For Tom Crean, the first game of the Maui Invitational DID NOT go as planned. His Georgia Bulldogs (4-1) were thoroughly whipped by the Dayton Flyers (4-0) from the opening tip on a nationally televised game in one of the premier holiday tournaments. The Dawgs laid a dud in a contest that could have been a nice stepping stone for a program, and a coach, that is trying to gain relevance outside the state of Georgia.
Twice in the second half the Dawgs briefly threatened Dayton by trimming the lead to 13 points, but on each occasion the Flyers responded with three-pointers that quickly put to rest any hopes that Georgia had of making this contest at all competitive.
Dayton manhandled UGA on both sides of the ball for pretty much the entire game. The Flyers defense sped Crean’s young team up and forced them into 23 turnovers. The Dawgs’ offense began this game incredibly stagnant as they battled the shot clock, dribbled too much and settled for too many contested jumpers. UGA had not faced a team of this calibre yet, and it was evident by how lost the Dawgs looked offensively.
Conversely, Dayton had little trouble putting the ball through the net, especially forward Obi Toppin, who had 12 points before the first media timeout. Georgia foolishly tried to defend Toppin with just its bigs, and that strategy proved futile as the sophomore hit 9 of 11 from the field en route to a game-high 25 points. Considering that UGA’s frontcourt is not its strength, one has to wonder why Crean didn’t begin this game with his guards doubling down to help on Toppin.
Announcer Jay Bilas stated before the game that roughly 30 NBA scouts were on hand for this matchup to see both Toppin and Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards. While Toppin certainly bolstered his NBA stock, Edwards failed to demonstrate why he is currently projected to be the 2nd pick in next year’s draft. The freshman had only 2 points at the half and finished with just 6 after an abysmal 2 of 10 shooting effort to go along with 3 turnovers. I realize that this was only the 5th game of his collegiate career, but I expected Edwards to be able to get points off the dribble, regardless of the team or defender; Dayton’s Rodney Chatman (from Lithonia, GA) had Edwards bottled up the entire game.
UGA’s other leading scorer, Rayshaun Hammonds, had a forgettable morning himself as he mustered up as many points (5) as he did fouls (5). Hammonds never got going in this one due to being in foul trouble the entire contest. The junior led the Dawgs with 91 personal fouls last season, which is strange since he’s not a shot blocker or an overly physical defender. I’m not sure why Hammonds can’t avoid fouling, but with the lack of depth on this team, he’s going to have to figure it out or SEC play is going to be brutal for this squad.
Hammonds and Edwards had just two points between them at the half, so it wasn’t surprising to see Georgia heading to the intermission trailing 43-25.
It’s still early in the season and UGA has a lot of guys playing their first year of college basketball, so I’m hoping this debacle can be chalked up as a learning experience and something this team can grow from. However, Georgia’s shot selection and overall ineptness on offense against a quality opponent felt eerily similar to what transpired on that side of the ball last season when the Dawgs struggled to get points, as they were 10th in the SEC in scoring in conference games. In addition, last year Georgia led the league in turnovers per game because they didn’t value the basketball, much like today.
The Dawgs actually shot it well today as they hit 49% from the floor; however, it’s really hard to win games when the opponent gets 8 extra possessions via turnovers, especially when that opponent is a potential NCAA Tournament team.