Anthony Edwards went from Ant Man to Superman to bring Georgia back from a 28 point deficit against Michigan State.
Anthony Edwards had 64 minutes of pitiful basketball in Maui and so did this entire Georgia team, but Edwards and the Dawgs put in 16 minutes of inspired effort against Michigan State and came up short. Outscoring Michigan State in 16 minutes by 29 would seem to be an unthinkable effort, but Georgia almost did it. In fact, Georgia could have done it, but Tom Crean made a massive mistake after the final media timeout. Before getting into this, Georgia had a first 24 minutes that was a disgusting and embarrassing display. So much happened for an outcome that is going to lead to a no-win game against Chaminade and no scalps to bring back to Athens. However, there may have been a learning experience out of this 16 minute spree that will carry over as the calendar turns to December.
The First Half was a continuation of the awfulness from the Dayton game.
Georgia played strictly man-to-man defense in the First Half and the team even got out to a 9-5 lead at one point with an opportunity to build out the lead, but an offensive foul by Rayshaun Hammonds and a quick shot from Tyree Crump sparked Michigan State’s 34-9 run. It was five players on the floor who were not confident in what they were doing and played like chickens with their heads cut off. Everything a team should not do on the floor, this team was doing and it felt like the Cayman Islands all over again.
- Hero Ball: Anthony Edwards and Tyree Crump were just shooting it out there without any sort of a rhythm.
- Nobody was challenging shots and the Michigan State Offense did not need to do much to get a wide open three point shot attempt.
- Everyone’s hands were down on defense, nobody was looking to force deflections or deny passes.
- Inability to secure rebounds and passes.
- Amanze Ngumezi had his extremely athletic blocked shot and then decided to pack it in defensively.
- Rayshaun Hammonds was committing offensive fouls.
- Cuts were not sudden and the offense looked like they were going through the motions.
- Playing like nobody had read a scouting report on Michigan State.
It was a game that was going to look like the loss to Georgia State or Tennessee last season. This is a much more talented team than this and the effort required to win was not there in this half.
Georgia did not set up shooters off assists in this half. The shots were taken on passes that clearly were not practiced shots and the dribble-drives were widened taking away drivers from the basket. Screens were non-existent outside of the ones that resulted in offensive fouls.
Georgia’s man-to-man defense was not and has not been good enough during Tom Crean’s run at Georgia, defenses have too easy of a time attacking off the dribble and setting up wide open three point shots. Georgia’s defensive approach has not utilized the team’s length, aggression, and athleticism well enough and likely will not.
Tom Crean came in wanting to press, play positionless basketball, get deflections, and hired Joe Scott to help with installing a 1-2-2 Matchup Zone. When was this style of play going to fully come for Georgia? It is easier to explain the failures of last season’s team that could not buy into what Crean was doing, but Crean’s rhetoric seemed empty. When was this aggressive defense going to come and when will they put in the same sort of competent performance on a regular basis? Even if it is against cupcakes, there must be some way to deliver upon these promises.
The frustration of the Crean era is that opponents could simply just key in on one player rather than a specific style of play and a team effort that would make opponents fearful.
At the half, Georgia lost the X-Factor points by 18.
- Michigan State outscored Georgia on second chance points 9-4.
- Michigan State outscored Georgia at the Free Throw Line 9-8.
- Michigan State outscored Georgia on points off turnovers 12-0.
This is not winning basketball and neither is going 3/13 from 3 point range. Bad shot selection, no rhythm, no confidence, and a broken defense.
The Last 16 Minutes of the Game
What made the second half different was the change to a 2-3 Zone to deny Michigan State shots at the rim and turn the Spartans into a three point shooting team. Michigan State promptly turned the ball over, attempted bad shots, and Georgia was able to run up and down the floor just like they are accustomed. Maui began to feel like Stegeman Coliseum as the comfort level with the style of play grew.
Tom Crean yanked Amanze Ngumezi and Rayshaun Hammonds off the floor in favor of Toumani Camara and Rodney Howard. Howard gained more confidence as the game went on and was more at home in the 2-3 Zone. Hammonds was hobbled by the slick floor at the Lahaina Civic Center that was not being well-attended for wet spots. However, Georgia needed Hammonds later in the game and he was able to deliver to take the load off Edwards.
Edwards struggled as a traditional Point Guard and was shifted to a Shooting Guard role with Sahvir Wheeler at the Point Guard spot. Edwards was able to get into a rhythm naturally as opposed to forcing up shots and eventually he got rolling on both ends of the floor. Edwards was getting steals, hitting three point shots that college players do not make, and blocking shots. Edwards was feeling it and the defensive shift and how he was eased back into the game was the catalyst.
Everything that UGA did wrong to lead to the 28 point lead, the team was starting to do right and the team resembled what everyone had seen during the first four games.
Edwards and the 2-3 Zone energized this Georgia team and the team was able to cut the lead to 2. Georgia had outscored Michigan State by 26 in less than 12 minutes. Edwards’ effort was incredible, but he needed more help if he was going to finish the job. Edwards is typically the closer for this Georgia Basketball Team, but he needed more help and Tom Crean let him and his teammates down.
The last 3:28
Edwards took a very contested three point shot on the wing coming out of a media timeout and while one can say he was red hot, he should be shooting the ball, the shot was taken with 9 seconds of taking up the floor while down 4. No offensive movement was there at all and with Xavier Tillman in foul trouble, it would have been a good idea to attack the basket rather than go for the big shot. Edwards missed the cold, rhythmless shot and Michigan State promptly faced a Georgia man-to-man defense, which means one thing wide-open three point shots for the Spartans.
Tom Crean’s decision to abandon the 2-3 Zone that was working so well against Michigan State let Tom Izzo’s squad put them away. Georgia did not run out of gas, Crean made a bad decision. This was the type of stuff that Crean’s predecessor did at Georgia to lose games. Cassius Winston was able to shoot threes and attack the lane because of Crean’s strategic mistake and put away a Georgia Bulldogs team that was on the precipice of a major comeback victory. All Georgia had to do was stay the course, Izzo made no adjustments, Crean handed the game over.
Georgia fought to the very end, which is great, but this loss will hurt far more than the Dayton loss. This is the type of loss that will leave everyone wondering, “Why?”
Tom Crean pulled a Mike Bobo, he got too cute and wanted to win playing a specific way rather than what was working. Georgia’s 2-2-1 Zone Press and 2-3 Zone were working. Georgia pushing the ball in secondary break and Edwards finding his teammates for layups, dunks, and open threes when he was not setting the game on fire was working.
It is not about the talent on the roster, it is about determining this team’s identity. It should have been obvious that this Georgia team is not a jump shooting team, this is a team that wins with physicality, speed, and depth. Georgia’s defense feeds off the offense and seeing the ball going in the basket gets this team going.
What this means going forward?
Will Crean make the proper defensive adjustments? Is this team going to be more aggressive to force engagement because anything less means inactive hands and feet with a very slow, reactive approach. If we wanted passive basketball, we could have kept Mark Fox. Now it is time for Crean to realize what makes this team tick.
The difference between this Maui Invitational and last season’s Cayman Islands Classic is that Georgia only put in one half of good effort against Illinois State and then packed it in for 100 minutes. Georgia gained nothing on the resume from the Cayman Islands and the same will hold true in Maui. However, the team did not pack it in like they did against Clemson or Georgia State this time around. Georgia fought back because Crean adjusted and Anthony Edwards was able to get into a rhythm. There were no lessons in the Cayman Islands, but maybe there are key lessons this time around so that when Georgia goes to Tempe to take on Arizona State, Georgia can get a revenge win on the Sun Devils.
It was not a winning rebounding effort for Georgia, but the steals rate and turnover rate due to the second half effort helped a lot. Anthony Edwards deserved to walk away a winner today, but he did not.
The hope is that this is a wake-up call for the staff. They spent all this time developing a zone defense and attacking mentality on both ends, it’s time to make it happen.