A home team will usually not boo when they are winning the game.
In the first 12 minutes, the lower bowl was not filled on this sell-out evening, but it was conveniently filled afterward. It should be noted that the seats that were vacant are usually occupied by Kentucky fans when the Wildcats are in Athens, which shows the level of commitment of the individuals buying these seats. The boo-birds were not there and the crowd was subdued until the end, but it was never clear whether Auburn was going to find a way out of their funk until the handshakes. Auburn was without Isaac Okoro due to injury in this game and his status changed from probable to questionable to not starting to not even playing in this contest. Without Okoro, the heart of the team was ripped out as this is not an Auburn team that is capable of handling such a loss, it is not like last season’s team that was able to withstand the loss of Chuma Okeke in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Georgia won another game this season over a Top 15 opponent where a key player on the opposing side was out due to injury.
Both teams were looking to slow each other down, but Georgia was the more disruptive team.
Roles flipped in many ways from the game in Auburn Arena. For those who forgot that game: Auburn was forcing turnovers, dominating the interior, and getting open opportunities while Georgia was turning it over, passive, showcased terrible shot selection, and could not finish at the rim. However, tonight’s game was a complete turnaround where Georgia was able to get to the Free Throw Line frequently and make the shots, Georgia was forcing Auburn to turn the ball, Auburn was missing layups galore, and Georgia showed better ball movement. Georgia’s disruptiveness was the difference in this game and it allowed the team to get into transition, which is not what any opposing coach wants to see.
When Tom Crean can get his teams to buy into trying to force turnovers on every defensive possession, the teams usually respond well. Crean could not stay in a passive man-to-man defense and he was frequently switching defenses to throw off Samir Doughty and render J’Von McCormick into being a jump shooter. It was effective. This is the first game where the 2-3 Matchup Zone actually worked throughout the entire game. The effectiveness of the 2-3 Matchup Zone combined with the lost nature of the Auburn team without Isaac Okoro created confusion, bad shots, and turnovers.
Countering Austin Wiley was the main challenge for Tom Crean and if there is anything he may have noticed in the past few weeks, Toumani Camara is very effective in the post when he is full fronting and Wiley is not a player who has the best vertical leap. Camara’s length and the forced lob entries into Wiley gave Georgia the opportunity to force turnovers and get into the secondary break. Auburn could not get into their press and their defensive bite was taken away due to Georgia’s extreme aggression. There is a benefit to having a bunch of long, athletic players and Auburn does not have that.
Georgia had the same amount of turnovers as Auburn, but the vast majority of Georgia’s turnovers were unforced. Auburn’s turnovers were forced by Georgia with the exception of Austin Wiley’s unusual pass to the baseline on an offensive rebound with 13 seconds left in the game. The number of deflections were certainly higher for Georgia even though the steals count was higher for Auburn. Many of the steals for Auburn were poor dribbling attempts by Anthony Edwards who had a whopping 7 turnovers.
Georgia also had 7 blocked shots, which is something this team had struggled to do this season given the lack of size. However, this was a team that using athleticism and length to neutralize Auburn’s brute strength.
Auburn only had one blocked shot, which is astounding to consider because Georgia has struggled with getting shots blocked themselves, but the team found a way to be more physical, disruptive, and annoying than Auburn. Auburn looked lethargic and Georgia did not shoot well, but made up for it with great energy.
Freshmen Step Up
Christian Brown did not get the nod today despite having a strong game in College Station. Crean leaned on Mike Peake, Anthony Edwards, Sahvir Wheeler, and Toumani Camara to bring the energy. The decision making was much improved, which played a role in Georgia’s victory. Toumani Camara’s confidence played a major role in burying the Tigers.
Sahvir Wheeler showed more situational awareness on offense, how?
- Rather than haphazardly driving into the lane, he was driving when there were options or openings.
- He looked to set up ball rotation for higher quality shots.
- He recognized that time was his friend late in the game and took his time to set up an opportunity at the Free Throw Line against a defensively tilted opponent.
Mike Peake fought on the defensive glass and was a secondary help defender.
Tom Crean needed Mike Peake to step up and play the role of Anfernee McLemore for him. Peake delivered by outperforming McLemore. Peake was blocking shots and fighting for tough defensive rebounds. Peake did not have to do more than that.
Peake probably should work on taking corner three point shots, but that is not his best shot location anyway. He is a better three point shooter from the top of the key and wing.
Toumani Camara played arguably his best game as a Georgia Bulldog today.
The last time Camara faced Auburn, he had 5 points, struggled at the rim, was not as defensively disruptive as he should have, and fouled out. Camara looked weak.
Tonight against Auburn, Camara had 5 offensive rebounds, 3 steals, and a block. This is effort and confidence coming together. He was also able to get himself to the Free Throw Line frequently and he handled the Hack-A-Toumani approach late in the game very well. He went 10/12 from the Free Throw Line and played without fear on the offensive end.
Anthony Edwards shined as a distributor, defender, and rebounder.
Edwards’ unforced errors driving to the basket were harmful, but Edwards was able to find his way to the basket when situations broke down. Edwards once again showed he can rebound on the defensive end and he is capable of making spectacular defensive plays when inspired to do so.
What Happens Next?
Georgia visits Vanderbilt in an opportunity to build upon this monumental upset. This is a big confidence booster and there are opportunities for Tom Crean to point to things that the team was doing tonight that they were not doing against Texas A&M and South Carolina. This team can be even more disruptive on the defensive end and it is obvious that this team needs some sort of a catalyst to push them in the right direction. The catalyst can be as simple as changing the mindset, this team needs novelty and the green light to go for the steals and blocks.
There is nothing conventional about this Georgia Basketball Team and this was not a conventional path to victory. Can this team continue playing like this? Are we in store for more tweaks?
Game Rating: 3 1/2 stars