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.