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Can Georgia Win a Third Straight Game in Gainesville?

Old Streak Meet New Streak as Georgia looks to win a third straight game at Florida.

Georgia went on a losing streak in Gainesville, Florida that lasted 16 years and it was finally broken on February 14, 2018.  Tom Crean’s 2018-19 Georgia Basketball Team won a 61-55 game at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to create a new two game winning streak for Georgia in the building.  A vulnerable Florida team hosts a possibly more confident Georgia team looking to take a third straight game and change the course of this special rivalry.  The formula for Florida wins of the past with constant pressure and defensive intimidation no longer is applicable.

Let’s Meet the Florida Gators

Florida is coached by Mike White and his style of play should be familiar to those who actually watch College Basketball.  Florida offensively runs a Dribble Hand-Off Motion Offense that features screens coming off dribble hand-offs, dives, rolls, and fades.  Much of the offensive action should take place along the wings to set up what is to come whether it be a drive, a perimeter pass to set up another dribble hand-off, a high post feed, a roll to the basket, and more.  There are options in the Half Court Offense, the problem for Florida is that they lose the plot offensively much like Georgia.  Georgia loses the plot with Hero Ball and trying to impress NBA scouts with needlessly fancy passes.  Florida loses the plot with guards on isos forgetting that they have teammates.  Andrew Nembhard is the only player actually distributing the ball on this team.

Defensively, Florida is a team that should press more, but they do not.  Mike White made his name on aggressively using the 2-2-1 Zone Press at Louisiana Tech to set up fast break points.  At Florida, Mike White’s defensive approach has changed a bit more.  White mixes it up a bit, but it is not an aggressive, fast-paced fashion of playing.  White has moved from pressing and extending to speed things up to slowing things down and giving his half court defense less time to defend cutters and screeners.  Expect to see 2-2-1 Zone Press, 1-3-1 Zone Extended going into 1-3-1 Zone or man-to-man defense, and traditional man-to-man defense with and without switches on ball screens.

This is Mike White’s worst defensive team at Florida and the least disruptive defensive team since his first season at Florida.  It is no coincidence that Florida faces a similar situation to the 2015-16 Gators, this is a bubble team that can ill afford to lose a home game to Georgia.

O’Dome Sweet O’Dome

Florida struggles with the following:

  • Ball movement:  They have a 45.7% Assist Rate this season, but they find a way to play worse for home games.  They have a 43.4% Assist Rate when playing in Gainesville, which is 333rd in the country.
  • Shooting three point shots at Home:  They are 30.8% from three point range in Gainesville.  In other arenas, they are 35.8% from three point range.
  • Scoring inside the perimeter:  When they are at Home, they are remarkably average inside the arc.
  • Getting burned at the Free Throw Line:  Opponents are able to get to the Free Throw Line at a 34% Free Throw Rate and they make 74.5% of their shots.

Florida shines defensively at Home:

  • Ball movement:  Opponents do not have good enough ball movement in Gainesville.  44.3% Assist Rate from opponents compared to 55.1% away from Gainesville.
  • Opponent scoring inside the perimeter:  Opponents have a 44% Field Goal rate inside the perimeter.
  • Shot Blocking:  11.5% of opponent shots are blocked in Gainesville.

Who to Watch for the Florida Gators

The Rowdy Reptiles

There was a time when the Rowdy Reptiles were the toughest student section to contend with in the country, but times have changed.  Attendance to Florida games has slipped over the years and the renovations to Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center actually moved the students further away from the court, which reduces the noise and harassment.

Basketball event student attendance at Florida has followed the same course as Football, which is not a good sign.  Crowds are less intense and the Florida base does not respect Georgia in Basketball, which is a justified response to two decades of willful destruction.  The Rowdy Reptiles as a possible non-factor much like the way The Antlers were in Missouri for the Dawgs is a bad sign if Mike White’s squad does not want to hand a third straight win in Gainesville.

Andrew Nembhard

The only distributor on the team.  No player has an Assist Rate above 11.5% on this Florida team with the exception of Nembhard, who happens to have an excellent 35%.  Nembhard is a dreadful three point shooter who gets his work done inside the perimeter.  He is tough in the mid-range.  He will not draw fouls and his impact is as a distributor, the objective is to deny him the ball as he is the only one who will look to create ball movement.  However, he gets lost offensively himself and that is where teams can get on runs against Florida.

Let Nembhard shoot, if he’s dribbling just entice him to shoot rather than set up a teammate.  His offensive impact will be reduced significantly.  Nembhard does almost everything off the dribble, take away his options.

Florida is 6-4 in games where Nembhard has less than 5 assists.

Nembhard is not a disruptive defender.  He is not very active on the glass and he does not attack passing lanes.

Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Blackshear is the matchup problem that Florida presents to Georgia.  Blackshear is a dominant post player with the ability to stretch the floor even though he is a 31.7% three point shooter.  He is an elite level rebounder who can get himself to the Free Throw Line frequently.

Blackshear is on the level of Reggie Perry and Obi Toppin, which means trouble for a team like Georgia.  The weakness that Blackshear has is fouling.  He can get himself into foul trouble quickly and these are opportunities for opponents to pounce on Florida.  Blackshear is easy to trigger and he gets very emotional, which means that he can be manipulated into getting himself to the bench.  Playing Blackshear with extreme physicality in an offensive possession could rile him up and set up a quick exit.

Play him physically on offense by making him play through screens away from the ball and driving at him. On defense, let him become a jump shooter.

Keyontae Johnson

Johnson is a catch-and-shoot three point shooter who is very efficient when he attempts his three point shots.  Off the dribble-drive, he is not a threat to shoot.  He gets his three point shots from ball movement coming from Andrew Nembhard.  Forcing him to attack from the wings off a dribble drive starting at the wings rather than as a roller cutting to the basket is the best way to keep him from being effective.

He is a strong defensive rebounder and he needs to be boxed out.

Noah Locke

Noah Locke is Tyree Crump if he made his three point shots more frequently.  Locke is not a threat to do anything on the floor other than shoot a three point shot off a catch-and-shoot situation.

Florida is 4-5 in games where Locke scores less than 10 points.  Keep Locke from attempting or making three point shots and a win is much more probable.

Omar Payne

Payne has emerged for the Gators as a shot-blocking stalwart.  Payne is scary on the offensive glass and he helps the team get extra possessions and points.  He is not a shooter, he scores on putbacks and restricted arc attempts.

Payne is foul prone and keeping him off the floor would provide opportunities to score at the rim without worrying about a blocked shot.

What to Expect in this Game

This one falls on how Tom Crean manages Rayshaun Hammonds in this game.  Does Hammonds continue his January/February trend of non-engagement or does he break it?  Hammonds has been a non-factor in the last three games.  The win over Texas A&M was the first game where Georgia won without Hammonds playing a big role in the game.  If Crean is not feeling with Hammonds, he knows he can turn to Mike Peake or Rodney Howard.  Crean really wants to see the emergence of Christian Brown and for Toumani Camara to break the Freshman Wall.

Hammonds’ Game Log in 2019-20

If Hammonds is not mentally into the game, Crean should not feel the pressure to force him to play.  If the team has to be younger in order to win a game, so be it.  Crean and Hammonds’ dynamic will tell a big piece of the story of this game.

Anthony Edwards, if he realizes that he can just drive and draw fouls on Blackshear and Payne while being a distributor throughout, will push Georgia to a victory.  If Edwards can play unselfishly and aggressive, there is no reason why he cannot become the first Georgia player to ever record a triple-double.  Edwards should play with greater maturity and not treat this game like he did against Auburn or Arizona State, the win over Texas A&M should have opened his eyes to what he has been missing all season.

This is game for Toumani Camara to show a bounce back after a poor offensive showing against Texas A&M.  If Camara can play Blackshear or Payne like he did against Josh Nebo and if he can be used disruptively in a zone or zone press, it could be a really good night for the Belgian.

If there was a game for Georgia to “steal”, this one would be it.  Florida’s offensive mojo does not flow very well in Gainesville and Georgia may have figured something out on defense.  Tom Crean gets the job done tonight and a third straight win is earned in an offensively challenged game much like last season.

Prediction:  Georgia 63 Florida 59

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