Georgia Improvises Their Way to Win Over #18 Tennessee

Sets were broken, the paint was touched and the rim was attacked.

After the first 12 minutes of terrible offense, the offense started to be played in a more natural fashion on offense.  The offensive freedom carried over to the defense.  Tennessee played extremely tight Man-to-Man Defense all game and Rick Barnes was seemingly daring Georgia to drive to the hoop.  Usually, Georgia succumbs to the pressure and tries to all of the offensive action from passes derived from the two main sequences.  It did not get the Dawgs far and then everyone seem to take a page from Yante Maten.

Yante Maten Outscored Tennessee at the 5:48 mark in the First Half

Yes, it was absolutely ridiculous how Yante Maten was able to score and his teammates were seemingly unable.  Was it ridiculous based on a “shucks, the rest of this team can’t hit their shots” perspective or what was Yante Maten doing that his teammates were not?  The answer should be the latter.  Nobody looked empowered to do what Maten was doing on the floor and then in the last four minutes, this all began to change.  It really was turned up a notch in the Second Half, but first what was Yante Maten doing?

It was actually rather simple!  He had the freedom to attack off the dribble from everywhere on the floor.  Tennessee was not respecting Georgia on the offensive end and so Maten took it toward the basket off the High Post and Perimeter.  He did not care what the consequences were and it resulted in points.  Maten was able to get himself into a rhythm by doing so and even had some early offense when he knocked down a three point shot from his favorite place – the top of the key.  Maten’s ability to attack the basket from wherever resulted in Free Throws.

The first points in the game that were not from Maten or derived from a second chance scoring opportunity were from Turtle Jackson with 5:55 left in the First Half.

However, Turtle Jackson’s shot did not set the theme of this game.  Not by a long shot.  Maten, Juwan Parker and Derek Ogbeide made the path to victory obvious and everyone caught onto what they needed to on the offensive end to get out of the doldrums.

The Formula to Victory

  1. Doing whatever it took to make sure in every offensive possession that someone handled the ball in the paint at some point.
  2. Treating offensive rebounds like assists.
  3. Creating natural ball movement off any sort of penetration of the three point arc.
  4. Ball Screen and Roll with the bigs.

The best offense (almost all of the offensive production) came from things that were not choreographed.  Over the last two games, it should be obvious to those watching Georgia that this team would likely be better running Mike White’s Offense than Mark Fox’s Offense and it showed once again.

It’s amazing how much leeway Fox gave his crew on the offensive end.  Tyree Crump broke sets to attack the basket or set up his teammates.  Crump had one incredible shot fake and drive that he decided to finger roll and he could have just dunked it.  Crump can dunk, he was going toward the rim with another speed to lift off and make Stegeman Coliseum deafening for a few seconds.  It would have been one of those momentum plays that put the game away, but Crump had other moments that were set up by NATURAL ACTION.  A double team followed by swing passes along the perimeter to Crump for a three point attempt that was in rhythm, that’s a high percentage three point shot!  Of course, he makes that shot.  When the ball was swinging along the perimeter off a double team, the shots were made from the perimeter.

Rather than compulsive run the sequences to their termination point with so-called perfection, the offense actually had more motion elements than ever.  Ever see a High Horns look from Georgia under Mark Fox?  Georgia presented this look four times tonight and it is actually emblematic of the starting of a (gasp!) motion offense.  Point Guard has options with the High Horns and with screens to accept or reject and then what to do afterward.  From this point, it’s all about the objective of scoring in the most efficient fashion.

Has Mark Fox been watching some Villanova games lately?

This is the High Horns with Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide up top on the perimeter to set up a whole array of possibilities against a Man-to-Man Defense.  Maten was the screen Tyree Crump chose to accept and Crump felt the three point shot was his and so he took it.  Crump had the option to continue dribbling or to find Turtle Jackson on the corner if Jackson’s defender pinched inside to deny Yante Maten.  It’s natural offense, nothing scripted beyond the opening Double High Screen that resembles Horns, hence it is called “High Horns”.

See, you learned something today or it is just a rehash of a part of this article?  The magic of searching old articles on the back-end.  If you clicked on that link you would have seen Clemson in their Motion Offense running the Horns look, but at the High Post, not above the three point arc.

Defensive pressure yields to offensive improvisation.  The following can happen (there are other possibilities, of course):

  • Busts on screen-and-rolls.
  • Chin offense can result in a easy buckets at the rim.
  • Back door cuts.
  • Ball swings along the perimeter.
  • Free Throws off the dribble drive.

Georgia had three out of those five things happened.  Tennessee busted on screen and rolls leaving Derek Ogbeide, Yante Maten (how the hell do you leave him open along the low post?) and Nicolas Claxton with opportunities at the rim.  There were ball swings along the perimeter resulting from penetration, help defense and double teams.  Juwan Parker, Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump were the beneficiaries of the second pass off a kick-out.  Free Throws came from dribble drives and everyone really got in on the act eventually.

This is the Ball Screen and Roll with Maten as the roller.  All it took was Turtle Jackson to get one foot inside the paint to manipulate the Tennessee Defense.  Tennessee is not a slouch defensive team either, they have 93.9 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, which is 10th best in the country.  Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump and Teshaun Hightower should be able to do this against any team.

What Took Mark Fox So Long to Do This?  Is this a mirage?

The next game is against South Carolina, which means if you love Ball Screen Offense and have the hope that there will be a lot more dribble driving to the basket to get someone like Chris Silva out of the game early – you may get your wish!

This is the frustrating part about Mark Fox coached teams.  Did it really take him this long to figure out his own team?  It’s not about players and rotations, it’s about the freedom he gives them on the floor and instructing the guys to take better shots.  The defense typically takes its cues from the offense.

Tyree Crump’s shot selection before the last two games was horrendous, but the last two games, he has taken far better shots and he has been rewarded with more minutes.  Crump has also been more unselfish and this means that he gets higher quality shots as well, which pads the metrics and results in VICTORIES.  More drives to the basket from Crump and more freedom for Teshaun Hightower to take advantage of extremely short-lived “power play situations” off the dribble would make the offense more dynamic.

Usually, when pulling up a shot chart Georgia is usually more like the team in orange on the chart.  Who took the better shots tonight?

Can this trend continue?  Can Georgia get back to an 80.85% FTA/FGA ratio?  This is the major key to winning for Georgia.  Mark Fox needs to understand that this is a team that likes physicality on both ends and what has been done for nearly three seasons has failed.  Fox wants to point to his defense constantly, but the offense puts opponents into position to score far too frequently.  Tonight, his offense was the one scoring and he did not have to do much.  Fox’s job could actually be a lot easier and he made it rather tough on himself and his team.

Georgia won the extra effort points, but could have actually lost it with ease.

Georgia won the extra effort points (Points off Turnovers + Second Chance Points) tonight.  It was a score of 32 to 24.  How could Georgia have lost this differential?

Georgia’s effort on the defensive glass was troubling to say the least.  Georgia sets up a lot of second chance attempts, but the good news is that tonight Tennessee missed many of them.  Georgia won the defensive glass 66.67% of the time, this is unacceptable.  Be thankful, that Tennessee really could not get it going with Grant Williams and they did not make Georgia pay for their inability to close out possessions.  Georgia is NOT a team that will turn over opponents, this is a team that is highly reliant on defensive rebounding.  1 out of 3 Tennessee shots attempted were rebounded by Tennessee.

Georgia had an above average performance on the offensive glass with 1.58 points scored per offensive rebound.  Tennessee had .57 points scored per offensive rebound.

Extend or Fire:  McGarity’s Only Options

No coach is left with two seasons on their contract as this is a sign of uncertainty that results in outcomes like what happened at Georgia Tech.  Projecting uncertainty in a Basketball Program is never a good idea and it sets back a program at least one full class due to struggles on the recruiting trail and rebuilding.  Greg McGarity has to make the decision this offseason, either he fires Mark Fox or extends him two more years on the contract.  That’s of course if Greg McGarity and The Powers That Be are comfortable with the idea of winning in Men’s Basketball.

All indications are that there will be a change, but of course Greg McGarity still has to pull the trigger and make a move.  Then, McGarity has to choose a replacement who is a distinct break stylistically from the status quo.

Then Mark Fox decides to channel his inner Butch Jones?

Who is Fox coming after?  The best comparison for Fox based on this season was actually Jim McElwain, but now he decides to channel the unintentional comedy stylings of a Butch Jones press conference.

Fox did not say who he was attacking.

Credit to Anthony Dasher at UGASports.com for this press conference video.

This warrants a response… Point-by-Point.

The statement started at roughly the 3:00 mark in the video above.  The question is important in order to provide context as Mark Fox uses this question as an opportunity to have a slam dunk of his own during an underachieving season.  Nothing says, “I think I’m on my way out” like coming after the local media or fabricating things.  It could be this publication, but it likely is not.

“Some people don’t like our players.  Some of you don’t like our players.”

The ‘you’ of course was directed at the media, members of the media.  Interesting, considering that there have heaps of praise as far as the talent level on the team.  Comments have been made about how the team has had their confidence and aggression removed because of the coaching.  If this publication did not like the players, why is there advocacy for playing greater depth?

There are no personal shots at the players, there are criticisms of what they are doing on the floor and when there are incidents off the floor, who stands up for the players?  Not the rest of the media, no, this publication.  Standing up for Jordan Harris and telling people not to make negative judgments of his character based on limited information.  Standing up for Teshaun Hightower and the rest of his team and the coaching staff by asking questions about spreading the flu.

Yes, there have been criticisms of the following:

  • Tyree Crump’s shot selection and the fact he was playing on an island for much of the season.  His defense has been rough as well, but the metrics supported it.  The past two games, Crump has played much better and has been integrated into the offense.  He’s exercised better judgment in his shot selection and has been unselfish, naturally success has followed.  Don’t act surprised.
  • Turtle Jackson’s lack of aggression.  He’s apprehensive about attacking the basket when he is perfectly capable of doing so.
  • Mike Edwards ability to haul in rebounds and post-entry passes.  Nothing too crazy, but then again Edwards’ ability to dribble drive has been documented and questions about why he has not been able to use more of his natural skill set has come into question.

“They stuck together and tried to play the game the right way.”

What does playing the right way entail?  Please tell us all.  It’s just one of those general coach-speak items that are thrown out there.  Be specific.  If running the same two offensive sequences to so-called perfection in a compulsive fashion is the right way, let’s hope they do things the wrong way and eat their pizza crust-first too.

They stuck together because they have a choice:  Completely tank and feel bad for themselves, which they did against Vanderbilt OR try to make the most of the bad situation and send Yante Maten and Juwan Parker out with a season to remember.  What motivates them?

If “the right way” is throwing tantrums, emasculating players in front of a large audience after yanking them out of the game, calling out your own players and having coach fights.  Then once again, it’s okay to be wrong because in those cases, it just feels right.

“We didn’t make any drastic changes.”

Are you joking?  Yes, you absolutely did make drastic changes tonight on a relative scale.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  How many times this season have there been swings around the perimeter coming off a double team kick-out?  How many times have motion offense looks been used?  Maybe in practice, but not in actual game action.

That “Horns” Look is absolutely new.  The stagger screen has been used along the wing as a part of a sequence, but never to start an offensive possession.  The stagger screen, which is very similar to the Horns Look on pure aesthetic entails a guard dribbling across the Double High Stagger Screen to drive to the rim, it often is stopped quite easily.

Any changes that Fox makes is drastic, especially with an offense as scripted as the one he has.  There’s more freedom, just say it.  It’s a big change.  Underclassmen made mistakes out there and were allowed to play through them.  It’s a big change!

The talent level on the team is not the problem.  They are getting the wrong ideas, they are not getting the freedom they need on the offensive end and they need to be encouraged.  The team had folded like Superman on Laundry Day and showed a lack of toughness from January 10 through February 10.  It’s not an indictment upon the players, this is an incredibly talented group of players that are being put into situations that doom them to fail.  The past two games have been a departure from that.

Fox is the one burying the team by saying that the team misses J.J. Frazier (think Tyree Crump, Turtle Jackson and Teshaun Hightower enjoyed those comments?), missed Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann (burying Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris and E’Torrion Wilridge) or that the team could have used Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie (because burying a bunch of Freshmen is wise).  Fox does not understand his players’ core competencies from the second they were recruited.  Typecasting, limiting and micromanaging are what got us here.  Fox brought in guys 1 through 13 who can win big in the SEC, it has been made very clear.

In one press conference, Mark Fox managed to ruin his best week on-the-court as the Head Coach of the UGA Men’s Basketball Program.  Hope that was worth it.

11 comments

  1. great article. excellent coverage.

    Agree that the last 3 seasons force numerous questions as to Fox’s understanding of his players’ strengths and weaknesses. Is it too late for an epiphany…..or am I a fool for thinking Fox has scratched his offensive game plan and is now listening to others? Any by others, who is the “others?”

  2. Fox’s comments did seem weird. He probably just sees the end in site, reality has set in, and his emotions got the best of him. Or maybe it’s the “us against the world” approach in an attempt to motivate the team. Is it possible that UGA sweep Florida and Tennessee this year and fire the coach? It’s just been a weird season.

  3. I’m just enjoying the games now. The one thing I have noticed over the last two games is that the Bulldogs are playing more looser and more confidently. Even before the recent three game implosion the wins were not played with any confidence. Ogbeide looks as if he’s having fun out there and his numbers prove it.

  4. Fox’s comments after the game didn’t surprise me. He reminds me of one of the D.C. Swamp Creatures. He tries to hide his own incompetence and lack of positive results over an extended period of time through misdirection and making his accomplishments seem more significant than they are. We just won two games after losing 6 of 7 and, while I was thrilled with the win at UF, any objective person understands that was a total fluke – their best player shot 1 for 13, UF shot just over 50% from the FT line and we still needed 2 3’s and a UF turnover in the last 20 seconds to send it to OT. I might be able to understand Fox’s comments if the team had bounced back to make the NCAA tournament. Winning a couple of games hasn’t yet changed the big picture. There’s still a decent chance that we finish in the bottom 4 of the league. You have to be one pompous SOB to talk the way he does considering how little he has achieved on Athens…despite the “long leash”.

    Looking ahead to the SC game, I never feel good about a road game with Mark Foz at the helm. SC has been playing terrible, but it seems they righted the ship vs. Auburn. Hopefully, Fox and co can drag them down to our level, but they’ll be confident coming in after the big win over a top 10 AU team.

    My guess right now is that we split the last 2 and win either 0 or 1 in the SEC tourney. That’ll probably get us in the NIT as a 4 or 5 seed. 1 win max in the NIT and then goodbye Mark Foz.

  5. I pretty much agree with both the piece and the comments. We’re in the same position as always going into the last two weeks- win them all and we would have a decent chance to eke into the tourney; win three of four with the one loss coming at Tennessee and a deep SEC tourney run might get us in (because of the quadrant 1 wins); anything less and NIT or nothing at all. Bottom line- that’s not acceptable. We need our own version of Billy Donovan- someone who will pick up the pace, encourage his team to get in the passing lanes, and sell the hell out of the program in the state of Georgia . Mark Fox is a good man and that does matter, but we need a good man who raises expectations and fights the malaise . But I’m still gonna watch and pull like hell for this team to win the last four and give these guys a chance to play big games in March.

  6. Oh I plan to cheer like crazy for my dawgs over these last four games and the SEC tourney. I’d love to see them in the dance–for the players” sake–and would hope like h— that this did not save Mark Fox’s job. He is a fine man but the game of college basketball seems to me to have passed him by. Our young kids are coming back, I hope, and deserve a coach that plays to their talents rather than to an antiquated offensive system.

  7. It seems like playing from ahead for an entire game against UT really pushed the team to play hard. Sloppy but hard.

  8. @Hoops Dawg- Are you the author of the blog by the same name? If so, I’d like to offer a friendly rebuttal to your last piece. Dawg fans should be thinking more , not less, about the NCAA tournament because that should be our expectation. Agree that this team has given us no reason to think we’ll win out….but even so ,we should be thinking about the tourney-otherwise we are just fine with yet another NIT appearance. It starts with expectations.

  9. No Chad that is Hoop Dawg. I know the similarity of names could be confusing, but I had been commenting for years on Dawg basketball before hoopdawgblog came into existence and decided to keep my screen name. I do think about the dance and hope we play well enough to get there. But I stand on my earlier comment that it is not wise to hold your breath for too long on that prospect this season this season (particularly at my age).

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