Georgia has blown two 20+ point leads in the Second Half on the road this season.
The upshot is that Georgia in their last two road games was able to lead in the Second Half by 20 or more. The downside is that Georgia could not hold onto the lead and this time it had nothing to do with the opposing coach’s strategy at all. It is about effort, energy, and willingness to play disciplined. This game did boil down to what was presented in the preview, it was about Tom Crean and how he handled Rayshaun Hammonds. It is a team failure, but one player was clearly not putting in the effort necessary to win on the defensive end. Crean sticking with Hammonds and Florida targeting Hammonds and Crump brought this game into a death spiral for Georgia.
Georgia’s First 23 Minutes
It was Georgia Basketball as desired from this team, there was a defensive effort and the offense was rather fluid in terms of ball movement and aggression. Tom Crean used his depth in the First Half and it was effective because the big difference was that Crean made a substitution that ended up being very fortunate.
At the 8:30 and 8:07 mark, Tom Crean made substitutions. Mike White only made a substitution to put Noah Locke back in the game at the 8:30 mark. The game would be played without a stop for 7 1/2 minutes, Florida was gassed while Georgia was still engaged mentally and physically.
At the 8:07 mark, Georgia was up 25-18. At the end of this Half, it was a 41-26 lead. Georgia was able to take this stretch by 8 points.
What Georgia was doing right
- Using depth: Florida is a shallow team in terms of depth.
- Going under ball screens against everyone not named Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson.
- Forcing Andrew Nembhard to be a ballhog.
- Attacking the passing lanes.
- Denying post entry and forcing turnovers on these attempts.
- Attacking the basket.
- Secondary Break Offense was frequent.
Georgia continued with this good play up until 16:43 mark in the Second Half where Georgia was able to get a 52-30 lead and it seemed like this game was going to be locked up.
The Collapse and the 32 point Swing
The surest sign that Georgia was in trouble was the defensive effort from Rayshaun Hammonds compromising everything in the Georgia man-to-man defense. Hammonds started the game in a lackadaisical fog and his lack of hustle, physicality, and shot selection allowed Florida to get to a 10-4 lead to start the game.
It Needs to Be Said
Rayshaun Hammonds is a very talented Basketball Player. Based on off-the-record sources, he has been going through issues during the past 13 months both on-the-court and off-the-court. It is not something to chastise. This does seem like it is bigger than Basketball based on reports. It is not a coincidence that he is slumping at the same time of the year and he is mentally disengaged. We want to pull for Hammonds to succeed, but if there are issues, it is important that the coaching staff not chalk it up to being something that is merely a Basketball-related matter. Tom Crean may be putting Hammonds into a situation that he should not be exposed to at this time.
Veterans Let the Team Down and Crean seems like he is in denial of a problem.
It’s never a good thing to blame a player for a loss (Crump also deserves blame), this does fall on Tom Crean for playing someone who was not mentally into the game. Crean is possibly in massive denial of a problem that is going on behind-the-scenes and it roared its ugly head tonight in the Second Half. Whereas the other Georgia defenders were playing sound defense, Hammonds was blowing assignments and completely disregarding the scouting report. Hammonds was defending Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson at times in the game. Both Locke and Johnson are excellent three point shooters and they do it off assists, but Hammonds played well off them as if he was anticipating them to drive for some reason.
After the 16:14 mark in this game, the wheels fell off. Hammonds was blowing assignments on drivers and shooters that his teammates were keenly aware. Crean would not pull Hammonds out of the game, to make matters worse, Crean inserted Tyree Crump. This was the equivalent of tossing propane on a grease fire. Crump was also disengaged as he was not getting his quota of three point shot attempts. Florida was shooting unchallenged shots and Georgia defenders were late on Florida drives to the basket.
It is easy to play 5-on-4 Basketball, even easier to play 5-on-3. Man-to-Man Defense is a team defense, one cog can take the whole operation down.
First Half Minutes Show that Crean was playing Deep
Second Half Minutes Show that Crean had conversation with people stuck in the past.
It is no wonder why Georgia lost this game. Crean did not realize why Georgia was winning the game.
To make up for the defensive lapses, there were forced plays. After all, a blown defensive assignment needs to be offset by a basket. The ball movement was non-existent and the shot selection worsened considerably.
This Loss Doesn’t Fall on Youth
This loss falls on the veterans and mostly Tom Crean. The holdovers from the Mark Fox era enabled this collapse to happen and Tom Crean enabled it. Georgia was on their way to a third straight win in Gainesville and instead Georgia has back-to-back road games where they blow a 20+ point lead. The Freshmen were showing that they could emerge and Crean ripped the victory from them. The Freshmen were putting in a great deal of effort on both ends of the floor and the veterans took it away from them.
Let the kids play. Crean recruited a large Freshman Class that is mostly overlooked because of Anthony Edwards, but these are incredibly talented players who are buying in to what Crean is trying to accomplish. Christian Brown and Sahvir Wheeler had impressive nights, but they were dashed. Mike Peake was playing hard in the paint and tried to show his versatility, but he lost out due to his inexperience.
A win over Florida with the first-year players pushing the team to victory would have been a monumental shift for the season. There would be optimism galore and a fresher, more confident team going forward. Instead, Tom Crean pulled a Mark Fox and stuck with guys who were not as interested in winning this game. Crean favored veterans in this game and it burned him, the kids are ready and even Donnell Gresham Jr. was ready to let them to take the wheel.
How can you rely on veteran leadership when there is none? It is like trying to get good Eastern North Carolina barbecue in New York City.
Three holdovers from the Fox era remain. One seems to be in it for himself, another has not really been integrated into this team, and the other does not even want to be there and it seems like nobody is helping him.
Tom Crean needs to address this now.