We’re a couple of hours from game time here in Charlotte so let’s discuss some so-called “keys to the game”. In basketball, the typical key to a game is to score more than the other team before time expires. We’ll go a little bit more in-depth here.
Shutting down Isaiah Thomas
This is one is long because this one is without a doubt the biggest key to this game.
Real quick, here’s a run-down of Thomas’ career at Washington:
-2011 Pac-10 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, in which he scored 43 points against Washington State, dished out a Pac-10 Tournament record 12 assists against Oregon (also had 10 points), and had 28 points and 7 assists, and that buzzer-beater against Arizona in the final.
-First Team All-Pac-10, presumably for averaging 16.8 ppg, 6 assists, and 3.6 rpg this season.
-1,690 career points at Washington, with 1,134 coming in his first two seasons, the most any Husky has scored through two seasons.
-His 6.0 assists per game is the second highest season average in Washington history.
Two other Huskies, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday also average double figures in scoring (15.5 and 10.8 respectively), but no other player comes close to Thomas’ assist numbers.
If Thomas has a bad night scoring-wise, Washington isn’t necessarily done for. What scares me obviously is his assists. Even during down nights, Thomas finds ways to get his teammates involved. Since Washington is third in the nation in scoring, they have plenty of options.
So the question is how exactly do you stop Isaiah Thomas. Just looking off of his stats, it’s pretty obvious that the offense runs through him. He wants the ball and he wants to score. If he can’t score, he’ll find somebody else. So what do you do? Keep him off the ball. And who should Georgia turn to to shut down Thomas? Enter Gerald Robinson.
Fair warning, I’m going to use the words “at times” a good bunch here. At times, Gerald Robinson has done a good job of handling do-it-all guards this season. Again, at times. As in the first half, at times.
Both Xavier’s Tu Holloway(0-5, 0-2#3P) and Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins (0-5, 0-3) were held scoreless in the first half in their respective match-ups against Robinson. The second half was a different story. Tu Holloway scored 18 points, with 11 of those coming from the free-throw line. Jenkins had 21.
Like many of Georgia’s vices this year, it’s really story of two halves. Pretty solid defense in the first, not so solid in the second.
In order to win this game, Georgia will need a solid defensive output from Robinson. He has the skills to do it. The question is whether or not he can do it for 40 minutes.
Getting aggressive down low
It seems like I type this every time I do a game preview, but it’s for good reason. Not many teams have the luxury of a 6′11″ power forward who can score down low and stretch the floor from outside and a 6′8″ center who not only rebounds well, but is a pretty decent scorer inside.
Washington is a pretty small team so, once again, I would like to see Georgia go to Trey Thompkins early and often. If you can establish at least one of these guys inside, you have a good chance of answering scoring charges from Washington.
When shots aren’t falling, get back on defense
You don’t score 83.5 points a game off of jump shots. While Washington is small, they’re quick and will look to score quickly in transition. Thomas will exploit any holes resulting from slow transition.
That’s it from me. See you guys at tip-off.