Georgia held a 14-6 lead and then came crashing back to Earth.
The best description of this game was that it was a Looney Tunes cartoon where Wile E. Coyote runs off the cliff and continues running without realizing he was running in the air only to fall when he realizes where he is. That is what Georgia did after holding a 14-6 lead, the composure went away and the team came crashing down into the Canyon. This Georgia team did absolutely nothing right and the only thing Auburn did wrong was give Georgia the chances to show off how woefully uncomposed they are. Georgia looked slow and unwilling to fight while Auburn was fast and extremely active. The Dawgs were just waiting for an official to blow a whistle and Auburn played with non-stop aggression.
Auburn was able to pick their shots and flatten out Georgia’s defense.
Georgia’s defense was compromised frequently in this game. Players were not in defensive stances, Austin Wiley was able to get the ball whenever he wanted, players were out of position, Anthony Edwards was trying to poke the ball out from Auburn drivers rather than stay in front and disrupt passing options, and Bruce Pearl’s Tigers were able to get multiple chances on possessions. It was a terrible display. Frequently, this led to the visual of all five Georgia players on defense flattened out in a row 5 feet from the baseline. It was a terrible effort.
It is not like Auburn is much taller than Georgia. They just have two players who are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than Georgia’s frontcourt. Auburn was playing 4 guards and 1 post for much of the day with either a guard or Danjel Purifoy playing the role of a guard as the 4th guard.
Georgia was not playing disruptive in any way and every stop was tough. Usually, there is a breaking point where a team eventually cannot keep up the effort, but Georgia just threw in the towel in the First Half in the middle of a 29-10 Auburn run. At 26-20, there was still hope, but the game was clearly slipping away and the lack of composure showed on both ends.
Auburn was able to play physical basketball without consequences.
Auburn was playing pressure defense with Austin Wiley camped out in the middle. Auburn’s defensive approach was to keep the Dawgs out of the restricted arc, collapse on anything inside the perimeter, and dare a poor three point shooting team to shoot. Auburn came into the game one of the best teams in the country in blocks rate and while they only had 4 blocks on the day, they were able to intimidate Georgia’s drivers.
When Georgia was fouled, the team missed their Free Throws. They were given opportunities and the team did not cash in. It was a collective failure. Georgia made more Free Throws than Auburn attempted and still lost because the Free Throws were so frequently missed. Missed one-and-one shots at the Free Throw Line and going completely empty at the Free Throw Line were common occurrences.
Aggressive defense and aggressive rebounding effort went unpunished. Georgia’s poor shooting, shot selection, and lack of composure after realizing where they were played a large part in why this team lost.
Auburn forced Georgia to have a 62.85% defensive rebounding rate, which is atrocious. Auburn’s physicality held Georgia to a 52.17% Field Goal percentage in the restricted arc and limited Georgia to 23 attempts there.
The pace of play was slow and every possession mattered more. Auburn was able to attempt 12 more shots than Georgia and the shot quality was much better because Auburn was far better prepared and composed.
For Auburn, the game was in-hand with 12 minutes left to go. Anthony Edwards was held to just 5 points. Then it became all Edwards, all the time on offense. It looked like pressing, but it also looked like a player looking to save face. Sometimes the numbers lie and in this case they really do, except for the Boxscore Plus/Minus.
Edwards did not seem comfortable in the game when the result was still in flux, but when it was out of hand the pressure was off and he was able to shoot better. His shot selection was poor, but he was able to get his points. He had no assists in the Second Half. He went 1 for 8 from the Free Throw Line before calming down because the pressure was off and hit the last three.
Composure, maturity, and the ability to play as a team are the issues that plague this Georgia team. It does seem like there is an obligation to get Anthony Edwards to reach his goal of being the #1 Draft Pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but it comes at the cost of integrating an elite level player into the offense and defense. One player does not make a team and if one player comes before the rest of the team, the whole operation collapses. There are kid gloves and special treatment, but the past two games have been a terrible look for Edwards and Crean.
Bad shot selection, an interrupted team chemistry, lack of development when it comes to shooting, and overall weakness (mentally and physically) are holding this Georgia team back. The environmental factors that played to Georgia’s issues with vanity did not exist and this was thought to be a massive break and it looked that way early in the game. However, Auburn is a team that preys on weakness and once they sensed the weakness, they took full advantage.
Georgia is not playing for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, they are playing for positioning in the SEC Tournament so they can earn their bid. In two months, the hope is that Georgia is a more mature and composed team with better chemistry. Otherwise, next season’s team should be able to make noise in an under-the-radar fashion and repeat history.