Georgia beats an outmatched Valdosta State team 112-74 and there’s a lot to unpack here…
Georgia was tested in different ways by Valdosta State and it is fair to say that the team will not get away with some of the sloppiness exhibited, but there were bright spots to give some hope for this season and beyond. Georgia did do some different things today, but it was nothing like what was expected. Georgia did not press or trap, but the team was very eager to get into secondary break offense and this along with the physicality gap made the difference tonight.
Mark Fox was able to play Pape Diatta tonight, but did not play Mike Edwards or Jordan Harris. The walk-ons had their time on the floor as well and Mark Fox’s willingness to make the most of the exhibition really faded in the last five minutes as it became an opportunity to just give out playing time to those who will not play during the season.
Let’s Talk Offense
Georgia did not play slow and in possessions that went slowly, the offense sputtered through the same old sets. The sets are run with no urgency and when there’s no reading of the defenders, it is just not dynamic. When Georgia can skip the sets, the team is much more loose and the play is much more natural. The second half provided a lot of examples of this to be the case. It seemed out-of-control and very out-of-step with a Mark Fox coached team to see Teshaun Hightower attack off the dribble drive and look to make something happen. This was rather infectious as Turtle Jackson and Tyree Crump joined the act as well. There was a confidence that the aggression could result in better shots and second chance opportunities.
The Georgia Offense was able to practice against zone defense tonight, which was a big surprise that was rather welcome as opponents typically would just play vanilla man-to-man in these exhibitions. The Georgia Zone Offense was effective outside of one possession where Teshaun Hightower appeared to not diagnose the defense that was ready to be set and made a bad pass. The 2-3 Zone sported by Valdosta State was lacking in length and activity, but it was a good enough tune-up for what is to come. There was good ball movement and movement without the ball against Valdosta State’s 2-3 Zone.
Valdosta State pressed and trapped in the second half. Another good barometer for how prepared Georgia is to take on teams who may be tempted to test this backcourt. Georgia generally failed this test as they were able to use their physical size to overwhelm the much smaller Valdosta State defenders when trapped. There were bad decisions made against the half court trap and it resulted in turnovers. The traps and presses forced Georgia to slow down and make bad decisions. Valdosta State also doubled along the High Post at times resulting in turnovers. Bad passes, poor anticipation and an inability to get a pass out of the double team were things that need to be corrected. Teams with stronger, taller, longer and more skilled talent could exploit this much better than a Division II opponent.
Georgia went 22 for 24 from the Free Throw Line against Michigan State, the team did not bring their Free Throw shooting prowess tonight. The team was able to draw fouls and get second chance points, which made the difference in this game. This is a poor three point shooting team and the team struggled to take shots in rhythm as the ball movement within the offense is generally poor and the team is better oriented at attacking the rim. Sets designed for the three point shots resulted in shots with poor footwork while shots that were from organic inside-out action resulted in a much higher three point percentage.
Tyree Crump as a perimeter shooter had another tough night, but he was 80% when attacking the rim. Crump’s core competencies coming into Georgia were his ability to attack the basket with his first step and his ability to distribute. Crump has unfortunately been mislabeled as a shooter and is stuck at the Shooting Guard position. Mark Fox would want Crump to attack the basket more to put him at the Free Throw Line, he’s a potential 90% Free Throw Shooter this season. Getting Crump to the line for more than 8 Free Throws a game should be the goal.
Unfortunately for Crump he is likely bested at the Point Guard spot by Teshaun Hightower who was playing at a completely different speed and level of aggression. Hightower is a big guard who plays fast, which means there is a lot more force coming down the lane than J.J. Frazier. It is a bit of an adjustment as Hightower is much faster than Frazier (not as quick, which is a bit different) and Charles Mann. Hightower’s confidence in his passing ability and natural decision making off the bounce are refreshing. However, Hightower did make Freshman mistakes when reading defenses and handling traps.
Turtle Jackson had a much better shooting night and with the amped up pace from the secondary break offense, he was able to get better shooting looks from the perimeter. Jackson was passing better as well, but this was a major step down in competition from Michigan State. Jackson definitely thrives in a faster pace environment, but he may be playing it too safe as the Point Guard. Then again, nobody looks good in the set offense unless it is Yante Maten or Derek Ogbeide forcing the action on the low block. Out of all of the Point Guards, Jackson settles the offense back into the set offense where as the opposite happens with Hightower, who just wants to push.
The Milwaukee Bucks Rotation
E’Torrion Wilridge played terribly tonight and had his best success in the second half in the Milwaukee Bucks styled lineup that featured Jackson, Claxton, Wilridge, Hammonds and Ogbeide. Length galore. It was a smothering defense that resulted in bad possessions for Valdosta State, second chance opportunities and trips to the Charity Stripe. It was an interesting experiment that should be revisited during the regular season and as long as Georgia does not play hero ball with Yante Maten may make everyone more effective and fresh.
The Freshmen of the Frontcourt
Nicolas Claxton showed off his defensive capabilities and his inside-out offensive game on a limited basis. Claxton really stood out on defense getting involved and being disruptive. For the most part, the Georgia Defense was not disruptive.
Rayshaun Hammonds had his ups and downs in this game. Hammonds had some blown defensive assignments, but he was able to grab rebounds and get himself a steal. Hammonds had his best time on the court when in the Milwaukee Bucks styled rotation. Hammonds was able to score from inside and out. He would be the star of the game if that distinction did not go to Derek Ogbeide, who Valdosta State could not match-up with whatsoever.
Isaac Kante received most of his minutes in the second half. He’s physically ready to go as a Power Forward, he needs more seasoning. It would be a HUGE MISTAKE to redshirt him. Switching from Ogbeide to Kante is a transition in terms of experience, not talent level. Experience matters and Kante is going to get that.
Yante Maten was Yante Maten. He was able to call it an early night, but Mark Fox needed tonight for the rest of the team to step up.
Let’s Get to Our Favorite Topic: Defense
The Defense left a lot to be desired. Lots of tunnel vision on transitions from defense to offense after scores, which is completely unacceptable. Having the guys run back focused on getting back to a place to get set is not yielding good results. Nobody is slowing down the opponent’s offense from coming down the floor so that the defense can get set. Fox’s retreat defense results in quick hitters from long range or easy drives that result in fouls. The goal should be to make the opponent’s offense stagnant in pace and overwhelm the opponent’s defense with a quick score.
The Man-to-Man Defense on the perimeter was poor. Crump and Parker did a terrible job defending along the perimeter. Wilridge only had defensive success in the second half. Crump was playing far too off his man and he was a matador against the dribble drive, his lateral quickness and defensive footwork faded as the possession time went longer. Crump would pinch to help when it was not necessary at the top of the key leaving his man wide open. Crump would fly haphazardly at shooters or perceived shooters, but this came after he was burned on a three that he did not contest despite being in the vicinity of the shooter. Hand down, man down.
Parker’s lateral quickness was tested along the wings and he simply was not able to contain drivers. Crump, Wilridge and Parker all were getting lost on screens and switches in the first half. Athleticism can cover for the mistakes made when facing a team like Valdosta State, but against Saint Mary’s, this backcourt does not appear to have the discipline to handle their movement without the ball.
Fox went 2-3 Zone very briefly in the game tonight and did not press at all. The major defensive alteration came in the form of the lineups. Fox simply does not have courage to use this team’s length to its fullest and impose the team’s will upon an opponent. It’s the same old defense… it’s a lot of hoping that the opponent misses, grabbing the rebound and hoping that the opponent does not get on defense in time. Georgia should end up last in the SEC when it comes to Steals per Game this season. This team will defend 2/3 of the half court, but the team will not harass nor perplex an opponent. It’s a passive, reactive and undisciplined defense. It could be worse, but it is a shame that it is not much better because it is all self-inflicted. That’s the best way to describe Georgia Basketball under Mark Fox.
History Will Repeat Itself
This is a better team than the one that played tonight and even better than the one that faced Clemson and Michigan State. However, Mark Fox gets in his own way and while the pace was fast, a lot of things remained the same. Better talent, same sort of results. It’s hard to expect anything else unless a drastic change takes place. You know what you are going to get from a Mark Fox coached team and that’s why it is so difficult to get too excited about a blowout over a Division II opponent, a so-called “moral victory” against Michigan State in Grand Rapids (this warrants an eye roll) or a blowout over a Clemson team that is completely decimated in terms of depth.
Enjoy 17-20 wins and biting nails on Selection Sunday. It’s up to this team and staff to do something different, but only someone out of their mind would expect that. History is going to keep repeating itself. As long as Georgia Football keeps winning, nobody will pay attention to what is happening and the same cycle of excuses, aggressive media propaganda, arguments about not having enough talent (this team is plenty talented), and masturbating over Jim Harrick will take place.
How will Year 9 be any different? Break the cycle and change things up. This team has enough talent to cut down nets.