Georgia defense continues to be problematic for this team

The Dawgs (11-7, 1-4) dropped their second game in a row in Tuesday’s loss to Kentucky inside Rupp Arena. The fact that UGA only lost by 10 is a bit of a silver lining for Tom Crean’s team considering that Anthony Edwards didn’t score the entire first half, and Sahvir Wheeler went the whole game without a bucket. The Dawgs got 29 points from the bench and surprising double-digit efforts from Tye Fagan (14) and Toumani Camara (10) that helped UGA piece together a 79-point performance that came via chunks of scoring from various role players.

It’s safe to say that the Dawgs DO NOT have anyone capable of defending Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans on the perimeter or Nick Richards on the block; the sophomore and junior scored 23 and 20, respectively, for Coach Calipari’s team. The UGA fan base was ecstatic when Crean signed a player of Edwards’s caliber during the offseason, and rightfully so; it’s just that Cal has like 4 to 5 of those kinds of talents on his roster, and that’s a problem for Georgia whenever they play the Cats.

Here are a few more thoughts on the game:

Too many easy baskets for Kentucky

The Georgia Bulldogs interior defense plagued them once again. Kentucky used its size advantage to notch 46 points in the paint against the Dawgs, marking the 4th time in 5 SEC games that a team has scored 44 points or more inside the free throw line. Over the past 3 games prior to this one, UGA allowed opponents to make over 65% of their two-point attempts, the majority of which were scored in the lane. Not to keep pouring it on the defense, but after tonight’s effort, Georgia is now allowing over 80 points a contest in league games, which gives Tom Crean’s team the worst scoring defense in the SEC.

Crean has continued to preach effort on the defensive end in both finishing out possessions and rebounding. Obviously, I agree that those are crucial tenets that must be satisfied if a team hopes to make life difficult for opposing offenses. However, I’m not sure if effort alone is going to be enough for this year’s team to overcome some serious deficiencies that exist in regards to the size of the frontcourt.

The best part of the game for Georgia

The highlight of the games was the 7-ish minute span in the first half in which Georgia shook off a sluggish start and came back from an early 10-2 disadvantage. In an eerie repeat to last weekend’s game in Starkville, the Dawgs found themselves down by the exact same score by the time the initial media timeout rolled around. Kentucky had 11 fastbreak points prior to the intermission, and a majority of those came during this first segment of the game.

Tom Crean moved his team into an extended 2-3 zone in an attempt to slow down the pace of the game and to get Kentucky off-balanced. The UGA zone stymied the Cats’ offense, and Georgia outscored Kentucky 18-14 for the next 7 minutes. With 5:30 remaining before the half, the Dawgs capped off a 9-0 run en route to a 29-28 lead.

The effort in the first 20 minutes of this game was solid as Georgia notched 10 offensive boards which led to 10 second chance points. Despite shooting just 34% from the floor and 20% from three-point land, UGA only trailed 41-35 at the half, a half in which leading-scorer Anthony Edwards contributed 0 points.

Up next:

Ole Miss in Athens

Current postseason projection:

NIT

Box Score:

Three reasons why Mississippi State whipped Georgia 91-59

After demoralizing Tennessee in Athens earlier the week, the Georgia Bulldogs (11-6, 1-3) seemed poised to even up their SEC record in Starkville against a Mississippi State team that Sports Illustrated projected to finish just 11th in the conference in its preseason predictions.

This game was a great opportunity for Tom Crean’s team. I’m talking Quadrant I win opportunity.

Unfortunately, the Dawgs didn’t have the fortitude to keep the game even remotely competitive.

Here are my thoughts as to why:

1. Tough night for the Dawgs’ defense

Georgia started this game out about as flat as they have all year. UGA’s transition defense was nonexistent from the start as the Maroon Dawgs jumped out to a 10-2 lead before 3 minutes of game clock had expired. State scored nearly a quarter of its points (9) off of the break heading into the intermission.

The Dawgs entered this game 174th in the nation in opponent two-point field goal percentage (49.1%). It’s no secret that Tom Crean’s team is undersized, and the opposition is exploiting that weakness by driving the ball at the rim relentlessly. Mississippi State punished Georgia with 48 points in the paint, which marks the 3rd time in 4 SEC games in which the Dawgs have yielded 44 points or more inside. Other than Tennessee, the league has been absolutely brutalizing Georgia down low, and unfortunately, that’s probably not going to stop.

I mean, Mississippi State shot 62% from the floor; that should be embarrassing for a defense. The Maroon Dawgs entered this game averaging 10 assists per game in SEC play, yet on Saturday they dished out 21 dimes against a porous UGA defense. Sophomore Reggie Perry, who ended up with 22 points and 11 boards, looked like a man amongst boys as he got just about whatever he wanted offensively inside the free throw line. The only thing more painful than watching Perry shred the UGA defense was the constant reminder that he is a Georgia native that Mark Fox let slip out of state.

The UGA defense continues to be problematic for this team’s development. Georgia is now allowing over 74 points a night, which gives them the 274th best scoring defense in the country. In just SEC games, the Dawgs are giving up 78.5 per game, and that provides Tom Crean’s squad with the dubious honor of being the worst scoring defense in the league in terms of points allowed thus far. I’m curious to see what types of adjustments Crean makes to remedy this deficiency because his team sure isn’t getting any taller over the next two months.

2. Georgia’s offense became increasingly stagnant as the game progressed

In the first half, UGA ran a little dribble weave on offense that seemed effective as it kept State guessing and off-balanced. The constant motion being run up high led to some nice backdoor looks and dribble drives. Believe it or not, this was a 4-point game with less than 3 minutes remaining in the half.

For whatever reason, though, UGA got away from this offensive set and found themselves standing around a lot more following the intermission. I’ve said this before, but I suppose I’ll just keep saying it: Crean’s entire offensive philosophy is built around perpetual movement. When that’s not happening, things derail quickly. Need proof? Georgia made only 39% from the floor and just 17% from beyond the arc in this contest.

When UGA’s motion stops on the offensive side of the ball, players tend to settle for the easier shot, which in this team’s case is three-pointers. The problem, however, is that most of these attempts from beyond the arc tend to be contested looks, and the Dawgs don’t shoot a high percentage when that is the case. Georgia is hitting only 30.5% on the year (286th in the country) from the perimeter and just 27% in conference games (11th in SEC).

3. The Dawgs still don’t have a go-to guy

I know that Anthony Edwards is supposed to be that guy, but he’s just not there yet. Sure, he hit a game-winner to give Georgia its only win in Maui against Division II Chaminade. But against SEC competition, the Ant Man hasn’t shown up on a consistent basis.

Edwards didn’t score his first field goal in Saturday’s game until barely a minute remained in the first half, a half in which the Ant Man connected on just 1 of 6 shots. Edwards did end up with his season average of 19 points, but the majority of those were scored when the game was well out of reach. The freshman once again appeared as though he was pressing by trying to make difficult, off-balanced three-point shots off the dribble. He’s not doing Georgia or himself any favors when he’s playing that way offensively.

Another stat that is slightly concerning is the fact that Edwards is shooting just 33% from the floor in the team’s four true road games. When the rubber has met the road in conference play thus far, Edwards has failed to rise to the occasion. Hopefully he is learning from these experiences and can use them to grow as SEC play progresses.

Up Next:

Kentucky at Rupp on Tuesday. Ugh.

Current postseason projection:

NIT

Box Score:

Georgia blasts Tennessee 80-63 in Athens

Believe it or not, this Tennessee team is not THAT bad. Sure, the Vols lost all five starters from last year’s team that made a deep run into the NCAA tournament, including All-SEC studs Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams; however, Rick Barnes’s squad is 10-5 on the year and they were 2-1 in the SEC heading into this contest. The Vols’ latest win came against South Carolina; the same South Carolina that won at Virginia earlier in the season and just knocked off Kentucky at home tonight.

Sports Illustrated projected this Tennessee team to finish 6th in the SEC in its season preview.

With all that being said, the Dawgs made Tennessee look mediocre on Tuesday night in Athens, and that’s cause for Georgia Bulldog (11-5, 1-2) fans to feel optimistic about the remainder of this conference slate.

Anthony Edwards, who finished with 26 points, scored 20 of those in the first half on 4 triples, with some highlight dunks and creative backdoor cuts sprinkled in. Coming off of probably his worst outing of the season last weekend at Auburn, Edwards appeared to be in top form as he dazzled the Stegeman crowd with his athleticism around the rim.

Georgia blew the doors off Tennessee in the first half as the Dawgs headed to the locker room with a 47-28 advantage. UGA had 18 points in the paint and 10 off fast breaks prior to the break as the Dawgs were getting to the rim with ease. Donnell Gresham had a series of possessions where he took the ball coast to coast and finished at the basket with hardly any resistance from Coach Barnes’s bunch.

After beginning SEC play with Kentucky and Auburn, the Vols’ defense looked rather pedestrian in comparison, and Georgia feasted on Tennessee’s inability to rotate and play transition defense. The crazy thing is that Tennessee entered this game 14th in the nation in defensive efficiency.

Georgia’s dominance against the Vols was made even more impressive considering that Rayshaun Hammonds was limited to just 9 first half minutes due to 2 personal fouls; though, Hammonds did manage to chip in 9 points during his brief appearance (and he finished with 21 on the night).

The Dawgs coasted in the second half en route to an 80-63 victory in a game in which Tom Crean’s team barely felt threatened. Rayshaun Hammonds hit a three pointer to put UGA up 32-19 going into the media timeout with 7:52 remaining in the first half, and then out of that timeout Jordan Harris notched a steal that led to a breakaway dunk, and all of a sudden the Dawgs were up by 15 points.

It was kind of surreal to watch as Georgia has yet to beat a team of Tennessee’s caliber this year so soundly.

Georgia has a night game in Starkville this Saturday night with a shot to even up its SEC record. Considering that another matchup with Kentucky is on the horizon for next Tuesday, a win against Mississippi State feels a little bit like a “must-win”.

Box Score

Auburn whips Georgia 82-60

If you happened to catch the first 5 minutes of today’s game against the #5 Auburn Tigers you were in for a real treat. Tom Crean’s team came out focused and aggressive and jumped out to a 12-5 lead after a layup by Sahvir Wheeler with 15:05 left in the half. By this point, the Dawgs (10-5, 0-2) had already nabbed 3 offensive boards along with multiple loose balls. By all accounts, it looked like UGA just wanted it more.

However, Bruce Pearl eventually woke his team up and they morphed into the embodiment of that tornado that everyone in the Southeast has been preparing for. When Auburn is interested in playing, they are a relentless bunch on both ends of the court. Georgia’s freshmen must have felt like this game was being played at 2X speed.

Auburn ratcheted up its defense and limited Georgia to just 1 field goal over the final 10 minutes of the half. UGA’s offense, which is predicated on perpetual motion, became stagnant and sloppy as the Dawgs started settling for three’s, of which they made only 1 of 6; UGA also gave the ball away 8 times prior to intermission, and Auburn converted those mishaps into 10 points. During this same segment, the Tigers offense woke up and went on a 22-8 run to close out the half and put themselves up by 11 at the break.

During the second half, things just continued to spiral downward for the Dawgs as Auburn really started to play loose and fast. Trailing by 20 points halfway through the final 20 minutes, Tom Crean’s team appeared to have given up. Auburn had a 47-second sequence beginning at the 9:40 mark in which the Tigers scored a layup and 3 dunks (all uncontested) on breaks in which there wasn’t a Georgia player in sight running back on defense. When this little onslaught ended, the Tigers were up 63-40 and the game was clearly over.

Much like Kentucky, Auburn gutted UGA’s interior defense as the Tigers scored 44 points in the paint (UK had 48). The Dawgs entered this game with the 114th best defensive efficiency rating (0.938) in the nation. This stat is calculated by dividing the total points yielded by the number of opponent possessions. A rating under 1.0 is generally considered good. Today, Georgia’s defensive efficiency was 1.20, which would be the 3rd worst in the nation if that were their typical performance.

Georgia’s offense has been underwhelming lately as well, to say the least. In the first half of today’s contest, the Dawgs missed at least 4 layups that should have been made. UGA made only 17 of 33 free throw attempts (51.5%) and hit under 30% from beyond the arc, again. That’s just not going to cut it on the road against the #5 team in the nation.

Georgia’s inability to convert from the three-point line is beginning to become problematic as this team is not built to score in the paint with just one player over 6’7″ that plays significant minutes. Anthony Edwards has limped out to a 5 for 18 shooting effort from the perimeter in SEC play; he’s taken 32 field goal attempts this week, but the majority have been from beyond the arc, and that’s not going to spell a recipe for success for him or the Dawgs moving forward. Edwards has to start using his big frame to overpower defending guards and get to the rim. He has the ability to put serious pressure on the opponent’s bigs, but he’s letting them off the hook by settling for the outside shot.

If there’s a silver lining to take away from this week, it’s the fact that the Dawgs have played the toughest SEC schedule thus far. These two games proved that Georgia isn’t one of the two best teams in the league, but that was an expected conclusion. UGA only needs to be one of the top 7 or 8 teams in the conference and this can be a very special season for Tom Crean and his squad.

Georgia’s loss to Kentucky: what went wrong?

In the past decade, the Georgia Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1) have been either been tied or had the lead going into halftime against the Kentucky Wildcats a total of 6 times. The Dawgs have won only three times on those such occasions. Anyone who felt confident heading into the intermission with the Dawgs up 37-31 has not been paying attention to this particular matchup.

To be fair, Georgia was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels for the final 5 minutes of the first half. UGA capped off an 11-2 run with a monster baseline dunk by Anthony Edwards, who finished off the play by showing some love to Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, who was sitting courtside near the aforementioned play.

On the ensuing possession, Ashton Hagans snuck down and hit a three-pointer that cut the Georgia advantage to just 6 points as time expired on the initial 20 minutes. Heading into the locker room, Tom Crean’s team was all smiles and in a celebratory mood. My emotional state was more tepid.

What happened? How did the Dawgs fall flat and end up on the losing end of a 78-69 game?

First, the defense

The Dawgs played, in my opinion, their best half of defense of the season against Kentucky before the break. Tom Crean’s team had never looked so sound. Whether they were in matchup zone or a man defense that switched on screens, the Dawgs did an excellent job of staying in front of the Cats and limiting their trips to the foul line. Kentucky, a team that averages almost 23 free throw attempts a game, had shot just 3 after 20 minutes of play. This number is even more impressive considering that Calipari had his team attacking the paint relentlessly in an attempt to exploit the smaller Georgia lineup.

Not only didUGA defend on ball well, but he Dawgs were incredible at finishing plays on defense prior to the intermission. Georgia, due to its lack of size, has not been solid at closing out possessions on defense. UGA’s defensive rebounding percentage is just 70.4%, which is 12th in the SEC.

However, the Dawgs held the Wildcats to just 3 offensive rebounds in the first half; Georgia’s defensive rebounding percentage for this span of play was a robust 85.7%. Anthony Edwards and Jordan Harris had four defensive boards apiece, and Donnell Gresham notched 3. Despite the size differential, Georgia’s guards were more than willing to get into the paint and get their hands dirty against a taller Kentucky squad.

After the half, though, all of that good stuff that I just mentioned evaporated into thin air. The Georgia guards stopped guarding the ball-handler on the perimeter with the same tenacity, and Kentucky began to enjoy far too many of their coined “dribble-drives”. Toumani Camara, who ran the length of the court like a man possessed for the first 20 minutes, ran out of gas. The benefactor of Camara’s inability to defend in transition was Nick Richards, who ended up with 17 points despite playing just 7 minutes in the first half. The Cats scored an astounding 48 points in the paint by the time the final horn sounded (or nearly 62% of their offense).

The Dawgs also saw their defensive rebounding effort drop as Kentucky secured 9 offensive boards over the final 20 minutes; UGA’s second half defensive rebounding percentage was just 55%. All this aggressiveness on offense by Kentucky led to 17 more free throw attempts in the second half.

Georgia defended for the entire game last weekend at Memphis. That was not the case on Tuesday night in Athens.

Now the offense

Statistically speaking, UGA’s offensive numbers didn’t look that different from half one to half two. The Dawgs shot 43% from the floor during the first 20 minutes and 40% during the second; Georgia made 3 of 11 from beyond the arc during the first half and just 2 of 12 during the second. The Dawgs only scored 6 less points in the half two, but the problem was that Kentucky’s offense began to open up and Georgia ultimately couldn’t keep pace.

Anthony Edwards, who led all scorers with 23 points, hit 2 triples in NBA-like fashion before the first media timeout of the second half that helped stifle a Kentucky run to begin the half. His second three-pointer gave the Dawgs a 45-40 advantage with 16:42 left.

The Stegeman crowd fed off of Edwards’s flair. However, it seemed like the rest of his teammates became a little too entranced in watching the Ant Man go to work because that’s sort of what the UGA offense evolved into during the second half. Instead of moving and finding the soft spots in the Kentucky zone, Georgia’s offense turned into a one-man show that featured Edwards, and against a team as talented as the Cats, that’s not going to cut it.

Over the next 10 minutes, Georgia mustered only 12 points, and following a layup by Richards, the Dawgs trailed 62-57 with a little over 7 minutes remaining; Kentucky never really looked back.

One more look at the offense: three-point addition

One of the big shortcomings of former coach Mark Fox was his consistent lack of three-point threats. His rosters rarely featured more than 2 or 3 players that possessed that skillset from the perimeter.

Coach Crean’s offensive philosophy is vastly different from his predecessor as he really values the triple. The problem, though, is that his current team is not shooting the ball well at all from beyond the arc. After last evening’s 22% effort on three-pointers, Georgia is shooting just under 31% as a team on the season, which has them ranked 298th in that category.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Dawgs to shoot threes. The triple is a critical part of college basketball offenses nowadays, and it is almost a must for any team that has NCAA Tournament aspirations. UGA has got to improve in this area of its offensive game, or SEC play could be a challenge.

Final thoughts

Even though losing to Kentucky is starting to feel analogous to the football team’s struggles with Alabama, this was an entertaining game and Tom Crean’s team is FUN to watch. Last night’s tale of two halves was an experience that should pay dividends for this UGA squad moving forward. I’m positive that this bunch learned a valuable lesson about playing for the entire 40 minutes, especially against a team of Kentucky’s calibre.

Dawgs shock #9 Tigers in Memphis

Memphis coach Penny Hardaway had a defender playing deny defense on Georgia’s Anthony Edwards as soon as the freshman crossed halfcourt. The plan was simple: keep the ball away from the Ant Man and make the rest of the UGA team beat them. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that’s exactly how it played out.

By all accounts, Anthony Edwards had an off night. With fellow freshman Lester Quionones hounding him all afternoon, a frustrated Edwards connected on just 4 of 17 from the floor, which yielded 13 points. In the game’s final stretch, the moment seemed a little too big for the Ant Man as he turned the ball over on consecutive possessions with under 3 minutes remaining and his team up one, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have iced the game with 2.4 seconds left.

Luckily, UGA’s supporting cast was up to the challenge set forth by Hardaway. Rayshaun Hammonds buried a triple to send the Dawgs up 62-61 with a little over 4 minutes in the contest. Sahvir Wheeler, who made the game-winner in the double-overtime win over SMU, sunk a jumper from just above the foul line to extend the Georgia lead to 64-61 with barely a minute left.

Hammonds had an absolute monster of a game for coach Tom Crean as he finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds while having to deal with future lottery pick Precious Achiuwa, who led all scorers with 20 points to go along with 15 boards. The Dawgs allowed Memphis to secure 15 offensive rebounds, which is a lot, but Rayshaun’s effort on the defensive glass was admirable.

Sahvir Wheeler is quickly becoming a media darling, and he’s certainly a burgeoning star as the freshman scored 10 points to add to his 7 assists and 2 steals. He is so disruptive on both ends of the court: defensively, opponents are putting the ball on the court around him at their own risk, and on offense, he’s constantly attacking and forcing defenses to adapt to him. To put it bluntly, without Wheeler, Georgia doesn’t win this game.

Senior graduate transfer Donnell Gresham finally came out of his shell a bit on offense as he knocked down 3 of 6 from beyond the arc en route to a 12 point effort. He also hauled in 8 boards, and Gresham made an incredibly heady decision to foul Memphis’s Boogie Ellis with 4 seconds remaining and UGA leading 65-62. This took away the potential for a game-tying triple and forced the Tigers to shoot free throws, which is something they did not do well on Saturday (55%).

One last UGA player that stepped up this afternoon, particularly in the first half, was Toumani Camara, who netted 8 points to go along with 5 rebounds. Camara sunk a pair of triples late in the first half that were instrumental in the Dawgs getting to the intermission tied with the Tigers. The freshman got into foul trouble after the break, which limited his ability to contribute much in the final twenty minutes.

Georgia came into this game confident that they could play with the #9 Tigers, who were without their 3rd leading scorer, D.J. Jeffries (12.5 ppg), who was dealing with flu-like symptoms. The Dawgs jumped out to a 10-5 lead by the first media timeout, and it was apparent early that Tom Crean’s team was prepared to fight.

Even when the Tigers opened up an 8-point advantage, its largest of the game, to make it 47-39 with over 15 minutes remaining, Georgia wouldn’t wither. Instead, the Dawgs went on a little 9-0 run of their own, and after a pair of three-pointers from Edwards and Gresham and a layup by Wheeler UGA was back on top 48-47 at the 13:22 mark.

Tom Crean’s team earned a Quadrant I win today on the road against the 9th ranked team in the country with its best player underperforming. A month ago, Georgia looked overwhelmed against both Dayton and Michigan State in the tournament in Hawaii; today, the Dawgs were poised and confident as the held a Memphis team that had been scoring over 80 a night to just 62 points. The Georgia defense frustrated the Tigers, who normally make nearly 48% from the floor, into an abysmal 32% shooting effort.

This young Georgia team continues to improve, and I think that Rayshaun Hammonds said it best in his post-game interview when he pronounced them all “sophomores” by this point.

Some observations of Georgia basketball as 2019 ends

The preseason is essentially over for the Georgia Bulldogs (9-3). Even though the game against #9 Memphis this Saturday is not a conference game, it will be a difficult test nonetheless, and it sets the table for a REALLY challenging stretch of SEC games that has Georgia playing #17 Kentucky and #8 Auburn in the first week of SEC play.

With that being said, here are some observations and questions I have for this year’s UGA basketball team after seeing them play 12 games:

UGA is not a terribly deep basketball team (yet). Next year, Georgia will have more depth as the freshmen become sophomores. However, at the moment, the Dawgs have quite the drop off on the offensive end when Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds are not on the floor.

Against Austin Peay, Hammonds picked up his 2nd foul with 13:54 left in the first half and the Dawgs leading 16-8. Edwards eventually got a blow, and the Governors started showing Georgia some 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone looks. The UGA reserves did not handle the Austin Peay zones well as they settled for long three-pointers; the Dawgs made just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc prior to the break. In addition, Georgia played carelessly as they gave the ball away 11 times before the intermission. The offense had zero purpose. On multiple possessions, UGA didn’t have anyone filling in the high post position in the middle of the Austin Peay defense, a tenet of any respectable zone offense. Georgia’s offensive futility allowed the Governors to close out the half with an 8-0 run to make it 31-26 at the break.

Hammonds has got to do better than last year at staying out of foul trouble because Crean needs some combination of him, Edwards and Sahvir Wheeler on the court at nearly all times.

Georgia’s defense is definitely improving. UGA shut the Governors’ offense down completely on Monday night as they held them to just 48 points. The Dawgs limited Austin Peay to merely 26% from the floor and only 15% from beyond the arc, and they permitted the Governors just 4 second chance points.

Tom Crean has most likely been preaching the importance of communicating on the defensive side of the ball because the Dawgs look far less lost than they did at the start of the season. Georgia’s rotations on defense were nonexistent at times in previous games, and that led to a number of uncontested drives and alley-oops for opponents. However, those plays are becoming less common, to the point that I don’t recall Austin Peay getting a single bucket in that fashion.

Georgia will need to continue to talk and be aggressive on defense with the hope that they can frustrate teams around the perimeter to take some pressure off its undersized frontcourt.

Could Donnell Gresham get an expanded role in this team’s offense? In his 4 years at Northeastern, Gresham made a lofty 41% of his three-point attempts, which is the reason that Crean courted him to this team. Crean’s offensive philosophy involves shooting triples at a high rate, so naturally he needed to add more outside threats to the roster to make that an effective strategy.

Prior to Monday, Gresham had connected on only 3 of his 18 attempts from perimeter this season. Against Austin Peay, the senior made 3 of 5 triples and ended up being Georgia’s second-leading scorer on the night with 11 points. So far this season, UGA hasn’t been highly-efficient from the three-point line, where Georgia is making just 30% of its attempts.

Tyree Crump, who is making only 31% of his three-pointers, is averaging over 7 attempts a night to Gresham’s 1.9. Georgia is going to score more points if these guys are taking 4 to 5 attempts each as I think Gresham will ultimately make more shots from the outside than Crump.

Rayshaun Hammonds cannot have a significant decline in offensive production once SEC play begins. In his first two years in Athens, Hammonds contributed way more in the non-conference portion of the schedule:

  • Freshman year: Hammonds averaged 7.8 ppg before the SEC slate; he scored only 5.9 ppg in league games.
  • Sophomore year: Hammonds averaged 15 ppg before the SEC slate; he scored just 9.9 ppg in league games.

Rayshaun is currently netting 14 ppg for the Dawgs and that needs to continue into conference play.

Georgia runs NC Central out of the gym 95-59

After seeing the Dawgs (6-2) get a taste of some real competition in Maui last week, it was hard to get excited about another creampuff matchup, which is what Georgia got tonight in its opponent, North Carolina Central (2-6). Although, after having Division II Chaminade take them to the brink, the Dawgs certainly couldn’t afford to overlook the Eagles.

NC Central has sputtered out of the gates to start the season, but they were projected to win the MEAC prior to the opening tip of this year, so maybe they are not quite as bad as they’ve shown thus far.

Fans that took in this game that expected to see Amanze Ngumezi in the starting lineup were caught off guard to learn that the UGA big would not play due to what sounded like a slew of internal issues that have been building up recently, according to Tom Crean.

The Eagles were dealt a more significant blow to their starting five, though, as junior Randy Miller, the team’s second leading scorer (14.3 ppg), also couldn’t suit up this evening because of a nagging injury.

Better offensive spacing

At times tonight, Georgia’s offense looked entirely fluid. On consecutive possessions in the first half, Tye Fagan and Sahvir Wheeler attacked the middle of the Eagles’s zone and found Toumani Camara and Christian Brown, respectively, on backdoor cuts that resulted in easy points at the rim.

Georgia had it cooking from beyond the arc against NCC, especially in the first half, where the Dawgs hit 7 of 14 attempts. UGA’s success from the perimeter during the initial 20 minutes came from improved spacing that allowed guards to attack the zone and free up teammates on the wings for open looks.

However, the Dawgs were still far too sloppy with the basketball as they committed 16 turnovers, with 10 of them coming before the break. Even with the excellent passing that Tom Crean’s team displayed throughout this game (19 team assists), those dishes were too often followed up by a wing or big dribbling too much on a break and kicking the ball out of bounds. UGA’s inconsistency on offense is hopefully the result of growing pains as this young team is still learning how to play with one another.

Anthony Edwards was a boy amongst men against the Eagles in Athens. The freshman only logged 7 minutes following the intermission, but it didn’t matter since he wasted no time getting his stats in the first half: Edwards notched 19 of his 21 points to go along with 3 assists and a pair of steals before the break. The freshman hit multiple triples of the stepback variety that served to reiterate just why NBA scouts are salivating over the prospects of obtaining this young man’s services next year.

This contest was close for a couple of media timeouts, but with over 11 minutes left Georgia had built up a 21-9 lead after Anthony Edwards buried 1 of his 4 three-pointers. By halftime, the Dawgs held a 50-35 advantage after a first half that saw them hit over 52% from the field.

Tom Crean kept his team motivated after the break as the Dawgs opened up the second half with a 13-2 run that was capped off by a Tyree Crump triple with a little over 15 minutes left in the game. The first 5 minutes following halftime is a critical segment of a basketball game, and Georgia definitely owned this one.

Size mattered on Wednesday night in Athens

Defensively, Georgia’s length overwhelmed the Eagles as the Dawgs created deflections and forced NC Central into 14 turnovers. This was definitely the type of game that Georgia is built to dominate on defense; where this team will struggle is when the opponent has a decent frontcourt (see Dayton and Michigan State games). Unfortunately, there are a lot of SEC teams with solid bigs, so UGA is going to have to figure out how to win those matchups despite their deficits in the paint.

The Dawgs held the Eagles to under 35% from the floor, but as I mentioned earlier, NC Central was without Randy Miller, who is the only other player on this squad to average double-digit scoring on a nightly basis, so the Eagles seemed destined to flounder offensively in this contest.

Below are some numbers that really jump off the stat sheet and illustrate just how much of a factor Georgia’s size advantage played in this one:

Rebounds: UGA 54, NCC 25

Points in the paint: UGA 52, NCC 26

Second chance points: UGA 23, NCC 13

Up Next:

The Dawgs have over a week off from any live action to hit the books and prepare for final exams before returning to the court next Saturday in a tough road matchup in Tempe against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are currently 5-2 with a win over St. John’s and a 3-point loss to #7 Virginia on their resume. Tom Crean’s team will be presented with an excellent challenge in trying to steal a road win against a quality Pac12 opponent.

Dawgs get a reality check from Dayton in Maui opener

For Tom Crean, the first game of the Maui Invitational DID NOT go as planned. His Georgia Bulldogs (4-1) were thoroughly whipped by the Dayton Flyers (4-0) from the opening tip on a nationally televised game in one of the premier holiday tournaments. The Dawgs laid a dud in a contest that could have been a nice stepping stone for a program, and a coach, that is trying to gain relevance outside the state of Georgia.

Twice in the second half the Dawgs briefly threatened Dayton by trimming the lead to 13 points, but on each occasion the Flyers responded with three-pointers that quickly put to rest any hopes that Georgia had of making this contest at all competitive.

Dayton manhandled UGA on both sides of the ball for pretty much the entire game. The Flyers defense sped Crean’s young team up and forced them into 23 turnovers. The Dawgs’ offense began this game incredibly stagnant as they battled the shot clock, dribbled too much and settled for too many contested jumpers. UGA had not faced a team of this calibre yet, and it was evident by how lost the Dawgs looked offensively.

Conversely, Dayton had little trouble putting the ball through the net, especially forward Obi Toppin, who had 12 points before the first media timeout. Georgia foolishly tried to defend Toppin with just its bigs, and that strategy proved futile as the sophomore hit 9 of 11 from the field en route to a game-high 25 points. Considering that UGA’s frontcourt is not its strength, one has to wonder why Crean didn’t begin this game with his guards doubling down to help on Toppin.

Announcer Jay Bilas stated before the game that roughly 30 NBA scouts were on hand for this matchup to see both Toppin and Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards. While Toppin certainly bolstered his NBA stock, Edwards failed to demonstrate why he is currently projected to be the 2nd pick in next year’s draft. The freshman had only 2 points at the half and finished with just 6 after an abysmal 2 of 10 shooting effort to go along with 3 turnovers. I realize that this was only the 5th game of his collegiate career, but I expected Edwards to be able to get points off the dribble, regardless of the team or defender; Dayton’s Rodney Chatman (from Lithonia, GA) had Edwards bottled up the entire game.

UGA’s other leading scorer, Rayshaun Hammonds, had a forgettable morning himself as he mustered up as many points (5) as he did fouls (5). Hammonds never got going in this one due to being in foul trouble the entire contest. The junior led the Dawgs with 91 personal fouls last season, which is strange since he’s not a shot blocker or an overly physical defender. I’m not sure why Hammonds can’t avoid fouling, but with the lack of depth on this team, he’s going to have to figure it out or SEC play is going to be brutal for this squad.

Hammonds and Edwards had just two points between them at the half, so it wasn’t surprising to see Georgia heading to the intermission trailing 43-25.

It’s still early in the season and UGA has a lot of guys playing their first year of college basketball, so I’m hoping this debacle can be chalked up as a learning experience and something this team can grow from. However, Georgia’s shot selection and overall ineptness on offense against a quality opponent felt eerily similar to what transpired on that side of the ball last season when the Dawgs struggled to get points, as they were 10th in the SEC in scoring in conference games. In addition, last year Georgia led the league in turnovers per game because they didn’t value the basketball, much like today.

The Dawgs actually shot it well today as they hit 49% from the floor; however, it’s really hard to win games when the opponent gets 8 extra possessions via turnovers, especially when that opponent is a potential NCAA Tournament team.

Dawgs overwhelm WCU late

Quite possibly the biggest takeaway from Georgia’s 91-72 win over Western Carolina tonight in the season opener is that there really aren’t any significant takeaways. Last year, the Dawgs opened the season by blowing the doors off of Savannah State 110 to 76, and many fans clamoured that the “Tom Crean Era” of offense had officially begun. In reality, Georgia had one of the least efficient offenses in 2019 SEC play as they struggled to score points in league games.

Obviously, people didn’t expect the Catamounts, who were projected to finish 7th in the Southern Conference prior to the start of the season, to hold a 58-57 lead with a little over 9 minutes remaining in the game. But this is an incredibly young Georgia team playing in its first game together EVER. UGA has its own little Kentucky-like situation going on right now, and it’s on Tom Crean to determine the best combinations of his new talent with returning starters Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris (when he returns December 20th from his 9-game suspension for an “internal matter”).

Here’s what went well:

Freshman sensation Anthony “Ant Man” Edwards lived up to all of the hype that’s been following him around since he set foot in Athens. Edwards finished with a game-high 24 points to go along with 9 boards. His three-point shot appeared effortless as he buried 4 of 7 attempts, and 3 of those came in the second half and helped ignite an 11-2 Georgia run that put the Dawgs up 79-65 with just 2:25 left. Edwards looks comfortable with the ball in his hands, and he seemingly has no trouble facilitating offense from the point guard position.

Edwards, however, is projected to be the #2 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, so his success was somewhat expected. The surprise of the night had to be freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who came off the bench to spark the UGA offense. Wheeler pushed the tempo while he was in the game, and he showed a strong prowess for finishing at the rim. The lefty ended up with 19 points and 3 assists, and I don’t really see how Crean can keep him out of the starting lineup for much longer. Wheeler’s ability to penetrate and keep defenders on their heels should free the Ant Man up for more open looks from the perimeter.

Areas for concern:

The losses of Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide left a gaping hole in the Georgia frontcourt as those two combined for over 32% of the scoring and nearly 40% of the rebounding. It’s no secret that UGA’s interior defense will more than likely be the Achilles’ heel of this team. Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson, a load at 6’7″, 270 lbs and a member of the preseason All-SoCon Team, notched 17 points to go along with 15 boards as he manhandled the Georgia bigs in the paint. Amanze Ngumezi, who Crean will be counting on to hold it down in the interior, mustered just 4 points in 9 minutes of play due to his 4 personal fouls. Ngumezi is going to have the tall task of defending the opposing team’s largest player(s) all season, and unfortunately for him, that job is only going to become more challenging when this team enters conference play.

Georgia’s other forward, junior Rayshaun Hammonds, still looks like an unfinished product offensively. Hammonds shot just 2 of 12 from the floor on Tuesday as he struggled both around the rim and with his outside shot. With all these newbies on the court for the Dawgs, Hammonds has to be a steady presence on offense to keep teams more honest in how they defend the Ant Man.

Up next:

The Dawgs have a week to practice before returning to action next Tuesday when they host The Citadel inside Stegeman.

Box Score: