Dawgs shock #9 Tigers in Memphis

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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

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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.

Dawgs win a thriller 87-85 over SMU in double OT

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The Georgia Bulldogs (7-3) double-overtime win over the SMU Mustangs (8-2) on Friday night in Athens may have only been a Quadrant III win in the eyes of the NCAA, but in some ways it was miraculous that UGA managed to come away with a victory at all.

At the end of regulation, the Dawgs had to stop the Mustangs not once, not twice, but thrice before forcing the game into overtime thanks to a jump ball and a lackadaisical turnover on an inbounds play. Not to pile on the Ponies too much, but they also kicked away a 5 point lead with 30 seconds remaining in the first overtime. SMU even had a shot to take the lead in the last 40 seconds of the second overtime only to come up short.

The Ponies’ inability to finish on second chances at the end of this one was sort of a microcosm of the night as they got outscored 22-19 by UGA on second chance points despite bringing down an astounding 26 offensive boards.

The moment, or moments, were never to big for freshman Sahvir Wheeler, who scored both the tying basket in the first OT and the go-ahead bucket in the second one to win the game for Georgia. Anthony Edwards is obviously the most special talent on this team, but one could come up with a decent argument that Wheeler is equally as important. Since the departure of J.J. Frazier, Georgia has been desperate for a point guard that can attack opposing defenses off the dribble and get the ball into the paint, and it appears that Wheeler is more than capable of fulfilling that role for Tom Crean’s team (9 points, 8 assists).

The simplicity of Georgia’s offense

Crean’s offense is definitely a players’ offensive that permits a lot of creativity from the perimeter. It’s obvious why he is recruiting at a much higher level than Mark Fox: this offense is built to let players freestyle and take advantage of open opportunities. Rayshaun Hammonds has the freedom to screen high and pop for Wheeler or any of the other UGA guards. When the ball moves from side to side, players instinctively reposition themselves into the soft spots of the defense or cut towards the basket. After shooting an abysmal 2 for 24 from beyond the arc in Tempe last weekend, the Dawgs rebounded with a 37.5% effort at home in Athens, which was a much needed improvement. Crean’s offense is far more aesthetically appealing when the shots are falling from the perimeter.

Even when the Ant Man struggles, as he did last night (6 of 17 from the floor for 16 points), he can still facilitate offense in Crean’s system because his teammates are generally on the move. SMU regularly had a second defender shading over towards Edwards when he possessed the ball, but the freshman was savvy enough to not force too many shots and make smart passes. Edwards will have off nights like last evening, but he still stays active on both sides of the court (his block at the end of regulation to prevent an SMU layup was crucial).

Rayshaun Hammonds had arguably his best game of the young season. Crean has him positioned on the wing and at the top of the key, which gives the junior the option to either shoot a triple or take his defender off the dribble, which is typically advantageous for Hammonds as he’s going to usually draw the other team’s tallest defender. Hammonds notched a double-double with 21 points and 11 boards, and he buried a huge three-pointer from the wing with 2:29 left in the second overtime to put the Dawgs up 85-82. The key to all of this production is that Hammonds was able to log 37 minutes due to the fact that he committed only 3 personal fouls. Suffice to say, with the loss of Amanze Ngumezi to the transfer portal, Hammonds needs to figure out a way to stay out of foul trouble for the rest of the season.

Still work to be done on the defensive end

Tom Crean’s defensive philosophy is predicated on his players being able to create as many deflections as possible. Anthony Edwards has been challenged by his coach to ramp up his deflections per game (7.5) to the likes of former Hoosier Victor Oladipo (12+).

Georgia’s defense has so much potential to wreak havoc with how long and athletic they are. On the perimeter, UGA pestered the SMU offense and forced the Mustangs into a 25% shooting effort from the perimeter. However, the Dawgs have some serious communication issues that must be ironed out because they surrendered 3 alley-oop dunks, which is kind of unacceptable, and too often SMU was able to move the ball into the middle of the zone, which led to the whole thing falling apart and 50 points in the paint for the Ponies. The Dawgs are going to be undersized in every conference game they play this season, so talking will be critical if they have hopes of tightening up their defensive rotations.

Welcome back Jordan Harris

Jordan Harris better stay on Crean’s good side for the rest of the season because he’s too valuable to this team to not be on the court for 20-something minutes a night. Harris made his presence felt immediately upon entering the game when he scored on a sweet spin move that allowed him to finish all alone on the left side of the rim. The senior also put an exclamation point on the first half when he snagged a miss from Hammonds mid air and flushed it before time expired. In a productive 17 minutes, Harris scored 9 points, grabbed 4 boards and logged a steal. Considering this was his first time on the court this season, I’d say he has to be happy with this output. I can’t wait for both him and Wheeler to join the starting lineup on a regular basis, especially with the athleticism that Harris brings to the defensive side of the ball.

Up next:

Georgia hosts Georgia Southern on Monday night in Athens.

Georgia runs NC Central out of the gym 95-59

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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.

Georgia beats Citadel 95-86 in the game that defense forgot

Photo credit to 247sports.com

The most glaring disparity between the Georgia Bulldogs (2-0) and The Citadel Bulldogs (0-2) was that UGA had Anthony Edwards and the other Bulldogs did not. Edwards scored a number of important baskets down the stretch in this game, but none were more critical than his answer to Hayden Brown’s bucket to make it a one possession game (87-85, UGA) with 3:04 left. On the ensuing possession, the Ant Man floated from underneath the goal to somehow find a crease to stick in a lay-up that Georgia desperately needed that put the Dawgs up 89-85 with 2:40 remaining.

Edwards finished with a game-high 29 points to go along with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. He is so good with the ball around the rim that I hope that he doesn’t just settle for perimeter shots as he did at times tonight, especially when he’s knocking down just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Georgia’s guards could be really good

In addition to having a potential NBA lottery pick on the roster, UGA has two solid guards in freshman Sahvir Wheeler and graduate transfer Donnell Gresham.

Wheeler is so good at getting everyone involved in the offense. At one point in the first half, he penetrated into the lane on three consecutive possessions and dished out assists to Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump and Amanze Ngumezi for 7 straight Georgia points. He has a knack for drawing the attention of multiple defenders, which translates into scores of open looks for his teammates. Wheeler played an incredibly productive 21 minutes in which he scored 10 points and handed out 8 assists. The fact that he nearly notched a double-double in just half the game is somewhat astounding.

While Gresham does not possess the dribble-drive threat of Wheeler, he provides Georgia with a steady presence from the perimeter both offensively and defensively. The senior shot over 40% from beyond the arc during his tenure at Northeastern, and hopefully Coach Crean can find ways for him to get more looks moving forward with this UGA squad. Gresham ended up with 10 points on a 2 of 4 shooting performance from the perimeter, and he was one of the few Bulldog defenders that understood defensive positioning in this one as he snagged 5 boards to go along with 3 steals.

What’s up with Georgia’s defense?

The guy I mentioned at the top of the post – Hayden Brown – scored a career high 26 points tonight in Stegeman. Last year, he averaged 7.2 a night. The Dawgs should be embarrassed about how easy Brown made things look tonight in Athens, because he is not a 20+ points a night kind of player.

The UGA defense – both the halfcourt and transition – is still a work in process. WAY too often the Charleston Bulldogs had players skating free to the bucket against Georgia’s defense nearly unopposed. Currently, UGA’s help defense is super sloppy, which is a big reason Citadel scored 86 points and shot almost 50% from the field. Georgia’s perimeter defense needs work, too, as the Dawgs were slow to close out all night on shooters, and Citadel took advantage by canning 14 triples (42%). This was surprising considering that Citadel was second in the country last year in three-point attempts per game (36); it’s their modus operandi, if you will, which made me think Georgia would have appeared better prepared.

At what point does the green light turn red?

I’m aware of the old adage that basically says that you never tell a shooter not to shoot because they will eventually shoot themselves out of a slump. However, did Tyree Crump reach that tipping point this evening? Crump hoisted up three-pointer after three-pointer despite not having a ton of success; he finished 2 for 11 from beyond the arc. The senior has the potential to become a real hinderance to this team’s offense if he is going to continue to take shots from the outside on nights when he clearly just doesn’t have it.

Final thoughts

This was just the second game of the season, so the Dawgs continue to get a pass for sloppiness and missteps. Hopefully this team can find a way to improve quickly because after Delaware State this Friday the schedule becomes more daunting as they have Georgia Tech and the Maui Tournament on the horizon.

But hey, it could be worse. I mean, at least they didn’t lose to a mid-major on their home court like Kentucky tonight.

Box score: