The modernly rare occasion of a “Just Like Football” chant in Florida’s direction was heard tonight in Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia needed a win desperately over the #23 ranked Florida Gators and defied the odds. Mark Fox ended the Mike White’s undefeated streak against him and prevents the dreaded third straight conference loss that has doomed previous teams. It was an unusual game for several reasons, but it is just one win after a terrible stretch. There’s much more to be done for any sort of a tournament run, but let’s run through what transpired.
Size and Length Ruled the Day
Nicolas Claxton, Rayshaun Hammonds and Yante Maten all made it very difficult for the Florida posts to gain any sort of traction in this game. Nicolas Claxton deserves the most credit as he was a force who kept the Florida’s guards from attacking the basket. Claxton’s shot blocking and closeouts on rebounds made a huge difference. Claxton’s ability to extend possessions is usually very useful, but it is becoming much more necessary to get second chance opportunities as turnovers forced are just not a feature of the Georgia Defense.
In the First Half, Rayshaun Hammonds was also very important as far as his role in closing out possessions. When defended by Hammonds or Wilridge, Egor Koulechov was shut down. Koulechov strangely had his most success against Yante Maten.
Keith Stone, Gorjok Gak and Keith Stone combined for 14 points. The Florida Frontcourt just could not get it done. Florida became a three point shooting happy team and it seemed at times that they would be able to just shoot their way out of Stegeman Coliseum, but they could not and they ended up resembling Ole Miss on their visit to Athens.
Win the Glass and Avoid Turnovers
The game started like it was to be expected, Florida forced a Georgia live-ball turnover and converted it for their first points of the night. Florida got the turnover by pressuring a pass on the perimeter during a robotic sequence, but it was the last steal they would actually get.
Georgia was able to win the extra points battle with Florida in this game (Points off Turnovers + Second Chance Points) by 1. What goes unrealized is that because of Georgia’s size and length, Florida could not attack like they typically would and Georgia held the Free Throw shooting edge in this game.
Georgia limited Florida’s transition opportunities off missed shots because of the offensive rebounding effort. Winning the offensive glass 39.47% of the time is a big deal and it resulted in longer possessions for the Dawgs. Playing keep away with the Gators was important, letting Mike White’s crew get into their fast-paced rhythm would have given them more confidence.
How did Georgia only let Florida get ONE steal?
Mike White rarely pressed.
White pressed in the last 108 seconds, once prior in the Second Half and not at all in the First Half. The lack of energy from Florida and the inability to sustain runs came from the decision not to press. Mike White’s team was the team that went on the scoring droughts, they played the game on Georgia’s terms. Even when Florida got out to a 6 point lead with 11:20 left in the First Half, they did not do what Florida teams typically do against Georgia. Once Florida gets out in front, they keep pressing until Georgia has nothing left in the tank and runs them out of the building. However, this Florida team volleyed a 5 point lead back with Georgia.
The press is part of Florida’s identity and not playing aggressively on defense cost them dearly. Mike White let his team be dominated by a bigger, stronger Georgia Basketball team.
Broken Sets and New Sets
Some what seemed to be newer sets were unveiled in the First Half. These newer sets were not really used much in the Second Half, but it was encouraging. However, what was more encouraging was that there was better shot selection. Relatively better.
Sets were broken for the purpose of taking a better shot closer to the rim. There were more threes attempted tonight, but there were more of them taken in rhythm compared to past games. The best break of a set was done by Jordan Harris who used his opportunity with the ball to drive straight to the rim for an easy two points.
However, there is clearly more work to be done. The sets should be a basic starting point and they should allow the freedom to broken and allow for a read-and-react element.
It’s a Much Needed Win
Georgia goes to Starkville and then Nashville afterward. Bring your thermometers to Memorial Gym. These next two games will not help Georgia’s consideration for the NCAA Tournament, but they could be losses that hurt it.
Was tonight’s game an aberration and the prior six games a more accurate depiction of this Georgia Basketball Team OR is this the beginning of one of those classic February hot streaks that are often talked about when bettors across the country go through the Bracket Science when trying to win their office bracket pool?
There are arguments to be made either way after this performance. However, one thing is clear: UGA alum Marcus Thornton can sport a turtleneck much better than Danny Kanell ever could. Or was it a zip-up fleece? Either way, he pulls off the look better than Kanell.