Two stories in this game stand out: Anthony Edwards’ aggressive approach and the defense rendering Texas A&M into a jump shooting team.
Texas A&M needed Josh Nebo to be an impact player and much credit belongs to Toumani Camara, Mike Peake, and Rodney Howard for not letting him control the game like the way Reggie Perry, Nick Richards, Austin Wiley, and Obi Toppin have this season. Taking Nebo out of the offense and defensively daring Texas A&M to shoot were the keys to eventually jump-starting the Georgia Offense through secondary break and getting Anthony Edwards into a comfortable place offensively.
How Anthony Edwards was able to find his comfort zone in this game.
Defensive rebounding. It started on the defensive glass for Edwards and he was absolutely necessary there as Texas A&M started this game getting second chance opportunities galore. This is not hyperbole.
In the First Half, Texas A&M had a 39.13% Offensive Rebounding rate, they were only able to get 5 second chance point out of it. Texas A&M was extending possessions and the only player stopping the possessions prior to the defensive shift to 1-2-2 Matchup Zone and 1-2-2 Extended Zone was Anthony Edwards. Edwards found his mojo from defense and with both teams struggling to score, it gave Edwards and the Dawgs the opportunity to find a rhythm.
Edwards was able to set up secondary break opportunities, attack the rim, and find some sort of a shooting rhythm. Edwards was not shooting the lights out in Stegeman Coliseum, but he was able to make shots and let it create a feedback loop back to the defensive end.
His shot selection could have certainly been better and he missed open cutters at times along the perimeter, which are opportunities for improvement. However, focusing on his scoring output would do a great disservice to telling the story of his afternoon.
29 points may catch attention, but his 13 defensive rebounds gave this Georgia team the ability to turn jump shots into secondary break opportunities. Texas A&M was choking the pace and Edwards was able to break that chokehold in the Second Half. Edwards’ energy on the glass and defense was contagious and the defensive energy became Texas A&M’s offensive Novel Coronavirus. It enabled Georgia to be able to lock down Josh Nebo and Savion Flagg like they were Wuhan.
It was clear in the Second Half that Texas A&M’s spirit was broken by the time Buzz Williams called his final timeout with 13:27 left in the game. Williams blew through three timeouts in 6 minutes and 33 seconds.
Remember how Texas A&M had a 39.13% Offensive Rebounding rate in the First Half? In the Second Half, Georgia held them to 18.75% in the Second Half.
Texas A&M’s Shot Selection and the Georgia Frontcourt Stepped Up
Neutralizing Josh Nebo on Offense and Defense
At the 18:38 mark in the First Half, Josh Nebo blocked a Jordan Harris dunk attempt on a Harris cut to the basket. After this point, he did not block a single shot. Nebo was able to impact the game early, but after 12 minutes, his influence completely dissipated. Nebo was not involved in the offense and was a non-factor defensively.
How did this happen?
Tom Crean did several things to keep Nebo from making an impact and it was up to the players to execute. If Texas A&M was making shots and Georgia was struggling offensively, the effort would not have been there. However, since Texas A&M was also in a funk, it allowed Georgia to stay in the fight against a dreadful shooting team.
- Full fronting on Nebo. The objective was fully deny Nebo. Camara, Peake, Howard, and Hammonds were not letting any post entry feeds happen unless they were going to be lobs over their outstretched arms.
- Not switching on screens. Switching on screens would have given Nebo offensive positioning. Texas A&M’s shooting struggles played into Georgia going under on screens daring Texas A&M to shoot jump shots.
- 1-2-2 Matchup Zone. Nebo is not a player capable of making plays on the High Post. Putting Nebo into an offensive position where he is uncomfortable and passive put the game into the hands of guards who are too jump shot happy.
- Crashing the glass and pushing. The commitment to crash the glass and push in the Second Half neutralized Nebo and gave Georgia the opportunity to score. Secondary break opportunities looked like hockey power plays for the Dawgs.
Much like Cuonzo Martin, Tom Crean Made a Gambit
Tom Crean wanted Texas A&M to shoot jump shots. Crean was willing to risk losing the game on Texas A&M making three point shots. Texas A&M is an awful shooting team that is capable of getting to the Free Throw Line. The objective was very simple for Crean. Force the action to the perimeter and not let Texas A&M get to the rim. Avoid fouling and let them shoot. Texas A&M takes a lot of three point shots for a team that is terrible at doing so.
Texas A&M’s struggles fed into Georgia’s confidence and for once, the defense fueled the offense. Texas A&M went 11/20 from within the restricted arc.
Tom Crean was betting that Texas A&M would shoot this poorly and he was able to get his team to win.
Texas A&M withering shot confidence and inability to get the ball into Nebo or Aku in the low post eventually led to turnovers. Georgia saw blood in the water and seized the opportunity.
Crean did not play impressively deep, but used the team’s depth for matchup purposes.
Christian Brown, Tyree Crump, and Rodney Howard took a back seat to Tye Fagan and Mike Peake today. The matchup dictated that Peake receive more minutes and Crean was rewarded with a strong defensive performance. Harris also played more minutes today and the defensive performance was strong as well.
This game was an example of why fixed rotations do not work and minutes should never be allocated on a quota basis. Matchups should always dictate minutes and strategic approach. Georgia’s execution and strategy were superior to Texas A&M.