By Brett Steilen
ATHENS, Ga – A full week of hoops left the Bulldogs splitting their
two matchups against LSU and Texas. Georgia currently stands with a
10-9 record, but boasts a poor 1-5 conference record.
Leading up to this week, the Bulldogs had faced stiff SEC competition
as they prepared for a showdown in Baton Rouge to take on the LSU
Tigers. In Baton Rouge Georgia faired as its record shows, an away loss
to a tough opponent that never seemed in reach as it fell 92-82 against
Georgia took an early lead and appeared to click offensively. However,
LSU continued to match the Bulldogs point-for-point in the back part of
the first half which coincided with Georgia’s glaring defensive
deficiencies. Georgia was consistently beat in transition with LSU’s
Tremont Waters orchestrating a layup line and dunk fest for the Tigers.
Transition defense has been a weakness for the Bulldogs all season, as it
seems to be a bit of microcosm of the overall lack of focus and intensity
on the defensive end.
Heading into the second half, Georgia trailed by 12, but played well
enough offensively to stick around and keep within striking distance.
Sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds was a needed spark in the second half
and rounded out the game with 18 points, but the Bulldogs could not get
the stops when needed in the tail end of the second half. As Georgia
attempted to claw back into the game, the lack of a floor general reared
its ugly head again as it has all season. Countless times this season
turnovers and insufficient point guard play has hampered the team from
progressing forward and improving.
Another point to take note of was that coach Tom Crean played with a
12-man rotation this game. Typically, in conference games, good teams
settle with a normal rotation to get their players in rhythm, but the
Bulldogs have struggled to find the right combination all season. Much
of that indecision stems from the lack of strong point guard play.
A bright spot to the game was a strong shooting performance from
Nicholas Claxton going 3-for-4 from beyond the 3-point line. Also,
Freshman forward Amanze Ngumezi had a stretch of seven points in the
first half that brought the Bulldogs closer to close out the half. He
continues to develop into a strong role player for Georgia.
Final Takeaway: Playing away from home against a good LSU team
was never going to be easy, but sloppy defense prevented the Bulldogs
from ever having a chance in this one.
Moving on to the weekend game against Texas at home in Stegeman
Coliseum. On the heels of six challenging conference games, this was a
chance for Georgia to reboot heading into the teeth of conference play.
The Bulldogs piled 98 on the Longhorns in a 98-88 victory as Georgia
stepped away from SEC competition to play in the SEC/Big 12
Coach Tom Crean was sporting the jumpsuit in honor of Jumpsuit
January, and he and the team were feeling loose. Georgia shot the ball
incredibly well as they were 12-for-17 from beyond the arc.
Additionally, the energy in the arena was the best it’s been in years
which hopefully helped in the way of recruiting as (5-Star) SG Anthony
Edwards was in attendance courtside.
Tyree Crump made his first start in a handful of games and he sure made
his presence felt. At the 16-minute mark Nicholas Claxton picked up an
early second foul, forcing Georgia to make a defensive-minded substitution at the forward position.
Searching for offense, it was Crump
who did the damage as he was 6-for-8 from downtown including two
and-1 three pointers that built the Georgia lead early in the first half.
Following Crump’s lead were Teshaun Hightower and Turtle Jackson
who combined for 31 points themselves as the offense continued to
dominate in the early going.
Georgia posted 46 first-half points, but once again left much to be
desired on the defensive end. Coach Crean appeared to be switching in
and out of a matchup zone and a man-to-man which led to
miscommunication all over the court. Texas was feasting on the pick and
roll with Georgia switching on every screen. Often, small guards
matched up on forwards in the post with no help defense and Georgia’s
big men having to guard on the perimeter. The lack of understanding and
communication was frustrating as Texas got easy baskets and was able
to match the Bulldogs offensively in the first half.
Heading into halftime, there needed to be defensive adjustments made,
and Crean and the coaching staff did just that. Defensively in the second
half, the Bulldogs looked much more in tune and focused. Claxton came
up with a big block and they tallied 12 steals throughout the game.
The points just kept coming as it seemed shots were falling from the sky
in Stegeman that afternoon. As Texas shifted into an extended 2-3 zone
the Bulldogs moved the ball well and found open men in the high post
and around the perimeter to have their way in the half-court offense.
As the game seemed to be coming to a close, Texas put on its press
which it had flashed sparingly at the end of the first half. The press
bothered Georgia, to the tune of 26 total turnovers. Coming into the
game, both teams knew that the high pressure of Texas was going to be
an issue for the Bulldogs due to their lack of capable ball handlers.
Hightower, Jackson and Crump combined for 13 turnovers, many of
which came in the last four minutes of the game.
The turnovers led to easy baskets and extra possessions for the
Longhorns, but the excellent free throw shooting by Georgia down the
stretch prevailed in the end. The Bulldogs made all 11 of their final free-
throw attempts at the end of regulation.
Final Takeaway: A huge, energizing win for the Bulldogs as their
perimeter shooting stole the show. The 26 turnovers still highlight a
glaring absence of a point guard, but they made enough defensive
adjustments in the second half to get a win they desperately needed.
Looking Ahead: On Tuesday, Georgia will travel to Fayetteville,
Arkansas, to take on the Razorbacks before returning home on Saturday
to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. These are two winnable
conference games that can potentially turn the tide on Georgia’s