Georgia’s aggression delivers the win at Marquette.
An aggressive mindset on the interior combined with a slight defensive adjustment put Georgia in the Winners Circle today. Marquette faced their first major opponent without Haanif Cheatham and Mark Fox evidently knew the obvious… render this Marquette team one-dimensional or at least force Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey to be dribble drivers. It worked, but it took a little bit more of a pained approach to get there. The story was about defense, but the offense did a lot of good to help the defense.
The Defensive Adjustment
The objective was to take away Marquette’s spacing and freedom to get wide open threes through strong ball movement and movement without the ball. From a strategic perspective, Fox could not zone, but he certainly could not have his team play a lazy man-to-man or not effectively switch on man-to-man. What was unexpected early was the decision to trap on screens, which is something that this team has done in the past with mixed results. However, against a team like Marquette that nobody in their right mind would want to take uncontested three point shots this is a possibility with this approach.
Trapping the top of the key ball screen left Sam Hauser wide open. Twice the team left him open off the trap and he made the Dawgs pay for it. Andrew Rowsey had this opportunity available too, but he was shooting cold and a lot of it had to do with the level of comfort in other situations. This was a defensive issue in the first half, but Fox took it away and just had the straight switch on the ball screen.
The objective was to not encourage the three point shot and if the shot was taken it was challenged. This was exactly what happened in the second half. The number of three point attempts fell from 19 in the first half to 14 in the second half, the quality of the shots was poorer. It is a credit to Marquette for shooting better from the perimeter in the second half, but the opportunities were not frequent. Markus Howard, a three point shooter, became a driver and that is exactly what any coach would want to happen.
Going into this game, this team had to change the shot distribution and put Marquette’s backcourt into an unfamiliar position. That unfamiliar position was doing anything off the dribble inside the perimeter. It gave defenders license to have active hands and poke the ball out. Marquette is not a strong ball handling team, they are a strong jump shooting team. It is how Georgia got 5 steals in the second half without applying a full court pressure approach. Is this the method to success against other opponents for this Georgia team? Certainly not, but it was a proper way to play half court defense against Marquette.
It was a relatively easy first half for Marquette, even with Markus Howard in major foul trouble. They were able to get the game into a style that they desired for the most part.
Holy Hero Ball! Disrupting Rowsey and turning Howard into a one-man show turned the game inside-out. Daring Heldt to take on Maten, Ogbeide, Claxton or anyone else on the Georgia interior proved to have positive results. Rebounds and turnovers went Georgia’s way.
Could the defenders played tighter man-to-man? Yes.
Could Fox have instructed Hightower, Crump or Jackson to harass Howard or Rowsey up the floor with two minutes to go? Yes.
Could Nic Claxton, Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris and others learn not to sell out and leave their feet like the way they did? Absolutely.
The good news is that the game is recorded somewhere at the Basketball Facility for review by the staff. The right defensive adjustments were for the most part made.
The Offensive Effort to Shut Down Marquette’s Offense
Yes, that’s right. Offense can be used to hurt the opponent’s offense. How? By playing aggressive and making strong moves without the ball. Markus Howard getting into foul trouble early really helped take Andrew Rowsey out of his element.
Without Howard, there were only two Golden Eagles to defend along the perimeter. Georgia was able to take an eight point lead, but the re-insertion of Howard brought Marquette back. However, the game plan should have been simple when Howard came back and that was to make him defend a dribble driver. Tyree Crump had a perfect opportunity to take Howard out of the first half with five minutes to go, but chose to shoot. Crump was still in a hot streak, but did not have rhythm on that particular shot. However, Crump had a clear lane with Howard’s footwork being less than ideal. It would have been a great opportunity for an old-fashioned three point play and would have also reinforced Crump’s shooting rhythm as well.
However, forcing foul trouble was the right approach against a Marquette team lacking depth and having an obvious game plan.
Getting Howard in foul trouble resulted in Marquette’s offense not really getting into a rhythm, but Georgia’s offense was also in a funk. The second half effort was about to get the rest of the Marquette team into a funk.
Georgia only attempted 4 three point field goals in the second half and that meant a lot of action inside the perimeter. More fouls meant that Steve Wojciechowski was forced to keep shuffling his lineups to even out the foul load for his very short bench. There were lineups that were inexperienced and unaccustomed against a defense that seemingly had things figured out.
What Else Stood Out against Marquette?
There was no hero ball.
Yante Maten was doubled up for much of the game and he handled the treatment with maturity. He looked for the open man and when he knew that the High Post feed was doomed because the Marquette defenders were both overplaying and poised to jump the High Post on the weave, he broke the play and stepped up to set a screen and let the action unfold in a completely different fashion. Yante Maten deserves a lot of credit for his situational awareness and not being afraid of his coach to run a sequence that would result in a turnover.
With Maten doubled up or at least being shaded, it provided an opportunity for the rest of the team to shine and have shooting and driving opportunities. It explains why even with Maten being denied, Georgia had 32 points in the paint.
Teshaun Hightower in Crunch Time
The thought process would be that Tyree Crump would be the ideal Guard to have out there in the final minutes of the game because of Crump’s ability to make Free Throws. However, Teshaun Hightower was the one to shine and a 11.1% Free Throw Shooter (small sample size of 9) made 3 out of 4 late from the Free Throw Line and knocked down a mid-range jumper to help seal the deal. Hightower’s disruptiveness on defense likely earned him the minutes and rewarded Mark Fox for his trust in him.
Player of the Game: Rayshaun Hammonds
Rayshaun Hammonds benefited from Marquette’s forced offensive shift and he was racking up the steals and playing very disruptively on the defensive end. Hammonds had 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Hammonds can deliver more for this Georgia team, but he gave them a balanced performance that pushed Georgia in front. Hammonds came through in the second half in a big way.
What to Take Away from Today’s Game?
It’s amazing what a few adjustments and empowering your Freshmen can do for a team. Georgia has plenty of talent and this game was an example of what can be done when such depth is used. Georgia needs to play deep, fast, disruptive and active. These are adjectives that have not been used to describe Mark Fox coached teams for the past eight seasons.
There were familiar and unfamiliar things seen today, which leaves open the matter of what is bound to change and what will remain the same.
- Latitude to break sets.
- Active pursuit of steals.
- Defensive adjustments.
- Reading the defense.
What is to come next? Will Fox start throwing presses and giving the green light to drive and make a play rather than depend upon the set? Back door cuts? Who knows?
However, this team has to continue shooting well, challenging shots in a smarter fashion and rebounding better.
This may be the most different Georgia Basketball Team of all the iterations under Mark Fox. Typically, the team would retrench and lose after struggling in three games and following it up with a loss. Instead, the team is seizing opportunities that are being handed to them as opposed to making everything much tougher than it should be.