Georgia knocks off Winthrop 74-64 without Kenny Gaines in the pre-Finals Week game.
For the most part, Georgia had control of this game from the nearly the beginning. The Bulldogs took down the Winthrop Eagles without Kenny Gaines, who was out due to a knee injury, which was likely the collision at the end of the first half against Kansas State that hampered his performance. The lack of Gaines’ presence may have brought handicappers to the sportsbooks to bet down Georgia to an 8.5 point spread, but this Georgia team showed that they can win without him and in a twist of the knife, cover the spread to punish handicappers that doubted them. Mark Fox was a bit more self-aware with his team after splitting the first six games of the season. Yante Maten helped execute his vision with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Georgia made its fair share of mistakes on the floor on both ends and it was not just isolated to freshmen. However, despite the not-so perfect game played was able to still come away with a double-digit win against their mid-major foe. The offense was not always crisp, but it worked much better in the first half forcing the ball into the paint and keeping the action there. The man-to-man defense was not restricting the dribble drive and Fox may have been worried about giving uncontested three point shots tonight to Keon Johnson and Jimmy Gavin. Johnson and Gavin did end up hitting their threes in the second half as Winthrop went 6/12 in that half from beyond the arc.
The story aside from Yante Maten was how many minutes the freshmen did play and how Fox needed them to play with more confidence. There was more than one occasion tonight where Fox was clearly giving the freshmen encouragement to play through their mistakes, which may be due to (1) criticism of the way he has handled the freshmen, (2) awareness that he was being mic’d tonight, (3) his depth being negatively impacted by Kenny Gaines’ injury or (4) he felt ready to give the freshmen the opportunities.
Winthrop lacked frontcourt depth, if it was not obvious. Much of the frontcourt scoring came from Roderick Perkins who hit 4 three point shots tonight on eight attempts. He came into the game a 15.8% three point shooter, he was not exactly pegged as the guy that was going to make Georgia’s life difficult on the perimeter. Duby Okeke had nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks carrying the frontcourt. Xavier Cooks was completely overmatched on a physical basis against Georgia’s bigs.
Georgia lost focus in the second half as far as where the ball should go, but the scoring in this game was padded by Winthrop’s attempt to foul Mann and Frazier to get opportunities to score and come back at the end. With a minute to go and a nine point lead, the game should be pretty locked up. In fact, according to PredictionMachine.com, they calculated this nugget below. Those odds are steep.
Georgia’s growing pains showed and the freedom that Mark Fox afforded his team tonight helped matters. Winthrop’s poor defense also did not hurt, but it is still valuable experience. Derek Ogbeide had his first point and block as a Georgia Bulldog, he is still trying to fully recover from his right shoulder injury. Both J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten had a double-double tonight. ESPN interestingly credited Kenny Gaines with a steal despite not playing a minute of this game and sitting out with Juwan Parker all night.
The freshmen combined for 11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks tonight. There needs to be more from the freshmen on both ends of the floor. E’Torrion Wilridge could have had a career high in points tonight, if he made his free throws. Wilridge showed some good aggression on the boards tonight and his stroke from three point range looked good even though the shots did not land. A breakout night for him should come this season as long as Fox wants to give his freshmen a full-fledged shot to contribute.
Other things to note:
- Charles Mann went 9/10 from the Free Throw Line
- Kenny Paul Geno had six assists
- Georgia outrebounded Winthrop 45-33
- The team struggled from 3 point range hitting only 20% from beyond the arc
BIG QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Can Georgia find a way to win this game?
Yes. It is probably the way Georgia should have played this season to start. It should not take until Game 7 of the season for Fox to figure out that the offense was restricted and unconfident. The defense needs more flexibility as far as zone looks is concerned, but that battle will be fought another day.
Will Fox have confidence in any of the freshmen?
He really had no choice tonight without Kenny Gaines. The freshmen made their mistakes out there and he let them do it for the most part. He knew that he had to encourage them after six games where he may not have appreciated them as much as he should have.
Will Derek Ogbeide play after looking to be favoring his shoulder against Kansas State?
He played three minutes tonight in the first half and did not see any second half action. He is a bit rusty and a little bit restricted by the recovery process and his shoulder being placed in a sleeve.
Can UGA avoid foul trouble against a Winthrop team that makes regular visits to the Free Throw Line?
Yes, UGA avoided foul trouble tonight. Winthrop, on the other hand, did not avoid foul trouble and Duby Okeke’s intentional foul on Turtle Jackson certainly did not help things. Georgia committed 16 personal fouls when shorthanded, which is a good job of avoiding the fouls in this new age of College Hoops.
What team is the real Georgia: First half against Kansas State or Second Half against Kansas State?
Still do not know the answer to that question. Georgia is a better team with Derek Ogbeide and Kenny Gaines in the rotation. How Fox handled his depth situation tonight was a bit more evolved than against Kansas State, but Winthrop is not as talented nor as defensively sound. With Ogbeide, there’s more physicality and why the team does not play as physical without Ogbeide is still a problem.
Who gets the assignment of guarding Keon Johnson?
J.J. Frazier guarded Johnson for much of the night and it was fun to watch the two little guys go at it. Frazier is much taller than Johnson by at least four inches, which just seems silly. Johnson scored 21 points tonight and pulled down 5 boards.
What adjustments are made to win the defensive glass?
Bigger lineups were necessitated by the insertion of J.J. Frazier into the starting lineup and the idea of playing three guards was completely thrown out the window. The team was committed to crashing the boards, but a good number of offensive rebounds by Winthrop were off missed three point attempts that resulted in long rebounds. Georgia played with more physicality and emphasized blocking out a lot more.
Can Edwards earn more playing time than Kessler again?
He did earn more playing time and Kessler may have played better tonight. On offense, Kessler is best suited to scoring off the screen and roll rather than off a screen and pop. Improvement from Edwards on the boards can make a big difference.
The Full Game Shot Distribution
- Georgia was more effective inside the perimeter and was not falling in love with the 3 point shot tonight.
- Georgia took more 2 point jump shots, which include hook shots.
- Georgia did shoot more layups, dunks and tip-ins tonight as a proportion of shots. Not by much, of course.
- Georgia forced Winthrop out of the paint for the most part, 70% of Winthrop’s shots were outside of the restricted arc.
- What is notable is that Georgia is shooting better between the restricted arc and 3 point arc this season than past seasons.
With Ogbeide in the rotation, Georgia attacked the basket and was not content to just shoot jump shots. Georgia also let Winthrop attempt layups.
Notice what happened in the second half? Georgia did not have shot attempts in the restricted arc! Well, they had three and only made one! Georgia was 8/24 in the second half for a reason. Who didn’t play in the second half? Derek Ogbeide, of course!
Georgia’s struggles in the second half of both games can be attributed to the reduced aggression that is a result of not having Derek Ogbeide on the floor. Mark Fox does not feel confident with the dribble drive or attacking the paint through a post feed without Ogbeide in the rotation. Still does not make sense. Georgia won this game and the experience for the freshmen is encouraging, but also frustrating since the freshmen should have had more freedom from the very beginning.
Georgia needs to be more physical against teams like Clemson and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech poses a troublesome matchup with their frontcourt of Jacobs and Mitchell. Fox whiffed on recruiting Jacobs and Mitchell when they were in High School and then a credit transfer mess denied Fox the ability to coach Mitchell when he transferred out of Maryland.
Georgia needs to take more dunks, layups and free throws. With Ogbeide in the game and through Charles Mann’s dribble drives tonight, it happened. Georgia needs to be shooting 29/36 from the Free Throw Line to win and decimate opponents. It can be done, but whatever has been done over the past few weeks, has not worked.
Georgia Tech is an average 3 point shooting team and with two physical threats in the post, Georgia has to reconsider how the defense operates. The man-to-man defense forces too much action inside and draws too many fouls on Georgia. Georgia’s zone defense when run right actually forces turnovers and fast break points.
Winning out the rest of the non-conference schedule is crucial to this team’s success and reaching that success requires trust in the freshmen. Ride out the bad times, enjoy the good and keep instructing them. The season is not over, but Fox has to bring back the identity that his teams over the past 2 1/2 seasons have had. Without Gaines, there was no “hero ball” offense tonight and the team was still able to score 74, albeit against a poor defense.
If Coach Fox wants to shut up the critics, he has plenty of opportunities to do so in his next four games.
- “4 Straight Losses to Tech”: A win over Tech ends this mantra.
- “What about Clemson? They are recruiting against us now“: Beat them and send a message to the Classes of 2016-19.
- “Fox’s teams always underachieve in their last home game before the New Year.”: Blowout Robert Morris and hand the keys to the freshmen with 8 minutes to go.
- “Georgia has not won in Gainesville since 2002”: Win this game. Beat the guy that made you look bad in the 2014 NIT Tournament.
Long winning streaks cure 3-3 starts, but the way to do it is to trust the talent and be open to running a 1-3-1 or 2-3 matchup zone. Just do it and maybe Bulldog Nation can forget about Football for 45 seconds.