The Georgia Bulldogs (12-7, 5-7) offense this season has been fairly productive despite a consistent lack of ball security. Even though the Dawgs are committing a league-leading 17 turnovers a night, Georgia is still 6th in scoring (75.9 ppg), which can largely be attributed to the team’s stellar field goal percentage (46.1%), the second best in the conference.
Against #16 Tennessee on Wednesday, the Dawgs gave the ball to the Vols 18 times, yet UGA still managed to hang 81 points on the SEC’s best scoring defense as Tennessee has been yielding just 65 a contest in league games.
Georgia’s Achilles Heel may lie in its inability to defend well enough beyond the arc. Tom Crean’s team is just 1-5 in SEC games in which the opposing team connects on greater than 38% of its three-point attempts, with Vandy being the lone exception as the ‘Dores made just under 40% in a 73-70 loss to the Dawgs last weekend. Conversely, in UGA’s other 4 SEC wins, teams are making only 25% of their shots from the perimeter. Could the key to whether this team wins or loses rely heavily on its ability to close out and contest triple attempts?
In Wednesday’s loss to the Vols, Georgia ultimately could not overcome a massive halftime deficit that saw Rick Barnes’s team take a 44-26 advantage into the break. The Dawgs halfheartedly defended around the arc in the first half and Tennessee, a team that entered the game making only 6 triples a night, had 8 of them by halftime. UGA cleaned this up following the intermission and limited the Vols to just 2 more triples in the game’s final 20 minutes, which enabled Georgia to cut the UT advantage down to single digits.
I’m not going to declare UGA’s defensive rebounding issues as completely solved, but protecting the glass hasn’t been nearly as problematic for the Dawgs lately as it was for much of the SEC slate. The Vols managed just 6 offensive rebounds that led to 9 second chance points against Georgia, marking the 3rd consecutive game in which the Dawgs held an opponent under 10 offensive boards. Tom Crean’s staff has obviously lit a fire under this team in regards to their effort when it comes to defensive rebounding; they’ve got to find a way to spread that intensity to UGA’s perimeter defense.
Enter #11 Alabama, UGA’s foe on Saturday. The Crimson Tide will mark Georgia’s second game against a ranked team this week, and on top of that, Bama is the best three-point shooting squad in the SEC. The Tide are knocking down almost 40% of their shots from beyond the arc, and they are manufacturing nearly 12 triples a night in league play. Bama is primed to capitalize on UGA’s ineffective perimeter defense.
With the amount of times this UGA team turns the ball over per game, they can’t afford to yield 5 additional triples to Bama like they did on Wednesday with the Vols (those 5 extra three-pointers were the difference in the game). The Dawgs must find a way to make the Tide uncomfortable from the outside if they want to have a shot at pulling off the upset on Saturday.