ignite an 11-2 Georgia run that put the Dawgs up 79-65 with just 2:25 left. Edwards looks comfortable with the ball in his hands, and he seemingly has no trouble facilitating offense from the point guard position.

Edwards, however, is projected to be the #2 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, so his success was somewhat expected. The surprise of the night had to be freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who came off the bench to spark the UGA offense. Wheeler pushed the tempo while he was in the game, and he showed a strong prowess for finishing at the rim. The lefty ended up with 19 points and 3 assists, and I don’t really see how Crean can keep him out of the starting lineup for much longer. Wheeler’s ability to penetrate and keep defenders on their heels should free the Ant Man up for more open looks from the perimeter.

Areas for concern:

The losses of Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide left a gaping hole in the Georgia frontcourt as those two combined for over 32% of the scoring and nearly 40% of the rebounding. It’s no secret that UGA’s interior defense will more than likely be the Achilles’ heel of this team. Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson, a load at 6’7″, 270 lbs and a member of the preseason All-SoCon Team, notched 17 points to go along with 15 boards as he manhandled the Georgia bigs in the paint. Amanze Ngumezi, who Crean will be counting on to hold it down in the interior, mustered just 4 points in 9 minutes of play due to his 4 personal fouls. Ngumezi is going to have the tall task of defending the opposing team’s largest player(s) all season, and unfortunately for him, that job is only going to become more challenging when this team enters conference play.

Georgia’s other forward, junior Rayshaun Hammonds, still looks like an unfinished product offensively. Hammonds shot just 2 of 12 from the floor on Tuesday as he struggled both around the rim and with his outside shot. With all these newbies on the court for the Dawgs, Hammonds has to be a steady presence on offense to keep teams more honest in how they defend the Ant Man.

Up next:

The Dawgs have a week to practice before returning to action next Tuesday when they host The Citadel inside Stegeman.

Box Score: