It was a team effort in a game that defied the narrative of the individuals on the floor.
It was Georgia’s biggest win in nearly 16 years and it does seem like the program’s trajectory is getting higher this time around compared to when Georgia defeated Kentucky at Rupp Arena on January 17, 2004. A team without Joey Waldrop on the roster beat a Top Ten ranked team on the road. Most thought the conventional thinking that Anthony Edwards needed to be a superhero out there, but this was not necessary. Edwards’ best moments were as part of the team dynamic and the team fully bought into it in the Second Half on both ends of the floor. If there was a win to serve notice, wake up a dormant base still thinking about the Sugar Bowl and Football Signing Day, and shut up the critics – this was the game to do it.
Still miss Mark Fox? He’s at California, enjoy watching him lose on Pac-12 Network.
Tom Crean’s inexperienced team is growing up and the defensive intensity returned, which is a very good sign. The transition from tentative losers to aggressive winners under Crean is in motion.
Are we talkin’ bubble, yet?
Not quite. This is a big win and there is the caveat that Memphis was without D.J. Jeffries due to illness, even though he was on the sideline. Let’s all hope he’s not contagious, flu season ravages teams during January and February. Sportsbooks this morning actually were slammed by heavy money on Georgia (85% of the money) and this pushed the line from the open of Georgia +9 all the way down to Georgia +6.5. Jeffries apparently was 2-2.5 points on the line to sportsbooks. This will be factored into Georgia’s at-large consideration.
Georgia has a resume of home wins over SMU and Georgia Tech with a road win over Memphis. Is it enough to warrant at-large consideration in a debased SEC? No. Georgia will actually need to show some form of dominance in the SEC to get an at-large bid, but this is a team that is very capable of winning the SEC Tournament in Atlanta and not having to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. SMU could possibly be considered a quality win while the win over Georgia Tech has de-valued considerably since the victory.
Georgia could be in an 2018-19 Oregon-like situation by the end of the season due to the conference’s weakness and they could end up making the NCAA Tournament and being very productive depending upon match-ups.
Why Georgia won this game.
Defensive Rebounding in the Second Half
Memphis was able to get offensive rebounds in the Second Half only when Georgia went small. Georgia went with a lineup that featured Toumani Camara as the tallest player on the floor and this enabled Precious Achiuwa to be effective on the offensive glass and get second chance points. It was not a massive accomplishment for a 6’10” Power Forward to rebound over a defense where the tallest guy is a 6’8″ and weighs 215 pounds. Achiuwa is supposed to get those rebounds. He was not able to do that the rest of the half.
Georgia had a terrible 60% defensive rebounding rate in the First Half.
Contrast that with a much improved Second Half where the Dawgs had a 70.83% defensive rebounding rate. A 70.83% defensive rebounding rate is still a below-average effort, but it was a significant enough improvement.
Memphis was only able to get 5 second chance points against Georgia in the Second Half and had a total of 12 in the game.
Memphis and Georgia both showed the country that their half-court offenses could become their own worst enemies and they do not necessarily need the opposing defense to do anything particularly special. Memphis supported Georgia in the First Half by committing turnovers and giving Georgia the edge in Field Goals Attempted. Georgia’s turnovers in the First Half were of the dead-ball variety, which forced Memphis to score in non-transition situations. Memphis’ turnovers allowed Georgia in the First Half to be able to score at the rim without having to deal with a set defense.
Memphis’ mistakes allowed for Rayshaun Hammonds to get off to a good start attacking at the basket and it set up Georgia’s fast breaks. Hammonds was able to be productive for much of the First Half, which was a very good sign Tom Crean’s Dawgs as it bought time for Sahvir Wheeler, Toumani Camara, Donnell Gresham, and Anthony Edwards to get involved.
Who Choked Who’s Pace?
The runs in this game were frequent and it was clear that the team that was able to get into secondary break while forcing the opponent into half-court offense was going to win the game. Both teams tried to choke each other’s pace and ultimately Georgia won out because of the challenged shots, disrupted passing lanes, and tougher driving lanes.
Georgia needed to get out and run more than Memphis did because it prevented them from doing the following:
- Playing Hero Ball
- Taking mid-range shots
- Not going head-on into Memphis’ defensive strength.
Georgia was not getting to the Free Throw Line much, but the team was at it’s best when the options were attack or kick out. It created better passes and set up rhythm three point shots.
In the First Half, Georgia’s forced mid-range jump shots early in the shot clock was counteracted by Memphis’ turnovers. Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds were trying far too hard out there and the shots were not being made. Do they practice some of those tough shots? Likely not. Edwards was 26.5% from the mid-range and Hammonds was 30.5% going into the game, this is exactly what opponents want to see.
In the Second Half, Georgia was taking better shots and the ball movement was much better. The Secondary Break is what spurred this on and it is a part of Georgia’s DNA to get the defensive rebound and push.
Georgia only made one mid-range shot all game, which was actually a well set-up Free Throw Line jumper by Sahvir Wheeler. Everything else was missed.
Jump shots without assists were missed, this is the college game, this is to be expected. However, players fall for the illusion that they can create and make their own shot consistently with very limited practice time.
In the First Half, this was the Shot Chart.
Georgia only made shots in the restricted arc and from three point range, the rest were just bad shot attempts on absolutely no ball movement whatsoever.
This is the Second Half Shot Chart
In the Second Half, Georgia took better shots and also committed more turnovers. However, the team only attempted FIVE mid-range jump shots. It was a slower paced half, but it was also a better offensive half.
Memphis’ Shot Quality in the First Half was far better than Georgia’s, but the turnovers in the First Half kept Georgia in the game.
Notice, they took only 3 mid-range shots and missed them all. Georgia’s defense was forcing turnovers and Memphis’ offense played a factor in the turnovers as well, but Georgia was not forcing Memphis to take bad shots.
In the Second Half, Memphis was taking bad mid-range shots and Georgia was generally contesting the three point attempts.
What a massive difference. A lot of the offense Memphis was able to generate in the First Half was as a result of Georgia’s bad shots early in the shot clock. Both teams were not doing anything particularly well in the Half Court and it was a game of which team can force the other team to beat themselves. Georgia did that and it was a role reversal for Georgia as they held Memphis to 4/11 shooting in the restricted arc and made Memphis attempt 11 mid-range jump shots.
Georgia’s active hands, denials, and Memphis’ struggles with committing turnovers themselves led to a Second Half where they were attempting out of rhythm three point shots. Georgia denying Memphis extra shot attempts in the Second Half and getting out into Secondary Break from their defense allowed Georgia to assert themselves.
Georgia’s Ball Movement played a huge role in why Georgia was 10/22 from three point range. This was not an accident, Georgia does not go 10/22 from long distance and 1/15 from the mid-range for no reason. How many passes were made? Were the shots attempted off passes? Were the shots contested?
Georgia went into Halftime tied with Memphis in a game where if they simply made better offensive decisions and stopped thinking about who was in the crowd, they could have been up 10. Approaching the Half Court like it is Secondary Break and making smarter passes (not just to who, but the type of pass delivered) will make this offense much more efficient.
Memphis only had 10 Assists in this game and Georgia’s ability to choke out Memphis’ inclinations to run played a huge role. Georgia’s active hands did not allow Alex Lomax to have a bigger offensive impact, even though Lomax was excellent in his defensive effort against Anthony Edwards.
Georgia is learning how to play a game on their own terms. Letting their strengths dictate the game rather than their weaknesses. Today’s game and the effort in the Austin Peay game are two clear examples of how the team can take control.
The next steps are very clear:
- Removing the Hero Ball elements of the game altogether.
- Consistency on the defensive glass.
- More pressure in full court as an aid to force lower percentage shots and turnovers.
- Better passing decisions (bounce vs. chest, distance considerations, attack vs kick)
This was a big win for Georgia as the team has momentum going into a big opening night against Kentucky at Stegeman Coliseum. We’re going to learn how this team handles success. Possibly the best way to humble the team so that growth is shown is to show the terrible mid-range hero ball shots attempted in the First Half and contrast with the well-constructed higher probability shots that came off strong ball movement, movement without the ball, and the use of the dribble-drive.