The aggressor almost always wins. Georgia was not the aggressor in the First Half, but sure was in the Second.
This game was a tale of two halves and the coach that adjusted and the coach that did not. To draw parallels, it was much like Fox took on the role of Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard in last season’s game at the Prudential Center and Bruce Pearl was Mark Fox. It was also like the Gardner-Webb game this season where Georgia was not clicking on both ends of the floor and there seemed to be a ceiling that was ready to be broken in the second half, if UGA wanted to break it.
In the First Half
Auburn dictated pace, did not need to get into half court offense, was able to pressure rather well, had wide open three point shot attempts and outrebounded Georgia. Auburn’s big problem was the foul situation in the first half. Auburn could not stop fouling Georgia and that is a product of having a young team. Remember that Auburn is an extremely young team and what do young teams do on defense, they foul A LOT.
Georgia was fine with playing a fast pace, but were sucked into more awkward half court offensive situations than they would have liked. This team attempted more three point shots than desired and did not move well without the ball. The passes were telegraphed along the perimeter. Shot selection was terrible as well, no rhythm, but Free Throws kept this team in the game.
The Georgia Defense was abysmal. Allowing 51 points in a half is NEVER acceptable. Georgia played mostly man-to-man defense, which is not surprising. The man-to-man let Auburn shooters get wide open and when the team adjusted to 1-2-2 Matchup Zone and 2-3 Matchup Zone, it was slightly more effective, but there were far too many dribble drives allowed and far too much cheating over to one side. Once again, an opponent gets wide open threes on the weak side because the defense is caught cheating.
Started off with an Auburn made three and then Georgia went to 2-3 Matchup Zone and it worked except when defenders forgot they were in that defense. Georgia switched back to man-to-man and then after a made Yante Maten three pointer, Mark Fox took a timeout with 14:38 left in the second half. Fox was likely not thrilled with Auburn getting easy buckets off the dribble drive and he sought out to change that. Fox’s timeout was the catalyst to actually turn this game around.
Georgia was going to play 2-3 Matchup Zone, crash the glass, not try threes like maniacs, 3/4 court trap, attack the restricted arc and just try to score without needing a set.
What happened? It worked. Georgia went on a 39-18 run the rest of the game. Mark Fox actually did what this publication has suggested and came out a winner at Auburn Arena.
Georgia’s possession time slowed down because the last four minutes were straight up stall ball, which is to be expected when up 10. Georgia doubled the points in the paint figure from first half to second half.
Because there was such simplicity in objective and there were less sets the team did not commit as many turnovers. Georgia committed only three turnovers in the second half.
Georgia won the glass, won the Free Throw Line, won the turnover battle and ultimately crushed Auburn’s spirits.
Bruce Pearl did not adjust, he figured he could just use the same approach all game and that the first half good feelings would just carry over. Pearl did not count on having to deal with more contested three point shots, zone defense that kept the ball handlers out on the perimeter and having his young foul-prone posts being tested by the dribble drive themselves. Jordan Harris even made a backdoor cut, think Bruce Pearl and his team were prepared for that? They weren’t, they were overplaying in their man-to-man defense, but Pearl did not make the proper adjustments nor instruct his guys to not being in the Georgia offensive players’ shirts.
Pearl’s pressure defense really was not effective because the defenders were never really in the right places to do what he was thinking needed to be done. Also, foul trouble doomed Auburn’s defense. It just built up to the point where they softened and fell apart.
However, Pearl did not seem to prepare for Georgia to use a 3/4 court trap in order to slow them down. Auburn’s offense when slowed down was taking shots out of rhythm and then would come up the floor afraid to see the 3/4 court trap again even when it was not there. It was odd to see Jared Harper and Ronnie Johnson really seem psyched out like that.
It was not like Georgia got hot and Auburn got cold in the second half. The shots were challenged in the second half more effectively because Georgia’s defenders were in the right places in the 2-3 Matchup Zone. Georgia was effective against Auburn’s defense by simply attacking at will. Maten and Frazier were able to get restricted arc baskets at will on this Auburn Defense.
Once Georgia got the lead in this game, all the air went out of Auburn’s sails. It was shocking to watch them completely fall apart and for Georgia – a team described as running out of gas by the Oakland student-athletes being the team to completely wear them down (Auburn) physically and mentally.
Georgia went back to basics tonight and this was a much needed road win. There are a lot of things that can be carried over into the next game against South Carolina at Stegeman Coliseum.
For all of the talk about Auburn’s Freshmen, Jordan Harris really spearheaded the spirit and direction that Georgia needed to go in this game.
It was a game that featured a hyped environment that was truly all-in until they were all-out. The boos were loud. Feel free to answer this question…
Who booed louder? Auburn partisans tonight or South Carolina partisans last season in Columbia? Can you think of a different time you heard louder booing at the end of a well-decided game?