Georgia knocks off #25 South Carolina 69-56 tonight at the friendly confines of Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia did not look like the team that fans have seen during SEC action. This was a very different approach and game plan. One would swear that Mark Fox finally gave into the criticism and looked brilliant while doing it. South Carolina is a very good team and this was not only a much needed win, but this was a game that showed that Fox may have figured out what makes his team tick.
What changed tonight?
- Some sets were eliminated. The “double drive option” that is a staple of the Georgia Half Court offense was not used in part due to South Carolina’s zone for part of the game and just it being taken out of the equation when the Gamecocks when man-to-man. Georgia’s other set involving the triangle screen to the basket was also eliminated.
- More freedom on offense. Georgia was running a lot of stuff that would one would expect from South Carolina, the spread was pronounced and possessions were much more abbreviated. Quick hitters and focusing on getting that first good shot rather than feeling the need to compulsively finish the set was the emphasis.
- Rebounding. Georgia rebounded better on both ends and made it a point of emphasis. This sort of attitude was similar to what Georgia did against Tech. Georgia’s zone defense was extremely effective on the boards and there was clearly a team effort to not let South Carolina own the glass.
- Georgia went mostly 2-3 Matchup Zone. Georgia knew that if they went man-to-man all game, the Cocks would get them into foul trouble and it would be a miserable night. Instead, Fox went all zone in the first half and Georgia had a 10 point lead at the half on the #25 team in the country. Fox went almost all zone in the first half against #17 Baylor on Saturday and led at the half by 3. South Carolina went cold from beyond the arc, but the right guys were taking the threes for the most part and Georgia challenged enough of them to make the effort worth it. The zone also created nine steals as well.
- Using the depth. Turtle Jackson and E’Torrion Wilridge saw more minutes tonight. Kenny Paul Geno started to offset Michael Carrera. Mike Edwards and Derek Ogbeide finished the job. The offensive scoring production may not have been there, eight points, but the bench rebounded and defended. E’Torrion Wilridge in the 2-3 Matchup Zone was at his best and created some serious problems for the South Carolina offense. All of the freshmen looked much more comfortable and at ease on both ends of the floor tonight.
- Pace. Georgia was content to play at a somewhat faster pace, but it was slower than South Carolina’s typical pace. Georgia had 70 possessions tonight, which is faster than they usually are.
Looking at the Numbers
South Carolina’s offense struggled tonight against Georgia’s 2-3 Matchup Zone. Their game plan likely entailed facing a man-to-man defense and Fox held to the zone for around 32-33 minutes tonight. Mixing in the man-to-man and zone like this keeps opponents off guard. South Carolina was hoping to force Georgia into foul trouble and the 2-3 Matchup Zone kept Georgia out of foul trouble. Georgia committed 19 fouls and when Georgia does not commit fouls, the team typically wins.
Yante Maten was able to have a big night because he avoided foul trouble and had more offensive freedom. He was able to attack the basket off the high post and let his teammates clean things up when necessary. The emphasis was on inside-out offense, spreading the floor and effective ball screens. It worked very well.
E’Torrion Wilridge and Turtle Jackson earned more minutes from tonight’s performance. Georgia showed that they didn’t J.J. Frazier in the first half as he sat on the bench with foul trouble and was scoreless. Tonight was about how the freshmen stepped up and did the little things to help the veterans out. Mark Fox should be very heartened by tonight’s performance and try to repeat this success on Saturday against Auburn. The freshmen were allowed to play through mistakes and given the latitude to make more decisions.
If tonight was a sample of what this Georgia team can be going forward, this season may be very similar to 2012-13, but with a better start. That particular Georgia team evolved once Charles Mann was given the freedom to dribble drive and the Power Spread style was born. Georgia went on a 5 game winning streak that season and of course lost three games in the month of February that were all due to questionable officiating on the road. However, that Georgia team BEAT Kentucky at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia changed then and it seems that Mark Fox made the alterations now.
We shall see if Georgia reverts back to its old ways, but if this is actually a taste of the future and what is to come, Dawg fans should get very excited. There are nine more games in the regular season and closing the season strong like the way Vanderbilt did last season will certainly make a case. This win at Stegeman Coliseum is the best win of the season, but there are opportunities to follow. There are no house money games, the games must be won because of the losses suffered this season.
This was not a perfect game and there are things that can be done on both offense and defense to get better. However, this was not the same team that played the last nine games and THAT is a good thing.