Georgia played another foul-marred mess and this time the game counted.
What is the difference between a team like Georgia and a team like Western Carolina, depth. Western Carolina did not have enough players to overcome post/human bowling ball Carlos Dotson’s foul trouble. Dotson, who is a less versatile version of former Auburn Tiger, Cinmeon Bowers, dominated the paint and drew fouls on the Georgia frontcourt seemingly taking the teeth out of the Georgia defense. Georgia’s foul trouble and inability to get into an offensive rhythm kept Western Carolina even or in front of the heavily favored Bulldogs for much of the game. Georgia’s depth combined with a strong backcourt effort bought the team time to knock Dotson out of the game.
Edwards and Wheeler changed the game’s trajectory
Anthony Edwards struggled in the beginning of the game and he continued to have issues with committing offensive and defensive fouls along with turning the ball over. Edwards played through the struggles to find his own offensive rhythm and properly gauge his teammates. Great players on great teams make the necessary plays to push their teams over the top rather than carry their team unwillingly. In the first half, it did seem like the latter. However, in the last ten minutes, Edwards was making the plays that were needed. Edwards has shown a knack in the last two games for coming on strong at the end of the games, but he has a lot of help and Tom Crean deserves credit for using his bench liberally to wear opponents down.
Sahvir Wheeler’s aggression, acceleration, and speed surprised Western Carolina. Wheeler caught the Catamounts’ defense when they were asleep and he would blow by with layups. Wheeler has shown an extremely unselfish streak, but much like his counterpart, Western Carolina’s Mason Faulkner, he was far more selfish tonight. Wheeler’s contributions were needed on a night where the frontcourt could not escape the whistles on either end of the floor. He found his way to the Free Throw Line with his aggression and provided the few highlights for the Dawgs at the charity stripe.
A Story of Fouls
Foul trouble, fouls drawn, and missed Free Throws were a huge part of the night. Nights like tonight are why Georgia has to play with a deeper bench and why those stuck in the Harrick era need to recognize that the era is different and this team is just radically different. The foul trouble took a lot of the aggression that would have been used to force turnovers and grab defensive rebounds away. Georgia’s style of play combined with depth that afforded the team to not have to get away from their attacking offense whether it be off turnovers or in the secondary break was enough to inflict foul trouble on a more vulnerable opponent.
Georgia was reliant upon Freshman Power Forward/Center Rodney Howard to provide an interior presence against Carlos Dotson. Howard may be physically there, but he is still raw and he was taken to school by Carlos Dotson. Howard struggled with handling passes for restricted arc layups and securing rebounds. Western Carolina forced Tom Crean’s hand to give the more featured time to Howard. Howard went 0/4 from the Free Throw Line and the aggressive Christian Brown found himself a victim of both the foul bugaboo and an inability to hit his Free Throws.
Georgia did a much better job in the second half earning contact with Western Carolina. Western Carolina was able to get into the bonus early in both halves and Tom Crean curiously did not try the same exact defensive strategy that took Georgia out of their funk in the first half.
2-2-1 Zone Press: We can do it too.
The newest wrinkle in the Georgia Defense is a 2-2-1 Zone Press and in the first half, it helped get Georgia back into a rhythm when shots were not falling and the Western Carolina Offense was in control with Carlos Dotson barging his way through the Georgia Frontcourt. Georgia forced turnovers and annoyed the Western Carolina Defense. Georgia did something else while going 2-2-1 Zone, they switched to 1-2-2 Matchup Zone and forced turnovers.
In the second half, Georgia’s 2-2-1 Zone Press was paired with a man-to-man defense. Georgia would make an aggressive rally only to lose it after a well-timed timeout.
Major Takeaways and Notes
- Georgia’s depth was challenged by the suspension of Senior Shooting Guard Jordan Harris. He will not be available until the December 20th game against SMU. Expect to see more minutes for Tye Fagan and Tom Crean will need to consider giving Jaykwon Walton minutes if further depth issues arise. It is widely believed that this is Jordan Harris’ second violation of UGA Athletics Drug Policy.
- Georgia’s foul trouble gave Western Carolina second chance opportunities in the second half and a 66.67% defensive rebounding rate is not good. In the first half, Georgia put themselves into deeper foul trouble by playing frontcourt players who were already in foul trouble, but the team was able to enjoy a dominant 85.7% defensive rebounding rate. Western Carolina only scored 9 second chance points in the game, which is rather fortunate. Georgia’s overall defensive rebounding rate was 72.5%, which is just slightly above-average and that could be all Georgia needs to be to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
- Georgia’s turnovers came from mishandled passes, moving screens, and charging calls. The charging calls are tough to correct, but the others can be corrected.
- Rhythm shooting was lacking for much of the game and the desire to take a quick shot from 3 point range weighed down the offensive effort. Tyree Crump and Anthony Edwards needed time to get their offensive flow, but only one of the threes they both made were out-of-rhythm.
- Rayshaun Hammonds did not have the best shooting night (to put it lightly) and he was not fortunate enough to get his layups to go in, but he made up for it with his rebounding and defense. Hammonds showed that he does not have to score 20+ points to make a major impact in the game. His 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal were absolutely needed in a game that was neck-and-neck for 35 minutes.