Georgia lost to St. Mary’s 77-65 in a rough loss that was a blend of everything right and wrong with the season.
Georgia’s plan to trap St. Mary’s on the ball screen burned them over and over tonight. Mark Fox’s defense was bewildered and lost in the half court against an efficient and unselfish St. Mary’s team. Randy Bennett deserves a lot of credit for what he has built at St. Mary’s and the inclusion of Tulsa into the Field of 68 over St. Mary’s was incredibly wrong. Georgia’s offense was inconsistent, but was only able to get into a rhythm and play comfortably in the transitional situations.
St. Mary’s played with such great chemistry and were able to control the paint area with confidence and composure. Georgia was not as composed as the Gaels and the end result showed that. St. Mary’s oddly bears more resemblance to what Mark Fox’s original idea of what Georgia was supposed to be, but he was never able to put together the right talent to create that unselfish style of play. Mark Fox had to adapt to the talent in the region and even then struggled to get the right guys that fit not only the system, but the school itself.
It was a night where the shots did not fall for Georgia, but also a night where the Georgia defense was passive and aggressive at the wrong times. Georgia’s defensive identity had morphed from a man-to-man team to a matchup zone team, but St. Mary’s shooting ability put both defenses into question. Fox’s decision to not cut down on the St. Mary’s time of possession in the half court by pressing and trapping did not help. St. Mary’s was able to stroll up the court at a leisurely pace and set up their offense, but Mark Fox’s wrinkle was to double team off the ball screen and this set up wide open three point shots for this deadly St. Mary’s team. St. Mary’s is an excellent passing team, using a press in the backcourt is for the purpose of cutting down the time that St. Mary’s has to get a good shot. St. Mary’s shot 38% from the perimeter, which was good enough to win this game. They also were able to get second chance opportunities and baskets inside the restricted arc.
Switching from zone to man-to-man defense within the same possession also left Georgia’s defenders completely lost as the help defense was not coming during the defensive switch. St. Mary’s had excellent ball and player movement, Georgia did not do an effective job trying to get them to stagnate or take bad shots. Much of the time the possession would result in Georgia defenders in some way getting lost and hoping that St. Mary’s missed a shot.
Georgia missed a lot of shots in the paint and both teams were content to work one side of the court in a near exclusive fashion. Georgia’s offense really tried to feed the ball into Maten, but Maten was completely surrounded and he took the quick attempt over passing the ball out and forcing St. Mary’s defenders to follow the ball rotation for an open man on the perimeter or a cutter. It was surprising that there was no fanning sort of action where all of the offensive players without the ball would flow away toward the perimeter and one or two would backdoor cut to the basket. Every shot in the paint was challenged with great physicality by St. Mary’s and Georgia did not match that aggression, which was disappointing.
It was a pace that favored St. Mary’s and Georgia was clearly the team trying to push the tempo on the floor, but did not do enough.
The first half was played closer to a St. Mary’s kind of pace. Georgia struggled offensively and defensively, but the second half was a different story on the offensive end.
Fox ran his Big Four to the ground and it takes a toll on them late in games. Georgia cut the St. Mary’s lead to 4, but ran out of gas and also started playing very lost out there. Georgia was able to play a bit faster in the second half and had an average possession time of 15 seconds compared to St. Mary’s who was playing at a pace of 20 seconds per possession. Georgia’s offense was improved with the faster pace and lack of reliance on the sets. When Georgia would pull back the basketball from a possible transitional shot, it never resulted well.
Kenny Gaines would foul out and it was sad to see him end his playing time at the University of Georgia like that, but it happens in life. Gaines will complete his time in Athens with a Bachelor’s Degree and likely will play professional basketball in Europe, Asia or Latin America before putting his education and professional KSAs to work.
Charles Mann closed out his time as well and he will have a similar experience to Kenny Gaines, but he will likely go into a different field when his playing days are over and likely will play for a different team on the international stage.
If Trey Thompkins is still playing Spain, which one hopes he is not as Bulldog Nation hopes that he finds his way onto an NBA roster this Summer, then it is possible that when this team is going on its Summer Tour of Spain that he could get together with Travis Leslie, Gerald Robinson Jr., Marcus Thornton, Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines to mentor and practice with the 2016-17 Team.
This season is over. The post-mortem is to come soon. Spring Recruiting season and Silly Season will dominate all the way through Preakness Weekend. After the playing of Maryland, My Maryland and the draping of a horse in fake Black Eyed Susans, the coverage of 2017 recruiting begins.