Georgia’s defense helps extend losing streak

The Dawgs looked like a team without a player taller 6’8″ on Wednesday night against Auburn. Tom Crean started JUCO transfer Tyron McMillan in a token effort to compensate for the height differential, though the sophomore played just 10 minutes so I’m not totally sure what the value was in that endeavor. Auburn played an uptempo brand of basketball similar to how Georgia has preferred to run this year, except Bruce Pearl’s team did it with bigger and more athletic players. The end result wasn’t pretty for UGA as they got drubbed 95-77 at home to an Auburn team that had lost its first 4 SEC games. The Dawgs now have the dubious distinction of the worst conference record at 0-4.

In a game that should have meant the world to both of these teams as it presented an opportunity to get off the snide, Georgia’s defense once again failed itself. The Dawgs entered this contest yielding the most points per night in league games (92), and yet, they somehow found a way for an opponent to push that average even higher. The Tigers shot a blistering 57% from the floor and they netted 29 fast break points. Auburn had SIX players finish the game in double-figures, which is ridiculous.

But Georgia’s interior defense proved to be the real Achilles heel as the Tigers torched the Dawgs for an astounding 58 points in the paint. This UGA team either doesn’t communicate well on that side of the ball, or there are some fundamental misconceptions regarding defensive rotations. The Georgia bigs were out of position often, and it led to a number of easy points at the rim for Bruce Pearl’s team. On occasion, the UGA bigs managed to provide some token help, but it wasn’t effective and left the Auburn bigs alone around the rim far too often. The bottom line is this team is getting blitzkrieged by opposing offenses on the regular now, and that is on Crean.

Offensively, Georgia becomes stagnant WAY too quickly. My understanding of the Crean offense is that in the half court set, players should basically be in constant motion. Tonight, that was not the case. Rather, the Dawgs seemed more content to occupy the perimeter, swing the ball around and let guys try to create off the dribble. Unfortunately, UGA doesn’t have many players with this sort of skill set. Credit the Dawgs as they kept attacking the rim; the only problem was that Auburn was consistently there to impede them, and the Tigers racked up an impressive 14 blocks on the night.

Point guard Sahvir Wheeler had a pretty good game as he finished with 19 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. The main highlight for UGA, though, had to be the addition of freshman K.D. Johnson, who netted 21 points in his debut to go along with 7 boards and 4 steals. Johnson looked engaged on both ends of the court, and one can only hope that some of his enthusiasm is infectious so that he can inspire some of his teammates to up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball. Although, Tiger freshman Sharife Cooper scored 28 points on these two UGA guards, so both of them have room to improve as well.

To be honest, I had this game penciled in as a win for Georgia at the start of SEC play. After witnessing what just happened on Wednesday night, it’s becoming more difficult to find 6 games that the Dawgs could potentially win, which is what they would need to eclipse last year’s SEC win tally of 5.

7 thoughts on “Georgia’s defense helps extend losing streak

  1. Well, at least I got to see what defense in the paint looks like.

    Oh, and KD Johnson was fun to watch. But I’m with JJ. I think it’s getting worse.

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  2. I was with you mps… Mildly optimistic about the possibility of winning this game without KD and became optimistic when he was declared eligible.

    What. A. Letdown.

    Wheeler never adjusted and kept on driving the lane and getting blocked, Camara was sloppy with the ball and the team was in foul trouble the entire game.

    KD performed great, but it seemed like he was the only one excited to be out there playing and showing passion.

    I hope in future games Crean splits up the ball handling responsibilities between KD and Wheeler. I think Wheeler could benefit not having to do everything.

    Still a Crean believer, but I agree with the JJ Frazier tweet, somehow we keep on getting worse.

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  3. Welcome to KD Johnson. It’s just one game, but I’m not sure that Fagan is the player whose minutes should primarily suffer in the new rotation. I know Crean gave Wheeler the keys at the beginning of the season (and I’m not sure what else he was supposed to do with our roster construction), and it’s a tricky thing to ask for them back, but….he’s not cutting it right now. His numbers are a reflection of having the ball in his hands, but the halfcourt offense didn’t run well and he’s a liability on halfcourt D as well. Right now he’s a transition player who should be a bench sparkplug. Case in point, KD’s first entry pass upon entering the game to Garcia was a better pass than Wheeler made all night (before I gave up watching, anyway).

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    1. With KD my starting line up would be: Camara, Kier, Johnson, Fagan & P.J. Horne with Wheeler being the 6th man getting 20-25 minutes a game.

      We are just not a team with tons of height, so we might as well put out the most capable scorers/athletic players on the floor.

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  4. The LSU game offers a little hope, but we couldn’t finish that one and we haven’t even been competitive in 3 of the first 4 conference games. Our inability to make shots is just as disconcerting as our inability to guard the opponent – in our two conference home games, we have started out shooting 6 for 33 vs. MSU and 10 for 30 vs. AU.

    We will be one of the bottom 4 SEC teams again this year and it’s hard to see next year being much, if any, better considering the talent and size disparity between us and many of our conference peers. UGA hoops obviously doesn’t have the highest expectations, but it can’t continue like this for much longer. We at least need some reason to hope we’ll gain “contender status” in the conference going forward and we’re not projecting in that direction. I don’t have anything against Crean and I’m sure he will get another year or two to try to turn it around, but it’s all about the results.

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  5. Things I’ll own about myself:

    *I’m a dinosaur fan of basketball.
    *I like defensive basketball especially when it’s well played, and believe it can be very exciting to shut down high-scoring teams.
    *I often found Fox’s brand of defensive basketball quite exciting.
    *I know modern basketball, and understand its merits.
    *I believe modern basketball is enhanced by a healthy dose of defensive dinosaur basketball.
    *I believe a well-coached team looks well-coached even when nothing seems to be going right.
    *Style is irrelevant if it does not result in wins.
    *I am a faithful UGA basketball fan.

    So, my biases freely admitted, I will start by reminding posters on this board that Fox is more than four years gone. This is Tom Crean’s team, and program. It has been for some time now. They are his choices, and his coaching that we should judge now.

    I read what Indiana journalists believed about Crean by the end of his run, but I decided that I would judge him on his improvements to Georgia’s RECORD because I believe that was Fox’s failing in his last two years.

    Judging by his UGA record, Crean isn’t any sort of improvement. That cannot be wished away by rapturous talk about basketball that is “fun to watch”. He hasn’t even matched the “down years” of the previous coach.

    Georgia is not a well-coached basketball team. We can debate the merits of holding teams together in the hopes of long-term improvement vs. jettisoning last year’s team for a new one in the hopes of capturing lightning in a bottle, but that’s another conversation. That said, it is evident which camp Crean lies in, and perhaps in today’s college basketball environment, it’s more likely to bring about a winning formula. It’s almost impossible to say that it cannot work. However, if you do jettison teams for a fresh try each season, the effects of your coaching are really on display. So far, it hasn’t instilled any confidence.

    I see little, if any, defense – something this blog has highlighted for all of Crean’s tenure. Not only does he consistently set his defenses to invite disaster, but when disaster strikes, he consistently has shown an inability to adjust the defense to mitigate it. (Even old school zones that he dumps the bench into once it’s far too late look sloppy and unfamiliar to the players.) Perhaps defense is a nuisance to him, and if we consistently score 90 points no one will notice. All I know is that the defense Georgia plays right now is horrible to watch.

    Edwards was a hope for lightning in a bottle, but just like Simmons’ stay at LSU a few years back, it didn’t work. Jettisoning squads usually guarantees one thing. Your team will lack depth.
    Georgia shows that. We recruited age to provide that this season. The fact that it hasn’t reaped rewards yet is most likely an indictment of the coach rather than the players. If you posit that it’s the players’ fault, then it’s an indictment of the coach’s team-building philosophy. Either way, so far, Crean’s methods are woefully insufficient.

    This blog’s tireless writer highlights that Georgia’s offense is not the well-oiled scoring machine that has been sold to fans and critics alike. As JJ just carefully noted, it looks like it’s getting worse. Who is that on?

    As I finish, let me state unequivocally that I want Georgia to win first and foremost. Crean as coach or not. I will not root against Georgia just because I am a full-fledged doubter of the man. I would happily eat a plate of crow to see our boys light it up. But this is a critical blog, and so far, Crean has been pretty poor.

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