Is this rock bottom?

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That’s the question that many Georgia fans are either pondering or have answered after seeing the Dawgs blow a 20-point second half lead last night at Missouri. Like many of you, I assumed UGA was in a good spot after Anthony Edwards hit a triple to make it 59-39 with 13:33 left in the game.

When Mizzou cut the lead to 14 with 11:21 remaining, I still felt ok. Georgia will score; all they have to do is trade buckets with the Tigers the rest of the way.

Dru Smith cutting the UGA advantage to 8 points with 7:04 left started to make me nervous. By the time Mizzou trailed 65-62 with 3:31 remaining, I was confounded. Why hadn’t Tom Crean called a timeout? His team hadn’t converted a field goal in nearly 9 minutes.

After Mizzou reclaimed the lead 66-65 with 2:20 left, I did not think Georgia had the mental fortitude to close out the game, and the Dawgs proved me right.

This loss was deflating, and it moves Georgia into 13th place in the 14-team SEC. Everyone involved with the program on some level is frustrated.

Look at UGA’s remaining schedule. How many potential wins remain for this Georgia team?

Maybe Texas A&M at home? Or possibly Alabama? At Vanderbilt? The Aggies are 4-3 in conference play, Bama beat Auburn and historically, UGA struggles on that wonky court in Nashville. Last year, Tom Crean’s initial season produced 2 SEC wins. I never considered that they’d muster up a similarly low tally again this year, especially with the talent influx that this roster enjoyed due to one of the better Georgia recruiting classes ever.

Prior to the season, both ESPN and Sports Illustrated projected the Dawgs to finish 9th in the league; CBS was more optimistic as the network pitted the Dawgs at 7th, and in its description of this year’s team:

“Dawgs should be on any list of the top 10 most interesting/curious teams of 2019-20.”

The real curiosity at this point has to be centered around this team’s inability to get better as the season progresses, which I wrongly assumed they would earlier in the year.

Not having Sahvir Wheeler last night hurt. He’s this team’s best distributor and facilitator. But, the Dawgs did look really sound on offense for the first three-quarters of the game last night. Tom Crean’s guys were MOVING without the ball; Tyree Crump and Anthony Edwards were knocking down three-pointers off of passes rather than trying to do their best Steph Curry impersonations by shooting off-balanced and off the dribble. In the first half, UGA shot over 50% from both the field and beyond the arc en route to 42 points.

Nearly halfway through the second half, though, all that movement stopped. Guys started standing around and watching each other try to make plays off the dribble. The Dawgs hit only 36% from the floor in the final 20 minutes and made only 1 of 11 three-point attempts. All this futility led to a dismal 27-point second half effort against the 9th-best scoring defense in the SEC.

Junior Rayshaun Hammonds shot (and missed) his only field goal of the game during that meltdown of a second half. He failed to enter the scoring column even though he logged 33 minutes of play. How does that happen? Hammonds is the team’s second leading scorer and it should be impossible for him to become such an afterthought on offense in a game.

But Hammonds wasn’t the only one that disappeared. Anthony Edwards, who finished with 23 points at the expense of a 9 for 24 shooting effort, logged 2 points in the game’s final 13 minutes. He had opportunities to put the Dawgs on his shoulders and get them off the snide, but he couldn’t convert.

At some point this season, Tom Crean might be able to convince this team to play hard and smart for a full 40 minutes, and it’s going to be, in the words of Mugatu from Zoolander, “Glorious!!!”

I like Tom Crean’s offensive concepts, I just hope he can keep the players interested in executing them for the entire game. I also love the fact that he wants his teams to shoot the three ball, he just needs to bring in a few more guys that can make them.

Many UGA fans (me included) had high expectations for this year’s team with the idea that an NCAA tournament bid was not out of the question. Wins over Georgia Tech, SMU and at Memphis only served to fuel that optimism. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I hadn’t glanced at the 1st/2nd round locations for this season’s dance, just to see what would be a manageable trip, should Georgia be selected.

Conference play has stifled much of that hope by now. I’m curious to see where this team goes moving forward. Tom Crean has a heck of a tall task in front of him from here on out at keeping this young bunch motivated and interested in playing together.

Three thoughts on UGA basketball’s first “bad loss”

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The Georgia Bulldogs (11-8, 1-5) haven’t quite hit rock-bottom. That opportunity will come on Tuesday night when they play 1-5 Missouri in a game that could have the loser tied for the worst record in the SEC, depending on Vanderbilt’s result this week. Any optimism that UGA fans harnessed prior to this season is certainly coasting on fumes at this point. The fervor surrounding Tom Crean’s historic top five recruiting class feels like a distant memory after watching his team lose at home to an Ole Miss squad that entered Saturday with a NET ranking of 125.

What’s happened to the offense?

Earlier in the year, Georgia’s offense was entertaining to watch. Once the ball got into the high post, the Dawgs routinely hit cutters slashing down from the short corner for easy finishes at the rim. Did that happen once yesterday?

Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis through a slew of junk zone defenses at UGA, with traps occuring around the baseline and on the wings. Instead of moving, Tom Crean’s team just stood around. Georgia shot 31% from the floor and scored only 20 points in the paint against a Rebel team that had been allowing SEC opponents to connect on 45% from the field. Coach Davis’s team is not known for its suffocating defense, despite how futile UGA appeared when they had the ball in their hands. The Rebels entered this contest forcing opponents into 11.6 turnovers a game, yet Georgia managed to cough it up 16 times, which led to 20 Ole Miss points.

One stretch of offensive play that was particularly painful to watch occurred late in the first half and then bled into the start of the second. Jordan Harris buried a triple with 3:24 remaining till the break to bring Georgia to within five. Over 7 minutes later, he hit another three that broke an exhausting scoring drought that cut the Ole Miss lead to under double-digits. Tom Crean was brought into his position to reinvigorate the UGA offense, but this segment of game felt reminiscent of the Mark Fox days.

Of course, offense never comes easy when a team’s two leading scorers cannot find any rhythm, which was the case for Georgia on Saturday. Anthony Edwards made only 3 of 12 from the floor for a total of 13 points. All his makes were from beyond the arc, where he hit just 3 of 10 shots. For whatever reason, the UGA freshman seems resistant to utilize his powerful frame and drive the ball at the rim. Instead, he continues to try to create offense from the perimeter, which absolutely lets opposing defenses off the hook.

Rayshaun Hammonds’s 4-point performance can’t even be blamed on foul trouble this time. The junior never seemed engaged on offense as he hit only 1 of 8 from the floor. His most troubling miss came in the second half when he got the ball under the basket on an inbounds play with the much smaller Tyree guarding him. Hammonds managed to throw the ball completely over the rim on a weak take that looked like shot he would have taken as a freshman.

The defense is still a problem

I’d thought part of Georgia’s struggles on the defensive side of the ball were due to the strength of the competition that this team had taken on to start conference play. Ole Miss quickly debunked that theory.

First, a little background on the Rebels’ offensive woes prior to Saturday’s event. The Rebel Black Bears coasted into Athens with the second-worst offense in SEC games as they were scoring just a hair under 60 points a night. In addition, this Ole Miss team was hitting only 37% of its shots from the floor and just 26% of the attempts from three-point range; both of those stats were second-worst in the conference as well. There’s a reason the Rebels were winless in league play before setting foot inside Stegeman.

One thing Georgia proved yesterday is that they can make any team better on offense. Coach Davis’s team made 52% of its shots and over 55% from the perimeter to en route to 70 points.

With less than 4 minutes left in the game and Ole Miss leading 59-53, Georgia desperately needed a stop. Rebel point guard Breein Tyree, who finished with 20 points, blew by his defender around halfcourt and then coasted to the basket for an uncontested layup as the UGA defenders pondered whether that was a situation in which they should have provided some help. This play either highlighted Georgia’s inability to communicate or lack of effort, take your pick.

But maybe the most frustrating defensive lapse of the afternoon was the way in which UGA attempted to defend the 6’10” Khadim Sy. Somehow, the Ole Miss center continued finding himself being guarded on the block by one of the Georgia point guards, so the Rebels kept dumping the ball down to him in the paint, where he notched 16 points. At first, I associated these mismatches to defensive switches that led to these isolation plays. However, there were multiple possessions where Tye Fagan initially met Sy at the free throw line as he headed down low. Something was definitely amiss, yet Coach Crean never once called a timeout to rectify this situation. Even if Crean was taking a Mr. Miyagi approach and hoping that his guys could problem-solve, that wasn’t happening and they needed their coach to intervene.

Two lone bright spots

While this game definitely casts a dark shadow on the remaining prospects of Georgia’s season, Jordan Harris and Sahvir Wheeler’s performances on offense were admirable. These two Dawgs provided a much-needed offensive spark in a game in which this team’s two leading scorers took the afternoon off.

Senior Jordan Harris came off the bench to net 15 points to go along with 8 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks, all in just 19 minutes of play. Harris is easily UGA’s best defender, and at 6’4″, he may be its strongest rim protector as well. At this point, Crean probably has to consider starting Harris over Donnell Gresham just for the boost in athleticism he provides on the defensive end.

Seeing Wheeler score in double-figures again was refreshing after what had been a rather rough start to conference play for the freshman. Prior to the SEC slate, Wheeler had been averaging 8.6ppg, but that number had fallen to just 4.2 ppg in league games. Conference play can definitely wreck some player’s offensive numbers, so hopefully yesterday’s game gives Wheeler some added confidence moving forward because UGA needs him to be a threat on that side of the ball.

Up next:

At 1-5 Missouri on Tuesday

Current postseason projection:

NIT First Four Out

Box Score:

Georgia defense continues to be problematic for this team

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The Dawgs (11-7, 1-4) dropped their second game in a row in Tuesday’s loss to Kentucky inside Rupp Arena. The fact that UGA only lost by 10 is a bit of a silver lining for Tom Crean’s team considering that Anthony Edwards didn’t score the entire first half, and Sahvir Wheeler went the whole game without a bucket. The Dawgs got 29 points from the bench and surprising double-digit efforts from Tye Fagan (14) and Toumani Camara (10) that helped UGA piece together a 79-point performance that came via chunks of scoring from various role players.

It’s safe to say that the Dawgs DO NOT have anyone capable of defending Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans on the perimeter or Nick Richards on the block; the sophomore and junior scored 23 and 20, respectively, for Coach Calipari’s team. The UGA fan base was ecstatic when Crean signed a player of Edwards’s caliber during the offseason, and rightfully so; it’s just that Cal has like 4 to 5 of those kinds of talents on his roster, and that’s a problem for Georgia whenever they play the Cats.

Here are a few more thoughts on the game:

Too many easy baskets for Kentucky

The Georgia Bulldogs interior defense plagued them once again. Kentucky used its size advantage to notch 46 points in the paint against the Dawgs, marking the 4th time in 5 SEC games that a team has scored 44 points or more inside the free throw line. Over the past 3 games prior to this one, UGA allowed opponents to make over 65% of their two-point attempts, the majority of which were scored in the lane. Not to keep pouring it on the defense, but after tonight’s effort, Georgia is now allowing over 80 points a contest in league games, which gives Tom Crean’s team the worst scoring defense in the SEC.

Crean has continued to preach effort on the defensive end in both finishing out possessions and rebounding. Obviously, I agree that those are crucial tenets that must be satisfied if a team hopes to make life difficult for opposing offenses. However, I’m not sure if effort alone is going to be enough for this year’s team to overcome some serious deficiencies that exist in regards to the size of the frontcourt.

The best part of the game for Georgia

The highlight of the games was the 7-ish minute span in the first half in which Georgia shook off a sluggish start and came back from an early 10-2 disadvantage. In an eerie repeat to last weekend’s game in Starkville, the Dawgs found themselves down by the exact same score by the time the initial media timeout rolled around. Kentucky had 11 fastbreak points prior to the intermission, and a majority of those came during this first segment of the game.

Tom Crean moved his team into an extended 2-3 zone in an attempt to slow down the pace of the game and to get Kentucky off-balanced. The UGA zone stymied the Cats’ offense, and Georgia outscored Kentucky 18-14 for the next 7 minutes. With 5:30 remaining before the half, the Dawgs capped off a 9-0 run en route to a 29-28 lead.

The effort in the first 20 minutes of this game was solid as Georgia notched 10 offensive boards which led to 10 second chance points. Despite shooting just 34% from the floor and 20% from three-point land, UGA only trailed 41-35 at the half, a half in which leading-scorer Anthony Edwards contributed 0 points.

Up next:

Ole Miss in Athens

Current postseason projection:

NIT

Box Score:

Three reasons why Mississippi State whipped Georgia 91-59

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After demoralizing Tennessee in Athens earlier the week, the Georgia Bulldogs (11-6, 1-3) seemed poised to even up their SEC record in Starkville against a Mississippi State team that Sports Illustrated projected to finish just 11th in the conference in its preseason predictions.

This game was a great opportunity for Tom Crean’s team. I’m talking Quadrant I win opportunity.

Unfortunately, the Dawgs didn’t have the fortitude to keep the game even remotely competitive.

Here are my thoughts as to why:

1. Tough night for the Dawgs’ defense

Georgia started this game out about as flat as they have all year. UGA’s transition defense was nonexistent from the start as the Maroon Dawgs jumped out to a 10-2 lead before 3 minutes of game clock had expired. State scored nearly a quarter of its points (9) off of the break heading into the intermission.

The Dawgs entered this game 174th in the nation in opponent two-point field goal percentage (49.1%). It’s no secret that Tom Crean’s team is undersized, and the opposition is exploiting that weakness by driving the ball at the rim relentlessly. Mississippi State punished Georgia with 48 points in the paint, which marks the 3rd time in 4 SEC games in which the Dawgs have yielded 44 points or more inside. Other than Tennessee, the league has been absolutely brutalizing Georgia down low, and unfortunately, that’s probably not going to stop.

I mean, Mississippi State shot 62% from the floor; that should be embarrassing for a defense. The Maroon Dawgs entered this game averaging 10 assists per game in SEC play, yet on Saturday they dished out 21 dimes against a porous UGA defense. Sophomore Reggie Perry, who ended up with 22 points and 11 boards, looked like a man amongst boys as he got just about whatever he wanted offensively inside the free throw line. The only thing more painful than watching Perry shred the UGA defense was the constant reminder that he is a Georgia native that Mark Fox let slip out of state.

The UGA defense continues to be problematic for this team’s development. Georgia is now allowing over 74 points a night, which gives them the 274th best scoring defense in the country. In just SEC games, the Dawgs are giving up 78.5 per game, and that provides Tom Crean’s squad with the dubious honor of being the worst scoring defense in the league in terms of points allowed thus far. I’m curious to see what types of adjustments Crean makes to remedy this deficiency because his team sure isn’t getting any taller over the next two months.

2. Georgia’s offense became increasingly stagnant as the game progressed

In the first half, UGA ran a little dribble weave on offense that seemed effective as it kept State guessing and off-balanced. The constant motion being run up high led to some nice backdoor looks and dribble drives. Believe it or not, this was a 4-point game with less than 3 minutes remaining in the half.

For whatever reason, though, UGA got away from this offensive set and found themselves standing around a lot more following the intermission. I’ve said this before, but I suppose I’ll just keep saying it: Crean’s entire offensive philosophy is built around perpetual movement. When that’s not happening, things derail quickly. Need proof? Georgia made only 39% from the floor and just 17% from beyond the arc in this contest.

When UGA’s motion stops on the offensive side of the ball, players tend to settle for the easier shot, which in this team’s case is three-pointers. The problem, however, is that most of these attempts from beyond the arc tend to be contested looks, and the Dawgs don’t shoot a high percentage when that is the case. Georgia is hitting only 30.5% on the year (286th in the country) from the perimeter and just 27% in conference games (11th in SEC).

3. The Dawgs still don’t have a go-to guy

I know that Anthony Edwards is supposed to be that guy, but he’s just not there yet. Sure, he hit a game-winner to give Georgia its only win in Maui against Division II Chaminade. But against SEC competition, the Ant Man hasn’t shown up on a consistent basis.

Edwards didn’t score his first field goal in Saturday’s game until barely a minute remained in the first half, a half in which the Ant Man connected on just 1 of 6 shots. Edwards did end up with his season average of 19 points, but the majority of those were scored when the game was well out of reach. The freshman once again appeared as though he was pressing by trying to make difficult, off-balanced three-point shots off the dribble. He’s not doing Georgia or himself any favors when he’s playing that way offensively.

Another stat that is slightly concerning is the fact that Edwards is shooting just 33% from the floor in the team’s four true road games. When the rubber has met the road in conference play thus far, Edwards has failed to rise to the occasion. Hopefully he is learning from these experiences and can use them to grow as SEC play progresses.

Up Next:

Kentucky at Rupp on Tuesday. Ugh.

Current postseason projection:

NIT

Box Score:

Georgia blasts Tennessee 80-63 in Athens

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Believe it or not, this Tennessee team is not THAT bad. Sure, the Vols lost all five starters from last year’s team that made a deep run into the NCAA tournament, including All-SEC studs Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams; however, Rick Barnes’s squad is 10-5 on the year and they were 2-1 in the SEC heading into this contest. The Vols’ latest win came against South Carolina; the same South Carolina that won at Virginia earlier in the season and just knocked off Kentucky at home tonight.

Sports Illustrated projected this Tennessee team to finish 6th in the SEC in its season preview.

With all that being said, the Dawgs made Tennessee look mediocre on Tuesday night in Athens, and that’s cause for Georgia Bulldog (11-5, 1-2) fans to feel optimistic about the remainder of this conference slate.

Anthony Edwards, who finished with 26 points, scored 20 of those in the first half on 4 triples, with some highlight dunks and creative backdoor cuts sprinkled in. Coming off of probably his worst outing of the season last weekend at Auburn, Edwards appeared to be in top form as he dazzled the Stegeman crowd with his athleticism around the rim.

Georgia blew the doors off Tennessee in the first half as the Dawgs headed to the locker room with a 47-28 advantage. UGA had 18 points in the paint and 10 off fast breaks prior to the break as the Dawgs were getting to the rim with ease. Donnell Gresham had a series of possessions where he took the ball coast to coast and finished at the basket with hardly any resistance from Coach Barnes’s bunch.

After beginning SEC play with Kentucky and Auburn, the Vols’ defense looked rather pedestrian in comparison, and Georgia feasted on Tennessee’s inability to rotate and play transition defense. The crazy thing is that Tennessee entered this game 14th in the nation in defensive efficiency.

Georgia’s dominance against the Vols was made even more impressive considering that Rayshaun Hammonds was limited to just 9 first half minutes due to 2 personal fouls; though, Hammonds did manage to chip in 9 points during his brief appearance (and he finished with 21 on the night).

The Dawgs coasted in the second half en route to an 80-63 victory in a game in which Tom Crean’s team barely felt threatened. Rayshaun Hammonds hit a three pointer to put UGA up 32-19 going into the media timeout with 7:52 remaining in the first half, and then out of that timeout Jordan Harris notched a steal that led to a breakaway dunk, and all of a sudden the Dawgs were up by 15 points.

It was kind of surreal to watch as Georgia has yet to beat a team of Tennessee’s caliber this year so soundly.

Georgia has a night game in Starkville this Saturday night with a shot to even up its SEC record. Considering that another matchup with Kentucky is on the horizon for next Tuesday, a win against Mississippi State feels a little bit like a “must-win”.

Box Score

Auburn whips Georgia 82-60

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If you happened to catch the first 5 minutes of today’s game against the #5 Auburn Tigers you were in for a real treat. Tom Crean’s team came out focused and aggressive and jumped out to a 12-5 lead after a layup by Sahvir Wheeler with 15:05 left in the half. By this point, the Dawgs (10-5, 0-2) had already nabbed 3 offensive boards along with multiple loose balls. By all accounts, it looked like UGA just wanted it more.

However, Bruce Pearl eventually woke his team up and they morphed into the embodiment of that tornado that everyone in the Southeast has been preparing for. When Auburn is interested in playing, they are a relentless bunch on both ends of the court. Georgia’s freshmen must have felt like this game was being played at 2X speed.

Auburn ratcheted up its defense and limited Georgia to just 1 field goal over the final 10 minutes of the half. UGA’s offense, which is predicated on perpetual motion, became stagnant and sloppy as the Dawgs started settling for three’s, of which they made only 1 of 6; UGA also gave the ball away 8 times prior to intermission, and Auburn converted those mishaps into 10 points. During this same segment, the Tigers offense woke up and went on a 22-8 run to close out the half and put themselves up by 11 at the break.

During the second half, things just continued to spiral downward for the Dawgs as Auburn really started to play loose and fast. Trailing by 20 points halfway through the final 20 minutes, Tom Crean’s team appeared to have given up. Auburn had a 47-second sequence beginning at the 9:40 mark in which the Tigers scored a layup and 3 dunks (all uncontested) on breaks in which there wasn’t a Georgia player in sight running back on defense. When this little onslaught ended, the Tigers were up 63-40 and the game was clearly over.

Much like Kentucky, Auburn gutted UGA’s interior defense as the Tigers scored 44 points in the paint (UK had 48). The Dawgs entered this game with the 114th best defensive efficiency rating (0.938) in the nation. This stat is calculated by dividing the total points yielded by the number of opponent possessions. A rating under 1.0 is generally considered good. Today, Georgia’s defensive efficiency was 1.20, which would be the 3rd worst in the nation if that were their typical performance.

Georgia’s offense has been underwhelming lately as well, to say the least. In the first half of today’s contest, the Dawgs missed at least 4 layups that should have been made. UGA made only 17 of 33 free throw attempts (51.5%) and hit under 30% from beyond the arc, again. That’s just not going to cut it on the road against the #5 team in the nation.

Georgia’s inability to convert from the three-point line is beginning to become problematic as this team is not built to score in the paint with just one player over 6’7″ that plays significant minutes. Anthony Edwards has limped out to a 5 for 18 shooting effort from the perimeter in SEC play; he’s taken 32 field goal attempts this week, but the majority have been from beyond the arc, and that’s not going to spell a recipe for success for him or the Dawgs moving forward. Edwards has to start using his big frame to overpower defending guards and get to the rim. He has the ability to put serious pressure on the opponent’s bigs, but he’s letting them off the hook by settling for the outside shot.

If there’s a silver lining to take away from this week, it’s the fact that the Dawgs have played the toughest SEC schedule thus far. These two games proved that Georgia isn’t one of the two best teams in the league, but that was an expected conclusion. UGA only needs to be one of the top 7 or 8 teams in the conference and this can be a very special season for Tom Crean and his squad.

Georgia’s loss to Kentucky: what went wrong?

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In the past decade, the Georgia Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1) have been either been tied or had the lead going into halftime against the Kentucky Wildcats a total of 6 times. The Dawgs have won only three times on those such occasions. Anyone who felt confident heading into the intermission with the Dawgs up 37-31 has not been paying attention to this particular matchup.

To be fair, Georgia was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels for the final 5 minutes of the first half. UGA capped off an 11-2 run with a monster baseline dunk by Anthony Edwards, who finished off the play by showing some love to Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, who was sitting courtside near the aforementioned play.

On the ensuing possession, Ashton Hagans snuck down and hit a three-pointer that cut the Georgia advantage to just 6 points as time expired on the initial 20 minutes. Heading into the locker room, Tom Crean’s team was all smiles and in a celebratory mood. My emotional state was more tepid.

What happened? How did the Dawgs fall flat and end up on the losing end of a 78-69 game?

First, the defense

The Dawgs played, in my opinion, their best half of defense of the season against Kentucky before the break. Tom Crean’s team had never looked so sound. Whether they were in matchup zone or a man defense that switched on screens, the Dawgs did an excellent job of staying in front of the Cats and limiting their trips to the foul line. Kentucky, a team that averages almost 23 free throw attempts a game, had shot just 3 after 20 minutes of play. This number is even more impressive considering that Calipari had his team attacking the paint relentlessly in an attempt to exploit the smaller Georgia lineup.

Not only didUGA defend on ball well, but he Dawgs were incredible at finishing plays on defense prior to the intermission. Georgia, due to its lack of size, has not been solid at closing out possessions on defense. UGA’s defensive rebounding percentage is just 70.4%, which is 12th in the SEC.

However, the Dawgs held the Wildcats to just 3 offensive rebounds in the first half; Georgia’s defensive rebounding percentage for this span of play was a robust 85.7%. Anthony Edwards and Jordan Harris had four defensive boards apiece, and Donnell Gresham notched 3. Despite the size differential, Georgia’s guards were more than willing to get into the paint and get their hands dirty against a taller Kentucky squad.

After the half, though, all of that good stuff that I just mentioned evaporated into thin air. The Georgia guards stopped guarding the ball-handler on the perimeter with the same tenacity, and Kentucky began to enjoy far too many of their coined “dribble-drives”. Toumani Camara, who ran the length of the court like a man possessed for the first 20 minutes, ran out of gas. The benefactor of Camara’s inability to defend in transition was Nick Richards, who ended up with 17 points despite playing just 7 minutes in the first half. The Cats scored an astounding 48 points in the paint by the time the final horn sounded (or nearly 62% of their offense).

The Dawgs also saw their defensive rebounding effort drop as Kentucky secured 9 offensive boards over the final 20 minutes; UGA’s second half defensive rebounding percentage was just 55%. All this aggressiveness on offense by Kentucky led to 17 more free throw attempts in the second half.

Georgia defended for the entire game last weekend at Memphis. That was not the case on Tuesday night in Athens.

Now the offense

Statistically speaking, UGA’s offensive numbers didn’t look that different from half one to half two. The Dawgs shot 43% from the floor during the first 20 minutes and 40% during the second; Georgia made 3 of 11 from beyond the arc during the first half and just 2 of 12 during the second. The Dawgs only scored 6 less points in the half two, but the problem was that Kentucky’s offense began to open up and Georgia ultimately couldn’t keep pace.

Anthony Edwards, who led all scorers with 23 points, hit 2 triples in NBA-like fashion before the first media timeout of the second half that helped stifle a Kentucky run to begin the half. His second three-pointer gave the Dawgs a 45-40 advantage with 16:42 left.

The Stegeman crowd fed off of Edwards’s flair. However, it seemed like the rest of his teammates became a little too entranced in watching the Ant Man go to work because that’s sort of what the UGA offense evolved into during the second half. Instead of moving and finding the soft spots in the Kentucky zone, Georgia’s offense turned into a one-man show that featured Edwards, and against a team as talented as the Cats, that’s not going to cut it.

Over the next 10 minutes, Georgia mustered only 12 points, and following a layup by Richards, the Dawgs trailed 62-57 with a little over 7 minutes remaining; Kentucky never really looked back.

One more look at the offense: three-point addition

One of the big shortcomings of former coach Mark Fox was his consistent lack of three-point threats. His rosters rarely featured more than 2 or 3 players that possessed that skillset from the perimeter.

Coach Crean’s offensive philosophy is vastly different from his predecessor as he really values the triple. The problem, though, is that his current team is not shooting the ball well at all from beyond the arc. After last evening’s 22% effort on three-pointers, Georgia is shooting just under 31% as a team on the season, which has them ranked 298th in that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Dawgs to shoot threes. The triple is a critical part of college basketball offenses nowadays, and it is almost a must for any team that has NCAA Tournament aspirations. UGA has got to improve in this area of its offensive game, or SEC play could be a challenge.

Final thoughts

Even though losing to Kentucky is starting to feel analogous to the football team’s struggles with Alabama, this was an entertaining game and Tom Crean’s team is FUN to watch. Last night’s tale of two halves was an experience that should pay dividends for this UGA squad moving forward. I’m positive that this bunch learned a valuable lesson about playing for the entire 40 minutes, especially against a team of Kentucky’s calibre.

Dawgs shock #9 Tigers in Memphis

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Memphis coach Penny Hardaway had a defender playing deny defense on Georgia’s Anthony Edwards as soon as the freshman crossed halfcourt. The plan was simple: keep the ball away from the Ant Man and make the rest of the UGA team beat them. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that’s exactly how it played out.

By all accounts, Anthony Edwards had an off night. With fellow freshman Lester Quionones hounding him all afternoon, a frustrated Edwards connected on just 4 of 17 from the floor, which yielded 13 points. In the game’s final stretch, the moment seemed a little too big for the Ant Man as he turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with under 3 minutes remaining and his team up one, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have iced the game with 2.4 seconds left.

Luckily, UGA’s supporting cast was up to the challenge set forth by Hardaway. Rayshaun Hammonds buried a triple to send the Dawgs up 62-61 with a little over 4 minutes in the contest. Sahvir Wheeler, who made the game-winner in the double-overtime win over SMU, sunk a jumper from just above the foul line to extend the Georgia lead to 64-61 with barely a minute left.

Hammonds had an absolute monster of a game for coach Tom Crean as he finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds while having to deal with future lottery pick Precious Achiuwa, who led all scorers with 20 points to go along with 15 boards. The Dawgs allowed Memphis to secure 15 offensive rebounds, which is a lot, but Rayshaun’s effort on the defensive glass was admirable.

Sahvir Wheeler is quickly becoming a media darling, and he’s certainly a burgeoning star as the freshman scored 10 points to add to his 7 assists and 2 steals. He is so disruptive on both ends of the court: defensively, opponents are putting the ball on the court around him at their own risk, and on offense, he’s constantly attacking and forcing defenses to adapt to him. To put it bluntly, without Wheeler, Georgia doesn’t win this game.

Senior graduate transfer Donnell Gresham finally came out of his shell a bit on offense as he knocked down 3 of 6 from beyond the arc en route to a 12 point effort. He also hauled in 8 boards, and Gresham made an incredibly heady decision to foul Memphis’s Boogie Ellis with 4 seconds remaining and UGA leading 65-62. This took away the potential for a game-tying triple and forced the Tigers to shoot free throws, which is something they did not do well on Saturday (55%).

One last UGA player that stepped up this afternoon, particularly in the first half, was Toumani Camara, who netted 8 points to go along with 5 rebounds. Camara sunk a pair of triples late in the first half that were instrumental in the Dawgs getting to the intermission tied with the Tigers. The freshman got into foul trouble after the break, which limited his ability to contribute much in the final twenty minutes.

Georgia came into this game confident that they could play with the #9 Tigers, who were without their 3rd leading scorer, D.J. Jeffries (12.5 ppg), who was dealing with flu-like symptoms. The Dawgs jumped out to a 10-5 lead by the first media timeout, and it was apparent early that Tom Crean’s team was prepared to fight.

Even when the Tigers opened up an 8-point advantage, its largest of the game, to make it 47-39 with over 15 minutes remaining, Georgia wouldn’t wither. Instead, the Dawgs went on a little 9-0 run of their own, and after a pair of three-pointers from Edwards and Gresham and a layup by Wheeler UGA was back on top 48-47 at the 13:22 mark.

Tom Crean’s team earned a Quadrant I win today on the road against the 9th ranked team in the country with its best player underperforming. A month ago, Georgia looked overwhelmed against both Dayton and Michigan State in the tournament in Hawaii; today, the Dawgs were poised and confident as the held a Memphis team that had been scoring over 80 a night to just 62 points. The Georgia defense frustrated the Tigers, who normally make nearly 48% from the floor, into an abysmal 32% shooting effort.

This young Georgia team continues to improve, and I think that Rayshaun Hammonds said it best in his post-game interview when he pronounced them all “sophomores” by this point.