UGA defends the entire game and gets the result it wants

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The Georgia Bulldogs (13-13, 3-10) snapped a four-game losing streak on Wednesday night against the #13 Auburn Tigers in a game that Las Vegas had made UGA a 4.5-point underdog. It should definitely be noted that Bruce Pearl’s team was playing its second consecutive game without NBA prospect Isaac Okoro, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.1 ppg. Nonetheless, this young Bulldog team found a way to win despite holding a double-digit lead for a brief 35 seconds early in the second half.

A couple thoughts on the game:

Here we go again…

The big “here we go again moment” came around the 6-minute mark of the second half after Anthony Edwards had knocked down a free throw to make it 52-43, Georgia. Over the next four possessions, Sahvir Wheeler, Mike Peake, Jordan Harris and Edwards all took three-point attempts that failed to convert. For the record, Harris shoots 28% from the perimeter and Peake shoots just 12%, so why those two were launching from beyond the arc during the game’s final stretch is beyond me.

Thankfully, the Ant Man converted on a floater that made it 54-47 with 4 minutes left, but Samir Doughty buried a triple on the ensuing possession and Auburn found themselves trailing by only 4 points. For anyone who has watched even a sliver of this UGA basketball season, this felt like the time when the wheels were supposed to start coming off for Georgia. Edwards sunk a huge three-pointer two possessions later, though, that turned out to be a dagger as it put the Dawgs up by 8 with 2:15 remaining. The cacophony of sounds circulating inside Stegeman following this bucket was a blend of cheers as well as collective sighs of relief from the Bulldog nation.

40-minute defensive effort from Georgia

Tom Crean finally convinced his team to play defense for an entire game, and it resulted in Auburn scoring its second-lowest output (55) of the season. This Tiger team entered this contest with the 3rd highest-scoring offense in SEC play at over 77 a night, further highlighting how impressive UGA was on that side of the ball this evening.

When Georgia struggled to stay in front of J’Von McCormick, who ended up with 22 points, Crean switched his team into a matchup zone in order to give his perimeter players more help up top in dealing with the senior guard. The Dawgs frustrated Bruce Pearl’s team into a 31% effort from the field and just 15% from beyond the arc; both of these results were well below the Tigers’ season shooting averages in league games. Georgia’s defense was so stifling that Pearl sweated completely through his suit, making him the second coach in less than a week that UGA has caused to perspire profusely.

Even though Auburn kept trying to pound the ball inside to Austin Wiley so as to take advantage of Georgia’s undersized frontcourt, the Dawgs were only outscored in the paint by a tally of 28-26; the last time these two teams met the Tigers brutalized UGA on the interior for 44 points. Protecting the rim has been a real challenge for this Bulldog squad this season, so it was refreshing to see them finally put together a complete effort in that facet of the game on Wednesday.

Georgia did yield 16 offensive boards to the Tigers and those did lead to 18 second chance points, but considering this Auburn team is the top offensive rebounding squad in SEC games (14.3), this is forgivable.

Crean’s frosh step up

While Edwards did knock down two important shots during the final stretch of this game, he also committed a game-high 7 turnovers, and those could have been more costly for Georgia had some of his fellow freshman not stepped up.

Sahvir Wheeler finished with 13 points and 4 assists as he looked in complete control of the UGA offense for much of the game. There was a moment in the first half when a Georgia big brought an on-ball screen to Wheeler on the perimeter. After Wheeler took his defender into the screen off the dribble, he found himself isolated with Auburn’s center (Wiley) defending him. Sahvir attacked the Tiger big man and had him backpedaling so quickly that Wheeler pulled up for a wide open jumper just inside the free throw line, which he made. It was such a mature decision by the freshman to take the wide open shot versus forcing something contested around the rim.

The other newcomer that was seemingly everywhere on the court on Wednesday night was Toumani Camara, who scored 12 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals (he also took at least two charges).

Up next:

Georgia heads to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt with a shot at putting together its first SEC win streak of the year.

Postseason projection:

NIT (outer fringes of the bubble)

Box score:

Sloppy UGA loses 74-69 to TAMU

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Mark Fox’s final four SEC seasons as Georgia’s head coach looked like this: 11-7 (NCAA tournament), 10-8, 9-9 and 7-11. There’s this notion circling around social media that Tom Crean is in the midst of some sort of rebuild. How is UGA considered a rebuilding project when the last coach won 7 league games? South Carolina finished 7-11 in conference two years ago and then bounced back to go 11-7 the following season. Any team that was only 2 games under .500 the previous season in a league like the SEC is not in “rebuilding mode”.

Georgia’s remaining schedule is Auburn, @ Vandy, @ South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and @ LSU. This team is dangerously close to repeating another 2-win effort in SEC play. The only game on that slate that I can see as a possible W for Tom Crean’s team is the game in Nashville, but historically, UGA teams haven’t fared well on the raised court, and I see no reason as to why this year’s squad would be any different.

Here are some thoughts on another frustrating loss in which the Dawgs committed 21 turnovers that led to 26 Aggie points (insert face palm emoji here):

Great halftime adjustments by Buzz Williams

And I’m not just referring to his decision to ditch the three-piece suit for a looser long-sleeve t-shirt. Though, considering how much Williams was perspiring during the game’s first 20 minutes, that wasn’t a bad move, hygienically speaking.

Coach Buzz obviously reminded his team at the break that they haven’t been that successful this season from beyond the arc, a message that Crean can’t seem to communicate to his Georgia team that connected on just 9 of 29 from the perimeter today in College Station. The Aggies entered this contest with the lowest three-point shooting (26%) in SEC games, yet they took 16 of them in the first half, of which they made only 5. Despite having a distinct size advantage inside, TAMU was outscored 16-8 in the paint at the intermission. However, in the final 20 minutes, Williams’s team notched 24 points in the paint and attempted just 7 more triples.

Kudos to the coach for convincing his team to play within itself and to its strengths. TAMU’s 74 points was 14 more than the 60 they were averaging in SEC games coming into this one (also worst in the conference).

UGA showed some mental fortitude in the second half

The Aggies blew the doors off the Dawgs out of halftime, and following an 11-2 run that was capped off with an alley oop dunk by Wendell Mitchell, the game was tied at 40 apiece. Georgia didn’t wilt, though, and after triples from both Sahvir Wheeler and Tye Fagan, the Dawgs found themselves on top 48-42 with a little over 11 minutes left.

Several minutes later, TAMU would lock the game up at 48-48 following a bucket from Josh Neebo. Once again, UGA remained poised as Fagan hit another three and Rayshaun Hammonds scored an important basket inside to give his team a 55-50 advantage with under 8 minutes remaining.

The Aggies would eventually tie the game again on another score from Neebo that made it 59-59 with 4:32 left. This time Georgia couldn’t hold on, and TAMU eventually took the lead and would keep it.

UGA desperately needed someone to step up and settle things down during this critical stretch of game, but alas, this team doesn’t have that guy. Anthony Edwards, who finished with only 6 points, attempted just 1 shot from the floor after the break. The freshman played only 2 of the final 10 minutes of this one as he seemed disengaged both on offense and from his team.

Hammonds played big versus Neebo

The lone bright spot for this Georgia team today had to be junior Rayshaun Hammonds, who had the pleasure of defending senior manchild Josh Neebo. Hammonds outscored (15-12) and outrebounded (7-4) the larger Neebo, and Rayshaun is now tied for 6th in rebounds per game in league play (7.2). Considering that the Hammonds, the lone big on an undersized UGA team, is asked to defend the opposition’s largest player every single game, it’s admirable that he continues to fight so hard on the glass inside.

Box score:

Next up:

Auburn in Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

No

It's official: Frank Martin owns UGA

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Frank Martin has built a program at South Carolina that regularly features teams that emulate the toughness of their hard-nosed coach. This year’s brand of Gamecocks is no different. From the opening tip, it was painfully obvious just how much more physically imposing this USC squad is compared to the Tom Crean’s Dawgs (12-11, 2-9).

Martin’s team didn’t play any matchup zone last night in Athens. Rather, his bunch strapped it up and played an imposing version of man defense that UGA hasn’t seen yet this year. The Dawgs couldn’t get into any sort of offensive rhythm as they turned the ball over 19 times. All that motion and movement that Tom Crean’s offense is built on was nowhere to be found; South Carolina didn’t allow it. Other than Anthony Edwards, UGA didn’t have anyone that threatened this Gamecock team.

Carolina held the Dawgs to under 35% from the floor and they frustrated Georgia into an abysmal 3 for 24 effort from beyond the arc. Remember when Crean said that UGA was going to shoot the three more in his opening presser? It would be cool if they could start making a few more of them. Georgia is now connecting on just 28% of its attempts from beyond the arc, which puts them at 12th in the league in that category.

Edwards finished with 16 points on a forgettable 4 for 13 shooting night, but to be fair to the Ant Man, he was the only Georgia player that seemed capable of facilitating any sort of offense against Carolina. Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler combined for 9 points on a 3 for 12 effort from the floor.

To put it bluntly, this game was never fun to watch. Georgia started 1 for 17 from the floor and turned the ball over 9 times in the first 13 minutes. With a little under 7 minutes remaining before the break, the Dawgs trailed 25-5. USC took the air out of Stegeman early, and they never let it back in. UGA finished the first half shooting just 24% from the floor, and they went into the intermission trailing 38-20.

Frank Martin’s South Carolina teams have now won 7 straight games against the Dawgs. Let that sink in. Those types of losing streaks are forgivable against a blueblood like Kentucky. Against South Carolina, though, not so much. Martin’s last two recruiting classes have been ranked 55th and 45th in the nation, yet his team has a NET ranking of 65 and is trending towards an at-large berth to this year’s NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks actually BEAT Kentucky earlier this year.

Based upon what’s transpired thus far, it’s hard to remain hopeful for much that is left on this Georgia team’s slate. I wonder what Edwards’s mindset will be for the final third of the season? He’s in a similar position as Nic Claxton was last year: stuck on a team with 2 conference wins and an NBA Draft just a few months away.

Stats from the South Carolina that jump off the sheet:

  • Points off turnovers: USC 25, UGA 4
  • Points in the paint: USC 40, UGA 22

Up next:

At Texas A&M on Saturday (Yay! One of UGA’s 2 SEC wins)

Postseason projection:

Nada

Alabama edges out Georgia in shootout

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Double-digit leads are by no means safe around this Georgia Bulldogs team (12-11, 2-8). With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Toumani Camara finished at the rim to make it 65-53, UGA. The Dawgs had taken control of the game to start the second half as they played fast and aggressive. However, much like the games against Missouri and Florida, all of that evaporated as Alabama (13-10, 5-5) proceeded to go on a 15-2 run that saw the Tide wrest back the lead to make it 68-67 in their favor.

How does this keep happening?

Here are a couple thoughts on a game that was entertaining to watch, yet ultimately difficult to digest:

Defense? Defense?

Statistically speaking, Alabama and Georgia have been two of the worst scoring defenses in SEC play. The Crimson Tide entered this game yielding over 77 a night (14th) and the Dawgs have been giving up over 73 per contest (12th) in conference games. But these two teams took their collective inabilities to stay in front of anyone to new heights on Saturday evening. The concept of help defense has clearly not been mastered by UGA or Bama as just about anyone who got past his defender on the perimeter had a clear and uncontested path to the bucket; it reminded me of the NBA All-Star game. Georgia outscored the Tide 58 to 56 in points in the paint; that’s right, an astounding 104 total points were made in the lane tonight.

I truly cannot remember watching a game with less guarding. Crimson Tide guard Kira Lewis put up a career high 37 points against the Dawgs. That should wound the pride of just about any defense.

And this was on the heels of a second half against the Florida Gators earlier this week in which the Dawgs permitted 55 points. Georgia has now given up 160 points in the last 60 minutes of game play. Incredible.

I get that this team is young and everybody is new and they’re still learning Crean’s offensive system and how to play together. However, there’s no excuse as to why these guys can’t play better defense. Defense is about effort, and right now, Crean is not getting much of it out of his guys on that end of the court.

Other players stepped up to support an ailing Ant Man

Apparently, Anthony Edwards has been dealing with the flu as of yesterday, and he wasn’t exactly feeling his best around tip off of this one. The freshman logged another double-double with 14 points and 12 boards, but he didn’t look like himself on offense as he connected on just 5 of 17 from the floor; he also missed all 6 of his three-point attempts, including the last-second one that could have tied the game.

Sahvir Wheeler and Rayshaun Hammonds did an admirable job of filling up the stat sheet, though. Bama didn’t have anyone who could stay in front of Wheeler as he scored a career high 24 points to go along with 8 assists. He did turn the ball over 6 times as he continues to make risky passes, but he also dished out some absolute dimes, so some of those turnovers are forgivable. Wheeler scored 40 points this week as he continues to expand his role in this Georgia offense. The Dawgs are most likely going to lose Edwards to the NBA next season, but the return of Wheeler could set this team up to be even better on offense next year.

Rayshaun Hammonds, who dealt with foul trouble for much of the game, scored 20 points in just 26 minutes of efficient play. The junior netted 5 of his total with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, including the bucket that tied the game at 92 with 21 seconds left. Hammonds had not finished in double-figures in the past 4 games, so it was refreshing to see him active and engaged on offense again.

Up next:

South Carolina comes to Athens on Wednesday

Postseason projection:

NIT (outermost fringe of the bubble)

UGA defense suffocates Aggies

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The Georgia Bulldogs (12-9, 2-6) ended a depressing 4-game losing streak with a runaway win against Texas A&M in Athens on Saturday. If you are a fan of soundly-played offense, this wasn’t the game for you. Only one of the teams shot over 40% from the floor (Georgia), and these two squads combined for 37 turnovers, nearly averaging one per minute of play.

However, the Dawgs desperately needed a victory, and when a team has its back against the wall, style points go out the window.

Here’s how Tom Crean’s team ended up on the right side of the scoreboard today:

Fabulous defensive effort

Georgia’s backside help on the block was tremendous this afternoon. So much so, actually, that TAMU basically abandoned trying to dump the ball into the paint to its leading scorer, Josh Neebo, and instead opted to launched three-pointers, which has not been this team’s forte. Neebo, who had been netting 12 a night, scored just 2 against the Dawgs; Texas A&M, a team not known for its prowess from beyond the arc, made only 5 of 25 shots from that area, which absolutely played into UGA’s gameplan.

Credit Tom Crean and his players for accepting the challenge to play defense for an entire 40 minutes and executing their scheme to near perfection. The Aggies were held almost 19 points below their season average in SEC play, and to keep a team to under 50 points in a conference game is certainly impressive. After getting brutalized on the inside for much of its league games, the Dawgs held the Aggies to just 22 points in the paint in this one.

UGA’s ability to regroup at the half and come out prepared to fight harder on the defensive glass is commendable, especially considering the Aggies entered this game with the 3rd best offensive rebounding percentage in the conference. In the first half, UGA yielded 10 offensive rebounds to a TAMU team that’s been averaging 12 a contest in SEC play. Georgia, however, buckled down after the intermission and only relented 3 more offensive boards to the Aggies over the final 20 minutes.

Much of that defensive rebounding can be attributed to UGA’s star player, Anthony Edwards, who hauled in 13 defensive rebounds in the game (15 overall).

Anthony Edwards was a man amongst boys in the second half

After the break, Georgia fans were treated to the version of the Ant Man that still has scouts projecting him to be the #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. Edwards was unstoppable in the second half in both taking defenders off the dribble and knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Ant Man finished this game with 29 points to go along with those 15 boards for his second double-double in as many games. Georgia should have the best player on the court in its remaining SEC games, and when Edwards plays up to his potential this team becomes dangerous to deal with from a defensive standpoint.

Some stats that just don’t make sense

  1. In a game in which UGA had 20 turnovers, the Dawgs still managed to outscore the Aggies in points off turnovers by a decisive 22-11 count.
  2. Georgia had 15 offensive boards and TAMU had 13, yet the teams tied with just 7 second chance points apiece.

Up next

At Florida on Wednesday night.

Postseason projection

NIT (firmly on the bubble)