It is a shame that the great Tony Schiavone was not calling this game.
This game was supposed to be a squash match and Georgia was supposed to go over on the jobber, Missouri. Instead, this game gave everyone a little bit of everything and it was strangely compelling. It also was rather telling about both programs and where each was in terms of the direction of the season and program. Missouri came in with an embattled coach, a team that was visibly frustrated and a season that has been filled with disappointment. Georgia came in with their confidence destroyed and a crowd that really needed several coladas full of espresso.
There were three main themes today and rather than re-hash the game in the typical format, it is important to go through these themes as there is much to learn about this team from this game.
Fear and Confidence Issues
In the first half, Georgia got off to a horrible start. The lack of aggression was obvious on both ends of the floor, the sets were not working and the pace of play was self-stymied. It was a continuation of the problems that Georgia had against South Carolina. These are the same problems that have been hashed out ad nauseam. As far as the desire to take shots when available, it simply resulted in overpassing, bad passes and ultimately turnovers. It is one thing to pass well to set up a good shot attempt in the form of a cutter, paint touch or wide open three point shot, but it is quite another to see this team afraid of doing anything to rock the boat.
Defensively, Georgia’s man-to-man defense was worthy of groans. It was the same old passive defense that Mark Fox cannot seem to instruct his team to do well. The reactive defense resulted in foul trouble early and wide-open shots. The switch to zone was an improvement, but everyone was just listless. The team was in a funk and if this opponent was not Missouri, Georgia would have been down 20 rather than 6 at Halftime.
When People Have Nothing Left to Lose, They Lose It
Georgia and Missouri are not as different as one may think. The records are polar opposites, but the problems and response to the problems are unfortunately similar. Georgia is now 9-5 and Missouri is now 5-9, but both programs are trying to salvage something and cultivate a sustainable winning identity. Desperate teams do desperate things and then this happened.
Georgia Basketball is becoming very popular on social media for the weirdest reasons. Georgia Basketball: Come for the game, stay for the weirdness.
So there was a fight between Steve Shields, Assistant Coach for Missouri and Director of Basketball Operations for Georgia, Kent Davison. The fight arose after a tie-up as the first half concluded and it resulted in a major dispute between the coaches staffs as the Georgia Basketball Team was walking back to the locker room. Jordan Geist happened to be in the way of the exiting Georgia team naturally because he was still coming out of the tie-up with Yante Maten. This incident escalated into a situation where Jonas Hayes had to restrain the second member (the first being Mark Fox several seasons ago) of the Georgia Coaching staff during his tenure at the University of Georgia. Everyone was left with a view of Jonas Hayes physically carrying Kent Davison off the court like a bouncer.
Missouri and Georgia had a COACH FIGHT! pic.twitter.com/EFDGf56Zja
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 7, 2017
“I don’t care where you go or what you do, but you can’t do it here.”
Was this a “fake juice” sort of a moment for this team to get everyone going? Possibly. No one would ever want to admit that and rallying around Kent Davison is an interesting tactic. However, it reeked of a Mark Richt or Todd Grantham sort of a stunt. However, it seemed that the UGA student-athletes wanted nothing to do with the attempt at a brawl. It was unusual to see student-athletes wanting to hold back coaches as it is clear that the student-athletes may have better control of their emotions than the staffs. Tyree Crump wanted to get in there to pull Kent Davison out of the muck.
Then a second near-fight took place toward the end of the game on an out-of-bounds call where Terrence Phillips and J.J. Frazier collided and went out of bounds fighting for a ball. Cooler heads prevailed and everyone was separated, but there was jawing.
Kim Anderson lost his cool several times today. Whether it be petty complaints about Mark Fox’s placement in the coaches’ box, getting feisty with patrons and of course calling timeout with less than a minute left just to anger the crowd.
Both coaching staffs knew that losing this game had negative consequences and both programs are not performing up to anyone’s expectations.
It’s All About Ego and “It’s My Way or the Highway”
Mark Fox does not like to do the following:
- Play Zone Defense
- Full Court Press
- Play a Fast Tempo
- Have Defenders Attack Passing Lanes
- Let Defenders Get in the Face of Offensive Players
- Let All Five Players on the Floor Have an Equal Opportunity to Score
Mark Fox has been at the University of Georgia since 2009 and he has maintained this mentality. He broke against Gardner-Webb, he broke at Auburn and then he broke against Missouri today. For a good ten to twelve minutes of the second half, it was hard to tell if Georgia was doing their best impression of Louisville, Seton Hall or Florida. It worked very well and it resulted in easy buckets and rhythm three point shots.
Georgia used a 3/4 court trap combined with a 2-3 Matchup Zone that featured a half court trap. Georgia also did a little bit of the “run and jump” press combined with the 2-3 Matchup Zone, it resulted in bad shots, turnovers and transition scoring opportunities. Georgia went from being down 8 to being up 11 because of this style of play.
There was energy in the building and everyone was getting involved in the Georgia rally. The crowd that was half-asleep woke up and started to act like a partisan crowd again. Georgia was not running sets, they were just running and gunning like they should have been doing all season.
Then Mark Fox pulled the plug on the tempo and pressure. Georgia went into a lax 2-3 Zone that really was not played with the same gusto as before. The offense started getting careless, lackadaisical and once again faltered. Missouri was able to get the lead back because Mark Fox called off the Dawgs.
It was another case of Mark Fox being down, doing what it takes to win begrudgingly and then with the lead chooses to play the way HE wants.
Full Box Score, it doesn’t tell the full story…
Compare the First and Second Halves Instead
It was on pace for 68 to 70 possession game and it was lethargic basketball. More turnovers than Field Goals made. 1 in 3 possessions resulted in a turnover, it was disgusting and it was horribly contrived.
For much of the half, Georgia was doing their best impression of pressing teams and doing a good job of it. Georgia did not have to rely on Missouri to just miss shots, they forced turnovers and did not settle for the half court offense. Pape Diatta, Jordan Harris and Juwan Parker got into the offensive flow. Pape Diatta in this half literally just had the attitude of “Screw it, I’m not going to continue to be emasculated.” Good for Pape. Charles Mann and Gerald Robinson Jr. rebelled against Mark Fox’s offense, broke sets and seized opportunities all the time. Fox had no choice but to accept the results. Jordan Harris has done this at times too, but he also earned his playing time by being the best and most consistently strong defender in the Georgia backcourt.
This is the third game where Georgia came to life in the second half by playing a completely different brand of basketball. Georgia may be at their best having possessions that last eleven seconds. Georgia probably is at their best pressing and it may be a good idea to emulate West Virginia, Florida, Seton Hall and Louisville. Fox has the student-athletes to do it, this is a team with enough talent to do great things. Mark Fox composed a team that is equipped to play a style that he does not want to implement.
Mark Fox can have it his way or he can win.