The Georgia Bulldogs (15-15, 5-12) came into Wednesday’s game against Florida in the midst of their best stretch of basketball all season. Winners of 3 of the last 4 games, UGA had to feel confident that they had a chance to avenge an earlier loss to the Gators, a game in which Georgia let a 22-point lead evaporate.
Sadly, the rematch resembled the first game between these two teams in several key ways, and the Dawgs emerged as the loser once again. Here are a few thoughts on what went down on Senior Night in Athens:
The turning point in the game
Tye Fagan’s layup with a little under 8 minutes to go in the game gave Georgia a 46-45 advantage in what had been a tight contest. Key words: “had been”. In less than 3 minutes, the Dawgs managed to commit 3 turnovers that coincided with a pair of triples from Noah Locke and an uncontested dunk from Keyontae Johnson that sent the Gators up 55-46 with 5:08 left. Locke hit another triple 3 minutes later that gave Florida a 64-52 lead and UGA fans a reason to head for the exits.
It all happened so quickly that I didn’t even have time to get properly frustrated and watch the lead slip away; instead, it vanished in an instant. Mike White’s team closed out the game on a 23-8 run as they completed the season sweep of this young UGA team.
UGA defense didn’t return from the locker room for the 2nd half
Florida entered this one as the best shooting team in SEC play. The Gators had been hitting almost 47% from the floor and nearly 38% from the perimeter. Through the first half against UGA, Florida had mustered just 41% on field goals and they had missed all 10 of their attempts from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs held the Gators, a team that was netting almost 74 a game, to just 28 points at the half.
Half number two was a different story, though. The UGA defense either became winded or just less interested in rotating and covering the perimeter. Florida took advantage and buried 7 of 13 three-point attempts to go along with a robust 54% shooting effort from the floor. The Dawgs have struggled all season to put together a defensive effort for a full game, and tonight was no different. Actually, this game was eerily similar to the loss in Gainesville in that Georgia kept Florida in check for the first 20 minutes (26 points) until letting the floodgates burst open after the intermission (55 points). I suppose Tom Crean’s team can take some solace in the fact that they only permitted the Gators net 40 on them in the final twenty minutes.
Georgia stars struggled
After taking just 2 shots in the first half, Anthony Edwards immediately asserted himself into the flow of the 2nd half as he drew 3 fouls attacking the basket in less than 3 minutes. He had 4 points as well during this stretch and the Dawgs had built up a 6-point cushion. However, aside from a monstrous dunk several minutes later, the Ant Man never really got any kind of offensive rhythm going in this one. He finished with 14 points, but that came at the expense of a 3 for 10 shooting effort from the floor and 3 turnovers.
Probably more frustrating for Tom Crean, though, was the disappearance of Rayshaun Hammonds in the second half. For whatever reason, Hammonds has struggled to stay engaged on offense for entire games this season even though he is an integral part of this team’s scheme on that side of the ball. The junior played a solid first half as he notched 10 points and snagged 7 boards. After the break, though, Hammonds scored only 2 more points and he ended up with 6 turnovers on the night. Two of those giveaways came during the aforementioned “turning point” when this UGA squad needed an upperclassmen to settle things down as Florida made its run.
The Dawgs close out the regular season with a road trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.