Georgia Plays Down to Winthrop and Survives 87-82

Georgia played soft, passive, afraid and docile against a Winthrop team that they should have manhandled.

Mark Fox should be very thankful that his team was able to hit their shots in the second half because his team was rather afraid to do anything that broke what he was trying to accomplish offensively.  The offensive game plan was Hero Ball and slowing down the pace of the game, which was a sign of retreat.  The defensive game plan was typical Georgia Defense.  In the past, this would be a game that Georgia would usually lose should the team play in such an uninspired and neutered fashion.

There’s not much to gain from games like these against smaller conference competition at Home.  There’s nothing to be gained because:

  1. This is a BUY game.  Winthrop received money to play this game.
  2. The turnout is going to be poor.
  3. Winthrop may be toward the top of the Big South Conference, but Georgia is supposed to win this game at Home.
  4. Because Georgia is supposed to win the game at Home, it does not help the RPI nor the Strength of Schedule.
  5. A loss would be extremely damaging to the Tournament Resume.

In essence, Georgia has everything to lose and Winthrop has everything to gain.  Mark Fox’s game plan almost let Winthrop get everything they could have hoped for and then some.  It was everything wrong with how Georgia schedules and the tone-deafness that exists in Athens.

Let’s never do THAT again.  Learn from scheduling mistakes and only schedule ONE non-conference Home Game.  Make Georgia Basketball games actual events on campus as opposed to having to BRIBE students to show up to games with free Rose Bowl tickets.  Plus, it is a money saver!

  1. The students can afford the tickets on the secondary market.  This is the easiest and most affordable part.
  2. How the hell will the students get rental cars?  Most are under 21.  Enjoy Uber or Lyft’s surge pricing!
  3. Then there’s the logistics of getting a flight to Los Angeles along with hotel accommodations.

Yup, really lucky.  Here’s a solo ticket and go figure out the rest.  The rest is the challenge.  It’s sort of like being on a Game Show, winning a prize and then finding out about the taxes that need to be paid.

It’s not a nice gesture at all, it is a capture promotion scheme unless the tickets are sold on the secondary market.

Back to the Game

Not re-watching this game at all, but opposing coaches should.  How many times were the same two sequences run?  The Cross Screen with the Stagger Screen and the High Post Weave.  How many times?  It is possible that 80% of the Half Court possessions in this game involved those sequences run to their terminal end.  Was it because Pat Kelsey told his team what to expect?  Possibly, but the team scored 87 points and they had to come somewhere and it was mostly from quick hitters to begin the sets, second chance points and improvised action.

Defensively, Georgia cannot stop the dribble drive and screens at the top of the key and at the wing to set up a perimeter shooter burn this Georgia team far too often.  The other noticeable issue is that opponents may be tempted to go small and drive Georgia’s bigs.  How often was Mike Edwards on the other side of a dribble drive trying to play catch-up with a smaller, quicker opponent?

There were two defensive issues that ought to make Mark Fox furious:

  1. A lot of effort goes into getting the defense set in Man-to-Man after a change in possession.  How does this team off a missed basket or made basket get into such an unset position after retreating back?  There is more focus on getting back rather than doing what they are supposed to be doing, which is denying opportunities to score.
  2. Defensive rebounds that are not caught cleanly.  There is far too much passiveness and reaching on rebounds.  The fear of fouling has got into this team, it is as if Mark Fox has no faith in his depth that the team plays more passive even with a team that is over-matched in size.  Passiveness leads to unsecured rebounds and second chance points for the opposition.

The defense is not disruptive in any way, but this is not news to anyone.  There was no physicality, but this is a typical playing down to the opponent performance and self-inflicted wounds brought on by fear and micromanagement.

Now the whole “Taking Care of the Basketball” nonsense.

What is that supposed to mean?  As if to say that the team is doing something so ridiculous and out of the ordinary that it can be “cleaned up”.

Turnovers are often a systemic feature for Georgia (they are unforced), not a glitch nor something that can be debugged.  Why are the turnovers happening?  Is it a matter of miscommunication, chemistry or “lack of control”?

Not really.  Some of the turnovers were moving screens, which is correctable.  Charging calls are going to happen, but driving with a purpose certainly helps with avoiding some of these calls.  There’s always the case of Yante Maten’s nonsensical offensive foul based on officiating inconsistencies, but these foul-related concerns are not what should raise a red flag.

Rather, the live ball turnovers and bad passes are deserving of ire.  The players are taught to do what they are doing in the set and the game plan was to force the ball into Yante Maten, it is not a smart thing to do, but that’s what it is.  The team is just following orders and the passes will be made with horrible footwork that results in passes that miss the intended man on the post.  The sets will not work much of the time and players will try to force the set to happen.

The Marquette game had the result that it had because the team did not seem as micromanaged and the approach was not Hero Ball.  When the sets broke, the team actually played.

One of the big takeaways tonight was if the team believes that they can win without Yante Maten on the floor, they can.  The other big takeaway is that if Yante Maten is playing, he does not need to be the sole focus of Georgia’s offense.  There’s an opportunity cost to forcing Maten’s involvement.

So no, the turnovers cannot just be “cleaned up” with “coaching ’em up”.  It’s a system and game planning issue.  Teshaun Hightower normally would have had a few opportunities to drive the lane against Winthrop defenders who were not set, but Hightower wanted to continue playing and so he went straight into one of the two inefficient sets that Georgia runs.  Fox wanted a slower paced offense and this is what he got for those efforts.  There’s a reason why Georgia’s Offensive Efficiency is never within the scent of top programs and it has nothing to do with talent, it is the system and the game plan of Mark Fox.

Talent level does not matter, it is the same sort of results and it should not be surprising.  The metrics bear it out every season.

As a reminder, here are the offensive metrics.  It’s not clap-trap.

To the complainers about tighter rotations… you got it, sort of…

Because the sport of Basketball was defined by Jim Harrick at the University of Georgia.  Of course, the style of play must be that way.  Seven played double-digit minutes tonight, 12 may have played, but they did not play much.

E’Torrion Wilridge is not going to be getting many more minutes this season if he’s going to tense up every time he gets the ball in his hands.  If he defends like he should, he should not have to feel afraid.  He could make mistakes and miss a few shots as long as he plays shut-down defense.  He’s better than this, but the rest of the roster is passing him by and he may not realize what makes Fox tick.

Jordan Harris seems to be missing a purpose out there.  Whatever is going on off-the-court is impacting his play on the floor.  Harris is playing small and he’s slipping a lot on defense for some reason.  There’s just something that is not quite right.

Tonight was a step backwards for the Georgia Basketball Team.  Plain and simple, the team has no identity and no element to fear.  This team went 75% from the field in the second half and still trailed in that half for nearly 10 minutes.  It’s a win that could have easily been a loss, but should this really be the conversation to be had in a home game against Winthrop?  It’s not.  This team is better than this and Fox has to scrap the entire game plan he had tonight.


  1. Great article – those offensive metrics are, well, offensive, but not the least bit surprising to anyone who regularly tries to sit through UGA basketball games. 8+ years of pure garbage on the offensive end of the court with the one constant over that time period being Mark Fox. Our offensive sets are horrible. And, do we even know what a fast break is? I guarantee Fox whines constantly about a lack of support behind the scenes, but you have to give the fan base an entertaining product and some results that give them hope. Beating decent, but very flawed Marquette and St Marys’s teams was encouraging, but the last two home games against TAMU-CC and Winthrop were near disastrous performances. Under Fox, there is no such thing as assuming a W….we can lose to anybody. Fox has had his share of bad losses and those have a tremendous negative impact iron the fan base. He is also incredibly fortunate that we do not have quite a few more if those types of losses, the past two home games being the most recent examples of that.

    The bottom line is this – when your offensive stats are as consistently bad as ours are, you can’t create any separation…from anybody. If Fox had any clue as to how to fix it, it would show somewhere in the 8 seasons of team stats you posted,

    I realize we are 7-1, but we are still headed toward the same type of mediocre year we always have under Fox. The difference this year being that the conference schedule isn’t going to help Fox, it’s going to provide proof positive that he is losing ground rapidly to the new group of coaches that have been hired around the conference.

    If we are even a threat to becoming an NCAA tournament team, we will win these next 3 games – at UMass followed by GT and Temple at home, but something tells me we will lose ar least 1 of them, maybe two.

    1. I enjoy reading your articles on UGA basketball and agree with your comments on the Winthrop game. On offense, UGA plays like a bunch of “stiffs” and on defense they cannot defend the “dribble drives”. UGA is 7-1 but could very well be 4-4. The SEC is going to be much tougher this year than previous years with 4 SEC schools in the top 25 and a couple more just outside the top 25. UGA has the talent on this year’s basketball team but somehow some way it has struggled to put away any of their opponents. Mark Fox’s coaching will probably put UGA in the NIT but it will be a struggle to get into the NCAA unless changes are made. UGA will need to win 9-10 games in non-conference and win at least 9 games in the SEC and possibly win at least 1 game in the SEC tournament. It will take 20 wins to make the “Dance”. This year will be more of the same as previous years and if Fox is around next year, it will be the same as its always been. As in football, changes are necessary to move ahead.

  2. I take your point about the no-win reality of scheduling the Winthrops of the world, but doesn’t every team have to do this to some extent? For what it’s worth, we had 6 such games on last year’s schedule, and cut it down to 4 this year.

  3. This was a hard game to watch. The defense was terrible by EVERYone like it usually is, so I can’t understand how he thinks certain ones are defensive geniuses. Playing way too many players, no rhyme or reason in how he subs. As for as anyone having any confidence, Coach Fox will be sure and make sure you don’t have any by the way he treats and plays his players. They are not allowed to play because they are afraid of making a mistake and then being taken out. These kids want to play ball not be jerked around by a coach who wants total control. This is why they will not win the big games, there is no ebb and flow to their game.

  4. Well, I came here to say that I was actually enjoying watching the Dawgs play and beating St. Mary’s, Marquette and Winthrop were nice. Also like seeing other guys play. Yes, we need to settle on a regular rotation, but for now I’m glad to see lots of players (including freshmen(!)) getting game time. I think it will come in handy later in the season.

    But what do I know?

  5. Article is on point. I want to feel good about the 7-1 start, but the product behind it cautions me to feel otherwise.

    This team is sorely missing a premier……good defender on the perimeter. no excuse for the easy penetrations by opposing guards.

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