Mark Fox’s approach in the First Half doomed his team to an 8th Straight Loss at Kentucky.
Kentucky did not have their best game tonight and Georgia certainly did not bring theirs either. In fact, both teams did not look like NCAA Tournament caliber teams, but one of them had to win. On nights when the talent is not playing up to par and there are struggles, the best coaches find ways to win and make necessary adjustments. There is a reason why John Calipari is a Hall of Famer and Mark Fox is most assuredly not. Great coaches smell and see blood in the water, average coaches may not necessarily notice it. Kentucky’s Second Half approach was what Georgia’s First Half should have been like, but instead the old problems re-emerged.
Same problems, better roster.
Failing to take advantage of Nick Richards and PJ Washington getting into early foul trouble.
With Kentucky’s top two post presences off the floor most of the First Half. Georgia was content to attempt threes and not make any sort of an effort to attack the basket and draw contact. Georgia went 0/11 from 3 point range in the First Half and the shots were not exactly good shots either. The team played with nerves the entire way through intimidated by the atmosphere and the opportunity. Rather than use it to channel aggression, the team was passive and fearful.
Georgia was not chopping the game up the way they typically would and were too afraid of Kentucky’s physicality to go right at the Wildcat defenders who were hopelessly out of proper defending position for much of the half.
Georgia ran the same High Post Weave set six times in the first 5 minutes of the game. It was a bad sign even though the team was winning.
When Kentucky went into a 2-3 Zone (which is Georgia’s secondary defense – Georgia runs the Match-up variant of it), the reaction to it was passive and the use of Yante Maten at the Free Throw Line was poor. There were too many three point shot attempts and too few attempts to attack the basket off the dribble and test the undersized and inexperienced ‘Cats.
This approach early is actually what made the difference in the game because Georgia was not able to get the Free Throw Attempts to Field Goal Attempts ratio that they typically would get in a victory. Georgia played without physicality on offense unless it was on a second chance opportunity. Georgia needed to get more fouls drawn and more points at the Free Throw Line and a 27-20 lead was not going to cut it late in the First Half knowing what Kentucky was capable of doing to Georgia.
Georgia only drew 10 Personal Fouls on Kentucky and took a total of 5 Free Throws. Considering that Kentucky was able to escape the First Half only down 1 is not only incredible for them, but it was an absolutely shameful approach by Georgia.
Old Bugaboos with the Press and Bad Scouting Report on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Half #2
Kentucky’s Press whether it be the 2-2-1 Zone Press, Single Man Press or 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press all bothered the Georgia Backcourt. The failure to detect these presses and pass into the corners of the Frontcourt when coming out of the Backcourt was extremely troubling. Future opponents will press this Georgia team and will tightly pressure the Point Guard spot. It was a very troubling, yet familiar sight to see the rest of the offense 20 feet away from a pressured Point Guard near the Backcourt Line while trying to burn time to get a set ready. Yes, Mark Fox was burning clock to reduce Kentucky’s possessions despite having the depth edge and having enough athleticism to match Kentucky.
Mark Fox coached like a mid-major coach tonight trying to pull an upset with the hopes of keeping it close and keeping the tempo slow. Fox’s insecurity was passed onto the team as they lost composure and confidence as the Second Half went on, but it was enabled by a squandered First Half as mentioned prior.
Whatever information Fox got on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was absolutely wrong. Gilgeous-Alexander should never have been left on an island with a Point Guard when on Defense. Georgia’s Offense was content to burn clock and screw around before getting into set, which was a recipe for disaster and Calipari sicced his best defender on Teshaun Hightower, Tyree Crump and Turtle Jackson. Not a surprise that it worked. Calipari saw blood in the water in Fox’s passive and fearful approach.
On offense, Gilgeous-Alexander was given the driving lane by every defender he faced and he was able to get to the rim with ease and draw fouls. It’s one thing to sag a bit, it’s quite another to not be ready for him to attack and it was evident that nobody was.
Kentucky shot 38 Free Throws in this game against Georgia and this was a major advantage.
When Mark Fox Loses Composure, He Loses the Game
Late in the Second Half, Mark Fox was mad at the officials over what he perceived to be a hack on a shot attempt near the basket that would result in a two shot foul on the other end in transition for Kentucky. Fox went nuts and got a technical foul out of it, which handed Kentucky four Free Throw Attempts and they made them all.
Was it a bad call? No. Was Mark Fox’s reaction ridiculous? Yes. The drive and attempt was rather passive and the lack of physicality is why Georgia did not get the call. In fact, had Georgia played with aggression, these sorts of calls would go the team’s way. Once the team established themselves as passive jump shooters and played with finesse in the last eight minutes of the First Half, it doomed the team. Had Georgia taken the approach that they had in the Second Half against Georgia Tech or the entire game against Temple, Mark Fox would get his call and not need to lose his mind.
Aggressive teams get the calls on their side and an occasional charge call is a natural thing to take place, but apparently this is not in this team’s DNA yet.
Mark Fox was once again handed a very advantageous situation and found a way to not to do anything with it.
He blew it. Again.
Georgia Deserved to Lose this Game
There’s nothing to feel sick about here as far as the effort. Unlike UMass, Kentucky shot the ball terribly and made horrible decisions out there. Much like the UMass game, Georgia was too content to play slowly and was too obsessed with the choreography of running their sets and played too passively.
The aggressive team wins. Congrats to Kentucky, they played more physical, fearless and made the right adjustment. John Calipari once again proved why he’s more than just a great recruiter.