Just two weeks ago, Georgia (15-14, 5-11) was just 2-10 in conference and the Dawgs had lost 8 of their past 9 games. Things felt bleak, to say the least.
After holding serve at home today against the Arkansas Razorbacks, UGA finds itself in the midst of its best stretch of basketball this season as the Dawgs have now won 3 of their last 4 contests. Similarly to the South Carolina game earlier in the week, Georgia was up against a team fighting to stay on the NCAA bubble. It’s safe to say that Tom Crean’s team just smacked the Hogs out of Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out”, and they nearly eclipsed 100 points in doing so.
Two pivotal moments of the game
With 6:41 remaining in the first half, Georgia enjoyed a 38-20 lead as the Dawgs were making everything they threw at the rim. UGA’s first half shooting numbers were absurd: Georgia hit over 55% from the floor and made more than 45% of their attempts from beyond the arc.
However, Georgia had already blown 4 double-digit leads in SEC games this season already, so no one watching this one ever felt safe, and for good reason. The Hogs closed out the half on a 19-9 run, and Eric Musselman’s team went into the half feeling relieved that they only trailed by 8 points.
Mason Jones, who sleepwalked through the first half, woke up quickly coming out of the break as he scored 5 points to bring Arky within 3 with 19:12 left in the game.
Georgia responded with coast-to-coast layups from Sahvir Wheeler and dunks from Toumani Camara and Jordan Harris. Instead of sulking about the change in momentum, UGA took it back through a series of high-energy plays that saw them bolster the lead to 58-50 with 14:17 remaining.
Pivotal moment number two came with 2:45 left in the game and Georgia leading by a point. Tyree Crump, who has made almost nothing but three-pointers during his time in Athens, took his defender off the dribble from the top of the key and finished at the rim on a layup. On the ensuing UGA possession, Crump again got by his man and found a wide open Rayshaun Hammonds for the easy stickback. On Georgia’s next trip down the court, Crump buried a triple from 5 feet outside the new extended three-point line to make it 90-84 with only 1:35 left. That shot was essentially the dagger that sunk Arkansas, and Crump has now put his stamp on two of UGA’s recent victories.
No defense from either side
Georgia and Arkansas entered Saturday’s game averaging in the low 70’s in scoring in SEC games, yet both teams were able to shatter those expected outcomes. Little defense was played inside Stegeman, but fortunately for UGA its offense was just a bit more effective down the stretch.
Georgia’s defensive lapses continue to remain perplexing. On multiple possessions, Sahvir Wheeler let Mason Jones blow by him to the rim. Given his height disparity, one would think that Wheeler could at least have provided some resistance around the perimeter on the Arkansas star. There were also several trips late in the second half in which the Hogs got uncontested baskets by simply outrunning the UGA defenders down the court.
Arkansas’s defense obviously wasn’t any better as they let Georgia pulverize them inside for 50 points (UGA allowed just 30 inside to Arky). Maybe both teams made a gentleman’s agreement prior to tipoff to take it easy on that end of the court?
I wonder if this team has the capability or willpower to play two games of defense in a row?
Anthony Edwards has hit his stride
The Ant Man is netting 31 a night in his past two games, and he’s making over 50% of his shots from the floor. Edwards is enjoying his best moments of SEC basketball lately, and it’s clear that he is in rhythm.
When the season started, it was evident that the Ant Man had all the physical attributes and skills that NBA teams covet. However, those gifts were not always translating to success on the court, especially when league play got going.
That’s not the case anymore. Edwards looks incredibly comfortable with the ball, and he’s creating great looks for himself off the dribble. All of his recent dominance is even more impressive considering that both South Carolina and Arkansas basically had a man playing flat out deny on him for nearly the entire game.
One more shout out…
Shout out to Ray Hammonds, Jordan Harris, Wheeler and Camara. As mentioned above, Arkansas tried to take Edwards away (though it didn’t totally work as the freshman scored 26 points) by face-guarding him in their man set so as to force the other Georgia players to beat them. That strategy didn’t work out so well for the Hogs as Hammonds dropped 22 points and the other three guys all finished in double-digits.
Florida at home on Wednesday