The Georgia-Florida game result was due to the wrong game plan and poor officiating.
Mark Fox’s message in the opening game of the SEC slate was that he did not trust his young talent and that he does not realize how predictable his approach to the game of basketball has become. The point of a basketball game is to be on the side that wins, it should be clear. However, when it comes to Mark Fox, he values being right far too much, but being right when actually in the position of being wrong is a recipe for disaster. That’s the Georgia-Florida game in a nutshell from the O’Connell Center.
By the time that Mark Fox made a comparatively calm criticism of the referees to the referees after Mike Edwards did not earn a foul on a shot attempt that he should have dunked, the game was already in hand for Florida. Mark Fox had already conceded the result at the opening tip in his pursuit of being right. Florida’s shooting from long range was among the worst in the nation as pointed out in this preview, but it was possible that Florida would heat up from long distance. Even if Florida was able to shoot better from beyond the arc, Mark Fox’s approach should have been to let Florida shoot and beat them by doing what they could not do all season. Instead, Fox let Florida score in the paint, which is a far greater and more avoidable sin.
Florida was able to pick up points in the paint via field goals and the free throws drawn from getting into the paint area. Florida attempted 41 free throws in this game and when it became obvious that the officiating was not exactly even, Georgia did not adjust properly and the zone adjustment was actually one that simulated the man-to-man that did not work anyway.
Georgia let Florida set the tone of the game and played the role of a reactive team, which is the recipe for how past Georgia teams were drilled in Gainesville. Trying to run a set in 15 seconds and then half-heartedly running a set is the pathway to losing. Dropping back on defense and letting Florida be free to stroll at a leisurely pace up the floor to the 30 foot mark is a pathway to retreat. Kasey Hill is not the surest hand and KeVaughn Allen is a freshman, certainly J.J. Frazier could put some man-to-man pressure on the Florida Point Guards?
Georgia should have enjoyed the pace of play, but instead were trying to play slower, which runs counter to how they actually play. Georgia brought a completely different game plan into Gainesville than they did against Chattanooga and this game plan should never see the light of day again. Georgia was not able to prevent second chance opportunities nor were they able to prevent themselves from committing fouls.
What about the officiating? Yes, the officiating was terrible in the second half, but Mark Fox should have taken the hint immediately in the second half that the referees were going to call things rather tight on Georgia. Jeremy Foley did have an interesting word with the SEC Head of Officials during Halftime for some reason and things changed rather quickly in favor of the Florida Gators.
Georgia has cut it to eight, and Florida A.D. Jeremy Foley is working the an SEC official supervisor, complaining about a call.
— Seth Emerson (@SethEmersonAJC) January 3, 2016
Georgia went on to commit five fouls before the first media timeout in the second half. Florida did not commit their first foul of the second half until the 13:42 mark. Florida relied on the 3 point shot to get them ahead in the first half and it was fool’s gold as the team would go on to shoot 3 for 9 in the second half after a 6 for 13 first half. Mark Fox was too concerned with a team that was shooting poorly and seemed due to regress to the mean. Florida did cool off, but it would not matter because the Florida Offense de-emphasized the more challenging 3 point shot for the easier to make shots in the paint and uncontested shots at the Free Throw Line. Yes, Mark Fox went man-to-man out of the gate.
Once Georgia had five fouls on them, the defensive bite went away and each player became a target for the attacking Florida Offense. In the first half, each team had 12 fouls, but this changed in the second half as it became clear that the officials were not going to call an even game whether it be intended or not. Mark Fox had pulled out of the man-to-man early in the early season games after racking up fouls early in a half, but did not go zone until Florida reached the double bonus midway through the second half. At this point, the game was basically over. Georgia was in horrible foul trouble and Florida was in full control both on the scoreboard and as far as the way the game was played.
This second half foul breakdown shows that Georgia was not exactly loved by the officials. By the time the fouls were called on Florida, it was too late for UGA to mount a comeback as the damage had been done. Ever prescient, this sort of an outcome was called during the game by well… yours truly.
Mark Fox is likely going to get T’d up before the 10 minute mark to make his point about the officiating.
— Georgia Hoops Blog (@UGAHoopsCentral) January 3, 2016
Bold prediction: M-2-M Defense, some tough calls against UGA, a technical foul on Fox. Comeback is too little too late.
— Georgia Hoops Blog (@UGAHoopsCentral) January 3, 2016
It’s a formula that is far too played out and it happens when Georgia does not establish itself as the aggressor from the get-go. The officials did a bad job on Saturday Night, but Mark Fox failed to adjust and is now 0-2 against Michael White.
THE BIG QUESTIONS THAT NEEDED TO BE ANSWERED
- Does Fox try to get the foul prone John Egbunu out of the game quickly?
No, Fox did not even bother trying this for some reason. Egbunu was the player of the game for the Gators giving his team second chance opportunities and taking points off the board for the Dawgs.
- Can these Dawgs play composed in this game, unlike the previous 12 games?
No, these Dawgs failed to play composed for much of this game because the strategy was to slow the game down and allow Florida to dictate how much time the offense was able to have in the half court.
- Will Fox be content to let Florida shoot like wild from three point range and let them beat them that way?
No, Fox was too fearful of Florida’s shooting for much of the night. The 2-3 Zone worked in the first half when the foul count was too high, but the 1-2-2 Zone was dreadful. Fox did not pack it in and force this Florida team to regress to the mean.
- How much zone will Georgia run?
Georgia went into zone defenses when the team had reached the double bonus, which is a terrible reason in the first place for going into a zone defense. Zone defense was being used as a signal of weakness rather than used as a strength to force Florida to slow down their offense and take a bad shot.
- Against Chattanooga, E’Torrion Wilridge experienced success against their press… will he have a good night?
Wilridge did not get many touches against Florida. Fox does not have much faith in Wilridge and may end up being the toughest on him out of all of his freshmen. Wilridge seems to be more of Hayes’ idea than Fox’s as he certainly treats him like a second choice in the offense. Wilridge uses his athleticism to make up for mistakes on the defensive end.
- Which team’s bench is better? The answer will indicate the winner and even the margin of victory.
Florida’s bench is much better. Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill came off the bench for the Gators and made big contributions, while Derek Ogbeide was the biggest contributor for the Dawgs. The four top scorers for UGA scored 54 out of the 63 points on Saturday, which is nearly 86% of the scoring load. 40 out of 59 shot attempts were by the top four scorers. Derek Ogbeide is poised to be the #5 scorer, but there is no balance on this Georgia team nor is there much trust that the bench players can be more than what they are.
- What will Georgia do to improve on the boards against a solid rebounding team in Florida?
Florida controlled the boards. Georgia did not do anything different, it was actually rather sad how Georgia did not even fight for the defensive boards at times.
- Will Devin Robinson feel any pressure to make up for his lackluster performance in Athens last season?
No, but Robinson redeemed himself a bit in Gainesville on Saturday Night with his 13 point performance.
This first basket by Florida gave away who was going to win this game. Florida simply was the more physical team and Georgia was completely unprepared on the boards against one of the best rebounders in the conference – John Egbunu. How unprepared? How about not boxing him out.
The press did not leave UGA flat-footed all season! However, this is a flat-footed way of handling the 2-2-1 zone press. See how Florida sagged against Georgia once Kessler was left on the outside. They truly did not respect Kessler’s shooting ability and Kessler rewarded the Gators by hesitating and taking a two point shot as his foot was on the 3 point line. He had too much time to take the shot and he air-balled it.
Kessler was a mismatch against Egbunu. Kessler was physically dominated in the exhibition game against Armstrong Atlantic, it is not a surprise that he would be dominated by the 7′ 260 pound Egbunu. Egbunu is not much of an offensive force, but he physically dominates Houston Kessler both with agility, size and power.
The screen and roll between Kenny Gaines and Houston Kessler was a trainwreck for a pair of reasons: One the pass may have either been slightly behind Kessler and possibly the worse act, Kessler goes from an upright position with the ball to looking down and driving into a Florida defender. Kessler took away his own peripheral vision by ducking down.
Kessler was pulled off the floor and Mike Edwards took his place. Edwards was involved in a similar screen and roll, but this time Charles Mann opts to kick it out to an open Kenny Gaines. Unfortunately, his pass is a bit wide and Kenny Gaines is a little less prepared for the ball. Mike Edwards should have likely been the option as he could have taken the ball in and attempted a layup. Edwards does not tend to duck down like the way Kessler would.
Here is how not to handle the press. Look how distressed the Georgia Offense is by the 2-2-1 Zone Press. J.J. Frazier leaves himself stranded and forces a pass to a teammate toward the coffin corner of the half-court. Nobody’s trying to break the diamond of the zone up the middle. Notice how many seconds are left before Georgia can get into a half-court set, 14 seconds.
Florida started to go into a sagging 2-3 or 3-2 resembling zone defense when Georgia would place a post on the perimeter. Kenny Gaines decided to take a three in this play even though a baseline drive seemed to be available to him. Gaines held the ball and took an out of rhythm three point attempt.
Florida did not respect Georgia’s bigs on the perimeter and Georgia’s bigs were happy to play into that perception. This play ended up resulting in a Georgia basket by Kenny Gaines from 20 feet out, but should it have been this way? Mike Edwards is out on the perimeter by himself with a very clear driving lane and just stood there and did NOTHING. Did Edwards have an option to drive the ball himself? Nope. Can Edwards drive the ball to the hoop? Oh yes, he can. Watch his High School tape because that’s how he derived most of his points.
Florida put all of this Georgia team’s flaws up for display. Talent need not matter as long as an opponent just does these things against Georgia:
- Dribble drive at Georgia’s Man-to-Man Defense.
- Out-rebound Georgia
- Sag down against Georgia’s Offense and dare anyone not named Kenny Gaines or J.J. Frazier to shoot the basketball.
- Use a 2-2-1 Zone Press scheme when J.J. Frazier is on the floor.
That’s all opponents need to do because Georgia takes themselves out of the game too easily. That’s not how an NCAA Tournament team plays and improvement must come. Missouri will not provide Georgia with that feeling of having overcome a challenge against a tough opponent. Ole Miss at the new Pavilion at Ole Miss will do so this Saturday.
When it is predictable that Mark Fox gets himself a technical foul and also the point when he gets that technical foul, it is time to re-examine how this program handles game-planning and strategy.